How one church reaches the world
The story of Memorial Park Church’s Ministry to international students at La Roche College
We know there are close to 100 students from Saudi Arabia at La Roche College right now who have yet to be invited into an American home. Arab cultures are renowned for their hospitality. Yet these students come to the United States, and no one invites them in.
What if the church led the way in loving these students? Then when they return to their home country, they are ambassadors for good relationships—not only with the United States, but with Christians, whether they come to a saving knowledge of Jesus or not. They will remember that the Christians were the ones who invited them in.
—Dean Weaver, Lead Pastor, Memorial Park Evangelical Presbyterian Church
Did you know that more than 75% of international students studying in the United States never see the inside of an American home? Memorial Park Church wants to change that. This is why they partner with the CCO to reach out to students at nearby La Roche College, where 20% of the student population represents other countries.
The experience of international students in the United States can be extremely isolating. Balanced with the opportunity for a good education is the reality that these men and women are separated from their families and friends by many time zones. They are adjusting to new foods, a new language, and new cultural references and norms. International students form friendships with students from other foreign countries more easily than with American students, if only because of their common experience of being “the other.”
In the current American climate, where a default response to people from different cultures and religions is often characterized by suspicion, fear, and anger, Memorial Park Church wants to show a better way.
This is why CCO campus ministry staff person David Kuehl serves as a member of the Memorial Park team. David is a missionary from the church to the college, spending the majority of his time on La Roche’s campus, building relationships with students from over 25 different countries, including China, Kenya, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Nepal, Indonesia, Thailand, Japan, Mexico, South Korea, and Iran.
David advises the Christian fellowship group on campus, which draws American students who have grown up in the church and students from all over the world, many of whom are hearing about Jesus for the first time. David and the Christian student leaders work hard to make the fellowship a welcoming place for people of all backgrounds, which is why any given week, the room is full of students who identify as Christian, Muslim, Hindi, or no faith background at all.
David also serves as a bridge between the campus and the church, equipping church members to participate in this ministry. This past year, 25 international students were matched with families in the congregation who invited them over for holiday meals, on day trips to museums and sporting events, or just to spend an afternoon or evening in their home.
To help introduce students and congregation members, David helps organize a dinner at Memorial Park, providing space for everyone to experience each other’s culinary culture.
“I walk into Westminster Hall, and it’s filled with a couple hundred college students and Memorial Park people, completely integrated with one another,” says Pastor Dean Weaver. “Everyone has brought their indigenous dish, so you have food from all over the world—including ‘Pittsburgh food’—and it is glorious. I walk into that hall, and it looks like, smells like, sounds like, and even tastes like the Kingdom of God, with representatives from every tribe, every nation, every people, every tongue.
“What David, through the CCO, has helped to do for us is to see a bigger picture of the Kingdom of God.”