In his sermon, “The Weight of Glory,” C.S. Lewis reminds us that “there are no ordinary people.” We have never met a “mere mortal.”
Rather, “The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbor’s glory should be laid daily on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it.”
Unfortunately, we often treat our neighbors–all of them–rather flippantly. We use the word “just” in our minds–they are “just” a cashier, “just” a little kid, “just” an acquaintance, or “just” a ne’er-do-well.
How about international students? Are they “just” students? Not at all.
Eternally, as Lewis explains, they are immortals like every other neighbor you have. But even in a worldly sense, they are much more than just students.
Consider that at least 300 world leaders spent time as international students in the US. And that’s just top political leaders–think about the countless other leaders in politics, business, religion, education, and more, spread out across the globe who once were international students on campuses in our own cities and towns!
No, we’ve never met “just” an international student. They are, rather, the future leaders of the world.
Consider an example. Gudina Tumsa, an 6’6″ Ethiopian Lutheran priest without a high school diploma, arrived at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1963 to pursue his Bachelor of Divinity degree. He came on academic probation since much of his previous education was not formal, but he did well in his classes and was remembered as witty and wise.
During his time in the States, he was influenced by the work of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (specifically those written while Bonhoeffer himself was in the States and encountering the plight of African Americans).
In his recently-published book, The Bonhoeffer of Africa: Rev. Gudina Tumsa’s Life, Theological Emphases, and Contributions to the Ethiopian Church , author Abeneazer Gezahegn Urga (himself currently an international PhD student) explains that Bonhoeffer and Gudina were “similar both in their lives and in their deaths.”
Both were “influenced by their time in America to be Christian activists by emphasizing the social implications of the Gospel of Christ upon their return to the respective contexts” (p. 31).
Gudina’s influence on the evangelical church in Ethiopia cannot be overstated. He effectively worked towards inter-denominational unity, strengthening the Church to stand strong in the face of the “pervasive ideological invasion and persecution of Marxism and Leninism” (p. 67), engaged in biblically faithful, contextually relevant theology and trained the young generation in it, and advocated for an appreciation of “the Whole Man” rather than a sacred/secular divide” (p. 68).
Who knew that Gudina would contribute all these things when he was “just” a tall international student newly arrived from Ethiopia? Answer: no one but God.
And who knows what the international student you meet on your local campus will contribute to their country and to the world in the future? Answer: no one but God.
How exciting to have an influence and be an encouragement to international students as they study to be the leaders of tomorrow around the world!
For more information on Gudina Tumsa, the fascinating international student profiled here, check out The Bonhoeffer of Africa: Rev. Gudina Tumsa’s Life, Theological Emphases, and Contributions to the Ethiopian Church.
*This book is the first in a series–look out for more books on Ethiopian theologians coming soon!