It was on our way home from an open house when Peggy and I decided to become involved in International Friendships (IFI), for we had just celebrated its fruit—the baptism of a student, a PhD candidate from China now attending Ohio State. His humble happiness was infectious, and his joy in Jesus stirred our souls to action. Over the eight years since then, we have hosted 20 students in our home for two or three nights while they navigate a culture shock half way around the world from home, and we’ve treasured these relationships as they’ve matured into friendships.
IFI was started in 1979 by a Columbus, Ohio pastor who noticed the increasing number of OSU students here from other lands—the world was coming to our doorstep. With great foresight, he realized that reaching these young men and women with the gospel would not only birth new spiritual life in them, it would also, in turn, ripple through their communities and countries when they returned home with great news of full and forever life in Christ Jesus. IFI now operates in 30 U.S. colleges and universities, and Rich Mendola, its executive director since 1994, estimates that, over the years, students from 50 countries have received Christ as their Savior and/or grown in their Christian faith here.
But there’s another blessing, somewhat hidden in this ministry: IFI provides ample opportunities for believers who want to reach out and connect with others for Jesus but just don’t know how. Are you are called to small but significant act of service? Then you can share the love of Christ by picking up students from the airport and taking them to where they will be staying or even take them shopping for student-essentials. Is teaching your gift? Then come and participate in Friday night IFI Bible studies. Are you the helping or encouraging kind? Being an English-speaking partner is an easy way to form new friendships over coffee and conversation.
The world has come to America, friends; all we have to do is show up and welcome it with giving hearts. God takes it from there.
Father, thank you for the joy of life in Christ. Please use me to share His love with the people I will encounter today, no matter who they are or where they come from. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
Christ in me is life.
[Read today’s Scripture in Romans 15:15-21.]