Fifteen years ago, the relationship between Saudi Arabia, homeland of Islam, and the United States was cool at best. Opportunities for Christians to live there were limited and difficult.
Thirteen years ago, with the violence of 9/11, connections were severed, travel restricted, and hostility ensued. Persecution of Christians increased, missionaries were forced out.
Nine years ago, King Abdullah met with President Bush and began a massive scholarship fund and opportunity for Saudi students to study in America.
Now, there are over one hundred thousand Saudi Arabian students flooding into American universities.
They are here. Talented young men and, increasingly, women from a country known for birthing some of the most radical Muslims in the world are being paid by their government to come and study here. The scholarship fund makes efforts to provide this opportunity not just for the wealthy, educated class, but for a wide range of their citizens, from all socio-economic levels. The same country that will not allow their women to drive will allow them to earn bachelors and masters degrees from American universities. Universities in Kentucky, Indiana, and Tennessee and other states now have Saudi Arabian students in the hundreds attending their classes, eating in their restaurants, living in their cities.
The scholarship program has been extended until 2020. Then, this window of opportunity may close. The students will go home.
But what will they take with them?
Because Saudi Arabian students are coming in such large numbers it is easy for them to remain within their own ethnic communities. Language and cultural barriers often prove to be hurdles too great for them to overcome, even though they may long for a friendships with local people. A Global Gates missionary recently sat down with a Saudi student who admitted that even though he had been in America for two years, their meeting was his first time sitting down to talk to an American. They come to America on a scholarship program that lists “mutual understanding” and “cultural exchange” as some of its key priorities, but many will return to their homeland having never entered an American home, never made an American friend, and even more shocking, never heard the Good News of Jesus.
The home that they will return to is hostile to the Gospel because it is the stronghold of another faith, the land which all Muslims face when they pray. In Saudi Arabia, it is illegal to build a church building and difficult to do long term mission work. Martyrdom and persecution are serious issues for anyone even considering Jesus. Some Saudis have even reported that they were having dreams about how the Lord was working among them; however, nearly one hundred percent of the students coming from Saudi Arabia have never had a Gospel conversation with a Christian.
This may be their only chance to meet Jesus.
They will return home with a diploma and an interesting life experience... but they could take with them so much more. They could return to their families with a new life, faith of greater worth than gold, and news of salvation by grace alone. They could... only if Christians in America are awake enough to see the grand opportunity before them, bold enough to open their mouths at such a strategic time and share, devoted enough to enter with love into lives that have no access to the Gospel.
What if each of the over 100,000 Saudi students in America right now had the chance to hear?
Will you tell them?
For more information about connecting with Saudi students near you please email firstname.lastname@example.org