Praying for International Students: How One Mom Committed to International Student Ministry

how-one-mom-committed to-international-student-ministry.jpg

Editor’s note: Kelly is married to her college sweetheart, Scott.  She is a stay-at-home mom and homeschools their daughters.  Her family lives in the Midwest, and serves at a large Midwestern university. 

This interview has been edited and condensed from its original form.

CP: Tell me about the specific work you are doing now with international students, especially during the realities of COVID-19.

Kelly: I am following up and continuing to invest in relationships with the women I already have; that is, with brand new believers and unbelievers. The ways I do that are keeping in touch with them via social media, and hanging out with them when I can (obviously socially distancing). If I bake something, I bake something extra and bring it over. That sort of thing. I just finished an online Zoom book study, and am just having them over to our house.

CP: Is [the university near you] the primary way you’ve connected with international students?

Never miss a story

Sign up to receive our weekly email with our original articles.

Kelly: Yes. I primarily interact with Masters, PhD, and visiting scholars. Visiting scholars are professors in China, and they are coming for one year to do extra research. That sort of work has also opened up doorways for me to interact with faculty who are also internationals. I work more with an older crowd.

CP: How did you get started in ISM [international student ministry], and what compelled you to go from living a “normal life” to making international students a part of your life?

Kelly: I love sharing the gospel with people. I love talking about Jesus, I love answering questions about the Bible. That was what hooked me from the beginning. Evangelism and discipleship light me up. Evangelism is what got me interested in ISM, but what has kept me in ISM are the people, the gospel opportunities, and the potential global impact that international student ministry has.

When we moved here and I found out the church we attend was hosting a Christianity Explored class and needed table leaders, I signed up. I was drawn to that, because it wasn’t a situation where I have to convince people to be interested in Christianity, but people were already coming who were interested. That made a huge difference. It just so happened that the 50 people who came were primarily Chinese. I wasn’t really nervous about that, because my aunt is from Beijing.

What kept me [in ISM] was the people: the team of ISM volunteers at my church and the internationals themselves. Our church has a team of core international ministry volunteers who love the Lord and have a heart for the nations, the leader of that ministry is fantastic, and I loved all of the people at the tables themselves.

Their life stories were fascinating, and they were asking questions like: “Kelly, who is Jesus?” or, “What is the Bible about? What is the gospel?” I would have these questions almost every week. When do you get that in ministry?

What also helped me get started was my church already had something established. As a mom with three young kids, it was something I could just plug into. I didn’t have to start anything, I didn’t have to plan anything, I didn’t have to set anything up or clean anything afterwards. It was all totally in place and all I had to do was show up and get plugged in.

CP: You have kids, you have family – that’s already such a busy life. And you’re bringing other people into that life by doing international student ministry. What compelled you to go from living a “normal” life to making international students a part of your life?

Kelly: There are three things that really compelled the trajectory of my marriage and our family:

#1: The Bible and what God has said 

There are several verses. The first is the Great Commission, where Jesus tells us all authority in heaven and earth has been given to him, and we are to go and make disciples – not converts – but disciples of every nation, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them all that I have commanded you. That has been one of my life verses. The second one is similar to that, in 1 Thess. 2:7-8, Paul says that, just as a nursing mother cares for her children, he shared not only the gospel, but his life. That is what it’s got to be for us as a family. Another verse that has really impacted me is that I am not my own, I have been bought with a price. It’s not my life; it’s the Lord’s life, and he can do with me whatever he wants. Another verse is in Luke 10:2, Jesus is about to send out the 72. He says to them that the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few, and to ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into the field. That means God has a harvest out there, so I want to be part of harvesting it!

#2: The desire not to waste our lives

The second thing that really impacted us was my husband and I were college students sitting in the big open field at the One Day 2000 conference when John Piper gave his infamous talk about not wasting your life. That radically changed our lives. We were like: “We do not want to waste our lives. We want to invest in eternity. We do not want to buy into the American dream.” Piper quoted, in that talk, a plaque they had in his kitchen growing up. It’s a quote from C.T. Studd that says: “One life, ‘twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.” I think about that quote, I can’t even tell you how many times a week. Our life is that little dash in between when we are born and when we die. What am I living for? What do I want to account for when I am before the Creator and Maker of all things? I want to be like, “God, I want my life to be poured out before you to say that I’ve run the race and I’ve given it my all.” That John Piper talk has been the filter through which how we have spent our money, how we are raising our kids, what we are doing with our time, everything.

#3: The example of other believers

The third thing is the examples of other believers in our lives who are already doing international student ministry. Their faithful obedience spurs me on in this work. There are these families who are doing what I’m doing, but even better. It’s seeing them doing it with kids or in their 80s.  As Piper and my retired pastor says, there is no retirement for Christians. 


Have you considered getting involved in international student ministry? What pulls you to that type of work? What are some of the barriers to it?

Share This Story

Further Reading

Nanjing: Love Under Pressure
Read More
Why Should I Love My Enemies?: Give Up Revenge, Love Enemies
Read More
Nanjing: Bringing the Gospel Into Life
Read More


With rising pressure and persecution in China, there are two challenges imperative for church leaders. The first challenge is for current leaders to love Christ above all else, and not to stray into legalism or love of the world. The second challenge is to raise up the next generation of leaders, who will humbly model Jesus even if current leaders are arrested.


  1. Current leaders to grow in their daily walks with Christ
  2. Current leaders to shepherd and raise up new leaders
  3. New leaders who love Christ and will model him to the world
  4. New leaders to love and care for the church



About Shenyang

Shenyang is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Liaoning Province. It is known for its rich history and cultural heritage, including the Shenyang Imperial Palace, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Shenyang is also a hub for China’s heavy industry, with companies such as the China First Automobile Group and the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation having their headquarters in the city.


Stories from Shenyang

About Qingdao

Qingdao is a city located in eastern China and is famous for its beaches, beer, and seafood. The city is home to several landmarks, including the Zhanqiao Pier and the Badaguan Scenic Area. Qingdao is also a major port and has a thriving economy, with industries such as electronics, petrochemicals, and machinery.


Stories from Qingdao

About Xiamen

Xiamen is a city located in southeastern China and is a popular tourist destination known for its beautiful coastal scenery, including Gulangyu Island, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city is also a hub for China’s high-tech industry, with companies such as Huawei and ZTE having research and development centers in Xiamen.


Stories from Xiamen

About Chongqing

Chongqing is a city located in southwestern China and is a major economic center in the region. The city is known for its spicy cuisine, especially its hot pot dishes, and is also famous for the Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydroelectric dam. Chongqing is also home to several historic sites, including the Dazu Rock Carvings, which are UNESCO World Heritage sites.


Stories from Chongqing

About Nanjing

Nanjing is a city located in eastern China and is the capital of Jiangsu Province. It is one of China’s ancient capitals and has a rich cultural history, including the Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum, the Nanjing City Wall, and the Confucius Temple. Nanjing is also a modern city with a thriving economy and is home to several universities, including Nanjing University and Southeast University.


Stories from Nanjing

About Changchun

Changchun is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Jilin Province. It is known for its rich cultural heritage and is home to several historical landmarks such as the Puppet Emperor’s Palace and the Jingyuetan National Forest Park. Changchun is also a hub for China’s automotive industry, with several major automobile manufacturers having their headquarters in the city.


Stories from Changchun

About Guangzhou

Guangzhou, also known as Canton, is a city located in southern China and is the capital of Guangdong Province. It is one of the country’s largest and most prosperous cities, serving as a major transportation and trading hub for the region. Guangzhou is renowned for its modern architecture, including the Canton Tower and the Guangzhou Opera House, as well as its Cantonese cuisine, which is famous for its variety and bold flavors. The city also has a rich history, with landmarks such as the Chen Clan Ancestral Hall, the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, and the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees. Additionally, Guangzhou hosts the annual Canton Fair, the largest trade fair in China.


Stories from Guangzhou

About Kunming

Kunming is a city located in southwest China and is the capital of Yunnan Province. Known as the “City of Eternal Spring” for its mild climate, Kunming is a popular tourist destination due to its natural beauty and cultural diversity. The city is home to several scenic spots, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Stone Forest, Dian Lake, and the Western Hills. Kunming is also famous for its unique cuisine, which features a mix of Han, Yi, and Bai ethnic flavors. The city has a rich cultural history, with ancient temples and shrines like the Yuantong Temple and the Golden Temple, and it’s also a hub for Yunnan’s ethnic minority cultures, such as the Yi and Bai peoples.


Stories from Kunming

About Shenzhen

Shenzhen is a city located in southeastern China and is one of the country’s fastest-growing metropolises. The city is renowned for its thriving tech industry, with companies such as Huawei, Tencent, and DJI having their headquarters in Shenzhen. The city also has a vibrant cultural scene, with numerous museums, art galleries, and parks. Shenzhen is also known for its modern architecture, such as the Ping An Finance Center and the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center. Despite its modernization, Shenzhen also has a rich history and cultural heritage, with landmarks such as the Dapeng Fortress and the Chiwan Tin Hau Temple.


Stories from Shenzhen

About Chengdu

Chengdu is a city located in the southwestern region of China, and the capital of Sichuan province. It has a population of over 18 million people, and it is famous for its spicy Sichuan cuisine, laid-back lifestyle, and its cute and cuddly residents – the giant pandas. Chengdu is home to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, where visitors can observe these adorable creatures in their natural habitat. The city also boasts a rich cultural heritage, with numerous temples, museums, and historical sites scattered throughout its boundaries. Chengdu is a city of contrasts, with ancient traditions coexisting alongside modern developments, making it an intriguing and fascinating destination for visitors to China. 


Stories from Chengdu

About Beijing

Beijing is the capital city of China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 21 million people. The city has a rich history that spans over 3,000 years, and it has served as the capital of various dynasties throughout China’s history. Beijing is home to some of the most iconic landmarks in China, including the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and the Temple of Heaven. The city is also a hub for political, cultural, and educational activities, with numerous universities and research institutions located within its boundaries. Beijing is renowned for its traditional architecture, rich cuisine, and vibrant cultural scene, making it a must-visit destination for travelers to China.


Stories from Beijing

About Shanghai

Shanghai is a vibrant and dynamic city located on the eastern coast of China. It is the largest city in China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 24 million people. Shanghai is a global financial hub and a major center for international trade, with a rich history and culture that spans over 1,000 years. The city is famous for its iconic skyline, which features towering skyscrapers such as the Oriental Pearl Tower and the Shanghai Tower. Shanghai is also home to a diverse culinary scene, world-class museums and art galleries, and numerous shopping districts. It is a city that is constantly evolving and reinventing itself, making it a fascinating destination for visitors from around the world.


Stories from Shanghai


A short message about partnering with us.