When Ron DeYoung first started a campus ministry at Western Michigan University 16 years ago, his goal was “to help students discover their God-given purpose for life and living.”
Now that he ministers specifically to the community of nearly 2,000 international students on the Kalamazoo campus, he added the vision “to develop international influencers for Christ.”
DeYoung can list many students who have become such influencers. One former student came to faith from Buddhism while at Western and is now a professor; his brother also became a Christian and has planted a church in South Korea to reach refugees from North Korea.
Another former student who became a Christian at WMU put graduate studies on hold so she could return to Hong Kong to minister to her friends and family.
DeYoung started International Student Fellowship to “create a space where internationals can experience God’s grace.” He organizes a weekly luncheon where about 200 international students gather for a meal provided by local churches.
“The Christian staff and volunteers seek to create an atmosphere of authentic Christian hospitality,” DeYoung says. “Students tell us this feels like home in a foreign land.”
Guests are invited to participate in other campus ministries, including Christian discussion groups, Bible studies, and mentoring relationships. DeYoung says the goals of his cross-cultural ministry are “to love the people to whom God has called you to minister” and to “seek to build relationships of trust . . . (that) demonstrate dignity and respect.”
“We find that when students trust us,” De Young says, “they are willing to converse with us about Christianity.”
Christian Reformed Home Missions, a supporter of DeYoung, asks people to keep the campus ministry in mind when they pray.
Here are some prayer requests.
- For staff to be able to engage freely and fruitfully in the lives of students
- For continued financial support
- For churches to partner with International Student Fellowship for the weekly student luncheons
- For time to build deeper relationships with the dozen or so students who have expressed interest in learning more about ISF and Christianity