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History-making Mission Banquet for Overseas Students

by Michael Ireland

‘Back-to-School’ Anniversary Weekend for History-making Mission

By Bill Bray, Correspondent, ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA (ANS – August 24, 2018) – Overseas Students Mission will celebrate 65 years of ministry with a history-making ‘Back-to-School’ banquet this weekend.

It was 1953 and American Christianity was just discovering a dynamic young evangelist named Billy Graham and the evangelical movement he would lead was a history- making moment among U.S. churches.

Dr. Bob Finley and Rev. Billy Graham

But at that moment, it seemed like denominations and the Global mission’s movement were dying. Foreign missions, so strong before World War II, now seemed to be dying as one newly independent nation after another sent Americans packing. Now Overseas Students Mission is organizing a history making banquet celebrating its work among international students here in the U.S.

The situation was so bad back then that many American churches and top denominational leaders were openly talking about adopting “a moratorium” on foreign missions.

But all that changed with the immersion of something totally unexpected, what would become known as “the indigenous mission’s movement.”  Its bold advocate in the USA, a young graduate from the University of Virginia, was named Bob Finley. He formed three non-profit organizations that would change the world of missions forever, the Overseas Students Mission, International Students, Inc., and Christian Aid Mission.

Two of them are based here in Charlottesville. One of them, the Overseas Students Mission is celebrating its 65th Anniversary this Saturday 6 p.m. at the Greencroft Country Club in Ivy. Reservations are required from (434) 227-0811.

Before World War II, there had been unbridled optimism about world missions. American churches and denominations believed God was calling them to “win the world to Christ” — but then came a shocking wave of nationalism and independence from colonialism. The western powers were synonymous with missions, and the age of western imperialism was over.

Most of the traditional mission agencies and denominations were voting to close their doors as Communism, nationalism and secularism toppled one colonial government after another. Many were tempted to despair — including even Bob Finley — who was then an evangelist to youth doing missionary work in China, Korea and India. As wars of liberation broke out, millions died by fighting and starvation.

Dr. Bob Finley founded the ministry.

But where others were overcome by the tragedy, Finley began to see opportunity and hope for sharing the Love of God. He began meeting many Chinese, Korean and Indian leaders who were eager to pick up the mission’s work being abandoned by American churches and denominations.

Someone should help them, he reasoned, but few did or could.

Finley decided that he would not try to change the tide of history in Asia, but instead, would return to the United States to work with overseas students here. His plan was to minister to international students in the USA and help them return to their homelands as a new generation of missionaries, replacing foreign missionaries who were no longer welcome.

Thus, the Overseas Students Mission was formed in Philadelphia in 1953—sixty-five years ago. Soon, the idea spread to Chicago, San Francisco and Washington, DC.

Thousands of campus missions have followed the Overseas Students Mission model since – not only at the University of Virginia but at every major University in the USA.  This year, 1.2 million international students are expected to return to classes in the USA alone and OSM-style clubs have formed in nearly every country of the world.

Bill Bray with International students

Ten years ago, on March 1, 2008, Bob Finley asked me to take the helm of Overseas Students Mission and help expand it to over 3000 universities in the USA. We are now doing this and more – helping international students, both here and abroad, to return to their own people as the next generation of “ambassadors for Christ.”

On Saturday night, OSM will be celebrating 65 years, but more than that, the OSM Board of Directors will be taking the next steps to fulfill the founder’s legacy both here in Charlottesville and around the world.

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