University of the Cumberlands (UC) recently had the pleasure of hosting the Connect International Conference for the first time in UC’s history. Connect International is a conference uniting international students from campuses across Kentucky while giving students an opportunity to celebrate their individual cultures and learn about the Christian faith in a positive environment.
Connect International has occurred for decades. This year, it has the potential to unite up 1.2 million international students who are currently studying in the United States. The goal of Connect International is to give these students an opportunity to hear and learn about the Gospel, which they may not get to do in another setting. It also gives students a special occasion to celebrate their home country’s culture.
“No matter where you come from, whether you’re from the States or Africa or the Caribbean, it doesn’t matter,” said Denée Lyttle, a sophomore who came to Cumberlands from the Caribbean with her twin sister. “We all belong to one God. We’re all one.”
There were approximately 250 people in attendance and about three dozen countries represented at this year's conference. There was an abundance of activities taking place over the weekend that the students were encouraged to participate in.
The World’s Fair was a favored activity. Students set up booths representing their home countries. They got to share their culture with other students that visited the booths. They had mock passports that got stamped at each country they visited. Games were set up as well. A talent show was also held to showcase talents ranging from singing and dancing to martial arts.
“It’s been amazing to see God work through the nations and giving parts of the world all these different talents,” said Lydia Huggins, a UC alumna who attended the event. “Singing, or dancing, or playing instruments, it’s just beautiful to see them all come together.”
“It left an impact on our international students,” said Jasmine Newport, Director of Appalachian Ministries. “It always does. Our students loved it! They got to talk about their faith with the other students who came. It’s one of their favorite conferences. It’s geared toward them. Connect International really tries to make the conference a cultural experience.”
Speakers such as Sammy Joo interpreted and explained the Gospel in ways everyone in attendance could understand. Some students were from countries that don’t acknowledge Christianity, so their background knowledge was minimal. Joo’s speeches helped with that part of international students’ cultural immersion: learning about Christianity.
“A lot of international students don’t have the framework to understand the Gospel,” said Chad Everhart, Campus Minister. “Biblical literacy is very low in the United States right now anyway, but most international students have never even heard the name ‘Jesus.’ In some parts of the world, the Bible doesn’t even exist to them. So, the speaker took the time to build that framework. He went through creation, fall and redemption.”
Located in Williamsburg, Kentucky, University of the Cumberlands is an institution of regional distinction offering quality undergraduate, graduate, doctoral, and online degree programs. Learn more at ucumberlands.edu.