Reaching Chinese Nationals at Ohio Universities

For those unable to leave the country, there are plenty of mission opportunities to share the 'good news' right here in Ohio.
by Cynthia K. Berry

Chinese students at Cleveland State University attend an outdoor event.

You don't have to step foot out of Ohio to have an impact on China. As a matter of fact, if you live near a university campus, you don't have to step foot out of your neighborhood. Chinese students make up the majority of internationals on today's American college campuses, and opportunities abound for us to meet and help them.

Cleveland State University

When Tom Wright got involved in an international Bible study led by a Taiwanese professor in 1992, he never dreamed that nine years later he would be leading International Friends, a student organization at Cleveland State University (CSU) that ministers to international students. "As I began connecting with students from foreign countries, I felt led to leave my sales job, get out of debt, and get into full-time ministry," explains Tom, who also serves as missions chairman at Cuyahoga Valley Community Church.

Now, each Friday evening at 6 p.m., Tom meets with 20 - 30 international students in University Center Room 361 to share a free meal, practice English, and fellowship with one another. After the meal, there is Bible study and worship time. Those who want to practice conversational English with volunteers can choose to study and discuss the Bible in English to improve their comprehension and conversation, or they can use some other ESL materials. Most choose the Bible because it is something not offered in their homelands.

During the day, Tom meets with individuals and couples to study the Bible; seekers are welcomed! He also recruits volunteers from area churches and organizes monthly social activities to bring internationals together with American Christians. Tom's wife, Joan, is the "hospitality whiz," discipling international women who come to their home and hosting large gatherings of students every six weeks.

Just last fall, Tom had the privilege of commissioning a young Chinese woman who had accepted Christ to go back to her homeland as a missionary. One month later he received an email from the woman stating that she had led a co-worker to Christ and was beginning to disciple her! Tom also took a group of Chinese students to a Bridges International conference last year, where another young Chinese woman accepted Christ and he baptized her. The woman learned how to share the Four Spiritual Laws in her native language, Mandarin; she has already led one Korean and one Chinese person to Christ! And, in March, the spouses of three Chinese CSU students who were here on special visas prayed to receive Christ as Savior.

"The women are especially curious and spiritually open," Tom adds.

Ohio State University

The largest Chinese student population in the United States can be found at Ohio State University (OSU) in Columbus. Mike and Sandy Miller have dedicated themselves to helping these students, as well as other internationals on campus, through Bridges International, a nationally based organization specializing in Christian outreach to Mainland Chinese intellectuals at universities in western nations. After spending three years in Asia with Campus Crusade for Christ, they wanted to continue their work in the U.S. They partner with International Friendships, a 20-year-old campus organization.

More than 100 Chinese students and 50 other nationalities are involved in weekly Bible studies through the Millers. The levels range from Bible overviews for seekers to discipleship and Chinese evangelism, led in the Mandarin language by Chinese Christian students. All of the students gather together for a potluck dinner each month.

"This year we are focusing on the wives," explains Sandy. "They are lonely and isolated from their culture. We do practical things to show the love of Christ, like drive them to the doctor and to second-hand clothing stores. The little things we do don't go unnoticed."

The Millers recently took a group of international students on a tour of Washington, D.C. Students were housed with Christian families in the evening and took in the sites during the day. "The response was fantastic," says Sandy.

"As Christians, we have a huge responsibility to reach out to international students while they are here especially those from closed countries like China, Indonesia, Vietnam and Turkey," Sandy emphasizes. "Anyone living close to a university has a huge opportunity to have a significant impact on these countries."

University of Akron

International students at the University of Akron (UA) find themselves sharing the campus with The Chapel, a 7,000-member, Bible-based church just steps away from their classrooms. Because of its proximity, "The Chapel is one of the most active community organizations on campus," says UA Director of International Programs David Ayres, who cites the university as having more than 800 international students from 83 different countries.

Friday night dinners hosted by members of The Chapel have become very popular with UA internationals, drawing 75 - 120 each week. A Bible study is held after dinner, which many choose to attend. Chapel volunteers also offer English tutoring (ESL) every Monday and Wednesday, 9 - 11 a.m., at the church.

"Word of our ministry is spread by the students themselves," says Ernie DiMalanta, an intern with International Student Ministries/Community Outreach at The Chapel. Ernie is a first-generation Filipino-American working on a Master's Degree in ministry.

"The Lord has really shown me we can reach the world through training internationals here, who go home to be global witnesses. We can minister to the world without leaving Ohio!" Ernie explains. "Often those who come here are more open than if we met them in their own countries, because there is no societal pressure to prevent them from hearing the Gospel."

Ernie leads an International Bible Fellowship at noon each Sunday at The Chapel to provide a place for Christians from around the world to worship together. There are also separate church services at The Chapel for Chinese, Vietnamese, Arab and Spanish populations.

The Chapel made a quantum leap in reaching the Chinese population when they began a Chinese Christian Church more than ten years ago. Led by Pastor Ray Sung, a Taiwanese Christian, the noon service on Sundays draws 150 to 170 Chinese, including children. Each week after a worship service in their native tongue of Mandarin, the families gather in The Chapel gymnasium for lunch.

Wednesday evening prayer meetings and weekend Bible small group Bible studies are also offered by Sung and his laypeople. The Bible studies are offered in Mandarin, Cantonese and Taiwanese languages.

"The students are looking for any resources to help them. The other Chinese students tell them about our ministry. They seldom find the Chinese Christian church through the phone book," says Sung.

"I am baptizing 20 - 30 new Chinese Christians each year," smiles Sung. "Many students move on to other places or return to their homelands after graduation."

Sung adds with gratitude, "We thank the Lord! So many Chinese people have no opportunity to hear the Gospel when they are in their own country. But, in the United States they have an opportunity to come in contact with Christians who show their love to them, and they become Christians because of this. They are most impressed by American Christians who show their love from Christ."

For more information on Chinese ministry opportunities visit: or email: CSU - OSU - UA - OR

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