Stonebrook’s International Ministry

Since their beginning, Great Commission churches have had a heart for reaching international students. Early on, international students were saved at Iowa State University, and churches were even planted in Southeast Asia by some of those students. Our own Brad and Annette Barrett were once involved in international student ministry at Iowa State.

In more recent history, international ministry took a big step forward at Stonebrook when Guang and Mindy Song came to Iowa State from Texas A&M. Gary and Dawn Harris joined them, and they began reaching graduate students and young couples at the University.

In the summer of 2009, the Stonebrook’s Rock campus ministry had an outreach plan for Iowa State. They divided into five different groups, each of which would reach out to different groups of people in different ways. But wherever each group went, they were meeting Chinese students. They discovered that the previous fall, undergraduate students from China began coming in large numbers to ISU for the first time. Many stayed around for summer school. They began loving the students and bringing them into the Rock. That fall, several got saved. By the end of that school year, they had learned that a more focused environment was needed to help the new Southeast Asian brothers and sisters grow. That did not fit well with where the Rock was going. A decision was made the summer of 2010 to divide in two separate groups – the Rock focused primarily on students living in the dorms, and an international group focused on making disciples of international students.

ISM (International Student Ministry) is the generic name for the ministry within Stonebrook which focuses on making disciples out of International Students. Within that, there are two specific groups: (1) the “Little Family” is the group of Christians who are growing in Christ together as part of the Stonebrook Church family, and (2) “iFam” (short for “International Family”) is an Iowa State student group which focuses on meeting, loving, serving, and sharing Christ with international students at ISU.

The Little Family is in many ways like the Rock, but with its own unique characteristics and no paid staff. The name came from the fact that the group did start out quite small. The Little Family has grown from five persons in the fall of 2011 to about 50 today. It really does try to function as a family on a mission. That mission is to stand firm in the gospel and grow together in Christ, and to strive together to reach the gospel into the ISU international community. Since 2009, dozens have come to Christ, become part of the family, and begun to grow up in Him together. Many others have arrived in Ames as believers, and made the Little Family their home in Ames. Members of the little family meet in many different ways throughout the week, but their primary meeting time is Friday nights in the youth room.

Helena Jiang was one of the first members of the Little Family. She was invited to the Rock in the summer of 2010, just weeks after getting saved. She writes:

“God brought me to Stonebrook international student ministry right after I first put my faith in Christ. So many people loved on me, taught me truth, and especially modeled what they believe with their lives. Many issues in my heart got exposed and addressed - identity, security, self - righteousness, pride, control, etc. I praise God that He led me to this group of people in the formative years of my Christian walk.”

iFam is the outreach-focused part of the international ministry. Its goal is to love and share truth with international students. That is done in four specific ways. First, there is a Bible-discussion/snack/hangout time at Stonebrook almost every Saturday night. Second, about once/month throughout the year, that Saturday night time becomes a large-scale party/celebration. They welcome new students to campus at the beginning of each school session, and they celebrate significant American and International holidays in-between. It is common for there to be anywhere from 100 to 200 persons at most of these events. Third, there is an English conversation class that takes place every Thursday night on campus. Americans help internationals practice and improve their English speaking and listening skills by discussing life and truth together. And fourth, and by far most importantly, they pursue (both individually and in small groups) international students all week long, focused on building significant relationships into which they are able to demonstrate love and speak truth. Dozens of students from many different countries have come to Christ over the last eight years, and more than a dozen members of Stonebrook have been involved in in leading them to Christ.

Diana Whipple has been an integral part of the ISM at Stonebrook for the past six years. During that time, she has done it all, from cooking and cleaning, to inviting and befriending, to loving and serving, to teaching and discussing, to leading students to Christ. She writes:

“Being part of the International Student Ministry (ISM) has been life changing for me. I have been involved with ISM for about six years and have had the chance to meet some amazing people from all over the world. In Matthew 28:19, Jesus tells us to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations...”. Living in Ames with the presence of Iowa State University provides unique opportunities to love and share the truth of the Gospel with people from all over the world. Although there are cultural differences, our basic human needs for love, relationships and salvation are the same regardless of where we came from or the language we speak. I particularly enjoy laboring with others to create a family environment for people who are thousands of miles from home and family. We celebrate birthdays, holidays, and special events, such as marriages, and help carry the burdens through difficult times. It’s been a privilege to get to know international students, post-docs, visiting scholars and their families and to be able to show them the love of Christ through serving them and sharing the truth from God’s Word. My life is much richer because of my involvement in ISM.”

Please pray for the workers (which includes all of the Little Family, and many additional American believers within Stonebrook) - that they would be faithful and effective and that God would multiply their numbers. The fields really are white for the harvest. Pray for the students that they would grow in Christ and multiply as God leads them forward in their lives in Ames and beyond. Pray for the ISM community that Christ-like love and unity would shine forth and validate the gospel, which they would boldly proclaim. Students are hungry for it. Pray that our Stonebrook Community Church family would become a place where people of every tribe, tongue, nation, and language love and serve the Lord together, and are effective at reaching this community and the world beyond.

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