By Bill Bray, Special to ASSIST News Service
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA (ANS — November 24, 2015) – Over 113 local prayer leaders from across the United States and Canada joined international students in prayer last week. The week-long observance was organized around the second annual International Students Day of Prayer (ISDOP) and included prayers in churches on International Student Sundays.
Terror attacks in France, Kenya, Mali, and Nigeria came at a time when many local Christians in America were inviting Muslim international students to share Thanksgiving with them this week.
“We chose International Students Day to pray,” says the local and national organizer, “because it dovetails right into Thanksgiving – the most popular time of the year for local believers to reach out to international students.” Locally, about 900-1000 international students are expected to participate in Thanksgiving meal events with local community groups and churches.
There are 1.13 million international student guests in the USA this semester now according to Homeland Security.
The Rev. Debra Yarde, leader of the Operation Esther Prayer Circle here at the University of Virginia, said that community prayer groups like hers are planning annual prayer meetings every November 17 as part of the annual International Students Day of Prayer.
“My goal for next year is to have one in every State,” she beamed, “and this is going around the world. In fact we already have interested representatives for OEC in 21 African countries!”
She said the Operation Esther Prayer Circle national movement is working to link with local campus and community prayer ministries to observe international student days of prayer on every one of the 3500 university and Bible College campuses in the USA and Canada.
“We’re building bridges between all people of faith,” she said, “every tribe, tongue, nation and clan according to what the Bible says – and that includes black and white, male and female too!”
Rev. Yarde said the event was officially endorsed by the Association of Christian Ministries among Internationals (ACMI) for the first time this year.
During the International Students Day of Prayer, local supporters officially launched a campaign to exhibit at the Urbana 15 Student Missions Conference in St. Louis, the Proclaim 16 National Religious Broadcasters Convention in Nashville and other conferences sponsored by ACMI, the Consortium for the Support of Indigenous Missions (COSIM) and the Ethnic America Network (EAN) based at Wheaton College in Illinois.
The campaign, she said, is called “100 Days of Destiny” and hopes to raise $30,000 through 130 sponsors by the end of the push at Proclaim 16 in Nashville on February 25. Contributions are being collected at www.OSMission.org
On the eve of the International Students Day of Prayer (ISDOP), ministry leaders on campus met with community leaders to discuss how to respond the Paris attacks by ISIS over the previous weekend. Dr. Bill Wilder of the Christian Study Center led a scripture study on Romans 12:17-21 on the theme “Repay no one evil for evil…”
“How are we going to show Christ’s love to the hundreds of Muslim students on grounds here at the University of Virginia today?” asked one leader, noting that many Muslims live in fear of reprisals even though there have been no anti-Muslim incidents reported.
However, a Muslim student leader said some of the female international students are removing their Islamic scarves to avoid attracting attention.
Operation Esther Circles began in 2014 by Overseas Students Mission as a university outreach in the wake of ISIS genocide of Christians and minority religious in Northern Iraq and Syria.
“OEC is leading a spiritual response to this global crisis in migration and world order – we see ourselves as the ‘Watchman on the Wall’ – called to be diligent in arousing people of prayer to turn back the tide of death, hatred and violence.”
Here in Charlottesville, prayers for international student started before dawn, but most of the intercession took place in a six-hour vigil from 9 AM to 3 PM at the Charlottesville House of Prayer (CHOP) “Upper Room” above the Well House Café.
The Well House is a student gathering place in the West Village between the University Hospital and the Central Grounds.
On the first International Student Sunday Nov. 15, a Prayer-Walk was conducted on campus and local ministers were challenged to lead congregations in prayer for internationals November 22 as well. International Education Week was celebrated on most campuses November 16-20.
Scores of student-led prayer and Bible groups meet on the grounds of the University of Virginia. The student Prayer Collective is known as SEEK and includes representatives of most student Christian clubs and associations at the University.
International Students Day has its historic roots in the global horror following the Nazi massacres of nine international students at the University of Prague in 1939 – and the virtual death sentence for 1200 others sent to concentration camps.
Photo captions: 1) Students praying together. 2) Bill Bray.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Bill Bray, 68, is an author, retired foreign correspond and journalist specializing in indigenous missions movements. He has traveled to over 65 countries on assignment including numerous trips to China, India and Southeast Asia. He lives with his wife Ivy and family in Charlottesville, Virginia.
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