Glenns provide community for students at USC
The Glenns, who serve as chaplains at USC, offer hospitality to Indian students through a variety of events. CBF photo
LOS ANGELES – "Sometimes I feel like I don’t exist in this country," an Indian student told Aaron and Stephanie Glenn.
The Glenns, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel, have heard similar expressions of loneliness during the past three years, as they’ve ministered to international students at the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles, which has the highest population of international students of any college in the United States.
Feelings of isolation and homesickness can be overwhelming for students trying to learn a foreign language and culture on their own. Even the nuances of daily living in the U.S. can contribute to culture shock, such as American doorknobs and light switches which operate opposite of what many international students have known all their lives.
"So many world leaders have graduated from USC," said Stephanie, "It’s a great opportunity for us as Christians to express our love of Christ for them while they are here because these people are going to be the future leaders of our world. They are going to impact the ways wars are conducted, inventions that are developed or how social justice issues are handled. These people are going to be very influential in their countries and probably even in our country."
Through a partnership with American Baptist Churches USA, the Glenns serve as Baptist chaplains for USC and have offices at the university’s religious center. They facilitate weekly conversational English classes, lunches and other activities on campus. They also help students acclimate to American culture – picking up new students at the airport, helping students navigate medical systems and hosting holiday parties at their home.
The Glenns have specifically reached out to the large population of graduate students from India. After traveling to India while they were students at Truett Theological Seminary, a Fellowship partner, and seeing the work of former CBF field personnel James and Robbi Francovich, the Glenns developed a heart for India and its people.
"We tell students that we feel like the act of hospitality is the way we are expressing our devotion to Jesus," said Stephanie. "We do this out of love for Christ, and we feel like the table fellowship – the time we spend together over a meal, talking with students one-on-one, playing games or drinking chai tea together – is an act of service to Christ. We believe part of the gospel is to love people not only with our words but with our actions."
The Glenns encourage churches and individuals to reach out to international students in their own communities. As CBF field personnel, the Glenns serve as a resource for churches who are interested in ministering to internationals, offering Fellowship Baptists the opportunity to visit Los Angeles and see their ministry first-hand. Through the CBF speaker’s bureau, the Glenns are also available to travel to churches and lead retreats, worship and workshops.
"Being all things to all people, doesn’t just apply to us when we are overseas," Aaron said. "In this country, with our large immigrant and international student population, being all things means being a neighbor. It’s adjusting our life a little bit so that they might see Jesus in us."
To learn about partnership opportunities with the Glenns or resources for ministering to international students, call (800) 352-8741. To financially support the Glenn’s ministry, give to the CBF Offering for Global Missions at www.thefellowship.info/OGM.
CBF is a fellowship of Baptist Christians and churches who share a passion for the Great Commission and a commitment to Baptist principles of faith and practice. The Fellowship’s mission is to serve Christians and churches as they discover and fulfill their God-given mission.