I am incredibly thankful for the chance to write to you again to share what God is doing through your generous support! As you probably already know, I have transitioned from doing ministry at Rice University to doing ministry with RUF International at Texas A&M. I would certainly not have been able to make this transition without your generosity, support, and partnership. I am monumentally grateful to each of you. Thank you so much. I appreciate you greatly. You are vital to this ministry! I constantly thank God for you and pray for you, as Paul did for the Colossians, “that you might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord” and also that you might be “strengthened by his power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy.” Jesus is at work. He is saving souls. He is building His Kingdom and He is using us!
Strength in Weakness
Thebeginning of this semester started off with some complications and unforeseen difficulties, but ultimately God answered our prayers and graciously allowed RUFI to surmount these problems. ByGod’sgracewe have been able to begin the semester stronger than any of RUFI’s staff had expected! Many of our older students graduated and left Texas A&M after last semester. Also, as a result of the Covid 19 Pandemic, some international students returned to their home countries only to become stuck, unable to come back this semester due to border restrictions. As a result, we began this semester with fewer students in RUFI than have been involved over the past few years.
Because of these realities, RUFI’s staff has been operating on the assumption that this year would be a rebuilding year. Even as we began to plan ways to meet new incoming international students, we received more difficult news. It turned out that two large welcome events for international students, which have traditionally been hosted by the University and the City respectively, had been canceled. In the past, these events had been great places to meet new incoming students, so these developments created difficulty in reaching new students.
Prayerfully, we pressed on, finding other ways to meet international students. As a way to both meet new international students and to show the love of Christ, RUFI partnered with a local church to deliver free furniture to incoming international students on several different weekends. We were able to have some great conversations with these students and invited them to be a part of RUFI. Seeking to be present on campus during the first week of classes, we also tabled in Rudder plaza, met with students, and hosted an on campus lunch. Lastly, we were able to attend a welcome event put on by the University’s International Student Center near the end of the first week. There were hundreds of incoming international students at this event, and we were able to speak with many of them about RUFI’s purpose to welcome internationals and to share the love of Christ. Many students gave us their contact information and signed up to receive our email updates for our meetings. This welcome event was somewhat strange because it was basically a combination between an organization fair and a dance party. During the first half we handed out fliers and gave a somewhat formal explanation of our ministry to students who walked up to us, and then during the second half we had a crazy dance party listening to international music. We had a blast that night, and met tons of international students during both the talking and dancing portions of the night. Some students were actually much more curious about joining RUFI after seeing how much fun we had dancing with them! Even though several unforeseen roadblocks emerged near the beginning of the semester, God was still moving and to our astonishment, we had a large turnout to our initial RUFI welcome party. We had around thirty people! God answered our prayers and allowed us to start the semester strong!
Shame and Honor
After the initial success of RUFI’s welcome party, our staff has been working to build relationships with these new students as well as continuing to grow relationships with returning students. Over the last few weeks, we have been meeting one-on-one with students while also holding weekly group events focused on building biblical community.
Every Tuesday night, RUFI hosts an event called “Table Talk,” wherein we enjoy eating dinner together (usually some form of international cuisine) and then we look at a passage of scripture together and discuss it. We also have a weekly Bible study that meets every Friday evening. This year the focus of our Table Talk series is on life changing conversations recorded in the gospels between Jesus and others. As an example, during our first meeting, we looked at the conversations between Jesus and his first four disciples, Peter, Andrew, James, and John. In Mark 1:16-20, Jesus called these men to follow Him, promising to make them fishers of men. Many of the students present that night are from India, and were struck by the fact that James and John left their own father in their boat to follow Jesus. Such an act originally seemed unthinkable and even shameful to these students. Because India’s culture places so much emphasis on shame and honor, a high degree of importance is placed on honoring the family. But upon further examination, they saw that though they were exactly right to be shocked, it is actually not a shame but rather an honor to be chosen as a follower by God’s chosen King. Honoring the family is a good thing and loyalty to one’s father is admirable, but Jesus is God Himself come down to dwell with men. Jesus’s honor and glory are beyond comparison. He has both divine and royal authority. What Jesus is asking of Peter, Andrew, James, and John would be crazy if He was anyone other than the Divine Son of God, but that is exactly who He is claiming to be! He makes this claim because that this is who He truly is! As King over all the earth, Jesus has a claim to loyalty even above and beyond the loyalty which is rightly owed to family. There is no greater honor than to follow this King!
Who is this King of Glory?
It has been very moving to open the scriptures with studentsfrom abroad, many of whom have never heard or read any of it. We have had a lot of interest from Hindu students. Five hindu students came to our first Table Talk, and that number rose to eight the next week! It is hard to put into words how beautiful it is to see these students begin to encounter Jesus for the first time. They are often surprised, shocked, or moved by what He says, but they are never bored. They are encountering our King in all of His wisdom, power, authority, love, and compassion. These students are meeting for the first time the King who uses His authority to heal and to protect the downtrodden, the prophet who does not only speak the word of God but IS that word made flesh, and the High Priest who was Himself slain as the sacrifice for His people’s life and peace. As it is written in Isaiah 53:5, “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”
Please pray along with me that they would continue to come back to hear Jesus speak through His scriptures. Please pray that these students would begin to hear the voice of our Savior calling them specifically. Please pray that they would realize their need for Jesus and also His love for them. Please pray along with me that we would see souls saved from darkness into God’s kingdom of light. Please pray that they would give their lives to Jesus as their King. Please pray that students would come to know Jesus as we know Him, as both, “My Lord and my God.” (John 20:28).