By Mark H. Hunter, Regional Reporter
BATON ROUGE – Fishing may be a part of life in Louisiana but it is not in China.
So when Arthur Ruan, an LSU grad student, caught his first fish, he shouted and jumped around like a little kid.
Ruan was one of two dozen international students from half a dozen countries who got to experience America beyond the campus during a recent evening fishing trip sponsored by the LSU BCM to a private lake owned by a Baptist family, the Harrisons.
“The first fish of my life!” the tall, lanky Chinese man declared in pretty good English, as he hoisted the flopping bream for all to see. Many of the other students, from China, India and Haiti, were also catching bream and even a few largemouth bass from the scenic lake.
“It’s good for the international students, especially, to get off the campus and meet some new people,” said BCM director Steve Masters who several times a semester gets his students away from the bustling LSU campus.
“A vast majority of the international students never even enter an American home but we’re going to take them inside this one,” Masters said. “This [fishing trip] gives them a new experience and gets them out in God’s creation.
“Friendship is very important to the international students and that is what many of them tell us why they come here,” Masters continued. “They tell me BCM students are nice people.”
And that is exactly why she is involved with BCM, said Jie Li, a Buddhist.
“My friends are here,” Li said. “They are very nice, very friendly. Sometimes I read some chapters of the Bible; I think I can understand some meaning. It shows people to be very nice person – be people of love.”
Jianqing Zhao, working on a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering with an emphasis on nano-materials, said, “I like this BCM very well because they give me lots of help with the culture shock, treat me very well. I beneficial from this organization.”
When asked if he was a Christian, Zhao smiled and replied, “Not yet. I’m sorry, not yet. I think God is everywhere.”
Cong Fu, “like Kung Fu Panda,” he said with a smile, is working on a Ph.D. in geography and wants to be a professor. He’s been involved with the LSU BCM for three years, he said, and agreed the group “is like family.”
When asked about being a Christian, Fu replied, “I’m interested; I’m starting to read the Bible.”
Many of the several dozen international students who attend the LSU BCM also attend nearby University Baptist where Rick Wright is minister of missions and pastor of Church of the Nations, a congregation specifically geared toward the international population of Baton Rouge.
He estimated there are several thousand internationals in Baton Rouge, including the LSU campus, and describes a mission field ripe for harvest.
“We do see people becoming followers of Christ but we haven’t seen a lot of results in the Muslim and Hindu populations,” Wright said, “and that’s something that we’re really trying to work on more – and praying for.”
Because the students are here for limited periods of time, they occasionally make a decision for Christ after they return home, Wright said.
“We end up planting a lot of seeds,” Wright said. “In the last few years there has been a decline in the number of international students – but a huge increase from China, Saudi Arabia and Iran.”
The Chinese students are “very open” to the Gospel, Wright said, “but if they are not Chinese, I would say, ‘somewhat.’”
Along with planting the gospel seed, Wright added that follow-up is vital to international students.
“If they don’t have a church environment, they just flounder and they get lost,” Wright said. “We’ve got to do a better job of teaching them how to grow in their faith without them needing us, and that’s where I think BCM is pretty good at that.”