Planting the seed of God’s Word with international students

Did you know?

During the 2016–17 school year, 435 international students are attending WELS high schools.

“We had grown accustomed to teaching a high school religion class where all the students could open their Bibles and turn to book, chapter, and verse in no time,” says Matt Herbst, principal of Michigan Lutheran High School, St. Joseph, Mich. “They understood God’s plan of salvation and could recite enormous amounts of God’s Word that they had memorized from the times they were little kids. Now, we have a growing population of students who really don’t have a prerequisite to start ninth grade Religion.”

This “growing population” that Herbst is referring to is the school’s international students, primarily made up of students from Korea and China. The school began hosting international students for the 2013–14 school year.

To meet the needs of these students, Michigan Lutheran High School began offering a Bible basics class to introduce international students to Christianity. Families in local WELS congregations also pick up the international students who live in dorms and bring them to church. Some families host these students over the weekend, offering home-cooked meals, good discussion, and an example of Christian living.

As Herbst notes, “This has been embraced by a number of our families, and great relationships have been built, great discussions about God have happened, and wonderful memories are being made.”

In addition, baptisms are taking place. In fact, the first Chinese student to attend Michigan Lutheran High School asked to be baptized at the end of his first year there. Almost half the student body attended the worship service during which he was baptized.

“It was evident right at the beginning of this program that our student body wanted to take hold of this new and exciting portion of our ministry,” says Herbst.

Many students at Shoreland Lutheran High School, Somers, Wis., feel the same way. Each international student at Shoreland is assigned an American student to help him acclimate and integrate. Noah Marquardt, an American student in his junior year, participates as a “Shoreland Light.”

He says, “Being a Shoreland Light is an incredible experience. . . . I have created unique bonds with several of these students. In addition to knowing their American names, I am now learning their Korean and Chinese names so that I may call them by both. For me, this is a good bridge to create specific relationships with each of them, so they know that I care about them individually. . . . Whether they are from America, China, Korea, or anywhere else, we are all under the beautiful umbrella of God’s saving grace and unconditional love, and everyone deserves that love to be shared with them.”

Paul Scriver, principal at Shoreland, says that the school opened its doors to international students because it is “a wonderful way to share the gospel with young people that don’t typically get to hear it. It has been a tremendous blessing for these young people and for our school.”

As Herbst notes, “Some of our students may never outwardly confess their faith before they leave, but our prayer is always that they know the One whom they can call on in that hour of darkness, repent, and believe because of the seed that was planted while they were here with us.”

Watching God’s Word take root

When Bill Wang applied to Shoreland Lutheran High School, he wrote in his letter of introduction to his host family: “I don’t believe in God or that God created the universe or human, but I definitely believe that there are forces beyond human and if I do good things, good things will come back at me. Although I’ll be glad if someone can really convince me to believe in God, but please don’t be pushy on it.”

Wang began studying at Shoreland in August 2015. In February 2016, Wang became a child of God through baptism at St. John’s, Oak Creek, Wis.

This past fall, Wang was asked who his role model is during Shoreland’s football banquet. He told everyone in attendance that he wanted to be a teacher and coach like Mr. Edgington (a faculty member at Shoreland) so that he could tell his students about Jesus, their Savior.

Wang is graduating from Shoreland this spring and plans on attending Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn., this fall. He will be confirmed in May.


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Volume 104, Number 4
Issue: April 2017

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