T. E. Koshy, an Evangelical Christian from Kerala, India, arrived at Syracuse University in 1965, planning to do graduate work in journalism and then return to India to resume his Christian ministries. Within a short time the enthusiastic student became overwhelmed with daily anxieties due to the American way of life.
One day as he was praying, God ministered to Koshy in his own despair and loneliness. “The Lord reminded me of the 1300 international students from 120 countries, studying at SU,” Koshy says, “and He urged me to think of them and to do something to show my friendship. I was so lonely myself for someone to talk to about my problems and about spiritual matters that I insisted I could have no influence with the many Hindus, Moslems, Buddhists, and other religions represented at the university. However,” Koshy concluded, “as God continued to instruct me, He filled me with Divine love that became a driving force motivating me to service for others.”
Koshy began his ministry of Christian love and caring by inviting Internationals to his apartment for meals. He did no preaching but simply shared love and friendship. The students sensed his love and often asked why he cared for them. Occasionally, as he had an opportunity, Koshy shared his Christian testimony.
In 1967 the Indian host married a fine physician on the staff of the SU Hospital by the name of Indira. Indira was also a native of India, and she became Koshy’s companion and co-hostess in welcoming students into their home. This loving Christian couple has seen scores of Internationals come to believe in Christ and commit their lives to Him.
As the number of guests grew, the Lord provided a large home on the edge of the university for Koshy’s ministry. In 1972 they officially formed INTERNATIONAL FRIENDSHIP EVANGELISM on the basis of God’s promise found in Isaiah 43:19: “Behold I will do a new thing, and now it shall spring forth. Shall ye not know it? I will make the way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”
To cater to the needs of Internationals their home is opened up for special friendship meals and other activities that are scheduled throughout the year. Usually there are 40 – 50 student guests who share a meal of a delicious variety of foods. Sometimes the guests may number as many as 100! The Koshys say, “Yes, it is a lot of work, but we see abundant joy that comes from it.” Every Sunday an evangelical message is presented earlier at 10:45 A.M. for those who care to attend. “But,” Koshy explains, “the students are not looking for money or housing; they are looking for someone who cares, someone to turn to in times of loneliness and need. I always tell them, “we love you and care for you.”
Koshy, who has degrees in philosophy, law, journalism and theology, from his home country, also earned a Ph.D.in Mass Communications from SU. He serves in the official capacity of Evangelical Chaplain at the university and is a popular speaker at international missionary conferences and colleges in the U.S. and abroad; he was a participant on the World Evangelism Congress at Lauzanne in 1974. He participates in various outstanding Christian organizations and fellowships; and in January 1982 he became one of the ten selected evangelical delegates to analyzethe need and develop teaching guidelines to bring greater theological/Biblical content into mass media communications.
As Director of International Friendship Evangelism, he believes the organization is a unique and effective approach to evangelizing the world through students who are studying in in North America.
Citing the significance of this ministry, Koshy outlines his reasons:
1. As of 1990 over 1 million Internationals will be studying at U.S. & Canadian universities. They represent practically every nation including those that are “closed” to the Gospel. There are scientists, scholars, and intellectuals from Communist countries like Russia and China, and Muslim countries such as Malaysia and Saudi Arabia. Out of these come the present and future leaders of other lands– leaders in government, education, business and industry. These are the ones who make decisions and influence the opinions of their countries.
2. Christians in North America have an unprecedented opportunity to reach these foreign leaders for Christ from their own living rooms in practical ways. This is “missions at our doorsteps,” a chance to witness through love and caring, to the “cream of the crop” from other countries.
3. One does not have to learn another language since all the students speak English fluently.
4. Many of the students come from countries where preaching the Gospel is illegal, or where family and peer restrictions prevail against Christianity. In the U.S. they are free from such restrictions, and friendly Christians can have them in their homes in an atmosphere of friendship, warmth and love. We can correct errors and prejudices many have concerning Christ, Christianity and Christians.
5. Through mutual sharing, a better understanding of peoples and cultures can bridge the gap of misunderstanding between countries.
6. If and when Internationals are won to Christ, they can return to their respective countries as missionaries to their own people. If we really want to see a Christian break-through in the non-Christian countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America, we must try to win the “opinion-makers” or leaders from these countries to Christ. Influence flows from the top to bottom and the converse seldom happens.
Koshy takes no credit for the Friendship Evangelism Ministry. “It is all God’s doing, and it is God who cares and loves the peoples of the world through us,” he declares. “International students in the USA are not here by accident–it is God’s doing and God’s opportunity for us to reach leaders of the world in our generation.”
He further asserts, “We must share Christ with them–these future international leaders–before it is too late.” And, he points out, they won’t all become Christians, but they will experience a ministry of love and friendship which will give them a positive attitude toward Christ and Christianity.
Summing up the unique approach of International Friendship Evangelism, Koshy reminds Evangelicals:
“According to statistics more than two-thirds or over 2.6 billion people of the world are yet to be reached with the Gospel. These fall into three major blocks or categories: Hindu, 520 million; Muslim, 680 million; and Chinese, 840 million. Leaders from these categories are now found in every major college or university in the USA. What a challenging opportunity they present to us!”