On Monday morning, 15 July, a team of British and international students fanned out across the city centre in Sheffield to distribute flyers to international students, inviting them to join our Welcome Week activities. We were hopeful, but no one anticipated the enthusiastic response we were to see that evening!
By 7pm, 60 students had already arrived for the first event, World Food Night, in Egerton Hall. They filled every available seat, and we were feeling encouraged to see such a wonderful response. But then another 100 came in the door! Thinking fast, we directed them to cross the street to Christ Church Central, where they could wait in the main meeting hall for dinner to be served.
A joyful but frantic scramble followed, as we carried tray after tray of food across the street, while still trying to serve the original 60 in Egerton Hall. By the end of the evening, our team had somehow managed to feed 180 students with a meal prepared for 50! (I don’t think miracles were involved, but I do still wonder—how did we do it?)
We continued to experience record-breaking attendance at our evening events throughout the week. Eighteen students came to the evangelistic Bible study that I led on Thursday—and nearly all were opening the Bible for the first time!
From the Many to the Few
Now when a free meal is on offer, it is really not that hard to attract a crowd. And, as long as the free meals continue, the crowds keep coming back for more, as Jesus and the disciples discovered in John 6:24-34. But after the crowds have consumed all of the food that perishes, how many will remain for the food that endures to eternal life?
As we can see at the end of John 6, not many! But the few students who do remain with us after Welcome Week are our greatest joy and the focus of our ministry throughout the rest of the year.
On a typical Monday, our DIG Bible study (Discipling Internationals for Growth) meets at Egerton Hall at 5.30pm. We serve a home-cooked meal and lead our group of students in studying and discussing a passage of Scripture. Then, at 7.30pm, International Café begins, a social evening attended by about 40 to 60 students, many of whom have some interest in spiritual things. But they might still need some time to see what Christians are like before considering whether to take the next step of faith.
We discovered recently that several DIG members from China are already practicing Christians. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if these Christian students were to serve alongside us over the next few months as we share the “word of life” (Philippians 2:16) with other internationals? All around us, in Sheffield’s city centre, live thousands of international students who have not yet heard the good news.
Working with East Asian students in Sheffield
Please pray with us:
1. Please pray that more Christians in Sheffield (and elsewhere!) will see that God has brought the world to us and get involved in reaching international students.
2. Pray for OMF’s Diaspora Returnee Ministries (DRM) around the world– the north of England, central Europe, North America, Kenya, Japan. We want to see churches in East Asia grow because of the thousands of East Asians who are coming to faith while studying or working abroad!
3. Pray also for our DRM workers. In most cases we have only one worker in a city, surrounded by thousands of East Asians. Pray that God will provide partnerships with local churches in each city so that they will not be isolated or unfruitful.