By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
BATON ROUGE – The Chinese student first visited a LSU Baptist Collegiate Ministry function for the free food but eventually found the bread of life.
Thomas, who was studying civil engineering, arrived at LSU in the fall of 2010 unsatisfied with what he learned as a half-materialist, half-Buddhist. He learned in the months and years ahead the difference Christ can make in a person’s life, thanks to the investment of Christians on campus and in the Baton Rouge area.
“I became half-Buddhist because they had a few interesting theories but they could not explain everything,” said Thomas, who shared his testimony at the recent Louisiana Baptist Convention Evangelism Conference at Istrouma Baptist in Baton Rouge. “When I first came here I saw Christians and I saw their life is totally different from non-believers.
“Before I came I thought all Americans were people from Hollywood movies,” continued Thomas, who goes by another name in China. “That was wrong. My view of American people was totally changed after I came here. I started to have a few Christian friends and began to know what is the Bible and Christian friends.”
The night of Thanksgiving 2010 after filling out an informational form at the free dinner at the LSU BCM, Thomas received a phone call from Doug Cornelius, a member of a family who would become his host family for the next three years. Jessica McCallum, a LSU junior who was actively involved in the BCM, hooked him up with the Cornelius family. Thomas spent not only Sundays with them at Galilee Baptist in Zachary – a 40-mile round-trip drive to pick him up from his residence near campus – but also holidays. He became so close to them that he eventually called them Mom and Dad.
“I just fell in love with the church and learned who is God, what does the Bible teach us and why we are all sinners and need salvation,” Thomas recalled. “I was really stubborn at the time. They asked my name and I said Thomas because Thomas doubts a lot.”
Despite his doubts, Thomas continued exploring Christianity, reading books and watching videos. His host family continued to encourage him to seek and pray that God would show him the answers to his questions in Matthew 7:7-8. In addition, he made good friends with some BCM students who also helped him to know God and the Bible.
His host family and friends also encouraged him to attend a mission trip with Jefferson Baptist in Baton Rouge to Mexico in the summer of 2012.
Thomas was touched by how believers living in the communities they visited there were poor but yet were so happy because of their love for the Lord.
However, Thomas said his heart was hardened and did not convert to Christianity.
Later that year, Thomas participated in a mission trip with the BCM to Staten Island and his eyes were opened to how God was moving there.
Still, the mission trip didn’t cause him to believe in Christ.
Thomas continued seeking answers and in March 2013 he attended the Secret Church at Galilee Baptist. It was here that testimonies from Chinese Muslims who converted to Christianity opened his eyes to the idea that Christianity could be real.
“I was praying God if you show me some evidence and say I am real, come to me, or if you send someone to say God wants you to be converted then I will believe,” Thomas said. “But that never happened.”
However, a month later Thomas attended a retreat called Men’s Discovery Weekend, where he heard testimonies from those who once were lost. It was here that Thomas finally accepted Christ as his personal Lord and Savior.
“By that moment I started to realize that God put me in this position for this purpose and I surrendered myself,” Thomas said. “I had tried being a Christian but had not surrendered myself. I knew it was something I could not do on my own and I needed God’s help. That’s why I surrendered myself to Jesus Christ.”
Eventually, Thomas has a dream to start a school in China that includes the teaching of Christianity.
“At this school I want not to teach just evolution theory because that’s what’s required by the government but also Christianity,” he said. “The key is they will have the freedom to make the choice but I will tell them I am a Christian because I know God is real and God has changed my life.”
Sarah Farley, associate director for LSU’s BCM, said Thomas’ testimony is a reminder of the importance of investing in an international student’s life.
“This is such a beautiful example of how the local church and BCM came together and partnered to provide an opportunity for a student who was on a journey and seeking and searching to come to know Jesus Christ as his Savior,” she said. “If you get a chance, love on people from other countries. The Lord has brought them here and it’s investing and inviting them in your homes. You have no idea what God will do with that.”