Tonight was the last night of my 15 week Perspectives on the World Christian Movement class. The speaker, Rich Mendola of International Friendships, Inc. (IFI) brought along 3 international students and asked them to share their views of Christianity. He prefaced it by saying that he has talked with each of these three students and has built up a relationship with them over the past few years, and they understand that he wants them to become Christians and they are able to be honest with him, and that he wanted them to speak to our class about their perceptions of Christianity. Each speaking for 5-10 minutes, a Hindu from India, an atheist from China, and a Buddhist from Mongolia all took turns. What had been an encouraging message when Rich was speaking, became an assault on Christianity when these three international students stepped up to the mic.
Here are my notes on some of the points in my own words that summarize what they said against Christianity:
-the need for Christians to actually live by grace and repent of hypocrisy
-people need to be reminded that Christianity is not just a Western religion (nor did it begin in the West)
-Christians don’t read or learn about other religions but expect others to learn about Christianity
-Christians are perceived as anti-intellectual or irrational in their beliefs
-cultural barriers and fear of being kicked out of family and shunned by friends, that conversion brings shame to one’s family
-how can a loving God send people to Hell? Especially those who have never heard of Christ before they died-what about my ancestors?
-throughout history “Christian countries” have intertwined religion and imperialism
-missionaries are viewed as just wanting to convert and “buying converts” by providing for physical needs of the people they’re reaching out to.
I was in complete shock at the brutal honesty and directness of these 3 students. Rich Mendola stepped back up and shared some thoughts and asked various questions of the audience for feedback. He reminded us that even in spite of these discouraging words by students with hearts hardened to the Gospel, we must believe in the power of the Gospel. We must believe that “all authority in heaven and Earth” is given to Christ, and that God even gave us the example of the apostle Paul to show that God can bring anyone to faith in Christ.
Rich continued…Each of those 3 students who shared, came to faith in Christ and are in relationship with Him as Lord and Savior of their lives. I was stunned again. He then brought each of them up one at a time so that they could briefly share their testimony of how these students from other nations came to be international students here in Columbus, Ohio and then came to faith in Christ through Christians in the area reaching out to them by the power and love of God.
Here are some common points that each shared:
-one said she came to faith when she was shown love by IFI volunteers and saw the light in their lives and what their lives centered around
-one said it was several occasions, in her country, and then here in Ohio, of meeting real life examples of Christians being joyful no matter what happened or was happening, in their lives.
-she encouraged us to not be discouraged when non-believers don’t come to faith immediately, but to be reminded that God uses us and is continually pursuing people
-one reminded us that it’s beneficial to know the differences between various religions, and to have even a minor grasp of some responses or awareness about others’ religions
One other thing Rich reminded us of was of the importance for those of us seeking to be missionaries overseas to get some experience working with internationals right in our own backyard. He spoke on 5 Critical Reasons to Work With Internationals in Fulfilling the Great Commission:
1. It’s Scriptural
3. They have felt needs that allow us to serve them
4. It saves money
5. It strengthens the local church
It was a phenomenal class to end our experience in the Perspectives course, a course that I would recommend to any and all Christians who want to have a better grasp for what is important to God. (Tonight’s class was a great end so much so that my wife and I are prayerfully considering housing an international student for a few days because of the great need for international students beginning their experience at Ohio State)