“Did you know that there are over 1,900 international students at Brock [University]?,” read a recent bulletin announcement from The Village Church in Thorold, Ontario. Over the past year, the ministry team at the emerging Christian Reformed church has been awakened to the world on its doorstep at nearby university and college campuses, and they are responding to God’s opportunity to serve.
“There are people here from all over the world,” said the church’s pastor, Michael Collins. “We’re stepping through a door that we didn’t create. God created it for us by putting people in place, and we’re excited to see where it all might go.”
Collins and the church’s coordinator of community connections, Hilda VanderKlippe, both envisioned a ministry to students from the beginnings of The Village Church. But they had to wait until the church was in a position to sustain such a ministry. From its initial cooperation with Brock Christian Reformed Campus Ministry and its Friday night $2 suppers, the church has found a need among international students in particular that it is suited to meet. “Students express to us how lonely they are here,” VanderKlippe said. “They are so appreciative that we provide a place where they can connect—not only with other students but with Canadians.”
As The Village Church ministry team considered offering more opportunities specifically for this population, they found encouragement in an unplanned meeting between Collins and national student ministry leader Yaw Perbi of International Student Ministries Canada. Perbi’s enthusiasm for outreach to this growing mission field has spread. Students in Thorold are now welcomed for a conversation circle to practice English and a study of the Gospel of Luke. Two families in the church have also hosted students at Thanksgiving and Christmas, serving up an international potluck of dishes that students shared with each other.