Justin arrived at Oakland from Beijing in the fall of 2014 as a Master’s student in Computer Science. Like many international students, he did not have friends, family, or familiar faces greeting him as he arrived. He knew a place where he could live with a roommate, but beyond that, he did not have anything more than the clothes in his suitcase.
This same fall semester that Justin arrived, Cultivate was working to find ways to serve incoming international students at Oakland University. Cultivate director Cam Underdown had been introduced to members of the international students and scholars office at Oakland by a friend, and he put together a plan to assist the ISSO in forming relationships between international students and Americans in an effort to help these students navigate their first few months in the United States.
The first component of the plan was to have an event over Labor Day weekend. Most of Oakland and the surrounding community shuts down over Labor Day, leaving new international students without places to go or things to do on a holiday weekend before classes. With so many amazing local festivals happening over Labor Day weekend, it seemed like a win to be able to show international students the best that local culture had to offer.
As Cam and the team made invitations, Justin was the first to accept. He traveled with the Cultivate team to Arts, Beats, and Eats in Royal Oak, exchanged numbers, and over the next 2 months, Justin developed close friendships with those he had met. Soon, his friendships would lead him to reveal some of the difficulties of his situation, namely trying to find reliable transportation and insurance that he could afford. These friends desired to help, deciding to lend him a hand. Together, they found a car, and one friend even added Justin to his car insurance (after being appalled at the rates charged to international students) so Justin’s payments would be lower.
The selfless acts of these friends, motivated by love for Jesus, resounded with Justin. He asked why these people were so keen to help him, and when he found it had roots in a relationship with God, he went looking for his own relationship. He began seriously participating in a Chinese speaking church where he had been attending at the request of some Chinese friends, and over the next two years underwent a journey of deciding that Jesus was real and worth his life.
Throughout this process, Justin was growing as a kingdom worker. His friendship with the Cultivate team was the cornerstone that launched International Oasis, a non-profit that provides support to international students in order to inspire and equip them to meet the needs of the global poor. He became one of the most reliable volunteers in International Oasis, inviting other students to participate, driving carpools, and welcoming new students at each new fall orientation, helping them trust the work and workers within International Oasis. Justin has become the unofficial spokesperson for International Oasis, sharing his story in front of hundreds of local community members at churches and organizations, encouraging Americans to volunteer and build friendships with international students. With Justin’s help, International Oasis has grown to serve over 300 students as of fall 2017.
In August 2017, Justin made the decision to be baptized. Before he was baptized, Justin wrote a letter to share with all who were present:
“Now I begin to accept that Jesus is the answer…the more I know Jesus, the more I know me and things happening around me. Recently, I strongly feel that Jesus is using every voice from my best friends to tell me that it is the time to level-up our relationship. And I think baptism is just like the format of a wedding, I hope all my friends, especially for those who have super important influence on me, can be the witness of my testimony.”
Justin invited friends, both followers of Jesus and those who were unsure of Christ, to witness his baptism. He wants those around him to know the reason for his new hope, and he lives in such a way as to invite them to know the hope that he has. In an environment where he is a minority, where he is learning the language of those around him, Justin is making an impact for the kingdom and making disciples wherever he goes.