In August, the University of Texas at Dallas Baptist Student Ministry (BSM) welcomed over 1,500 international students to campus through Big Howdy, a program to celebrate and serve students coming to the UTD campus from across the world.
“UTD is an incredibly diverse campus. Almost 25% of the students at UTD are international,” said Mark Warrington, director of the BSM. “Big Howdy provides an incredible opportunity to display all the ways we seek to serve international students so that we can form meaningful, gospel-declaring relationships. It is a rare occasion where the nations literally come to us, in our own backyard, thirsty for relationships.”
Big Howdy is organized by the BSM and four other campus organizations. It began in 2016 and was founded by Jourdan Pollock, associate director of the BSM, in partnership with UTD’s International Christian Fellowship. The program consists of airport pick-ups as well as a welcome party. This year, in the weeks leading up to the fall semester, 115 volunteers from the BSM and its 20 partner churches provided airport pick-ups for over 820 students arriving from 36 different countries.
“This year, we had a volunteer who went to pick up a student whose housing fell through,” said Pollock. “The volunteer was more than willing to open up her home so the student had a place to stay in the meantime. Lots of volunteers make that extra effort with things like helping students get situated in their housing or helping them open a bank account. They show the love of Christ to these students through their actions.”
On the Saturday before the start of classes, following weeks of airport pick-ups, the Big Howdy welcome party was held at UTD. Students from all over the globe gathered on the campus’ multipurpose fields to make connections and enjoy food, music and field games.
Spread out across the field, students learned how to lasso, played games like corn hole and ladder ball, connected with churches and campus organizations through information booths, participated in a raffle and more.
“In the midst of this global pandemic, the desire among international students for personal interaction and forming new relationships is palpable! God used Big Howdy to help meet this need,” said Warrington. “We had countless relationships form from our Big Howdy efforts. Hundreds of students signed up for our various ministries, such as home groups, conversation partners, ESL classes, et cetera. This is in addition to the over 800 students who exchanged contact info with their volunteer drivers from the airport.”
The BSM’s hope and prayer is that God would continue using this outreach program to reach international students for years to come. As the school year continues, they ask that Texas Baptists pray for the students they made contact with.
To learn more about Texas Baptist Student Ministry and all they are doing to share the gospel with Texas’ 1.6 million college students, visit txbsm.org.