Evangelism with internationals at state university–an interview

Screen Shot 2014-06-26 at 12.54.56 PMEditor’s note: One of our GoodSeed staff recently interviewed Veronica,* who spends much of her time teaching English as a second language (ESL) and doing evangelism Bible studies with Asian international students at a large state university. So, how does she do it?!

Read this inspiring interview that is chock-full of typical examples of how GoodSeed tools are used to lead people to a clear understanding of the Bible…

Tom:
Veronica, please tell us what you have been doing recently by way of campus evangelism.

Veronica:
Well, I’ve just finished going through The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus with a visiting Korean professor at our university. Because his English language skill was weak, having the Korean as well as English edition of the book was advantageous. He would read both before I came. When I arrived, he would already have many parts highlighted along with his questions. We would then talk through his questions about each chapter. Over the last eight weeks as we were studying, every so often he would pause, pick up the book, pat it and say:

Veronica, this book, The Stranger book… has taught me sooo much better about Christianity. It’s given me a foundation.

He always wanted to express how much this book meant to him. He is now a solid believer and has already talked to his next door neighbour who also happens to be a visiting scholar from Korea. His wife wants to start studying the Bible, as well. We will be beginning this week.

Tom:
How do you locate people in order to do these studies or do they find you?

Veronica:
It usually happens by word of mouth. Once I got started, word got out. Friends told friends and family. Now, there is a whole group of Korean students who are on a waiting list to meet me and to do studies… I have so much to do!

Right now I’m going through The Stranger with another couple. Their English ability is quite minimal; they cannot read well. So, I read the book aloud, sometimes using a children’s picture Bible, telling the story as we progress through The Stranger storyline. We just finished the Passover. This Easter they understood for the first time what the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ was all about. The wife just told me:

Now I understand that man is completely sinful and there is nothing worse on this earth than sinful man and that Jesus is the Lamb of God who made the sacrifice to take away the sins of the world and they were all put on him.

She isn’t interested in church yet but she wants to know God. She’s willing to meet with me and read this book and she’s loving it! She tells me that every week.

Tom:
So you’re just doing one-on-one studies, not groups of people?

Veronica:
I find that those I’m meeting with are much more open to ask questions if they do so one-on-one or as a husband-and-wife couple. If they’re in a group, they’re very uncomfortable and are concerned about what others are thinking. They will ask me, “Can you meet with me one-on-one?” Even some wives will ask to meet without their husbands.

Tom:
Have you ever had a situation where you reach the end and just the wife believes? What about the husband in such instances?

Veronica:
I have this case where the husband is now a believer… his wife quit half way through the study. For three months she would go to church but she would not even come in the room for our study in The Stranger. He begged her, “Please meet with Veronica.” Then, all of a sudden, she agreed. So, I met with her again. Since she had earlier quit, I was praying about what to say. I was a little worried because of her previous lack of interest. After meeting again several times, she told me:

Veronica, when I came here, none of my family was interested in the Bible. Not me. Not my husband. Not my three children. And now I can’t believe that I’m believing God…

She said, “I liked church… but I didn’t like the Bible. but now, after getting into the Bible, I’m realizing I have to believe God for who he is first… not think of him as a good luck charm.” Then she added, “Our three children… were very upset that we were forsaking our traditional religious beliefs and becoming Christians, in spite of what their grandparents and relatives believed. So now, every night our dinner is a dialogue about Christianity with our oldest son.”

I’ve had it go the other way too, where the wife comes to faith in Christ but not the husband (yet)… She believes that her mission is to love her husband and that some day God will break through to him and break down his prejudice and hatred.

Tom:
How do you typically do a study? How do they connect with you for the first time? Do they come with a friend? Do they come to your home or do you meet somewhere else?

Veronica:
If they are new to town, they’re looking for help with their English. So, I express my willingness to help them learn. Sometimes they have heard of me through a friend. So, I start by teaching English. After a time, there is usually a good opportunity to talk about Easter, Christmas or something having to do with the Bible. Typically I don’t have to bring up the subject but they will start asking questions after they’re feeling comfortable with me. Either they ask, “Veronica, would you please teach me the Bible?” or, I might say:

You know, we’ve been studying English for quite a while and I can tell you’re kind of bored. Let’s have a Bible study. It is really interesting. If you enjoy doing that, we can continue with the Bible or we can stop—it will be up to you.

They always say, “I didn’t know the Bible was this much fun or was so interesting! Let’s do more!” If that continues for a few times, I bring out The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus and ask, “Would you like to go through this?” And they’ll respond, “Oh, I’d love to that!”

Tom:
Tell me about your ESL program.

Veronica:
It’s “Conversational English.” That’s usually what they want: someone to talk with about common, everyday things. We start with that for a few weeks until they get bored. We’ve talk about plants, food, children, culture, holidays until they begin to get tired with that. For example, when a professor—who is now a believer—first came, all he wanted to talk about was his religion and food. For six weeks he talked about vegetables. I did my best to hide my boredom. FINALLY he said, “Veronica, this is boring.” I agreed, “Yeah, you’re right. Let’s talk about something else.” He immediately changed the subject and asked, “Veronica, can you tell me the difference between religion and faith?” So many times it will be a big question like that that will open up the door. He liked my answer, so, pulling out The Stranger, I said, “I happen to have this book in both Korean and English. If you’re interested in thinking about faith, maybe you’d like to read this and get a better understanding of the Bible.” “Oh yes!” he responded. “I would like to do that because talking about vegetables all the time gets so tiring.”

A couple weeks ago, I got to that point with another Korean wife who has been wanting to practice English. I knew she didn’t have much spiritual interest in anything. So, I just practiced English with her for three months. Finally one day I said, “You know, I think you need some listening practice. I will tell you a very simple story. It will be from the Bible and then you can tell it back to me. We will practice asking questions and talking about it. Let’s see if you like that.” As I told her the story of Mary and Martha, she was fascinated by what she was hearing. She had heard a little of the story before but she had no idea of all that she could learn. I was hoping that she would be ready to go through The Stranger with me, however, she is getting ready to return to Korea and so the study may not happen.

Tom:
What are some of nationalities of those you have done studies with?

Veronica:
Most are Asians—Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Taiwanese and Koreans. Two from one particular area in southeast Asia have come to the Lord in the last couple of years. Several others from the same place have also gone through the book and are now thinking about its message. This is a difficult decision for them because their country is very closed. They’re scared about what might happen if they go back as Christians. They’re having to weigh that very seriously.

We also have some who come from the Middle East. I have a friend through whom I’ve channelled my books to several other Christians in town who are working with people from these countries. They’re planning on using the book All that the Prophets have Spoken for their study.

I’ve also used the children’s book, The Lamb, with Vietnamese and others.

Tom:
Were you teaching The Lamb to adults or children?

Veronica:
Children. However, sometimes their parents would look on. The parents get so interested. They’ll move closer and closer until soon they’re grabbing the book away from the kids! That happens a lot!

Oh, here’s another story real quick! After a Korean wife went through The Stranger, she said:

This has helped me so much. I MUST tell my Korean friends about it.

She immediately began taking two religious friends through The Stranger. She has now returned to Korea, having taken books with her and her husband. They’re strong believers, so I believe that they will definitely begin sharing the books as the Lord brings people across their path.

Tom:
How long have you been doing this? How did you learn how to guide studies in this way?

Veronica:
The Lord started bringing internationals across my path in 1995. I had met with a GoodSeed staff member who was doing a presentation at a church. Friends from there invited me to come. I went and soon realized, “This is what I’ve been needing!” That was maybe 2003. I flew to Canada to attend the next TERM Seminar. I couldn’t wait for it to come to me—I HAD to go! At TERM I realized I was trying to reinvent the wheel and didn’t have to. This was just what I needed! It has helped so much.

My entire campus is full of ministries wanting to reach internationals. So, I’ve shared these resources with these different organizations—we have a whole supply of GoodSeed books in different languages available when we do student lunches for international students. Christians host these events and local churches bring the food. With the books on hand, people are making use of them. I am seeing what the Lord can do if we trust in Him to do the work in his time and not be in such a big hurry for results.

Tom:
There are so many things that are obstacles to people understanding the gospel: ignorance, biblical illiteracy, confusion, etc. And, there’s syncretism—mixing ideas from two different worldviews to come up with a completely different, third worldview. Have you seen these obstacles in your evangelism efforts and how are they overcome?

Veronica:
I am so grateful for GoodSeed and Trevor McIlwain’s Firm Foundations. They’ve helped me recognize and know how to steer people around these pitfalls in order that they might understand the gospel clearly.

Tom:
Wasn’t there one last story you were going to share?

Veronica:
Oh, yes. Several years ago, a Law professor from one of the Asian countries was here. I don’t remember how we met… but he was curious about the Bible and we began going through The Stranger in a Sunday School class. At that time, he enjoyed it very much but he was also resisting it. He finally said:

“I can’t believe this because if I go back [home], they’ll fire me from my job and put me in prison the rest of my life.”

He returned home quite conflicted. I thought that I would never see this man again but I prayed for him. That was 2009.

Then all of a sudden, in the fall of 2013, I got an email that he was back in town. He said, “I’ll be in church first thing Sunday morning. I want to start our study again. I’ve never forgotten what you taught me about the Bible and I want to look at it again––although I can’t believe it.” For several weeks he kept saying, “I can’t believe it, I can’t believe it… but I just want to learn it.” About a month ago, as we were making our way at a slower pace through The Stranger, he said, “I am beginning to change––I am beginning to believe.” So we’re praying for that man.

He is inviting everyone whom he meets to come to the study. Just this weekend, he said, “Veronica, let’s start having dinner parties on the weekends. I’ll invite the people, you be prepared and we’ll ask you questions about the Bible after we eat… because this is really good stuff.”

 

(*Names changed as per GoodSeed policy)

 

 

Photo Credit: “New Student Orientation” by COD Newsroom is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Author: Scott Humphreys

Staff writer, Research Planning and Marketing at the GoodSeed USA Coeur d'Alene, ID office.