‘Connect’ unites international students with each other & the gospel


CAVE CITY, Ky. (KT) – Cave City’s convention center resembled a much younger version of the United Nations as international college students gathered to celebrate culture and learn about the Christian faith.

Over the weekend, hundreds of students representing more than 40 countries attended the three-day Connect conference in central Kentucky.

Organizer Brett Martin, Kentucky Baptist Convention’s state international campus missionary, said the event could result in sending the gospel throughout the world when students go back to their native homelands equipped with biblical truths.

“The purpose of our annual conference is to serve international students by helping them make new friends and celebrate their diverse cultures,” said Martin. “More importantly, Connect provides a safe, comfortable space where students can explore what it means to follow Christ.”

University of Kentucky student Yuyan “Summer” Xia said growing up with her atheist father and Buddhist mother in China, she never considered becoming a follower of Christ. Instead, she was encouraged to be self-reliant, excel in school, and seek out her own truth.

“Being a Christian in my country is like telling people you’re not smart,” said Xia.

Yet away from home, Xia felt safe to explore and what she found was God’s truth. One year after attending her first Connect conference, Xia was baptized at Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, Ky.

“Now, I want to show people that Jesus is real,” said Xia. She hopes to open a Christian preschool in China after earning her graduate degree.

Christian speaker Al Fadi, a former devout Muslim, said his goal at the conference was to present the big picture of the Christian faith and rely on God to use ministry leaders in the “sidebar conversations” initiated by students.

“Our job is to plant seeds and to keep watering those seeds. God will provide the growth,” Al Fadi said.

Campus Missionary Jeff Prosser said one of those conversations started Friday night when a Japanese student asked, “What is Jesus?”

“Not ‘Who is Jesus?’” said Prosser. “He asked, ‘What is Jesus?’ We take it for granted that everyone knows who Jesus Christ is in this country.”

By the time the night was over, the young man had accepted Christ as his Savior.

Over the next several months, Prosser said leaders at Eastern Kentucky University’s Baptist Campus Ministry will guide the new believer through what it means to follow Jesus. Spiritual disciplines like, reading and studying the Bible, how to talk to God through prayer, and finding community at a local church.

“Connect is not about just one weekend,” said Brian Hinton, Kentucky Baptist campus missionary in the Frankfort region. “Throughout the whole year, we focus on building relationships and building trust so, when the students come here they are more open to what you have to say.”


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