Your international friend has just started to follow Jesus! Now what? How can you help her establish a firm foundation for life and growth in faith?
We propose four things:
- Make sure she understands salvation and her new relationship with God.
- Help her learn to live her new life fully.
- Connect her to a Christian community.
- Prepare her to share her new faith with friends and family.
1. Being Sure of Salvation
Stuart Briscoe, pastor, teacher and author, came to Christ as a young boy. After he invited Jesus into His heart, he asked his mother, “Mummy, did He? Did He come in?”
“Oh, yes,” his mother assured Stuart. “Jesus is a gentleman. He goes only where He’s invited. You invited Him and He came in.”
Like young Stuart, many Christians aren’t sure of their salvation. Judy wanted Min-Min to be sure of what has happened and who she is in Christ. After Min-Min prayed to receive Christ, her friend Judy opened her Bible and showed Min-Min several scriptures, beginning with 1 John 5:11-12: This is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. Judy asked, “Min-Min, would you read these two verses out loud and tell me what they say about you?”
Min-Min hesitated, read the verses, and said, “I have the Son? I have eternal life?”
“Yes!” Judy beamed. “Yes, Jesus lives in you now. You have His eternal life in you now. Let’s look at two other verses that say this a little differently.” Judy turned to John 1:12-13: Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. Min-Min read the verses out loud.
“Min-Min, what does this say about you?” Judy asked.
This time, Min-Min didn’t hesitate. “It says I’m God’s child!”
“Yes, you are God’s child now!” Judy affirmed. “You are His child not because you decided to be His child, but because God gave you birth. This is what ‘born again’ means. Today you’ve been born spiritually into God’s spiritual family. It’s a forever family, because whatever God does lasts forever.
“Let’s look at how this happened.” Judy turned to Ephesians 2:8-10: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.
Again, Judy asked Min-Min to read the verses aloud, to put them more solidly in her heart. Judy explained, “These verses say that you are God’s child by His grace, not because of anything you’ve done. You are His forever child and He is your forever Father because He gave you the faith to receive His Son.
“Min-Min, did you feel any different after you asked Jesus to come into your life?”
Min-Min looked surprised and concerned. “Um, no. Was I supposed to?”
“No,” Judy shook her head. “I only asked that to make a point: Your relationship with God is based on the faith that He gave you, not on how you feel. You may feel different, but not everyone does. If you don’t, that doesn’t mean nothing happened. These verses say that God honors your faith that He came into you when you invited Him to come in.
“Let’s look at one more verse.” Judy asked Min-Min to read Mark 13:31 out loud: Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. Judy said, “The Bible is God’s word. You can believe it, Min-Min. You can base your life on it because it is true and it will last forever.”
“Would you like to learn about living in Jesus? We could do a study about living in God’s family. Could you take one hour each week to do that with me?”
“Yes! I’d like that,” Min-Min exclaimed, happy that she would have more time with Judy.
Judy remembered another girl who had received Christ hours before going home. Judy had met with her only once. After making sure the girl had a Bible in her native language, Judy had given her two short books. One was Think Home: A Reentry Guide for Christian International Students (InterVarsity Press) by Lisa Espinelli Chinn. (Nate Mirza’s Home Again from NavPress is another good resource.) “Read this on the plane,” she urged. “Because being in the U.S. has changed you, home will seem different. This book will help you live well back home.” Judy also gave her Know Your Bible: All 66 Books Explained and Applied (Barbour Publishing Inc.). “There are thousands of books about Christianity and Jesus, but the most important is your Bible,” Judy had explained. “Everything you need to know about your new faith is in the Bible. This little book gives a good overview of each book in the Bible and helps you apply it to your life.”
2. Learning to Live in Jesus
Judy has four goals for Min-Min: 1) Learn the basic teachings of Christianity, 2) help her develop the habits of reading her Bible daily (Judy got her a Chinese/English Bible), praying, and journaling about what she reads, 3) connect Min-Min with a Chinese church or one with Chinese members, and 4) encourage her to get baptized through her Bible discussion group or her new church.
Each week, Judy and Min-Min shared several things from their daily Bible reading and one or two entries from their journals. Then they studied the book of Mark. Judy asked the same five questions every week:
- What does this tell you about God?
- What does this tell you about you?
- What does this tell you about life in Christ?
- What should you do because of what we’ve learned?
- What questions do you have?
She encouraged Min-Min to tell a friend what she was learning because it would help her learn it better. Min-Min chose a girl in her dorm who liked to hang out with her. They met every week, the day after Min-Min met with Judy.
Resources for a new life.
Judy refers to the Bible first to emphasize that it has everything needed for life in Christ. There are many additional resources for learning to live as a follower of Christ. Here are some other resources that IFI recommends:
Print and eBook resources.
The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus explains God’s plan for life from the creation to the new heavens and the new earth. It is available in print, digital, and audio formats from GoodSeed.com in English and several other languages. An interactive CD is available.
The Story That Matters, a small book in Easy English, also published by GoodSeed, explains God’s plan for the nations from creation to the new heavens and new earth. This overview can help believers tell God’s story to family and friends.
Many good materials are available from InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, The Navigators, Ambassadors for Christ, Multi-Language Media Inc., Cru (Reaching Internationals and Bridges International), and International Students Inc. (ISI). Check their web sites for selections. IFI buys Bibles in other languages from Multi-Language Media and the United Bible Society.
Online resources for living in Christ.
Mike Burt (IFI Columbus staff) uses four downloadable Discipleship Study Books with new believers. These books are available in English, Arabic, simplified and traditional Chinese, Hindi, and Spanish.
Discovery Bible Studies Resources—International Project, has a wealth of information and study guides.
The International Students Inc. (ISI) web site has a number of good resources.
Faith Comes By Hearing offers free downloadable audio recordings of the New Testament in over 900 languages (also available on their free app). They also offer the Deaf Bible in over 20 sign languages. Other online Bible services also offer audio Bibles in many languages.
3. Connecting with Christian Community
Judy had told Min-Min that their time together would not replace Min-Min’s Bible discussion group.
“I’m glad you said that!” Min-Min exclaimed. “I want to keep going to my Bible study group. The whole evening is so good, and I like the people there. You’re there, too, so we’ll see each other two times a week!”
Judy was relieved at Min-Min’s response. She had been praying that Min-Min would want to stay in her Friday night small group, for Judy knew that being in community with other believers, especially believers Min-Min’s age, would be important to her growth in Christ.
But what about church? Min-Min had gone to church once with her American host family. Judy asked God to guide Min-Min to a church where she can study, worship, serve, and pray in her heart language and grow in Christ in her own ethnic identity.
Judy checked with her pastor for a referral. He recommended that she and Min-Min visit a Chinese church in their city, an international church, and an “American” church that has Chinese-speaking members who meet together as a fellowship. He also recommended that before Min-Min goes home—even for a visit– -that Judy check with sendingpad.com to find a church in China in Min-Min’s hometown. He said the pastor of the Chinese church also might know a good church in Min-Min’s hometown.
Praying all the way.
Judy began each weekly meeting by praying with Min-Min, inviting Jesus to direct their conversation and shape hearts. She prayed that God would use their study time to conform them to His will. During their meeting, Judy asked Min-Min what she wanted prayer for that week and wrote it in her prayer journal. Before they ended, Judy always asked Min-Min to pray in Chinese. “But you won’t know what I prayed!” Min-Min had protested.
“True, I won’t,” Judy smiled. “But the One you’re praying to understands Chinese!” Judy wanted Min-Min to be at ease praying aloud in her heart language. Min-Min felt awkward at first, but over time she embraced the practice. After several months, she told Judy it helped her feel more comfortable in the Chinese fellowship she was attending.
4. Sharing Her New Faith
In one of their weekly studies, Judy and Min-Min read the story of Jesus freeing the man with many demons (Mark 5:1-20). After they had talked about the story, Judy pointed to Mark 5:19: Jesus… said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” Judy said, “Jesus wants all of us to do this, Min-Min. I will show you several ways. The first is by telling your own story.
“This is our assignment for our next meeting: Each of us will write down how we came to faith in Christ. It should take 3 to 5 minutes to read and should tell what we were like before we believed Jesus, how we came to believe in Him, and how we’ve changed since we believed.”
A week later, after Judy had helped Min-Min refine her testimony, Min-Min agreed to share it with her weekly Bible study group. Before she did, she and Judy used online resources to prepare Min-Min to share the gospel with anyone who approached her after she shared her testimony.
After Min-Min gave her testimony at Bible study, two people approached her to learn more. She shared the gospel with each of them and one received Christ! She was so excited that she immediately took the new believer to meet Judy. Judy greeted her new brother in Christ and introduced him to a male volunteer who could disciple him. Min-Min seemed disappointed. Judy reminded her “Men with men; women with women,” pointing to Ephesians 5:3 and I Timothy 5:1-2. Once again, Min-Min saw the Bible as the best authority for her life.
Judy assured her, “Now that you know how to share your faith and the gospel, you’ll have many opportunities to follow up on girls who receive Christ. When that happens, I’ll help you get started doing what I’m doing with you!”
Solidifying Growth via Prayer
Judy had begun praying for Min-Min’s salvation when she saw the young woman’s keen attention during Bible discussions. After Min-Min came to Christ, Judy had prayed that she could disciple her. After that began, Judy prayed that Min-Min would learn to share her faith and have joy doing it. Now she prays that Min-Min will continue to grow and be an effective evangelist and reproducing disciple.
Let Us Pray for Your Friend!
Pray for the salvation of international students whom God has brought into your life. Pray that those who receive Jesus will become disciples who make disciples who make disciples.
This will open the way for others to pray for them. If their personal security is a question, as it can be for believers from countries where Christians are persecuted, please say so when you report their decision for Christ. IFI prayer warriors will treat the privilege of praying for them with respect and discretion.