Evangelists influence founders of K-State exchange student ministry
Cited from: Kansas State Collegian, Wednesday, December 1, 2010
By Kyle Mathews
Bob Taussig stood on the front porch of his Manhattan home in pressed khaki slacks and a perfectly knotted tie under a wool sweater vest. The walls of his and his wife Mary's house are covered with pictures of their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren; of other family members and friends; of people with varied ethnicities.
In seeing those pictures, anyone could tell that the Taussigs' heart is for people, particularly foreign people.
The Taussigs founded a college ministry group called Helping International Students. But they did not just come up with the idea out of the blue.
Bob and Mary's relationship was the starting point of this organization.
"The founding and formation of HIS is everything to do with how we met," Bob said.
Foundations of Faith
Bob Taussig grew up on a remote ranch at the base of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. In contrast, his wife Mary grew up in a "very sophisticated village" in Dixon, Ill.
They met each other while attending Wheaton College in Illinois and married in 1945.
Both Bob and Mary had religious experiences during their lives that changed them for the better. Bob's change came while he attended Wheaton to earn a doctorate in veterinary medicine.
According to an article by David Johnson, a friend of the Taussigs, Bob heard a message from a man enlisted by Wheaton to connect with students. The man's name was Gypsy Smith, an evangelist from London, who was an early member of the Salvation Army.
Johnson wrote that Smith was contacted with the purpose of developing Christian converts among the freshman class.
After hearing Smith's message, Bob said he hurried back to his dorm room to pray, asking God, "Please save me right now!" Bob attributes that night to his Christian conversion.
Mary said her conversion came about through different circumstances.
Growing up, she attended church every Sunday. But it was only after marrying Bob that she realized her fault.
"I realized that I was comparing myself to people," she said. "I was above the cut-off line because I was so good ... and nobody had ever questioned whether I was a Christian."
Johnson wrote, "In an eye-opening flash, Mary realized that the ‘little' sins separated her from God as much as murder. She cried out to God to save her."
Within a few years after her conversion, Mary encouraged Bob to attend an event in Lincoln, Neb. Speaking at the event was Dawson Trotman, founder of The Navigators, a collegiate ministry devoted to equipping students in their faith and a group that Bob later became a part of.
It was at this event that Bob met LeRoy Eims, one of Trotman's proteges. Eims is now a noted Christian author with whom Bob is a close friend and mentee.
Bob and Mary's path eventually led them to Iowa, where Bob established a private veterinary practice in Sioux City and maintained it for 20 years. But being just a doctor for the rest of his life was not a firm resolution, he said.
"I was mentored by three very strong Christians who ended up suggesting that I should go to a university," Bob said. "God brought us to K-State, and I took a job at the veterinary college and taught from 1966 to 1972."
The college asked Bob and Mary to pioneer an overseas team in northern Nigeria to help set up a veterinary college. There, they had a cultural revelation together.
"That experience led to our ability to understand culture," Bob said. "God designed for Mary to do the mechanics of living in a foreign country."
The inspiration behind HIS can be specifically traced back to a single moment that Mary experienced.
She went to an immigration office every time she left the state where they lived in Nigeria to pick others up at the airport. Through frequent interactions at the office, she became friends with the officers and heard stories from students coming back from America.
She said she overheard a returning student exclaim, "I hate America!"
"The immigration officer turned to me and said, ‘I'd like you to meet Mrs. Taussig from America,'" she said. "He told me that ‘No, there's no one I would ever write to in America. I saw churches, but nobody ever asked me to go to one. I didn't have a good time in America. I hate it there.'"
Mary said she was shocked to hear this because the student said he had received a good education. She wanted to find out for herself if this one student's view was the standard or the exception.
As she met more and more students coming back from getting their education in the United States, Mary saw this attitude was a common thread.
"They would remember their time and their pain, and everyone that I interviewed had a terrible time in America," she said.
Back to Campus
Bob and Mary returned to K-State in 1976 after serving four years in Nigeria. Bob said among the first things they did, even on their flight back home, was to ask each other the question, "What are we going to do about this problem?"
They obtained a list from K-State citing the names and nationalities for every foreign-born student enrolled, more than 1,000 students. They did what felt natural to them: invite every one of these students to their home — for the next year.
"We turned the pages of that list and prayed for every international student, no matter what country they were from, asking God to show us what we might be able to do to help them," Bob said.
Others were quick to help with the Taussigs' mission of helping international students on campus.
While most cited that they would pray for one or a few individuals, Mary said she believed that more could and needed to be done.
She phoned those people who said they would help, asking them to go just a bit further with their commitment to these students. After giving the potential helpers the telephone number and address of an assigned international student, she told those men and women the one thing that would set HIS in motion and be the unofficial mission statement for the entire ministry's existence.
"What you will do in that student's life will be all that will happen in their life this year, the only connection they'll have to an American," she told them.
‘Worth a Lifetime'
Friendships were born, relationships were established and a movement devoted to befriending international students has spread to college campuses in America, Canada and throughout the world.
As articles were written and more and more lives were being influenced, other universities wanted to share in the ministry of HIS on their respective campuses.
The Taussigs were invited to a meeting in Kansas City to help with the constitution and bylaws of a new organization called the Association of Christians Ministering Among Internationals.
The organization grew quickly, and Bob said most major universities have ministries for international students as a result of their involvement.
The association organizes an annual conference to help individuals and universities learn how to serve international students, and K-State hosted the 2010 ACMI conference.
Even with the exposure Bob and Mary have received over the course of their lives, they remain humble and focused on other things beyond themselves.
Bob said he didn't want himself and his wife to be publicized, but that the opportunities at K-State to minister to international students is what should be highlighted.
"To reach one student ... who will go back to become lawyers, doctors, community leaders, professors — to have one of them become a Christian and influence their people back home is worth a lifetime of missionary work," he said.