To be an effective witness for Christ, you need to build friendships with non-Christians. The best conversations happen when you have them with someone you know well! That way you are truly showing them a personal, loving God, not simply a pamphlet or a one-time encounter.
Before anything else, you need to make sure you are building the relationship out of love and genuine good-will. Make sure you think of them as your friend, not as an international student you know.
Have a Friendship
Pray daily. Pray for a friend to be revealed to you. Pray for their health, their schoolwork, their transition to being in school. Pray that they would be open to you, to God, and to conversation. Pray for yourself. Pray that you would be a true friend. Pray for guidance. Once you do meet them and make contact, don’t stop praying! Pray for openness and good conversation.
Be Where They Are
You’ll never be able to make equal and true friendships if you do not meet them where they are at. Sit by them in classes. Join clubs outside of your Christian community. Attend international coffeehouses or various campus events. Join an intramural team. Be friendly! Try to make friends with people of the same gender to avoid potential misunderstandings.
Invite Them Where You Are
Once you’ve met them, invite them to do things with you. Ask them to a meal, to play games with you and your friends, or to go out to the store with you.
Be a Friend!
Just be friends! Stop by to say “hi”. Get pizza and have a movie night. Do homework or study together. Exercise together. Have a cookout. Invite international students to your home for the weekend or Thanksgiving. Celebrate birthdays and holidays. People are people wherever you go.
When you’re friends with international students, you’re crossing cultures. If you aren’t aware of the nuances of your friend’s culture, you may offend them or alienate them without realizing it. You also may need to explain something you do or say that seems natural to you but is foreign to them. For tips on being a conversation partner go here.
It’s often easier and more relaxing to have conversations if you’re eating or drinking. Take time for a long meal or set aside part of an afternoon for tea or coffee and spend time together. (Sometimes you may need to offer food or drink more than once – in some countries it is polite to refuse first. Again, know your friend!)
Show genuine interest in your friend. As they talk, ask them “Why?” questions (such as “Why did you decide to study ---?”). This can often lead to discussions of belief, values, and faith.
Be courageously Christian and ready to Share the Gospel
"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience." (1 Peter 3:15-16).
Don’t shy away from discussing Christianity or religion with your friend. If you wouldn’t hesitate to talk about your favorite band’s new song or a sports victory, don’t hesitate to talk about the God of creation loving them! Silently pray when talking to your friend for an opportunity to share about your faith. Take the opportunities to share, but don’t force your friend to convert or study with you. Just speak openly and honestly from personal experience.
Remember, the Holy Spirit is the one doing the work! The Spirit is the one to push and nudge at your friend’s heart. Pray that it would do so. Always be honest if you are inviting your friend to a Christian meeting – don’t give them a vague invitation then surprise them by having a sermon at the meeting.
Talk about faith. Ask them what they believe, not with an agenda to show them that they’re wrong, but as a way to know more about them and why they are the way they are. Invite them to church or a Bible study with you, but always give them an option of refusing. Make sure they know your friendship is not conditional based on their response to your invitations.
"As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you, but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us."(1 Thessalonians 2:7-8)