By Grace Thornton
The Alabama Baptist
Back in January when Beth Gardner said “yes” to picking up some new international students at the airport, she couldn’t have imagined where the semester would take her.
She couldn’t have imagined that rounding up pillows and blankets for their dorm rooms would lay the foundation for some deep relationships.
She couldn’t have imagined just how much her Baptist Campus Ministries students at the University of South Alabama would invest in incorporating those international students into their lives.
And she couldn’t have imagined some of the conversations that would happen when those international students had to return home early because of coronavirus.
Some got a Bible for the first time.
‘Live on mission’
Others are now participating in Bible studies via Zoom from their home countries.
Their time in Alabama ended faster than Gardner expected, and though it was disappointing, she said God is still at work in their lives — and it reminded her of the urgency of the gospel.
“We have to be intentional and live our lives on mission every day,” she said.
“It is amazing how giving a student a ride to the store or having a student in your home for a meal can make such a deep impact on his or her life and even on the lives of his or her parents who can relax and know that their child is being cared for.”
Gardner is now working to prepare for next semester’s international students, something she said has been made easier since the story on her BCM’s ministry ran in the Feb. 20, 2020, issue of The Alabama Baptist.
Soon after that — the same day she talked with the university’s outreach ambassador in the study abroad program to start working on plans for gift baskets for new international students — she received an unexpected blessing.
“The same day she contacted me … asking me how we would fund these baskets is the same day I received an email from a church telling me about how they had read the article in TAB and they wanted to send us a check to help provide for the international students,” Gardner said.
“When I met with [outreach ambassador] and she mentioned that she could ask some businesses for donations, I told her that we didn’t need to worry about the money to purchase the items because a church had generously given a check to help meet these needs.”
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