Wednesday 5th August 2015
The Lord... defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing. And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt. – Deuteronomy 10, verses 18 and 19.
Befriending aliens - no, not little green men, but strangers and foreigners who are living among us. Imagine yourself living in a strange foreign land for a year or more, encountering a strange foreign language, seeing/eating strange foreign food, encountering strange foreign customs; and coming to the foreign land in the autumn/winter with cold, dull, damp weather. On top of that, because you do not always understand what people are saying, you find it hard to know where to get help if you should need it. Well, that may be how some internationals feel coming to the UK!
Enter – Friends International! Yes, Friends International aims to do what their name suggests, offering genuine friendship to international students. It does this through:
Welcome programmes, International cafés,English classes,Trips and outings, Help with British culture, Introduction to British families, Women’s groups, Parents and toddlers groups, Exploring Christianity course and Christian training.
‘And, who are the people who run all these events?’ I hear you ask. Well, ‘Christians’, is the short answer. Apart from the local staff worker and one student volunteer, there is no one to run the events except Christians getting actively involved.
Here is a story about Nikki who came from China to study in Leeds, and at the time did not believe or understand anything about Christianity:
‘Initially life was very tough for her. "The loneliness made me become a totally different person, introvert and pessimistic". She then met Friends International workers and became connected to a local church. "I found Christian people so nice and patient and can really be good friends. However, traditional Chinese thoughts held me back, making me doubt some stories in the Bible".
Despite Nikki’s doubts she started attending a Friends International course called 'Introduction to Jesus Christ and the Bible course'. "After every single course evening I could feel that I knew Christ one step closer and I changed a little bit every time."
"Through the course I learned the basic knowledge about Bible history and stories which helped me a lot. This enabled me to think deeply about the Christian faith, and I was ready to make a commitment to God. I told my friends and they were so happy about it, we prayed to accept God to come into my life!"
"My friends can see the changes in me and I can feel the huge differences between the old me and the new me. I want to pray for those people who don't know Christ so that they can see what I see, and believe what I believe."’
Of course, befriending internationals takes time and effort but you will meet some lovely people and if the opportunity arises to share what you believe, you will find that they are open and curious to hear what you have to say, especially if they come from a country which censors Christianity. They want to know why!
See here for up and coming Friends International events - http://www.fisuk.org/soton/events
Contact Bill or Maureen Harrison if you would like to join them for any of the events with which they are involved – firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com