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April Devotions

Please enjoy the Daily Devotions for April.
Each day, a new devotion will be listed at the top of this page.

To view previous month: March

April 25
To face life without God

As Christians, we may sometimes take for granted what we have through our faith. When good things happen, we turn to God with thanksgiving and rejoicing. When difficult things happen, we turn to God for comfort and answers. And if we’re mature in our faith, we find that it’s not enough. We find that we must turn to Him every day and throughout the day. We might start the day by asking for God to guide us, to show us what He wants us to do. We might turn to Him during the day, again, seeking His help in dealing with temptation, with difficult people, asking for understanding and wisdom, delighting in surprise blessings. And then at the end of the day, we thank Him for His blessings, care and protection. We’ve found that by staying this close to our Maker, we live in peace.

Think about those students we minister to—those who must navigate life without a loving Savior. Before these students come into our lives and learn about Jesus, they struggle through life with only the help of friends and family. However, we know those relationships are not perfect because people are flawed. And unfortunately, it is often relationships and people who cause the difficulties in our lives.

One day, Nancy sat down for a “farewell” breakfast with a student, Li Jing. Li Jing was to return to China the next day. Before they could order their meals, Li Jing broke down in tears. She explained how she had awakened early that morning feeling troubled. She realized that she could not face life without God.

Nancy was able to pull together a baptism at a volunteer’s home that same day, and saw her off to China at the airport early the next morning! Praise the Lord for her declaration of faith, something we had been waiting for, for a long time!

While Nancy and her team of international student ministry workers had patiently waited for Li Jing to recognize her need for Jesus, Li Jing was surely observing the ministry workers’ reliance on their Savior. And in her observations, she saw the peace they had in their lives as a result of this reliance and knew she wanted this too.


Reflection:

As Christians, we know that others are watching to see how being a Christian truly makes a difference in our lives. If they watch long enough, they will see that we are not spared the events that cause difficulties and heartbreak; for we know that “the rain falls on the just and the unjust,” (Matthew 5:45). But it is our response to these events that will be a witness to others. It is seeing the peace we have, as we pray and seek the Lord; that will help them decide that they don’t have to face life alone.


Philippians 4:6-7
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

Submitted by: Nancy, Arizona

April 24
In Pursuit of Truth

I came to the United States for my Master's degree in Electrical Engineering. During my second semester, I got an invitation to attend church. I had never been to church and knew nothing about Christianity. It shocked me to hear about the resurrection. Even though I didn't understand much of what they said at church, because of this "resurrection" idea, I knew it must all be wrong.

A few months later, my roommate signed up for a Friendship Partner with ISI. When she went to meet Edie, she invited me to go along. I felt curious about Christians, so when Edie asked me about studying the Bible with her, I agreed. We spent several months going through a series of six lessons. I also started going to their church and reading the Bible on my own.

Edie also introduced me to some videos on creation. I had grown up as an atheist, believing in the theory of evolution. I had never even heard of the creation theory. Evolution had influenced every subject I studied, teaching that the world resulted randomly. But, the videos I watched said that living creatures are too complicated to have evolved by random selection. This started me questioning, could God really exist?

While I felt compelled by Christianity, I still didn’t feel convinced. I desired to know the truth. I read a book that quoted, that according to recent research, 8 in 10 Americans believe "every person has a soul that will live forever, either in God's presence or absence." This reminded me of the only conversation I had ever had back at home about anything supernatural. It only lasted five minutes and ended with “I don’t know. Let’s forget about it.”

Through my own study, I discovered that the "law" mentioned in Romans referred to the "Ten Commandments." When I made a mistake, I would feel sorry and regret what I did, but I just attributed it to human nature. But, if God really existed, and He is perfect and righteous, and judges me based on His standard, then I didn’t have a chance. That bothered me.

I also had doubts about Jesus. He had died on a cross, but I didn't know why or what happened afterwards. He seemed like a good man with great wisdom, but the miracles seemed highly questionable to me, based on my scientific background. Since the “Son of God” meant nothing to me, I supposed that such a man must exist only in myths or stories, not as an actual historic figure in the real world.

And this “resurrection” created a big problem for me. But, I reasoned, if He did rise from the dead, then He surely could perform all those miracles, and that would indicate He is God. I read some references about some of the disciples who died terrible deaths for their belief in His resurrection and I cannot imagine they would die for a lie.

I didn’t understand, if Jesus was the Son of God, why didn’t He use His power to avoid death on the cross? But then God gave me a beautiful picture; this perfect man died on the cross to take my place! With His sacrifice and perfect blood, my sins can truly be forgiven.

After all this studying, I stood at a point of decision: am I going to receive Jesus as my Savior? I felt uncomfortable with praying; it seemed like talking to myself. I didn’t know if I could surrender control of my life to Jesus. For several days I reviewed all I had studied and reminded myself that all the evidence supported God's existence. So, finally I told God that I believed in Him, confessed my sins and asked Jesus to be my Lord and Savior.

I am so thankful for this whole experience. I realize that although I came to the United States to study engineering, God actually brought me here to make me His child.


Reflection:

When you have questions about your life or your faith that plague your mind, do you press in to find the answers, or do you just file them away in the “I don’t know, forget about it” category. Don’t be lazy and don’t be deceived. Go hard after the truth and allow the Holy Spirit to speak it into your heart and mind.


John 8:32
And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

Submitted by: Kathy, Kansas



April 23
Never Say Never

As we are out doing the Lord’s work among international students, we often focus on students who are seeking. They’re searching for meaning in their lives. They’re looking for answers to their “why” questions about life. Or maybe, they have even heard about Jesus in their home countries, and now that they’re in the “Land of the Free” they’re able to satisfy their curiosity and learn more. But what about those students who have no interest and even spurn Christianity? While some of us might think that the best option with these students is to pass them by until they are more open, what if we didn’t? What if we loved these students patiently, prayed unceasingly for them, and allowed God to do what looks impossible to us?

In the almost 20 years of ministry, we’ve seen God work in incredible ways in the hearts of internationals! God has given us patience as we watch Him open the eyes and hearts of those who were once hardened. To those who have told us, “I will never consider Christianity,” or even those who have belittled the name of Christ, we have seen them eventually claim His name.

Recently, we had such a couple at our daughter’s wedding. We remembered so clearly how this couple had previously rejected Christianity. Now, he is an elder in their church, and she teaches Bible studies! That day we had so many reasons to celebrate. As we sat at the reception dinner with so many of our ministry friends and supporters all around us, we praised God for how He radically changes hearts.



Reflection:

While it isn’t easy to continue outreach to when others reject our beliefs, if they continue to be interested and drawn to our friendship and fellowship, then the door is still open. All we can do is continue to love them with no strings attached, pray for them, and let God do the rest.



Isaiah 56:6
I will also bless the foreigners who commit themselves to the who serve him and love his name, who worship him and do not desecrate the Sabbath day of rest, and who hold fast to my covenant. I will bring them to my holy mountain of Jerusalem and will fill them with joy in my house of prayer. I will accept their burnt offerings and sacrifices, because my Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations.

Submitted by: Andy and Diane, South Carolina


April 22
Faith In the Silence

It’s been said that God is like the wind: Invisible, but you can see His power at work. A nice thought, but not very helpful when you feel overwhelmed by questions and that tugging-at-the-gut sense of doubt. We crave something real from Him—a warmth, a touch, a few whispered words of encouragement. So, how do we answer someone who doesn’t know God and wants proof of His existence when we have so many questions of our own?

Mirl and his wife encountered this reality after sharing a meal with mother and daughter, Meilin and Jie, before they returned to their home in China.

“We appreciate that you shared your experience on trying to find God,” Meilin said. “I do agree with you that nowadays it is difficult (or impossible) to see God. I will keep on trying to pray, ‘If You are the one, please let me experience You!’”

These women realized it would take a powerful amount of faith to accept God. We continue to pray that God will reveal Himself to them.


Reflection:

Do you have your own struggles with faith? If so, cry out to the Lord as the grieving father in Mark 9 did while standing face-to-face with Christ: “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!”



Mark 9:23-24
“What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.” The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!”

Submitted by: Mirl, Texas

April 21
“They Befriended Me”


Reflection:

Few storylines are more thrilling than a last-minute reprieve. After all, that is the essence of the Gospel itself! Has God ever used someone you would never expect to “bail you out” of a difficult situation? It is a strong reminder to treat all people with compassion and respect. Indeed, anyone may be God’s agent in a highly effective disguise.



Matthew 25:40
And the King will say, “I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!

Submitted by: source withheld

April 20
What Does It Boil Down To?

One of my favorite weekly activities with the students has to be the weekly Bible study, often called International Student Fellowship (ISF). And what a perfect name for this weekly get-together that provides such a great opportunity to hang out with the students and enjoy getting to know each other as real people, while also cracking open the door for the Holy Spirit to begin to work in the hearts and minds of men and women from all around the world.

Of course, the dinner always draws hungry students tired of surviving on fast food, junk food or quick forays into the kitchen between classes or studying. Many students also look forward to these nights because they need some casual social interaction or a diversion from their heavy academic loads. But somehow, tucked in beneath those very genuine and acceptable reasons for coming to the gathering, plenty of students find themselves shocked to realize that the actual Bible study means the most to them.

One Japanese student recently opened up and shared this sentiment just before he moved away.  "I enjoyed the games and the dinner, but this, the Bible has touched me very deep inside.” Wow! Isn’t that what it’s really all about—allowing the Holy Spirit to move and breathe in and through us to touch hearts and lives?


Reflection:

Sure, it’s easy to get distracted and entertained by food, games, activities and people. But deep down inside, may we crave and seek the true communion with God that sustains and nourishes us.


I Peter 2:2-3
Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness.

Submitted by: Randy, Colorado

April 19
Come One, Come All

Only days before the big event, we had no idea who, if any international students would attend the annual Easter celebration put on by two mega-churches in the Los Angeles area. In spite of our doubts, we arranged for a passenger bus to transport students from one of the nearby campuses bright and early on Easter morning.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, a young student from Germany whose heart had begun to soften and tune in to God’s presence, set out to personally invite other students everywhere she went. Regardless of whether or not she knew them or their religious beliefs, Hilda boldly reached out to draw them to this event. Lo and behold, by Easter morning, 55 international students filled the passenger bus we had reserved! 

Out of this group of 55 who heard the Easter message that morning, a handful began attending our weekly Friday night ICF and Bible study. Hilda continued her quest, and invited unbelieving students to Sunday evening worship as well. Due to her efforts, our numbers have increased and Hilda has transitioned to become a member of our leadership team. Her passion for reaching out and making Christ known among the nations has led many into our midst who, before, might never have come.


Reflection:

Jesus himself called us to reach out to invite others into His family. What a privilege to participate in and encourage the spread of the Gospel right in our communities. And what a joy to watch others join in the Great Commission!



Matthew 28:19-20
“Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Submitted by: Jan, California

April 18
Brother, Father, Grandpa

Ever since Mike joined our ICF group, he seemed like a natural part of our family. He grew up in Kansas and gained a world perspective in the Navy, but when he finally settled down, it was in California. Mike brought a sense of continuity to the ever-transitioning ICF family. Students would graduate and return home, but Mike faithfully served from one crop to the next. He became something of a brother to numerous international students during their stays in California, and then as the years passed, he transitioned into more of a father figure. I can still see him beaming with pride and joy as he walked one of our Japanese international students down the aisle on her wedding day.

Mike traveled several times to visit returnees in Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Thailand. He fell in love with my husband’s hometown in Thailand and developed a passion for meeting the needs of students returning to their homelands after studying and/or working in the United States. In fact, when Mike retired after many years working for the federal government, he moved to Thailand!

His first week there, Mike went to a church one of our returnees had started. That same day, a newly arrived Burmese couple arrived at the church, praying for a job. Mike had begun praying for someone to help him with things around the house, and lo and behold—they became a family! The couple moved in to his home, and Mike became “Grandpa” when they had a son, and later a daughter. They all continue to serve at the little church, “Blossom House.”

But Blossom House is really more than a church; they provide a home and ministry to rescue “flower” children—children put out on the dangerous streets to sell flowers and beg. Blossom House gives them a home, an education and a chance to know Jesus in the context of a loving community. Mike does preach, but his first love is to connect, and provide a safe, loving, adult male in the lives of these abandoned children.


Reflection:

God uses people you might never expect to minister into the hearts and lives of others. We can’t always see or predict the potential, but God can use and minister through anyone, anywhere. Be ready! He can use you.


I Corinthians 1:27-28
Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important.

Submitted by: Miriam, California

April 17
Another Returnee in a Position of Power

Today, the Christian world is buzzing with reports of Muslims seeing visions of Jesus. Surely, the Lord is actively calling these souls to Him. That is why we need not despair ---for despair ignores the reality of His handiwork. As this highly-placed returnee can confirm, the Lord ordains the steps of those who trust Him.



Reflection:

Fear and doubt are certainly understandable in a tumultuous world today. However, as Christians, we must remember God’s sovereignty. He is always working, and He can put anyone in any position to accomplish His will.



John 14:27
I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.

Submitted by: name withheld

April 16
The Power of Prayer

Our women’s M:28 study group had met through the spring semester. When it came time to bring the study to a close for exams and summer break, they wanted to continue to meet into the summer. Our bond had grown strong and although only one of them was a believer, all of them had gamely helped to facilitate the study throughout the semester. Most had come from not really knowing anything about God or Christianity to voicing simple prayers.

With the help of the one believer, I had carefully explained and modeled for them how to pray. We detailed the protocol of prayer; describing a respectful address, offering thanks and praise and making requests. Though none had made a profession of faith, over time everyone participated in sharing prayer requests and reporting answered prayers. They had clearly come to the conviction that God exists and He is good.

Mostly we prayed about day-to-day concerns like exams and health, but I remember one time we prayed earnestly for the healing of my brother-in-law suffering from a serious respiratory infection. God answered marvelously, and he recovered enough to travel and oversee some major renovations of my mother’s house. This did not go unnoticed by the ladies!


Reflection:

How do our offers to pray and our actual prayers affect unbelievers? We cannot know for sure, but seldom do unbelievers turn down the gesture, and often they excitedly report how God answered. May our heartfelt prayers draw others closer to His throne.



I Kings 8:41-43
In the future, foreigners who do not belong to your people Israel will hear of you. They will come from distant lands because of your name, for they will hear of your great name and your strong hand and your powerful arm. And when they pray toward this Temple, then hear from heaven where you live, and grant what they ask of you. In this way, all the people of the earth will come to know and fear you, just as your own people Israel do. They, too, will know that this Temple I have built honors your name.

Submitted by: Janice, Indiana

April 15
Good Soil – Part 2

At our recent spring break retreat for international students, we were amazed at what we witnessed in students’ lives. We had prayed and fasted over the retreat, and God rewarded that preparation. Many students made a decision to follow Jesus.

One of those students, Jian, was an international scholar. His wife, Mei had come to know Christ last year, but he was not interested and chose not to attend church with her. We were happy to know that when Mei signed up for our spring retreat, she signed up Jian and their grade-school son too. Mei prayed for her husband as the time for the retreat approached. During the retreat, Jian was engaged by the discussion-based Bible studies that took place during the retreat. He was touched by the things he witnessed there and by the loving care their son received from the Christians there. By the end of the retreat, Jian decided to become intentional in learning about who Jesus is and how He can make such a difference in people’s lives—a difference Jian had observed for himself. He also decided to begin attending church with Mei.

Intentional, consistent prayer went into preparing for all areas of the retreat, and especially for the hearts of those that would be attending. What a blessing to see how God answered prayer and changed the heart of one who was not, at first, interested.



Reflection:

There is such power when we live faithfully the way Jesus taught us. Then we know that God has heard our prayers; and then we can have faith that He will answer.


1 Thessalonians 1:11
So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do.

Submitted by: Emily, Texas

April 14
Good Soil

As a team, the ISI Texas staff involved in the Tejas Spring Break Retreat did a Forty-Day Wilderness Prayer Effort for the retreat, and we saw God’s intervention very clearly. I am going to focus on just a couple of the amazing things He did for us.

First, God parted the clouds Saturday afternoon, so the students could enjoy their free-time recreational activities (horseback riding, zip-lining, etc…). I pulled up the weather radar on my phone and showed a couple of students how God was answering prayers. The rain then started in the evening, preventing us from having our traditional campfire.  Of course, though, God had great purpose in that, as well.

We usually have different student groups sing in their native language during our campfire time---it is always a highlight event enjoyed by all. This time, however, the rain forced us indoors to our large meeting room. My Hindu girls were actually sitting on the front row for these performances, and some of them performed a Bollywood-style dance. Since we were in our large meeting room caught up in the spirit of song and dance and the praise band equipment was already set-up, the band decided to lead us in a worship time.

I had been praying that the students would not only hear about God, but experience Him, as well. The Spirit definitely moved during this time of worship, and my girls sang out to the song “Our God” by Chris Tomlin. This was one of the most profound moments for me. Once I saw the power of Jesus literally gaining ground in my students’ hearts, I told God, “I want more of this!”

On the response cards for the retreat, three of my Hindu girls indicated that they had decided to take a step in following Jesus. One of them is definitely on the path; I have been meeting with her to pray through the names of Jesus. It is amazing how she is responding.

We started out just reading through the pre-written prayers and filling in the blanks to personalize them, but now we are interjecting more throughout the prayer. Once, she even said, “I am confident in you, Jesus.” This all happened just a couple of weeks after the retreat!

This same student will be starting M:28 training because she is also a Person of Peace. She is always getting more students to come to ministry events. I am utterly amazed at how much and how quickly God is working in our ministry--- I cannot keep up, which proves that it is HIS work!



Reflection:

It is the Lord’s work. We are His hands, planting the seeds and trusting in Him for the good soil.



Matthew 13:23
The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!

Submitted by: Emily, Texas

April 13
Puzzle Pieces

I love it when God fits puzzle pieces together right in front of me! Recently a young ESL teacher in the Los Angeles area spontaneously decided to attend an ISI gathering not far from her home one Friday evening. Upon entering the room, Abby glanced around and not knowing anyone, chose to sit next to an Asian gentleman who revealed he had also attended the evening activities on “a whim.”

They chatted for a few minutes and the Asian gentleman shared that one of his ulterior motives for attending the group was in the hopes of finding an ESL-qualified teacher he might convince to join the group he was currently assembling to go to China that summer. Intrigued, Abby shared that as an ESL-qualified teacher she had heard about a nearby church she discovered was organizing a trip to China during the summer. She said that she had contacted the church and expressed her interest in joining the group, but was having trouble getting in touch with the leader of the trip.

"Wonderful", replied her new friend. "That's me!" Click! The pieces fit together! Since that Friday evening, God has used this partnership to orchestrate a series of trips to China which have both challenged and changed the perspectives and visions for God’s work there. In fact, Abby has recently come on board and joined as ISI staff!


Reflection:

Have you recently felt a nudge from God to do something but you didn’t understand why? Perhaps He is trying to fit some puzzle pieces together and needs you to respond to His gentle prodding. Respond to His leading—you never know what He might be doing through your obedience.




Isaiah 6:8
Then I heard the Lord asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?” I said, “Here I am. Send me.”

Submitted by: Jan, California

April 12
The Power of Prayer

The Bible says that when we are weak, THAT is when we are strong (2 Corinthians 12:10b)! Our weakness is most visible when we are praying—when we are clinging onto God as the only means by which anything good will happen. We have chosen to trust Him only…as opposed to hoping our meager efforts will somehow win the day. But with others, we are as helpless to change the weather as we are to change the choices of another person’s heart! We have no control over either of those, and honestly we have very little influence over either no matter how hard we try.

Our trust was recently tested when we were tasked with holding a 40-hour retreat event in East Texas the first weekend of spring break. One hundred thirty international students would be asked to pay $79 to come have fun in the sun and do Bible study. The trust issue? We had to sign a contract a year in advance guaranteeing that we would pay $9,750 no matter what happened—bad weather, low attendance, pandemic sickness, etc.

A week before the event this year, we had just four students registered! Talk about feeling helpless, weak, and inadequate! But we had been praying—faithfully hanging onto the promises of God and His call on our lives.

The ISI staff team held a 40-day prayer effort. We prayed each day for God to work in and through the Tejas Spring Break Retreat, and we fasted each Monday as a team. The small group Bible study student leaders and their student assistants held a seven-day Jericho prayer effort right before the event. They prayed together for an hour each evening between 10-11 p.m. on a conference call. Each of 12 local ISI staff members asked seven of their prayer partners to commit to pray daily during the three days of the event and asked their church leaders to join us. In the end, more than 300 people were praying and asking God to do what only He could do… AND THE WEATHER AND PEOPLE’S HEARTS WERE CHANGED!!!

There was a 70 percent chance of rain on Saturday early in the week. Saturday is the big activity day—horseback riding, high ropes, fishing, canoeing/kayaking, etc. After praying intently, it dropped to a 40 percent by the weekend. HOWEVER, it never rained at the camp until late Saturday night about 4:00 a.m. when everyone was in bed! By noon on Sunday there was total blue sky! So all the activities were accomplished… even the s’mores late on Saturday night!

And hearts were changed! Of the 85 international students at the retreat, roughly one-third were already believers (as 20 were small group Bible study leaders or assistant leaders). But of the 60 non-believers there, half chose to trust Jesus or learn more about Him! Half! Of the 60, 25 percent wanted to join a Bible study on their campus! One-fourth!

Those kinds of responses are supernatural and only happen because of the investment of faith and time in prayer!



Reflection:

Corrie Ten Boom said, “Don’t pray when you feel like it. Have an appointment with the Lord and keep it. A man is powerful on his knees.” The power of prayer is undeniable. And the more important the outcome, the more important it is that we take the time to pray and fast. It was understood that the enemy would be at work trying to prevent so many souls from being saved. The organized prayer and fasting released God’s power to keep the retreat running smoothly and prepare hearts to receive the Good News.



Ezra 8:23
So we fasted and earnestly prayed that our God would take care of us, and he heard our prayer.

Submitted by: Roy, Texas

April 11
Now We Understand In Part

Many great challenges exist for a student or scholar from an atheist country when one is faced with the question of believing in God. For me, the greatest challenge came from trying to understand the relationship between science and Christianity. In my home country, I was taught and trained at a very young age to believe that science, not religion, is the ultimate truth (and we learned to respect it).

So, when I arrived in the United States, I started attending church just because I desired friends. Flyers around campus said you could find English conversation classes and free food at church. While I enjoyed meeting with teachers and students from many other countries, I never took to heart what I heard at church. I even studied the Bible with Judy, my American friend through the Friendship Partner program, and attended some of the activities as a way of experiencing the Western culture. However, initially, nothing really grabbed my attention or challenged my previously held beliefs.

Gradually, though, I began to feel touched by songs we sang, verses we read, the warm atmosphere in the church, and the kindness of people. When my Friendship Partner gave me the book, Song of a Wanderer (by a Chinese scholar who became a Christian), I underlined much of what I read because the book addressed many of the questions I had wrestled with. It talked about the revelation of God’s existence, the evidence of Jesus Christ’s resurrection, and creation and evolution; this really got my attention.

Eventually, I could admit that I did not have to figure out the relationship between Christianity and science. Why should I, a mere human being, expect to truly understand God, the Creator? I accepted that science has limits, and Christianity encompasses so much more than just science.

The next obstacle I faced was the issue of sin. It took me a long time to realize that “sin” did not just refer to crime or evil (as I had understood it in my own culture). I finally comprehended that sin referred to all the ways we "…fall short of the glory of God.”

Finally, I recognized that Christianity is more than a religion; I grasped that it is actually a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and I prayed to receive Christ. That changed my life! My whole way of thinking changed! I used to believe in independence, self-pursuit, and fulfillment. However, thanks to studying the Bible with my very wise and warm Friendship Partner, I began to understand surrender, obedience, discipline, and becoming like Christ.

I used to just follow my own heart, but now I ask God to show me the best way. In the past, I depended on myself and spent a lot of time alone---lonely and complaining. Now, I attend all kinds of activities that help me build eternal relationships. Before, I felt obligated to offer help in many situations, but now I am happy to help with set-up or clean-up and give rides to new friends. I have a long way to go, but I am becoming a loving and caring person with principles and purpose.



Reflection:

We allow many obstacles to keep us from surrendering to God, thinking we have to understand and catalog everything. When we allow Jesus to break through the noise and speak into our hearts, He begins to help us break everything down into bite-sized pieces that we can digest.



I Corinthians 13:9-10
Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! But when full understanding comes, these partial things will become useless.

Submitted by: Dick, Kansas

April 10
Great Expectations

With very few exceptions, international students cannot work off-campus jobs while studying in the US. They can usually obtain permission to hold part-time, entry-level positions on campus as part of a “work-study” program that allows them to earn money for textbooks and daily necessities.

Several years ago, an ISI volunteer employed at a large university in New England shared this story. In his position, he was responsible for the operation of a large campus office, and consequently had several international students assigned to work for him through the work-study program.

One day, he decided to assign a large photocopying project to a young man named Jose from a Central American country, one of his assigned work-study students. He looked around for Jose, but as he searched, he realized he actually hadn’t seen Jose in the office for a few days. When he asked one of the other international students, “Where is Jose?” the answer nearly blew him away!

“Jose? Oh, he’s gone back home. They want him to run for president.”

The director said you could have knocked him over with a feather! Here he had been about to assign this man with a menial photocopying task while his fellow country men considered him as the potential next leader of their country!



Reflection:

As we share the love of Christ with those we meet, we need to remember that they might one day hold a position of influence. In our interactions we might not easily imagine it, but just as God sees us as we will one day be, so should we realize that many of the people we encounter will fulfill great expectations.


Hebrews 13:2
Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!

Submitted by: Howard, California

April 9
He Rejoices Over Us

Do you sometimes wonder how much God really loves you? Consider this verse from Zephaniah, which most certainly applies to all of God’s children:

“The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing,” Zephaniah 3:17, ESV.

There are six wonderful statements contained in this passage that apply to you.

1. God is in our midst. (God is with you; you are neither abandoned nor orphaned.)

2. He is mighty.  (He is your almighty, perfectly capable Creator.)

3. He will save.  (Intentional...He is mighty to save you.)

4. He will rejoice over you with gladness. (He LOVES you.)

5. He will quiet you with His love. (Like a good mother soothes her child)

6. He will exult (rejoice triumphantly) over you with loud singing.

We should not be anxious for anything. Instead, we should go about God’s business, knowing that nothing can separate us from the Love of God! 


Reflection:

Let’s rest in the knowledge and security of God’s love for us, and go and tell the people of the world about His love for them, too!



John 3:16
For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

Submitted by: Ed, North Carolina

April 8
The Ministry of Music

When we started our ICF Home Group, we found it challenging to cultivate loyalty and regular attendance among the international students. Ten students would show up one week and only two the next. After struggling through the first semester with sporadic attendance, I began offering beginner guitar classes at an apartment clubhouse near campus.

I contacted the faculty member in charge of music at the university to seek permission, and he encouraged me to proceed. I had played guitar most of my life and served as a junior high school choir director early in my career, so I dug out two of my old guitars and found two students who wanted to learn to play. During each class, I prayed for them and told them of Jesus’ love. By the end of the first semester, I had worked with six beginners and several experienced musicians. From this seed, we produced an ICF band that played at ICF special events, in nursing homes, and at other venues. Many of these same students also began attending our ICF Home Group.

The student leader of the ICF band is a Christian student from India, and the band consists of both Christian and non-Christian students from various countries. Recently, after singing a contemporary Christian song called, “Redeemed,” one of the students told me he had looked up the meaning of this word in the dictionary but still didn’t understand what it meant in the context of the song. What a great opportunity for me to explain how Jesus died for our sins and redeemed us!

Over the course of three years, the beginner guitar class has grown and now has ten to fifteen regular students; the ICF band has six to eight regular players and leads the music for our annual Spring Retreat. Teaching guitar has been a great way to build trust relationships with internationals and tell them about Jesus’ love. Many students are very lonely and yearn for someone to connect with and care about them.  Music is a universal language and has been a great way for me to reach international students for Christ. 



Reflection:

There is not one “right way” to reach others for Christ. Keep your mind open to creative and innovative ways to reach out and make a difference in the hearts and lives of others.


Colossians 3:16
Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.

Submitted by: David, Texas

April 7
A New Creature

Born and raised in a Hindu society, I worshipped many gods as part of my traditional religion. I did not know anything about Hinduism or why we worshipped idols; I simply followed the practice of my culture and family traditions. Although I had heard the story of Jesus, it never touched me because I believed salvation would come through my Hindu religion. I expected to get to heaven by worshipping the gods of Hinduism; I tried to atone for my mistakes by doing good things, offering prayers, and performing rituals to appease the Hindu gods.

Then, my moods were tied to my performance-based mentality. I used to be moody and bitter, thinking the gods were punishing me because of some wrongdoing. My bitterness came out in the form of anger.

I noticed my anger when I first came to Kansas; my graduate group did not treat me well, and I responded in anger and bitterness. I did not want to take any responsibility for the problems; I argued and picked fights relentlessly. Fortunately, God surrounded me with Christians, and He used them to lovingly lead me towards Him.

After joining a Bible study group on campus, I signed up for Bible study lessons with a lovely woman named Judy. She invited me to attend church with her, and before long, I found I could really talk to her and share my pain. After going through six Bible study lessons together, I realized that I had a Jesus-size hole in my life and asked Him into my heart as Lord and Savior. Desiring to know more about my God, I began to read the Bible on my own.

Ever since I invited Jesus into my heart and asked for His forgiveness, I have felt changes in my behavior. My heart has become lighter since I no longer carry the burden of guilt within me. God continues to work in me to show me humility and forgiveness. Others have confirmed the changes in my personality, as well. I am more self-confident because I know that God will guide me and give me the strength I need. I no longer feel anger or bitterness towards those who hurt me because God has shown me how to humbly forgive others, just as He has forgiven me. I wholeheartedly want to follow God’s Word, do what pleases Him, and bring glory to His name.

Words cannot describe how happy I am to share everything with the God who knows me completely and is working to make me a new creature.



Reflection:

Sometimes we get so caught up in our own misery that we make everyone around us miserable too. We forget that God has promised to make us into new creations, from the inside out. Do not get tied down with old habits or baggage; instead, allow God to work in you to become the new creature He created you to be.




II Corinthians 5:17
This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone, a new life has begun!

Submitted by: Dick, Kansas

April 6
Sorry

We enjoy dividing international students into discussion groups with an American facilitator to give them a chance to practice listening and speaking in English. The discussions often give them a chance to share about meaningful issues. For example, one recent question that came up in discussion about language learning was, “Have you ever been lost or confused because you could not understand the language? How did you feel?” Of course this question gave the students the opportunity to realize that they were not alone in their feelings or experiences.

The replies to the next question really fascinated me. A group of international students from all over the world were asked, “What one word do you think is the most important word in any language?” I imagined the obvious answers, including “hello” or “thanks.” To my surprise, about half of the group of international students in my group said that “sorry” was the most important word in any language!

I noticed that the students who answered “sorry” came from China, Japan, or South Korea. Those who answered “hello” or “thanks” came from Western Europe or South America. After some thought, I remembered that East Asian countries are considered honor/shame-oriented cultures. Individuals in these cultures desire to avoid shame in the eyes of others in order to “save face.” “Losing face” brings shame to the individual and, therefore, the family or group. Using the word “sorry” saves face and avoids shame.

In contrast, western countries, such as the United States, are innocence/guilt-oriented cultures. In innocence/guilt societies, individuals are motivated to avoid a guilty conscience. An internal sense of guilt occurs when someone does wrong or disobeys a moral law; in these societies, it is an internal and private issue, not related to family or groups.

In honor/shame cultures, an apology provides a way to save face, but the motivation for use of the word sorry differs from that of a person in an innocence/guilt culture. The challenge in both cultures is to understand the need for forgiveness at the heart level and to understand the path to justification before God. How fortunate that God can bring forgiveness and healing to people from all types of cultures!



Reflection:

Remember that comes with their own traditional set of values, experiences, and expectations. In order to interact in a way that reaches someone’s heart, we must understand where they are coming from and communicate in such a way that takes their culture and upbringing into consideration.




I John 1:9
But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.

Submitted by: Andy, California

April 5
Click!

Working with students from countries all around the world can prove challenging. International students come from so many different cultures, family dynamics, and backgrounds that we can never assume to know what they are thinking, understanding, or responding to. 

For example, one student named Duke showed some interest in spiritual things, so I spent hours with Duke, discussing the Lord and His claims on Duke’s life. We talked about salvation, heaven and hell, right and wrong, guilt and forgiveness—all kinds of things. He always engaged in our conversations, spoke politely, and proposed questions. However, when the day came for Duke to graduate and move on with his life, he didn’t seem much closer to making a decision for Christ than when we had met him. When he moved to California for a job, we said good-bye, feeling sad and disappointed; we never expected to hear from Duke again. 

One day, however, the phone rang, and I heard Duke’s voice on the other end. We chatted for a bit before he told me he had opened his heart and accepted Jesus as his personal Lord and Savior!  Flustered, I questioned him about how this had come about. He shared with me that after he had moved to California, he met some Christians. In discussing the Lord’s claim on his life, one of them showed him the verse in John 15 that says, “You didn’t choose me.  I chose you…”

Suddenly, Duke saw everything in a whole new light. It became very important to him to discover if he had been chosen—he really wanted to be! Because of the way this verse explained salvation, Duke asked God to choose him, and he committed his life to Jesus. Since that time, he has been baptized and continues to grow in knowledge and his relationship with His Savior.

In spite of our hours and hours of discussion, Duke didn’t “get it” until he heard it put the way he needed to hear it.  



Reflection:

Whether or not someone “gets it” when you share the gospel message with him, don’t give up. Include spiritual topics and applications in every possible situation and conversation. You never know when something might click and make it all clear.


Jeremiah 1:5
“I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.”

Submitted by: Buell, Oregon

 

April 4
Nails in the Sand

“If we ever leave Tucson,” my wife warned me, “you will have to drag me with my nails in the sand!”

After seven years leading the ISI ministry in Buffalo, my wife and I had moved to Tucson, Arizona with our four small children to escape the cold winters of New York. Beth has a condition called Raynaud’s Disease, so she fares better in a warmer climate. Also, our son, born eleven weeks prematurely, could easily succumb to pneumonia during cold winters. Since our relocation, Beth had come to love the hot, desert climate in Arizona and hoped we would stay there forever.

Having moved to Arizona to work for ISI at the University of Arizona, God unexpectedly opened a door for me to become pastor of the church we attended. This experience allowed me to develop as a leader, and we reached many in our community for the Lord. I loved 90% of being a pastor but sometimes, not the other 10%. Meanwhile, I stayed in contact with ISI as a Ministry Representative during those years.

We started several home groups, and while I led a group through Henry Blackaby’s, Experiencing God, I began to feel God calling me back to Buffalo to lead the short-staffed ISI ministry there. Blackaby talked about God inviting us to join Him in His work. He explained, “God speaks by the Holy Spirit through the Bible, prayer, circumstances, and the church to reveal Himself, His purpose, and His ways.” I began listening intently.

Not one to decide on such things quickly, I thought and prayed for some time without saying anything to anyone. To gain a clearer sense of His direction, I spent a day up on Mt. Lemmon. By the end of the day, I felt strongly that I heard God calling me back to the Buffalo ISI. However, I really felt I needed a confirmation. After all, this decision would impact more than just me. So, I prayed that He would make this calling clear to Beth. Remembering her comment about the “nails in the sand”, I knew I was praying for a miracle, but I left it in God’s hands.

We received an invitation to the ISI Amsterdam 2000 conference. It was too good of an opportunity to pass up, so we went. During the first day of ISI staff meetings, prior to the larger conference, we listened to the speakers and reports, and God touched Beth’s heart! As we walked out the door of the building, Beth exclaimed, “We have to move back to Buffalo!”

Even though I had prayed, I felt stunned! I hadn’t expected such a clear and direct answer, but there it was…confirmation on my wife’s face! So, back to Buffalo we went; there we experienced the most rewarding years of our ministry career. We watched the staff team grow, the formation of a development council, and the city funding increase. During those years, many international students came to know and love the Lord.


Reflection:

Are you struggling with God’s leading for your life? Do you sense God calling you to join him in His work in a new way or place, perhaps in a surprising way you haven’t considered? Seek the Lord, ask Him to show you the way, and He will make it clear to you.



Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.


Submitted by: David, New York

April 3
The Redeemed Rebel

We met as Aahil was escaping war in his country. He was young, radical, and very vocal. He loved to argue with Christians and defend his Muslim faith. He had been trained in Islam since he was a child and had been surrounded by its teachings.

Many people shared Christ’s love with him at school, at church, and home hospitality. Because of the love Aahil felt, he began to read the Bible. At first, he argued with great animation and fervor. But the prayers of God’s people and the truth of God’s Word broke through. He went from arguing to listening, from reading to understanding, from darkness to light.

Aahil trusted Christ as Savior, and leaving his Islamic faith behind, he became as strong and radical about his new found faith. Eventually, he received a PhD from seminary, and God burdened him for his people who did not have the opportunities he did to hear about Jesus Christ.

Even though Aahil is not able to return to his home country, he is able to have a major influence on his countrymen. Today, he writes books tp help them better understand Islam, holds seminars outside his country for pastors working in country, teaches and trains believers on Islam, and has weekly satellite radio and television programs which are sent into his home country. 

God is the redeemer!


Reflection:

God is able to redeem the past and use to show others the goodness of God!



1 Peter 2:9
But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.

Submitted by: Teri, Arizona

April 2
A Sense of Need

Charlie came to our ministry as a freshman from China before school began. So, we hurried to find a family who was willing to have him stay with them for about a week. The Kahres were quick to offer!

They welcomed him into their family and quickly took on the role of being his Friendship Partner family. Their faithful love and openness to him—taking him to church and welcoming his mother when she came to stay for Christmas—was what God used to prepare Charlie’s heart for the Gospel. As the years passed, he attended ISI events with great enthusiasm. When opportunities arose to explore the Bible, Charlie was hungry for the Word. However, even though he seemed to understand the Gospel, he told me he was not ready to make a commitment. It was clear to me that he had no sense of need for a Savior!

Thinking that the TRUE Retreat would be an opportunity for Charlie to see Christianity in action, I invited him to attend our first Southeastern Regional retreat in North Carolina and then prayed hard that he would go. He almost didn’t, because even though he had told me he would, he forgot about it and booked a ticket to go to his home country. It was very exciting when Charlie paid the cost of the ticket change, so he could still go to the retreat. One of our partners helped, as well, by paying Charlie’s cost to attend the retreat.

Oh, how God worked there! However, it was not until I was riding home with Charlie and Corletta (a volunteer in our ministry) that we saw just how much God had moved. We had prayed that God would show Charlie his need, and God used everything that weekend.  The love and sharing of the group, Charlie’s group leader, other peers who were clearly committed to the Lord, and the challenging team-building experiences all worked together to powerfully affect Charlie.

Two of these activities were “clinchers” for Charlie---building the bridge and the high-ropes course. He shared with us that he was so frustrated that his group could not build the bridge that he went back and tried to do it by himself and ended up getting hurt. At that moment, a Chinese believer came along, and Charlie shared with him his frustration and disappointment. His new friend told him, “It’s okay! You just made a mistake. We can work out the problem together.” Then later, Charlie tried the high-ropes course. It was clear to all of us watching that he was struggling while he was up there. He later told us he was terrified that he would not make it! Charlie said that the only thing that got him through the experience was hearing everyone cheering him on. Through these two experiences, Charlie realized how much he needed people and ultimately needed God!

On the way home, I prayed that God would open an opportunity to talk in-depth with Charlie. However, Charlie did not initiate the conversation until the last two hours of the twelve-hour trip. Corletta, who was resting in the back, started praying as soon as she heard what we were talking about. Charlie said to me in earnest, “I have wanted to follow Christ for a long time now; I believe it is all true and I love Him! But, I am afraid that I will fail and disappoint Him. I always want to do my best, but I know now that I can’t (and don’t) always do that. I want to follow Him, and I want Him to guide me in my life.” What a joy it was to be able to share with him that THAT is exactly why Jesus came! We are NOT perfect, and He knows that. 

I assured Charlie that, in Christ, he is already forgiven and loved just as he is. Yes, he would fail—as we all do—but I assured him of God’s power. I explained that when you belong to Christ and have received His forgiveness, all you need to do is confess your sin and He cleanses you, giving you the desire to change. When you ask Christ to be your Savior and Lord, He gives you His Spirit to live in you. He changes your heart and gives you power to do what He wants. We talked for a long time. It was clear that God was working in him, and Charlie wanted the hope that only Jesus gives.

Corletta also jumped into the conversation and began to share her own story of coming to Christ as an eleven-year-old in a Hindu family. She shared how important it was to take the step to ask Jesus to save you and to give Him your life. When we prayed together in the car, Charlie poured out his heart to God in his own words—so full of intensity and desire for Him that we were awed by God’s touch. Afterwards, Charlie said, “I feel so relieved!” Then a little later, as we drove, it started to pour down raining. Charlie said that his mother used to say that when anything important happened to him, it always rained. For Charlie, that was confirmation that he had made the right choice.


Reflection:

It took the faithfulness and love of many people to shine Christ’s love on Charlie. God has called each of us as believers to work together and bring His light into this dark world. Don’t try to do it alone.


 

1 John 1:9
But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.

Submitted by: Anne, Florida

April 1

Isaiah 41:10

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.
    Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you.
    I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.



Reflection:

The Lord is always with us! Look to Him when you’re troubled. Look to Him when you’re discouraged or afraid. That right hand of His is strong and capable. If it can hold up the universe, it can hold you up.

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