I am a shy introvert raised in rural Oregon surrounded by fields and forests inhabited by coyotes. How did I become friends with international students at GFU?
The story began in my childhood. Various people invested in me during many years.
“Naught have I gotten but what I received; grace hath bestowed it since I have believed…” (from James M. Gray’s hymn “Only a Sinner”)
I received information during missionary stories for children in the little Free Methodist Church at St. Helens, Oregon, told by LaVita Harrington about Africa and India and China.
I received friendship during university days from Hong Kong student Peter Koo; from a Buddhist girl classmate at OSU from Thailand; from roommate Yuet Ming at UW; at Chinese Christian Fellowship in the Seattle U-District.
I received encouragement when Roger Hinrichs, and I started “Campus International House” near the University of Washington campus, where we rented rooms to students from India, Taiwan, Middle East, Japan. (It is still functioning today after nearly 50 years.)
I received experience when my wife, Sylvia, and our four kids lived in Hong Kong for 23 years, learning from and living with “the best people on earth”—resilient, diligent Chinese men and women who became responsible teachers and pastors and civil servants and parents.
I received acceptance when we taught English at a university in China for three years. The administration liked us. Dear colleagues, some of them communists, became close friends. Some Christians there maintain contact with us today.
I received challenge when international students at GFU confided in me about their struggle with Bible Survey (not even knowing there is an OT and a NT). Thomas Peng and Ron Stansell and Phil Smith guided me in developing Intro to Biblical Knowledge for international students who have no Bible background. For 13 semesters I’ve had the great privilege of getting to know scores of these students from (for example) Vietnam, Afghanistan, Middle East, and mainly China.
Every week I receive blessings as students and visiting scholars sit around tables in my Newberg house on Saturday evenings after potluck suppers, discussing Bible texts and wrestling with concepts and a worldview that seem strange to atheists and other searchers.
I’m constantly amazed that I received this calling to interact with these dear friends from around the world.
To serve the present age, my calling to fulfill: Oh, may it all my powers engage to do my Master’s will! (from Charles Wesley’s hymn “A Charge to Keep I Have”)
I’m I up to the task? “Practice [does not] make perfect!” I’m still a shy introvert. I tire quickly during superficial chit chat. I’d rather wash the dishes! But sometimes while I’m facilitating group Bible discussions, the Lord prompts me and others, and people move forward in their journey with God. At other times I don’t listen well. It’s humbling at my age to realize I’m still totally dependent on the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I must beware of trying to manipulate people. It’s God’s work to call people to himself; we walk alongside. And I must beware of the fantasy that I’m essential to this ministry. He will call others to take the lead as I age. He has distributed various gifts in the body of Christ. Many others are already doing their part these days. We are in this together. Is he calling you to join us? International students need American friends while they are with us these few short years at George Fox University.