God fulfills dreams. Over 5 years ago, I stepped onto American soil, full of hopes and dreams. Dreams of completing a Ph.D. in theoretical physics, dreams of fulfilling the expectations of my professors back in Holland, dreams of making real friends, dreams of finding strong Christian fellowship.
And one more dream ... of serving God within the rich diversity and community of students He brought here from all four corners of the globe -- "so that they would perhaps reach out to him and find him." God has been faithful, and for the last three years immeasurably enriched my life through the Cornell International Christian Fellowship (CICF).
"To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy which so powerfully works in me."
Don't expect that reaching out to other students is easy. You’ll have to sacrifice many things; it's hard work. But hey, who really, deep down inside, wants to live a boring life? At the same time, how can you keep from cracking under the pressure?
Time: the bane of student existence:
Perhaps the main reason Christian students don't get involved in ministry is fear of not having enough time or energy. But the key lies in the verse above: We struggle with all his energy, not our own which is so easily depleted.
Here are some pointers:
- Pray before saying yes. Is this a "God idea" or merely a "good idea?" In the end time management is a constant struggle with no easy answers. We must continuously bring this before the Lord.
- Be ruthless and prioritize.
- Be intentional with whom you spend time. Don't sow on hard ground (Mark 4), don't throw pearls before swine (Matthew 7:6); there are way too many unreached people out there already.
- Don't neglect your studies.
- Accountability -- don't be a "Lone Ranger" : It's important to find someone or a group of people for regular prayer and support, and to keep one another accountable. Look for people who are not afraid to ask you the hard questions.
- Don’t neglect your own walk with God! It's so easy to do this when you're busy helping others. Don't let others' problems dig into your time with God. Be careful never to "coast." Complacency in this area makes you rot faster than a ripe mango in the tropical sun.
- Loving people can hurt. "The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from the perturbations of love is Hell" -- C.S. Lewis. Reaching out to people brings multiple opportunities for love, and with it multiple opportunities to get hurt, especially when working with new or pre-Christians who are not yet very "redeemed." There's no way around this one. An accountability partner or group is a good place to deal with these issues.
- Prayer! "Pray continually" -- I Thessalonians 4:17 I can't stress this enough. Working with international students means spiritual warfare, it's on your knees that the battles are won. Never slack. Prayer is indispensable to effective leadership.
- Rely on the Holy Spirit. "Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. -- Psalms 127:1 This is the starting point. God asks us to do our part, but we must in turn rely fully on him. In the end, He's responsible for the results, liberating us from the fear, stress and pride that so often trips us up. So believe God for a great work on your campus!