Ian Maclennan, JCL’s Director of Operations, is part of a small group of Christians which witnesses to international students studying near his home. Ian shares his motivation for getting involved and underlines the importance of this work:

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.

The UK is host to many international students, including around 3,000 Japanese students attending UK universities. Significantly more than this come on short- term visits with schools, colleges and to language schools. Students are typically young and curious, many being very keen to get to know British people and try out their English on native speakers. More than this, they are interested in getting to know British culture, customs and thinking. As they are away from Japan, they are keen to listen to new ideas and concepts. These factors mean that interacting with students visiting the UK is a fantastic opportunity to share with them the reason for the hope which is in us.

Students will frequently be happy to accept invitations to social gatherings or to meet over a cup of tea, coffee or for a meal. Home stay students (living with a UK family) will often speak of their home stay mother, father, brother or sister, and they can form strong bonds as they rely heavily on locals to help them navigate the complexities of modern life in the UK.

A Word From Nagi

A number of Japanese students study at colleges and universities near my home
and a small team of Christians has got together to seek to befriend the international students, many of whom are Japanese. One of the students I met from the university is called Nagi. Here is her story:

I really enjoyed going to church as the people there were so kind, friendly and helpful.

“Hi, I’m Nagi. After graduating from the International School in Japan, I came to the UK to study at university. I used to live with a host family but now I’m living with British friends. Living with a host family was a very valuable opportunity for me to improve my English and to get to know English culture. My host mother is a Christian and on Sundays she invited me to come to church with her. I was happy to go along as I wanted to meet more English people and practice speaking to them, so that I can improve my English.

I really enjoyed going to church as the people there were so kind, friendly and helpful. They welcomed me so warmly, which I found very surprising! At first it was really tough for me to understand what was being said at the services and what people were doing. After a while my host mother suggested that I do an Alpha course to find out a bit more about who Jesus is and what the message of the gospel is about. The lady with whom I did the course was very friendly and she even arranged for me to have a Bible in Japanese which allowed me to look up difficult words and helped me to understand Christianity better.

The more I read about how Jesus behaved, the more I am attracted to his example. His behaviour was truly beautiful!

I am not a Christian and my family are not Christians but I want to learn more about Jesus and what is written in the Bible. I think that the Bible’s teaching is good and I particularly enjoy celebrating Christmas. The more I read about how Jesus behaved, the more I am attracted to his example. His behaviour was truly beautiful!

I am planning to continue to read the Bible, but I am getting busier and busier. I am studying Romanticism as part of my course, and it is interesting to read about Jesus in the spare time around my studies.

I would like to find a church to go to near my home in Japan and I have asked my friends at the chaplaincy team to see if they can help.
I am also planning to explain Christianity to my friends. I have found that a lot of English culture is based on Christianity and so it is really valuable to know about Jesus and his message. I plan to keep studying and get to know Jesus better!”

Please join us as we pray for Nagi in her journey to get to know the Lord of heaven and earth.

Getting involved

“Nice story, but what does it have to do with me?” I hear you ask. Much in every way! Have you ever thought about volunteering to help welcome and befriend foreign students near you? Could you speak English to them and maybe share the gospel with them? Would you be willing or able to offer to read the Bible with a student one on one or as part of a group?

The team working with the students near me holds parties at which we play games, chat and just chill out together. English is tough to learn, so the students are very keen to practice on us.

Japanese students usually have no reluctance to come to a Bible study. As it is all new to them it is important to explain the context thoroughly, literally everything will be new! What a privilege to explain the glorious truth of the good news of Jesus to young people who have never heard it before. When those light bulbs switch on in their minds and hearts you know that you have been instrumental in a life- changing part of their education.

Next steps? Why not contact Friends International to find out if you could help at a group near you? Please contact JCL if you need help in getting started. Thank you for considering serving in this important way!

Ian Maclennan, JCL Director of Operations