By Bill Bray, ASSIST News Service Campus Correspondent
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA (November 15, 2017) – Overseas Students Mission is marking 64 years of international student outreach on Friday with their iconic “Prayer Walk Around the Rotunda” at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia, at 12 noon. Friday is International Students Day, an almost-universal holiday celebrated around the world since 1939.
In New York on Monday, the U.S. Department of State announced that for the second year in a row there are over 1.2 million international students enrolled at American universities in the Fall semester of 2017. Although they said new enrollments have flattened, the number of international students still increased by three percent over 2016.
The annual International Students Day celebrations are a big part of International Education Week activities at colleges and universities throughout the United States. Although the day has been celebrated off and on through the years at UVa, this is the fourth year in a row that local students and community leaders have joined together to pray on the grounds.
Next week, thousands of international students are being invited to American homes to join Thanksgiving holiday meals. The celebration of International Students Day and International Students Sunday helps focus attention on the need to welcome internationals.
The week of prayer began locally with special services on Sunday at Charlottesville Elim church, and has continued daily. Friday’s activities begin with a “Healing for Charlottesville” pastor’s breakfast at a downtown mall café and ends with a 6 p.m. prayer meeting at the Overseas Students Mission, 257 Bob Finley Way off Ivy Road.
The noon walkers on Friday will gather in front of the Center for Christian Study Center at 12 sharp and stroll to the Rotunda to intercede informally for the welfare of all students, faculty, administration and campus leadership. When Thomas Jefferson laid out the grounds of the University of Virginia, he didn’t plan a chapel, but instead included a prayer room in the Rotunda.
Located at the center of the campus, the Rotunda has become a favorite destination for prayer walkers, tourists and pilgrims—making it a real spiritual center for the University of Virginia. Nearby a formal chapel was built in the twentieth century. The area routinely attracts scores of spiritually-minded visitors daily.
International students from UVA who visited the local Charlottesville Elim Church on Avon Street Extended, November 12, were acknowledged from the pulpit and treated to Korean ethnic food after services—typical for pastors and churches around campuses throughout the USA.
“International student ministry is largely spiritual in nature,” said Beau Miller in 2016. He is Director of the Association of Christians Ministering among Internationals (ACMI). Two campus ministries at UVA are members of ACMI, International Students Inc. and Overseas Students Mission.
“People in the ACMI network understand the importance of prayer in this strategic work,” he added, “ACMI supports the upcoming International Students Day of Prayer.”
ACMI, the Association of Christians Ministering among Internationals, includes many international student ministries on over 850 campuses in the USA. Besides many independent fellowships, many are members of large national ministries like Cru, Baptist Student Union, Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship and the Navigators.
ACMI defines itself as network of ISM-engaged people that has a mission to serve as a global network for strategic collaboration among those who minister with international students and scholars.
Overseas Students Mission staff members organized Operation Esther Circle last year to promote prayer groups to serves UVa students and the Charlottesville community.
International Students Day on November 17 is a traditional part of international education week programs on many American campuses. In 2014, a straw poll taken of campus ministries at the annual ACMI conference determined that this would be an ideal time to organize an International Students Day of Prayer. Overseas Students Mission has made this a part of its 5 and 10 development plans.
Historically, the date commemorated the anniversary of the 1939 Nazi storming of the University of Prague after demonstrations broke out against the killings of Jan Opletal and nine international student leaders.
According to Cute Calendar and Wikipedia, International Students’ Day is now defined as an international observance of student community and inter-cultural friendship.
Few colleges and university celebrate the day with any political or bias or reference that made it a red-letter day on Communist and left-wing calendars throughout the cold war. Like UVa, most universities designate it for a nonpolitical celebration of the multiculturalism and international education. Often, campus leaders schedule it on days other than the November 17 date designated by the US State Department and United Nations.
Photo captions: 1) Smiling international students. 2) Another group of internernational stdents arriving to their studies in America. 3) Bill Bray.
About the Writer: Bill Bray is a Christian author and journalist who specializes in missions and student ministry trends at UVa and nationally. He is the author of, Called to All: How I discovered the power of a yielded life. He welcomes interaction with our readers and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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