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God With Us: An International Vision

Kim Becker, 17/12/20

Christmas will look different this year for everyone, but it will be especially lonely for international students without the usual experiences and hospitality available, so here is how you might personally help and share the love of Jesus this Christmas.

God With Us: An International Vision

Do you know international students in your class? Do you not know any? Now is a great time to get to know them! Are they staying here for Christmas this year?

Why not:

1.     Drop them a message asking what their Christmas plans are!

2.     Invite them to a church or carol service, even if online (they’ve maybe never  experienced one and would love someone to accompany them!)

3.     Leave a present/ Christmas meal round

4.     Really bold one: Invite them into your bubble (only if you have room lol) for the Christmas period?

The iCafe team at Ulster University Jordanstown got creative this Advent season and read aloud one chapter a day of the book of Luke (24 chapters) and shared on Facebook in the lead up to Christmas. They have also organized to provide Christmas Dinners (for collection) to international students who will stay in university accommodation over the break.  With the meal will be an invitation to view an online Nativity reading that’s been adapted for a cross–cultural audience!

The Belfast iCafe team moved their Christmas party on to Zoom, which included a Christmas quiz and craft.  The team leaders dropped around (or mailed) craft materials to the regular international students that attend, which provided a chance to see students maybe for the first time.  Students have also been hearing about the Christmas story each week through a short Bible study.

Christmas time provides a natural opportunity to organise activities to grow friendships and share your faith with international students.  With a little planning, every Christian Union can easily adapt, personalise, or co–ordinate Christmas plans to invite and include every international student across Ireland in this special time of year.

Maybe it’s too late to plan an event for this year but here are a few questions to consider in planning seasonal outreach events, be it at Christmas or Easter:

·  Before sharing the message of Jesus, what aspects of Christmas might be confusing or need explained? For example, what is the difference between celebrating Christmas as a Christian and celebrating as a consumer?

· How could you adapt or slightly adjust your carol service (or alternative CU outreach) to welcome international students?  For example, could you meet up with your friend beforehand or afterwards to review the programme, or better yet could you provide translations of the Bible readings in different languages? Even just having a familiar or friendly face welcoming and greeting from the ISM team (online or in–person).

· How do you plan to verbally point people to Jesus? As with activities, it is important to be clear on what your aim is, for example, to spark people’s interest or provide a cohesive biblical overview? To share your own experience and understanding of Christmas? To explain a certain Christmas tradition/symbol or theme?

· Don’t let COVID restrictions keep you from running events, instead determine if the event can still happen legally/safely in person or can the activity be adopted for online? 

Merry Christmas from the International Student Ministry Ireland Team!