September 2012 i-mix Welcome Party for International Students

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by DAVID AND THERESA WIGGINS — There are more than 750,000 international students in the United States, typically representing the top one percent of their respective nation’s commercial, educational, and political elite. Most of these students are sent to American universities to be primed for leadership in their home countries. “Home” for sixty percent of these temporary visitors is a restricted-access nation with significant-to-severe limitations on sharing the Gospel. We have no greater opportunity to bless the ends of the earth than the one right in front of us.

iMIX Launch
In July 2011, after six months of prayer with a small core team, we launched International Ministry & Interest Xchange (iMIX) in North Carolina’s Research Triangle as a division of Every Nation Campus Ministries (ENCM). Our mission is to introduce the international student community to the life-changing love of Christ, remembering that thirty-five world leaders today graduated from college campuses with an active ENCM ministry. We do this by mobilizing local churches and campus groups to show genuine hospitality, model a Christ-like community, and build relational bridges for His grace and truth.

__Home for sixty percent of these temporary visitors is a restricted-access nation with significant-to-severe limitations on sharing the love of Christ.”

iMIX International Welcome Parties
At the beginning of each semester, we rally volunteers to throw a big iMIX party for Americans and internationals. That event facilitates the beginning of many genuine friendships and invitations to American homes. Sometimes, it leads to Bible-discussion and in-home parties throughout Raleigh, Durham, and the Chapel Hill area. When life-long friendships are formed, the reality of His love stays forever.

Transitions for Internationals
Why reach out to internationals? The Bible commands us that “the stranger [or international student/] who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself” (Leviticus19:34). International students coming to the United States often experience difficult and lonely transitions. It’s not easy! In addition to being separated from their families (often for the first time), they also have many more needs than the average college student — i.e., acquiring furniture, grocery shopping, learning cross-cultural communications, or dealing with a lack of mass transportation in the United States. There are many opportunities for iMIX volunteers to genuinely love and serve international students — giving local and regional tours, helping practice English conversation, or visiting local museums and the zoo are a just few practical examples.

__One of their most commonly expressed desires is for an American friend. Yet, only one in fifteen international students ever steps into an American home.”

Apart from these significant needs, one of their most commonly expressed desires is for an American friend. Yet, only one in fifteen international students ever steps into an American home where they can see the love of Christ lived out by Christian families. Since iMIX began in 2011, an estimated 200 Christian families, students, and even grandparents have initiated several touch points with over 250 internationals. Last year, the iMIX team created an opportunity for about one hundred internationals to enjoy homely Thanksgiving dinners among twenty-four Christian families from King’s Park Church, the Every Nation church in Durham, NC.

2012 iMIX Team

iMIX Life Group Bible Studies
Many internationals have told us that they richly benefited from the joy of understanding the Bible for their very first time.  They’re invited to our Bible studies only if they’re interested.  Many are genuinely curious and interested because they have no basis for understanding a personal and loving Creator God who calls all people to return to Him. Regular iMIX Life Group Bible studies in Christian homes have multiplied from two to seven.

— Four internationals from Mainland China eagerly wanting to learn more about Christianity attend John Gray’s weekly iMIX Life Group where they are going through the Gospel of John.

— One of our iMIX leaders, Yer Moua, is a mother of three with a passion for reaching out and blessing people. Her bimonthly group includes a scrumptious meal, followed by English conversation and Bible Study for those who desire. She has, one at a time, gently led more than half of her international friends to personally receive the loving and atoning sacrifice of Christ.

— Julia graduated from China’s renowned Peking University and came to the U.S. and eventually worked on her Masters in Economics at Duke University. A year of international culture shock, isolation, and series of traumatic experiences left her struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts. When Julia showed up at a Bible study, she tells us how deeply touched she was by God’s love which she had never experienced before, and how this love has given her new hope and reason to live.

Two years later and completely healed, Julia now spends her after work hours serving internationals as an iMIX leader at Duke with Pastor Reggie Roberson’s team. She has come to play major role in the lives of ten Chinese and American friends who have also personally experienced the love of God in Christ.  Julia’s desire for the future is to go back to her beloved China to share this life-changing love of God.

Life-Changing Impact Through iMIX
While our iMIX Every Nation campus missionaries like Dave Stremic, Michael & Grace Wilson, and Cindy Simpson have been fruitful in reaching out to internationals and leading the way, local church members are also modeling how working professionals can live out other-focused meaningful lives through volunteering with iMIX.  Ron Lewis, Pastor of King’s Park Church, says,

iMIX mobilizes people in the local church who may never see themselves as an ambassador or full-time minister. By showing hospitality, they open the front door to multiple opportunities to share God’s love and His kingdom. Because of the front door of love and hospitality, His good news is almost always received with an open heart. Our experience has been that a significant percentage of internationals we reach out to, end up personally experiencing the love of Jesus Christ.”

Jason McDaniel, Campus Director of University of North Carolina, comments on the iMIX vision,

iMIX has provided the structure we need to start moving forward with our vision to reach internationals.  For any vision to succeed, you have to say it and systematize it. We’ve been saying that we want to reach out to and love on internationals for a long time, but iMIX has helped us systematize how to do that much more effectively than what was previously done.”

A sincere love for reaching young people on the campuses locally as an expression of advancing the Kingdom globally is not new to King’s Park Church. Just look at the numerous non-profit social agencies and ministries that have been planted by graduates sent out by King’s Park. Again, Pastor Ron Lewis, comments on the value of local church involvement with international student ministry:

iMIX is on the front lines of a church family showing genuine Christian hospitality to some of the most valuable and simultaneously overlooked people in the community. Overlooked, because they are students who are thousands of miles away from home, unknown, isolated, and living in a strange culture.  Valuable, because these students are also the very image of God and they represent the future leadership of nations that God fully intends to reach. Most often missionaries go into nations and work in places of greatneed, which is wonderful. iMIX works in places of greatstrategy, working with students who will one day provide significant leadership for their nation – all kinds of leadership – education, political, medicine, finance, science…”

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