HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. (KT) - When COVID hit, many college students headed home. But international students didn’t have that option.
The Baptist Campus Ministry (BCM) at Northern Kentucky University saw the need and partnered with local churches and associations to provide meals and gift cards. Students said these acts of kindness helped them feel welcomed and loved. As a result, the door opened for many gospel conversations.
Wallin and Josh Skipper, regional campus minister for Northern Kentucky, said they were amazed by how God provided generous and willing volunteers from the very start of this initiative.
“My favorite part about this summer was that the weekly ministry to these 50 international students was a grassroots movement,” Wallin said. “It all began when a BCM staffer sent an email to a small group of friends, asking if they'd each consider making one meal for one small group of students. The hope was that by the end of the summer we would be able to feed each student once.
“In that group was a lady from the WMU who God gave the vision to feed all 50 at once. Ladies in the WMU from several different churches got together to make that meal and then their churches heard about it.”
Then the requests poured in. Skipper received inquiries about what churches could do to help, and suddenly there was a team of generous volunteers ready to show love to these students.
“Over 700 meals and $5,060 in gift cards were given away by our Northern Kentucky Baptist Association churches to bless NKU international students who were stuck here for the summer due to travel restrictions,” explained Skipper.
Skipper praised the generosity of Kentucky Baptist churches in going above and beyond to serve the nations in a time of such uncertainty and challenge.
“The international students have been so surprised and blessed by the meals and gift cards they have been given and, consequently, many gospel doors have been opened with them,” said Skipper.
“As an international student, the feeling of being alone never stops, but the church made sure I was never alone. From their lovely cards, to the delicious meals, they truly shared the love of Christ,” explained one student, Ifeoluwa, from Nigeria.
Wallin said this ministry gave NKU BCM the opportunity to develop deeper relationships with students from across the globe.
“From this ministry, one Bible study started that was led by one of our very own international student leaders. They met weekly over Zoom and this provided a sense of community for them, as well as an opportunity to grow closer to God,” he explained.
“We are excited that we get to share the name of Jesus with many who have never heard it before. We had one student last semester from East Asia get baptized. She said, ‘You were the one who first told me the story.’ That is such a special gift for God to let us be a part of,” said Wallin.
“The university campus has been described as the epicenter of lostness in our society,” explained Tommy Johnson, campus ministry group leader of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.
Johnson said campus ministry continues to be an important way to get the gospel message to those who need it most, especially those from other nations.
“In the midst of the COVID crisis, students are expressing a spiritual hunger and longing for answers to the ultimate questions in life. Pray that many will respond to the gospel and come to know and follow Christ as Lord,” reminded Johnson.
NKU’s BCM plans to continue serving international students as the semester progresses, and Wallin reminded that their mission will remain the same: “To challenge our students to be passionately near Jesus, while also training them to step out of the walls of the Christian community to love the lost.”