By Bill Bray, Special Correspondent for ASSIST News Service
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA (ANS – August 4, 2016) – Like thousands of other campus ministry leaders across the country, Debra Yarde of Operation Esther Prayer Circle, is leading meetings to prepare a welcome for international students.
Over 1.2 million will be starting school this month across the United States, and Yarde is calling for friendship hosts, families and church groups to welcome them.
Here in Charlottesville, she is organizing prayer and planning meetings to welcome incoming students to the University of Virginia, Piedmont College and other schools. The meetings are being held Thursday evenings, August 11 and 18. Similar events are being held in campus communities all across the USA and Canada.
Operation Esther Circle will host the weekly prayer and planning meetings on Thursdays to prepare for incoming students at UVA and other local schools. The remaining sessions will be held at the Overseas Students Mission Headquarters, from 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. following an hour of intercession starting at 5:30. Contact Debra Yarde, President, (434) 227-0811.
The regular weekly Operation Esther Prayer Circle meetings begin at 5:30 p.m. every Thursday evening in Charlottesville.Student friendship churches and grounds ministries will be formally welcoming the students August 19-20 although there will be many “meet and greet” meetings hosted by student clubs and organizations during orientation week starting August 15.
UVA graduates over 1000 international students a year and Yarde dreams of every student having a loving host family to help them feel welcome and adjust to life in the United States – especially to life “off campus.
Yarde worked with local African American congregations and the larger community to welcome the Mandela Fellows this summer. The fellows are visiting student leaders from 55 African nations.
“But everything starts with prayer,” she says, “and that’s why we are holding weekly and daily prayer meetings for grounds ministries at UVa as well as local church outreaches to welcome the students. Yarde co-ordinates a “Night Watch” and online prayer chains and meetings. She is networked with similar national efforts.
She says the group will be praying for every church with an outreach to UVA and other local colleges, as well as for faculty, student clubs, the International Hospitality Programs, International Students, intercultural outreaches and other special groups like the Charlottesville House of Prayer, the UVA Student Bible Study Fellowship and the National Headquarters of Overseas Students Mission.
There are 12 local churches and over 30 campus ministries reaching out to students at the University.
“We want to pray for anyone who is focusing on welcoming students and developing next generation student leadership.”Yarde raises her own support to volunteer with OSM, which co-sponsors the Operation Esther Prayer Circles and the International Students Day of Prayer on November 17.Both movements are organizing prayer groups in 3,500 campus communities to foster better hospitality and outreach to the 1.1 million international students now on American campuses.
According to campus leaders, the number of international students is expected to reach 2 million by 2020.
“Reaching out to international students in love is the best way to promote international peace and help reduce genocide, injustice, terrorism, violence and war in the next generation,” says Yarde.
“That’s why we need support not only from churches and Christians but anyone who cares about the social and spiritual needs of these visitors – especially for Hindus, Muslims and other ethnic or religious minorities threatened by the ISIS Jihad.”
Photo captions: 1) New international students arriving on campus. 2) Debra Yarde of Operation Esther Prayer Circle. 3) Bill Bray
About the writer: Bill Bray, 69, is an author and journalist who specializes in Christian missions, international student and university ministries. He welcomes interaction with our readers about the topics he covers and can be contacted directly at email@example.com.
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