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Cumberlands student fulfills calling by serving fellow students


WILLIAMSBURG, Ky.--At any given time, you may find Tommie Thompson in the midst of a group of students from other countries. Thompson, a junior from Jellico, Tenn. has chosen to surround herself with UC’s international students.

She began her involvement with the international students during the second semester of her freshman year in 2008, when her close friend, then UC senior and friend of the international students, Emily Sturgill, had a life changing conversation with Thompson. Sturgill explained to Thompson that while many Cumberlands students have a desire to do missions after they graduate, they often do not take opportunities to minister to the international students who are here on campus.


Following this conversation, Thompson began spending more time with Sturgill and the Nepali students who were at UC. They did the same things that the American students did, such as going to Cumberland Falls and just hanging out.

After Sturgill’s graduation in 2008, Thompson’s friendships with the international students grew. The beginning of her sophomore year was spent with a close-knit group of girls from Nepal. Since the second semester of her sophomore year, she has spent much of her time with Cumberlands’ Chinese students.

Thompson uses a passage in Leviticus to explain her calling to share with the international students.

“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself,” Leviticus 19:33-34a (ESV.)

She said she feels that God really spoke to her through the verses and impressed upon her the need to treat international students just as she treats American students.

“I just love it,” Thompson said, “I feel more comfortable with them than I do Americans sometimes.”

Thompson’s experience with the Nepali girls was a special one. She explained that they were very welcoming. “I got more love out of just hanging with them than anything else,” she said. Thompson explained that she learned a great deal from the Nepali girls. Chanda, the only Christian Nepali girl, taught Thompson how she and her family worshipped each morning in Nepal. When they left UC, the girls left Thompson a journal full of letters.

“I try to serve them but they end up serving me,” she said of her international friends.

Currently, Thompson continues to learn from her Chinese friends. She has been blessed with a family who allows her to bring her international friends home for weekends and holidays.

“I’m thankful that my family is so open to me bringing them home,” said Thompson.

Four different nationalities were represented at the Thompson home for Thanksgiving 2009.

One Chinese student in particular, Yi Wen (Wenny), spent Christmas and most of summer break with Thompson’s family. Winnie considers the Thompson family her “American family.”

“We fight like sisters,” Thompson said, “I’ve seen the joy she’s brought to my family.”

When Thompson attended the Engage conference for international students in October 2009, she recognized the reality that most international students do not come from Christian nations.

“The one thing that really struck me was that we have people on our campus who have never heard the story of Jesus,” she explained, “How is that even possible?”

Thompson has realized some of the difficulties of talking about Christ with the international students. It is complicated to share the Bible with them without seeming to belittle their cultures. She knows, however, that if the students become Christians here, they can have a huge impact on their families when they return home.

Thompson stresses that anything she is able to do is through God. He has given her a heart for the international students, and spending time with them comes naturally for her.

“It’s just about loving and serving people,” she said.