Screen Shot 2013-05-07 at 2.55.57 PMYou can drive 20 minutes in any direction and find yourself in a corn field. The middle of Iowa is a strange place to meet people who consider a population of 8 million a small town.

It’s Friday night. I carry our two daughters down the steps of the old Lutheran church. I pause as we step into the large room with tile floors and florescent lights and scan the rows of heavy tables: looking at faces, looking for a place to sit. The Chinese church meets here for Bible study every week, reaching out to the 2,000 Chinese students and scholars who come to study at the University of Iowa each year.

Some people wonder if we plan to move overseas soon, like this stint in the middle of the country is a stepping stone to the real thing. We don’t. We think Iowa is a strategic place to reach the nations: 

  • We can share freely with people from countries closed to traditional missionary work.
  • In an unfamiliar, foreign country students are aware of their many needs and we can show them the love of Jesus as we help meet those needs.
  • While visting another country students are curious about the culture and open to exploring new ideas.
  • We are raising up indigenous missionaries who already know the language, culture, and have relationships in their home countries.

After the meal we pull a few tables together. This is where Eric’s study will meet. The other groups spread out in the classrooms and library. Sometimes at the beginning of a semester he asks who has seen or read any part of the Bible before coming to the US. Out of 30 one student raises her hand, or maybe two this time. They remember reading something in a textbook once.

A couple students come as believers. One, a sweet freshman girl, joins us for church each Sunday and comes home for lunch with us afterwards. But as much as Christianity is growing in China, many come who have never heard a single story in God’s redemptive plan: the creation, fall from glory, the flood, Abraham’s calling, the exodus from Egypt, the Ten Commandments, Jesus, the cross, the resurrection, the gospel, grace. So our ministry begins here.

The vision of reaching international students looks like this:

  • Sharing the gospel with those who have never heard.
  • Discipling those who respond in faith.
  • Equipping them to take the gospel back home to their families and networks of friends.
  • Strengthening and encouraging them once they return.

One night Ling leaned forward in his chair. Many of the scholars studying in our living room were there because he invited them months earlier. Ling argued from Scripture that they must believe in Jesus to be saved and pleaded with them earnestly. It was quiet for a minute as he leaned back again.

“So you’re a Christin now, Ling?” asked his friend.

“No. Not yet.” he replied.

Three days later his year of research in the United States would end and he would step on an airplane back to China. He knows it’s true, but the cost is high.

We have walked with many who have believed and been changed by God’s grace. We have followed up with them as they return to their families and looked for good house churches. Ling is still counting the cost. Just like Jesus told us to do. And by the power of God, he might one day sell all he has to buy the Pearl of Great Price.

The harvest is plentiful. Would you like to join us?

As we continue serving we have a large need for monthly gifts of $50 to $100 or more. We also have need of one time gifts. If you would like to partner with us, you can donate through The Navigator’s website by clicking here.

If you would like to hear more or receive our newsletter updates, contact me and let me know!

*Ling’s name has been changed.

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4 Responses to Would you consider partnering with us to love the world from Iowa?

  1. Kelly says:

    Hi Melissa! Thanks for sharing this about your ministry in Iowa. I can relate to everything you said as my husband and I are serving international students here in Connecticut. We recently had a student like Ling who went back to China, but before he left he told the whole bible study group they should put their faith in Jesus, even though he knew he wasn’t there yet. It’s true that they know the cost is high, and a reminder for me to continually pray for them as they head back to their country where the pressures are great. I live reading your blog as it encourages me as a wife, mother, and minister of the Gospel!

    • Melissa says:

      Hi Kelly, Thanks so much for commenting! How neat that we’re both working with international students! I’m so glad the blog’s encouraging to you, I’d love to keep hearing your thoughts so please comment any time.

  2. sarah says:

    Ditto on being encouraged! I’m starting to read some of your Proverbs 31 woman posts, and I love that you’re bringing the gospel to bear on commonly misunderstood attributes of this esteemed woman of GOd. My family and I returned last summer from 7 years in China on a college campus, and now are doing international ministry like you all in Virginia. Neat to meet a kindred spirit (and fellow mama of 2 little ones) on the blogosphere. Blessings on your sweet family!

    • Melissa says:

      Hi Sarah! How fun to connect with someone else ministering to international students and at the same life stage! Thanks for saying, “Hi!” A few years ago I began really studying the Proverbs 31 Woman with Bruce Walke’s commentary and it changed me. Like you said, she’s so often misunderstood and I had been in the misunderstanding camp. I love sharing with other women what I learned (am still learning!) through her.

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