By: Karen Olsen, Mission Team Leader, Bethel South
We are told in Revelations 5:9 that there will be people from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation worshipping the Lord in heaven. But how will they hear? Did you know there are about 280 international students attending the University of Texas-Tyler (UTT) covering 23 nations? They are right here in our backyard. There are also many internationals teaching and working around UTT. Many of them have never heard the name of Jesus or have no idea who He really is. What an opportunity to share the gospel!
With Covid-19 hitting us hard last spring, it nearly shut down our face-to-face connections with many of those students. We were not able to host a welcome party and have found it difficult to make new connections this year. However, in October, we decided to step out in faith and hold a pumpkin carving event. Did you know you can share the gospel with a pumpkin carving?!
We had nine international students attend over a two-day period so we could maintain proper social distancing, and “goodie bags” were delivered to those unable to attend in-person. We also had games and snacks and gave out treat bags to the students who came. Through this fun event, we were able to sow seeds of friendship and begin building relationships with these incredible young men and women.
In November, we had a Thanksgiving meal (again with social distancing). We had 10 international students in attendance. After explaining how “Thanksgiving” first began, we give thanks to God for His blessings, ate outside, and played games both indoors and outdoors after the meal, and played putt-putt. The students were so thankful to be out of their apartments! Again, we were able to plant seeds and build relationships with our international students here at home. One student is learning Arabic and connected with Paul Tanner (one of our Bethel Missions partners, who is fluent in Arabic!) very well.
We are planning to hold a Christmas party for our international students on December 13th. We hope to have students decorate our tree with ornaments from all over the world. They will also make a small tree, which they can take home and enjoy, and will hear the Gospel story shared. Please pray that the students will come and that their hearts will be open and receptive to Christ. Also, please pray for protection for them and us.
Eventually, our hope is to be able to include more families in these events. But right now, with Covid-19, our ability to accommodate additional hosts is limited. We have been so thankful for the Winfields (Whitehouse), the Murphys (Downtown), the Tanners (South), and others who have been helping with these events. We would welcome additional prayer warriors to come alongside us and join our team!