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August devotions

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

 

To view previous month: July

 

August 31
Built Up in the Body

Students with a variety of backgrounds feel the impact of the ministry of ISI. Some come to the US knowing nothing of God’s love and meet Him for the very first time. Others arrive as Christians, but when they connect with ISI’s ministry, they grow to a deeper spiritual maturity because of the discipleship and opportunity for leadership and evangelism. Their hearts’ desire may grow to reach the people of their own countries with the message of Jesus. Their worldview changes.


Such is the story of Simeon from Burundi. As the son of a pastor and evangelist, he came to know Jesus at a very young age. When he arrived in the United States as an international student, Simeon jumped into ISI ministry with both feet and immediately caught on to the vision of reaching these future leaders while they lived in this unique situation away from home.

Now back in Burundi, Simeon is an internationally recognized speaker, global mission participant and a valuable resource for his country. When asked about how ISI changed his life, he had this to say,

“…I would say two things that were very important to build me up as the person I am today. One of them is that ISI helped me to feel at home in a foreign country. The ISI Friendship Partners and staff were like [families] to us. Secondly, spiritually, which is most important, if you don’t minister to anyone or you’re not ministered to, you’re like a spectator on the field. You are watching other people. But in our ISI fellowship, it gives some sense of leadership that you [are part of] the group. So I didn’t feel I had any problem to reintegrate to my church activities when I got back home. In fact, I was immediately put into leadership. I was already acquainted with leadership skills as a student because of ISI’s ministry. [ISI] builds people up as believers.”

 

Reflection:

How rewarding to know that you can minister into the hearts of others – no matter where they are in their spiritual walk. God can work in any heart, or any life, to draw each individual into closer communion with Him. Don’t miss out on what He is doing in and around you.


I Thessalonians 5:11
So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.


Submitted by: source withheld

August 30
A Cry For Help

I met a young international student from Korea at one of our recent Bible studies. Although Ron did not engage much, I got the impression it was not because he didn’t have anything to say, but more because he didn’t know how to say it. The next day I received this email from Ron:

“I am a very shy guy, and I could not meet many non-Korean friends… therefore, you are almost only American guy who cares me. Therefore, I really thank to you.

You might think I join your bible study for English. It is true, but I am also Christian.  However, my belief is really weak these days [and] I want to build it up. Please help me to make belief, and English.”

I replied to him, encouraging him to attend the Bible study, reminding him that he could simultaneously hear English and the Word of God. I heard his cry for help to continue seeking truth, as well as a need for increased confidence and friendship. After attending a few more Bible studies, I got this email from Ron:

You always assist international student[s]; that it is really helpful for us.  Someday when I will be a good at English, I really want to help international students, like you [do].  I [think] the most helpful for international students is not a bowl of soup, but the opportunity to speak English and hang out with Americans. Since, most international students are not really poor to have dinner, but they are lack of English.”


Reflection:

We often don’t realize just how much the little things we do matter to someone who is struggling. Seek out the lost and lonely—let them know they are seen and important.



Psalm 72:12-14
He will rescue the poor when they cry to him; he will help the oppressed, who have no one to defend them. He feels pity for the weak and the needy, and he will rescue them. He will redeem them from oppression and violence, for their lives are precious to him.


Submitted by: Mike, Nevada

August 29
A Whiff of Home

A local church in the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex arranged for a park concert by Aradhna, a band that draws on traditional Indian music with Christ-centered themes and lyrics composed and performed mostly in Hindi. We enjoyed a perfect evening in God’s creation with the warm sun slowly giving way to a crescent moon.

I enjoyed watching all the Indian families strolling around the lake, pushing strollers. As I watched, they would stop, hear the band, and excitedly make cell phone calls to tell others—amazed at what they heard in a Texas park! Several hundred people came from the surrounding neighborhood, bringing a man right up next to me with his eyes and mouth wide open.

He said, “I can’t believe it. I live right there. I walked out of my door and I couldn’t believe it. I heard a live sitar. My mother plays the sitar. I haven’t heard live sitar in over 15 years. … I think I’m dreaming. I close my eyes and hear perfect Hindi. It’s hard to sing in perfect Hindi. Then I open my eyes and I see a white man. I must be dreaming! To think I live right there and hear the sitar in [Texas].”

I told him about the church that had organized the concert and shared about its Vacation Bible School program. Eagerly, he said he would sign his daughter up. After the concert I took him up to meet the sitar player. They embraced for a long moment. As he shared his amazement at hearing the sitar, his curious young daughter came up. The sitar player told him that he taught people to play the sitar and learn the lyrics via SKYPE from his home in Toronto. But regretfully he admitted that the Skype wasn’t very good quality. Immediately, the Indian man said, “I work for Microsoft and that’s our product. I will get you the best SKYPE there is.” I felt like I had witnessed a God moment!

 

Reflection:

For people far away from home, the smallest thing can reach into their homesick hearts, bringing a breath of the familiar. Let us be sensitive to what might draw them into relationship and one step closer to experiencing God’s love for them.


Hebrews 13:14
For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.

Submitted by: Judy, Texas

August 28
Modern Prodigal

When I met May, a student from Korea, she told me that as a child, her mother “made” her go to church almost every Sunday.  Her mother’s rule was that when her daughter turned 18, she could decide for herself whether she wanted to go to church.  So, when May turned 18, she stopped attending.

Her mother responded by telling May that in the future she would face difficulties and problems, and when she did, she would turn back to God.  May didn’t pay too much attention to her mother’s warnings. But, when she came to study in the United States, she experienced many problems living in the dorms.  Her roommate had men over to their dorm room, drinking and engaging in sexual relations with them.  Meanwhile, they all encouraged May to join in. 

Just as her mother had predicted, May began to turn to God for help.  She shared her problems with Christians and the people in our Bible study. We began to pray about the situation with her, as well as encourage and support her. That meant a lot to May.

Recently, I noticed a bookmark in her Bible with the passage from Romans 8:28-29 reminding her that God works all things together for those who love Him. I have really noticed a big change in May. She shows a real interest in reading and studying the Bible, as well as going to church.  She also shared with me that she now prays for other people because so many people prayed for her.

What a joy to watch May grow in her own personal understanding of God! The seeds planted and nurtured in her young heart have begun to bear fruit as she has matured.



Reflection:

We are not responsible for how others respond to the seeds planted in their lives. It is up to God to bring them to bear fruit. Let us not become discouraged because we cannot guarantee that our investment will pay off. May we continue to plant, water and nurture seeds in those we live and work amongst, and leave the rest up to God.


 

1 Corinthians 3:7-8
It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work.

Submitted by: Jerilyn, California

August 27
Woven Together

I recently met a young Japanese woman in my English Conversation Class. Both Lana and her husband had earned a doctorate in neuroscience, and she worked in a lab at the university. After spending some time with Lana, I invited her and her husband to a local teahouse and we enjoyed a lovely afternoon practicing English and getting to know each other.

Within a few weeks, Lana came to class with a shy smile on her face and shared with me that they had just found out they were expecting their first child. Unfortunately, Lana struggled with quite a bit of morning sickness. Since I have never had children, I approached some of my experienced mother friends to see if we could offer her some possible remedies. I also made arrangements with Kate, a woman from our church whose delivery date was quickly approaching, to talk to Lana and her husband about how to prepare for a baby and to answer any questions they might have.

Kate exudes such joy and makes everyone laugh, so she quickly dispelled a lot of their fears about being pregnant in a foreign country, without any relatives around. After hosting Kate, we all felt uplifted and less apprehensive.

Soon, Kate delivered a beautiful baby and Lana’s morning sickness noticeably improved. She expressed her gratitude for my help in finding ways to alleviate the worst of the morning sickness and we have continued building a wonderful bond of friendship. Just recently, she honored me by sharing the video from her first ultrasound and we basked together in witnessing the unborn baby’s movements. 

 

Reflection:

What a privilege it is to walk alongside others when they are experiencing some of the most vulnerable days of their lives. May we live out the love of our Lord as we interact with them in the details and challenges they face.

 

Psalm 139:13-16
You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.

Submitted by: Karen, California

August 26
A Life Well Lived

Even as prostate cancer slowly ate away my father's life, I could still clearly observe two core qualities radiating from him; his humor and his heart for lost people who needed Jesus. Just before the end, my father, affectionately known as "Grandpa Bill," barely clinging to consciousness pointed to my face and then his own, saying, "Julie, you are the apple of my eye.... brow." I've heard of being the apple of someone's eye, but not eyebrow! His humor never left him.

Not long before his final day on earth, Dad told me, "Julie, please remember this... if just one person comes to know Jesus through my death, it will all be worth it." Raising his hands to heaven, he exclaimed, "Oh Jesus, please use my life, use my death!" I'm not sure if my dad knows exactly what's happening here on earth, but if he does, I know he would say, "See Julie, it's worth it!"

Just two weeks before his death I brought my new Japanese roommate, Ricki, to my parent’s home. Even in his weakened state, my father sat up from his mat on the floor and exclaimed, “Welcome to America! Welcome to my home!” Ricki felt drawn in by his warmth, and over the next few hours listened to him share several humorous anecdotes, as well as the Gospel.

Just after my father’s funeral, Ricki asked several people, “What was his source of love? Where did his unusual love for me come from?” Not much later, she discovered that source of love—Jesus. And it changed her life dramatically!

With boundless energy and enthusiasm, Ricki began inviting her whole class of English language students to our home for a Bible study. The group reached almost 50 students, and we had to move all our living room furniture into the garage to accommodate them! The following weeks, Ricki felt disappointed because only a handful of them consistently returned for Bible study. After a season of prayerful consideration, Ricki shared an idea that I believe came directly from God. She suggested that we offer two meeting options: one would provide a Bible discussion and the other would simply offer a general discussion on relevant topics. The idea sounded great to me; I agreed to give it a try.

It worked! The variety of options drew back the larger numbers and we gradually grew from 15 to 30, and even all the way up to 90! We eventually moved most of the furniture out of our home. When the numbers continued to grow, we spilled out into the home of some believing neighbors across the street!

Two years later, God graciously provided a very large home with six bedrooms, two kitchens, and several large meeting areas where we could break out for the Bible study and general discussion groups -- my own childhood home! Even many years later, almost every Friday night finds my home accommodating up to 14 groups of international students!

Over the years, scores of students have encountered Christ in the very home my precious father raised me in! Yes, daddy, it's worth it!

Reflection:

Although we may not always get to see how difficult experiences and losses can bring joy, what a blessing to occasionally glimpse at how He brings beauty from ashes. How deftly God weaves the threads of our lives into those who have gone before us and those who will follow after us.


John 12:24
I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives.

Submitted by: Julie, Nebraska

August 25
The Mullahs’ Greatest Fear


Reflection:

This good news about Iran validates and culminates decades of prayer and hard work. It confirms once again that God is truly using the strategy of “reaching tomorrow’s leaders today” with great and redemptive purposes. Even the most rigidly hostile government cannot stop the Kingdom of God! Truly, God is more inventive and innovative than our limited human minds will ever conceive.
 


Matthew 16:18

… and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.

Submitted by: source withheld

August 24
How Many Times Do I Have to Tell You?

I could tell she was distressed. As I sat next to Jill—a graduate student from an Asian country—at our weekly on-campus meal with students, I quietly asked God for an opportunity to speak with her. But I sensed she needed to initiate the conversation.

She did.

Fighting tears, Jill told me her story, then asked for advice. She was so ashamed, felt wrongfully accused, hadn’t told her parents, and was at great risk for being removed from her program and sent home. She asked me at least five times what she should do.

As I listened, I knew my counsel would be hard for her to hear. But I’d prayed and I knew it was God’s way. So I told her the same thing each time she asked. And I said if she chose to do things God’s way, I wanted to know the outcome.

My counsel was to humble herself, apologize for what she’d done, and ask for a second chance. I suggested she share with her advisors just how much she loved her program.

A few days after the dinner gathering, Jill sent me a message and told me she’d done as I’d advised. And the outcome was good. She could remain in her program and continue with her degree pursuits. I thanked God with her and congratulated her on making the best choice.


Reflection:

Why is it when we know what God requires of us, we ask the same questions over and over again? How many times does He have to tell us? Thankfully, He is patient and long suffering. And He always knows what’s best for us. Let us humble ourselves before the throne of Christ today, knowing full well that He is ever-loving and ever-giving. He will provide as we obey Him.


2 Peter 3:9
The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.

Submitted by: source withheld

August 23
Blessed are the Poor

My wife and I were travelling in Asia, visiting some of our former students.  We were invited to go to a city not on our scheduled itinerary. Because it was not on our schedule and a great distance away (a sixteen-hour train ride), we decided not to go. We thought this trip would only increase the cost to an already costly trip. However, a former student who was currently teaching in another country, was coming home to her country just to meet us and insisted that we travel with her to her home city. We reluctantly agreed to make the trip.

Upon arrival in the city, we were taken to see some of the sights. Along the way, the van we were riding in pulled over and stopped and a young lady got into the van. As we were traveling along, she turned to my wife and me, and said, “It is because of you that I have Jesus in my life.” You can imagine how surprised we were; we had never seen this girl before in our lives. We were about to find out why the former student from another country insisted on us coming to her city.  We asked this new friend to tell us how she had come to Christ.

She told us that her aunt, our former student and the one currently teaching in another country, used to write to her telling her what we were teaching her from the Bible in our Friday night student meetings. This aunt was not a believer! The young lady in the van said that from reading her aunt’s letters about the Bible she had asked Jesus into her life! She was now going to a regular Bible study in her city and seeking to live her life as a believer. What a thrill to learn of the working of the Holy Spirit and of the power of the Word of God in the life of this young lady. If we had refused to make this side trip, which was not in our original plans, we would never have heard about this new babe in Christ, and of the great power of God’s Holy Word to change lives without a preacher or missionary present! This was without a doubt, one of the most encouraging incidents in our lives!


Reflection:

What a privilege to participate with God in His plan! Like the underside of a tapestry, we often do not see or understand the ways He is at work, but what a joy to get glimpses of how it all fits together beautifully from His view.



Isaiah 55:11
It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.


Submitted by: Phil, Maine

August 22
Opening Minds and Softening Hearts

In this ministry, we meet so many different kinds of students. Not just from different countries, with different languages, cultures and religions—but with different personalities. As we navigate our friendships with each student, we are learning what aspect of their behavior is a cultural one and which is personality.  We have easy-going students who are open-minded about new ideas. And they are often more receptive to the Good News we have to share. And then we have students who are, well…more set in their ways; those who decide before they even get here that they’ll have nothing to do with Christianity.

Recently, I met weekly with ten people. Some were open to meeting for Bible studies; some only wanted English conversation. It was in these latter conversations that I would pray to be able to turn into discussions about spiritual matters. This has regularly happened over the years, and so this year was no exception.

This year, however, I met one of those personalities that was a hard nut to crack. He was a devout Buddhist who repeatedly expressed his desire not to speak about Christianity or any spiritual issues. All I could do was pray for him. Then, a miracle! He himself opened up topics, which took us in the direction of spiritual matters. And then the next time we met, he brought it up again and wanted to talk more. The discussions were more philosophical in nature, but they definitely led toward talking about God. I was thankful that God was working in the mind of my Buddhist friend, and I was confident that He would continue His good work in my friend’s heart.

 

Reflection:

There is no one that the Lord can’t reach. There is a saying that when we get to heaven, we’ll be surprised to see who is there. With that in mind, let’s remember to pray, and let God do the work of opening minds and softening hearts.

 

Philippians 1:6
Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.

Submitted by: Pete, Indiana

August 21
Serving God

It is such a blessing to see God working on our campus. At one point, we had two weekly Friday home groups where an average of 40 students were gathering in two homes for a time of great community building, awesome dinners, M:28 Bible studies, and English discussion groups.

Students were finding community with both Americans and Internationals at these Friday home groups. I really understood how much was happening when a student from Korea made this comment at the end of last semester, “These Friday home groups are the best thing that has happened to me since being in America. I feel like this is my family. I do not know what my semester would have been like if I did not have ISI.”

It is a blessing to see the effect our ministry has on international students, but it is also a blessing to watch many of our American students grow in their own faith as they spend time with, minister to, and pray for the international students that God has brought to their lives.

Reflection:

There is no greater blessing than being in God’s will. How many of us, as we face a new morning, have a list of requests that we ask of God? How much more might we be blessed in our lives, if we instead focus on Him and ask each morning, “God, what will You have me do for You this day?”

Psalm 5:12
For you bless the godly, O
Lord; you surround them with your shield of love.

Submitted by: Ron, Texas

August 20
Students Ministering to Others

One of the most rewarding moments in international student ministry is to witness students whom we’ve mentored as they share their love for Jesus with others. Recently, we took one of our students from Asia on a mission trip with us to New Orleans. She was deeply touched by her experiences there and wanted to share them with us. Jeanette wrote:

“The most challenging thing I did on this missions trip was to have lunch with a homeless person, mostly because I didn't know what to say and was afraid of how he or she might react. Each of us packed a sack lunch for ourselves and another one to give away. We were advised against giving them money because money could be used to feed their addictions, if any. Then, we went out in twos and threes to share our lunches.

When we walked to the French Market (a farmer's market), I saw a guy sitting by the fountain. I asked if he was hungry and he eagerly said, “Yes!” So I gave him the sack lunch. His name was Marvin, and he was in his 30s. He said he was an alcoholic. I asked how he came to be one, and wasn't prepared for the answer I would get. Marvin said he was born into it. When he was a baby, he was colicky. His tummy would get upset so he would cry a lot. So, his parents put whiskey in his baby bottle to make him stop crying. I couldn’t believe it, and I was so sad when I heard that.

Marvin asked if we were Christians, and I said, “Yes.” He said he knew about Jesus Christ and asked me who created God. I didn’t know what to say at first, but I suddenly remembered John 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” So I told him that and explained that no one created God. He has always existed. Marvin said he couldn’t understand that, but he believed there was a God, and he didn’t like religious divisions, especially along denominational lines. I agreed with him.

I was surprised that Marvin asked us to keep him in prayer that he would continue to live and enjoy his days in New Orleans. We prayed for Marvin that Jesus Christ would stir in Marvin’s heart a longing for freedom from sin and reconciliation to God. Marvin was really thankful that we stopped to talk to him. I prayed that in the future I would have the eyes to see those like Marvin who are in need, and to just ask them how they are doing and to listen to their story.”

I don’t know if Jeanette realized how much she blessed us with her compassion for Marvin and especially how she was able to answer his question about God. We are excitedly looking forward to hearing more about her work in sharing her faith.


Reflection:

One of the best ways to grow in our faith is by sharing it with others. When we do as Jesus asked us to do, we find great blessings. This is a sure way to help others grow strong in the faith as we continue to spread the Good News.



2 Thessalonians 2:14-15
He called you to salvation when we told you the Good News; now you can share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. With all these things in mind, dear brothers and sisters, stand firm and keep a strong grip on the teaching we passed on to you both in person and by letter.

Submitted by: Ron, Nebraska

August 19
Step Out of the Traffic

“Overwhelmed” is a state of mind. The more often you use the word, the more you convince yourself of its truth. It might be more accurate to say you are “tired.” That is a lot different than “overwhelmed.” You should feel tired at the end of the day. If you wake up in the morning with energy to face the new day, you have recovered nicely from the day before. 

“Overwhelmed” is what happens when you don’t recover. “Overwhelmed” happens when you live and breathe tomorrow’s problems before the sun has come up on tomorrow. When that happens, we allow yesterday to go with us into today, instead of leaving it behind with a farewell. “There, I did my best today, all I could do in the time. I’ll attack the rest of this tomorrow with fresh energy, enthusiasm, and the grace that God gives me for tomorrow.”

 I like looking at Psalm 46:10 in a number of different versions:

           “Be still and know that I am God.” (KJV and NLT)

“Cease striving and know that I am God.” (NASB)

“Desist, and know that I am God.” (YLT)

“Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God.” (The Message)

I need to buy a hat to put on when I stop work for the day. The hat would say, “I’m finished with work and starting on what constitutes the rest of life; recreation, exercise, play, and worship.”

Sometimes I have to put down one thing or another in order for God to get my attention and focus it back on what matters. Not everything on my calendar for the day or the week matters. God wants me to remember that I am not God. I must allow myself time to deal with my heart and my relationships. Fulfillment and peace come from that, not from my many acts or service.   


Reflection:

Don’t get so caught up in “busy-ness” that you don’t have the time or energy to spend on your heart and relationships. Begin each new day without the baggage of the previous day.

 

Psalm 143:8
Let me hear of your unfailing love each morning, for I am trusting you. Show me where to walk, for I give myself to you.

Submitted by: Pat, Missouri

August 18
The Community of Believers

Recently, I enjoyed a trip to Taipei to visit with eleven former students and our ISI staff there. I experienced some amazing things from the beauty of the Taiwanese landscape to the unique and diverse foods. It was amazing how creative people in Taiwan are in their cuisine. I had so many different and unusual types of seafood, stinky tofu, fish balls, roots, beans, blood, and more. I probably ate more organ meat than any other kind of meat! I saw some of the most disparate ingredients put together in a dish, but it was all very good. I saw one of the tallest buildings in Asia, many night markets teeming with people and goods the variety of which I’d never seen anywhere else! But by far, my most unforgettable experience was meeting with my former students!

Some of these students I knew between two and six years ago. A few, I’d befriended between 13 and 20 years ago! It was awesome to see them again. The interesting thing is that most of these students had never met each other, but they quickly became friends because of their common experience with our ministry. Several of the students are believers; others were not. Still, we were able to get at least three of the non-believers to attend church with us, as well as a couple believers, who had not been attending church, to join us at the church of one of the believers.

What was also amazing was that there were so many connections between these students that they didn't know about. It was as if God had prepared them and brought them all to this point. (And of course He did!) What a blessed time we all had together! I know there will be some long-term friendships formed from this experience and opportunities to follow up using Facebook and other means.

Reflection:

We weren’t meant to experience our faith in solitude. The community of believers is a wonderful place to be. It’s what God planned for us, and it’s where we as Christians can best thrive.


Acts 2:42-44 [NASB]
They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common.

Submitted by: Roy, Texas

August 17
A Knock and a Save

The university where I serve has specific dorms for graduate international students. They are all housed in rooms that can barely fit a twin-size bed, a desk, a little refrigerator, a personal computer, and a small closet. The rooms are without air conditioning and the whole building is a melancholy gray.       

Sometimes, that gray is internal. Mi Sun came to the United States from South Korea with high hopes and a bright-looking future. But her world came tumbling down. Things became so bad, in fact, that she considered ending her life.  

Fortunately, Sarah, one of our international student leaders, had a keen awareness not only of her physical surroundings but also to spiritual things. One night, while walking past Mi Sun’s room, Sarah heard crying.

She didn’t hesitate but knocked on the door.

This was not-too-convenient timing for Mi Sun, who was just about to commit suicide. But Sarah knocked and invited the grieving student to attend our next weekly gathering. Mi Sun agreed.

As God would have it, she felt His real and present love for her through the people there. Mi Sun shed many tears as she accepted Jesus as her Savior, best friend, and guide for the life journey ahead.

Sarah had no idea what she was doing when she interrupted the plans of this weeping girl. But that night, compassion knocked on Mi Sun’s door and Jesus rescued one of His beloved children through that simple act.


Reflection:

Sometimes, just knocking on a door can have eternal consequences. Listen to that voice urging you to reach out. And let us be found faithful as we ask, seek, and knock for the Kingdom.



Revelation 3:20

“Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.”

Submitted by: Ruth, Connecticut

August 16
The Christian Message Blankets North India

Reflection:

Despite the reputation for intolerance that others may give Christianity, our faith actually displays more tolerance towards opposing faiths than any major world religion. This is because Christ’s legacy of love towards one’s neighbors compels us to respect the rights of those with whom we disagree. May we share our faith from a perspective of mutual respect, and let God open the eyes of those who are lost. His resources are endless!


Ephesians 3:20
Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.

Submitted by: source withheld

August 15
Friendship Partner to the Rescue!

These two Friendship Partners couldn’t have looked more different on the outside! Peri, a large, middle-aged, blonde, dental hygienist with an open, welcoming smile and big hugs, and Lucy, a petite, raven-haired international graduate student who looked more like a high schooler!

Although they appeared mismatched on the outside, Peri and Lucy actually had a lot of the important stuff in common. Both were lively and outgoing single women, with an extensive network of friends. At first, they spent a lot of time together and attended musical performances and social events around town. They both seemed delighted with their friendship, but as time progressed and studies pressed down on Lucy, the fun times became less frequent and they only connected occasionally. They both had lots of other friends, and it took work to stay connected.

One night, Peri got a one am phone call. Exhausted after a hard day’s work, Peri groggily answered the late night call and heard Lucy’s desperate voice on the other end. “Help, Peri! Can you come pick us up? We are stranded downtown and there is no bus home.” Lucy and her friend had gotten stuck.

It was a long way, culturally and geographically from Lucy’s home country, where buses run all night long. The girls had gone for a day shopping trip and assumed they could just catch the next bus going back, without realizing that buses in our area don’t run all night long.

Because she already knew and trusted Peri, Lucy felt comfortable calling her when she needed rescuing. And Peri came. Although I’m sure she spent at least some of the 45-minute drive preparing a scolding for Lucy, when she arrived, she simply smiled. She realized that Lucy needed her and she stepped into her role as a hero in Jesus’ name. Peri was there when Lucy REALLY needed a friend.

A couple of years passed and Lucy and Peri drifted apart again. Lucy finished her Master’s degree and transferred to a college on the east coast. Out of the blue, Peri got a Facebook message from her.

“How are you these days? I was thinking of you yesterday when I was in church. Hope everything's going smoothly; I miss the time when you drove me around in California! Thanksgiving and Christmas are coming and I decided to get baptized this Thanksgiving. You are the first one who leads me to Christianity when I first came to the U.S. and I want to share this important thing with you.”

Peri’s midnight rescue might have had further reaching consequences. Lucy got the message that God is the one who always rescues us from aloneness, no matter what time of the day or night, and no matter what predicament we have gotten ourselves into.


Reflection:

Consider it the ultimate compliment when someone in need, in trouble or feeling alone, reaches out to you. That indicates they feel safe with you and know that whether or not they deserve it, they know you will be there for them. Being available isn’t always convenient or at the top or your priority list, but speaks volumes to someone in need.

 

Psalm 31:2
Turn your ear to listen to me; rescue me quickly. Be my rock of protection, a fortress where I will be safe.

Submitted by: Peggy, California

August 14
Generosity and Gratefulness: A Double Edged Sword

Chances are, you have met other people over the years who contributed to ministries in meaningful and helpful ways – people who support the work of the Kingdom in humility and generosity. I have people like that where I serve too.     

Once a year, a family invites all internationals to their home on a small lake for a good old American picnic. This afternoon includes inner tubes, skis, canoes, swimming, a tree tire swing, conversations, and plenty of good eating.

Last year, I had a car full of women who had never attended this picnic. As we wound our way down the steep slope of the driveway, and the view of the lake and cabin came into view, squeals of joy filled the van. I had chills as I thought of the small price it took to delight these women who were in the United States for the first time. They expressed their gratitude over and over.

The family that hosts us are the most unpretentious people I know. They don’t want or need to be recognized. They serve quietly and competently. They love the Lord. They love our students. So, we use this event to kick off the semester and as a way of reaching out to new students too. And its success has pulsed through various campus groups, so we usually have a large turnout.  

 

Reflection:

Generosity is a great gift. Paul expressed his gratitude to God for being merciful and for giving him strength to do His work. Gratefulness is another wonderful benefit. These gifts give and give and give again. Thank the Lord for blessings that are ours all the time!



1 Timothy 1:12-13

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength to do his work. He considered me trustworthy and appointed me to serve him, even though I used to blaspheme the name of Christ. In my insolence, I persecuted his people. But God had mercy on me because I did it in ignorance and unbelief.

Submitted by: Ruth, Connecticut

August 13
Give Me Ears to Hear

Elton had come to Arizona from Nigeria to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Biotechnology Engineering. We first met on campus, and I found him a very likeable fellow who obviously loved the Lord. Elton loved to talk about his faith. Although we didn’t agree on everything, we both believed Jesus was the Son of God, sent to save the world from sin, and the Bible was God’s inspired Word. We began meeting regularly, enjoying lively discussions that sharpened our faith and friendship.

Our conversations covered a wide range of topics, and I marveled at how he processed information like an engineer, as well as how his faith influenced his life and decisions. I also came to admire Elton’s stewardship of his time, talents, and possessions. From time to time, he brought up his loneliness, and we began to pray that he would find the wife God had chosen for him. I encouraged him to stay faithful and trust God for the right job and girlfriend, but mostly I just listened when he needed to talk.

Listening doesn’t come naturally to me! I am a type-A, task-oriented Westerner who wants to have an answer for everything. However, God has been working on me, and I’m learning that He can speak when I am silent. I’m learning that His presence in my life can bring comfort to others, even when I don’t speak. I’m learning that if I’m walking in the power of the Holy Spirit, He will speak through me, sometimes verbally.

Elton worshipped at a church on the other side of town. He attended faithfully and had developed a close relationship with the pastor. Out of the blue one day, he told me that he had met the woman he was going to marry. His pastor had introduced them, and they both felt sure that God had called them together. He bought tickets to fly back East to meet her family and get married. They planned to settle in Arizona together, trusting the Lord to provide a job for Elton.

The news caught me totally off-guard! Although I wanted to pepper Elton with questions and warnings, God prompted me to remain quiet and supportive and to trust Him with this young man’s future. I hugged Elton and congratulated him, joining him in praising God for this answer to prayer.

Elton and I continued to meet regularly during his short engagement. When the time came, I gave them a wedding gift and helped them move into a larger apartment. As I prayed a blessing on them in their new home, I felt blessed to be part of God’s work in their lives. If I hadn’t followed the Spirit’s guidance, I would have showered them with advice and precautions that would have only increased their doubts and fears. I am so thankful that I recognized God’s still, small voice that told me to listen and love. I trust that when and if advice is appropriate, the Holy Spirit can speak truth through me.


Reflection:

Just because we are Christians and/or work in ministry, it doesn’t mean we know how everyone else should live their lives or make their decisions. Sometimes a willingness just to listen speaks volumes to those who need to be heard. May God speak through our lives, as well as our words, and may we know and understand when and if words are appropriate.



Galatians 5:16
So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.

Submitted by: Charles, Arizona

August 12
From Bitterness to Gratitude


Reflection:

Never is our freedom in Christ more palpable than when we first receive Him into our hearts. Spiritual rebirth and our initial encounter with the Holy Spirit can bring with them a release of long-held emotional strongholds and stumbling blocks. It is so amazing to see people freed from bondage; may God continue His great work of spiritual growth and freedom.


Genesis 50:20
You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position...

Submitted by: source withheld

August 11
Our Days Are Numbered

Yingbo, a graduate student, frequently attended our Friday night Bible discussion group for almost a year. Her insight and good questions demonstrated her sincere interest in the truth. In August, she attended the ISI World Week Conference with us and shared her journey publicly.

Yingbo befriended a number of ISI staff at the conference, several of whom were elderly.  Looking back, I never could have guessed that this twenty-six year-old would not live long enough to build those friendships further or attend another conference.

After seeing her at the conference, I hoped that Yingbo would get more involved in our ISI ministry back in Illinois. However, when she accepted a student leadership position on campus, her free time evaporated. I only saw her at our Friday meetings a few times that fall.

Over the Thanksgiving break, Yingbo and four friends drove to New York to pick up a car. They drove the newly acquired Honda Civic home – two men in the front and three Chinese women in the back.  Arriving in Illinois, they stopped by a grocery store to pick up food and got on the interstate to head home. At that moment, a drug dealer in a Cadillac Escalade, traveling at a high rate of speed, hit the rear of their car and fled the scene, leaving all the passengers injured. The first person on the crash scene was a Christian nurse who cleared the airway of one of the injured women, saving her life; the nurse then held Yingbo in her arms as Yingbo died.

University officials received notification of the accident and Yingbo’s death. Her parents received word of the tragedy from a Chinese-speaking staff member at the university. They obtained visas and airline tickets to come to Illinois through some compassionate efforts and the generosity of the UI College of Library Science. Yingbo’s mother decided to have her buried in Illinois since her life journey had brought her here.  In apparent deference to Yingbo’s telephone conversations that indicated her interest in Christianity, her mother also chose a church funeral service for Yingbo.

We had no solid assurance that Yingbo had chosen to accept a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, but her roommate, also injured in the accident, believed that she had.  Meanwhile, unbeknownst to anyone, Yingbo had sent her parents and grandparents a package just before she left for the trip to New York. While her grieving parents were in-route from Beijing to Chicago, the package from Yingbo arrived at their home. When the grandparents opened it, they found a Chinese Bible and other Christian literature. Immediately, they phoned their son, Yingbo’s father (now in Chicago), and told him about this last gift from Yingbo.  We pray that this last communication from their daughter (and granddaughter) might bring them comfort and hope as they read.


Reflection:

We do not know when we will take our last breath. We cannot see around the bend in the road ahead, so we must live each day as if it mattered for eternity. May we never take tomorrow for granted. Let us not leave any doubt about who we serve.




Luke 12:16-21

Then he told them a story: “A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops. He said to himself, ‘What should I do? I don’t have room for all my crops.’ Then he said, ‘I know! I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have room enough to store all my wheat and other goods. And I’ll sit back and say to myself, “My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!”’  “But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?’ “Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.”


Submitted by: David, Illinois

August 10
The Straight Scoop on China


Reflection:

Seen through human eyes, China appears as little more than a sea of captive and misled souls---brainwashed by the ideology of Communism and living desperate, empty lives. However, even on the proverbial “other side of the world,” behind the seemingly formidable “Bamboo Curtain,” God’s Spirit is moving and His Gospel is changing lives––and a nation. In many ways, China is being transformed by the Gospel more thoroughly than our country. How could we change that this year? Maybe some of us need to become “agents of change,” secret or otherwise, to nudge our own nation towards revival.



Matthew 10:16

Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves.

August 9
Peace in the Storm

How often can you recall a time in your life when you asked God, “Why is this bad thing happening to me (or us)?” It’s the hard question common to all believers, from the newest Christian to those who have been in relationship with the Lord for many years. Nonbelievers ask, “Why does God allow bad things to happen in the world?” And believers might ask, “Why does God allow bad things to happen to us (and wonder quietly) when we’ve done everything we can to be faithful?”

Jesus had a simple answer. He said, “For He gives His sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike,” Matthew 5:40.  Difficulties in life are a fact of life for everyone. But how do we answer this question or explain the suffering in the world when a seeker brings it up?

One of our Chinese students, Ben, asked how he could accept the God in the Bible who allows so much suffering in the world. I can’t remember my exact response to Ben at the time, except for sharing how God does, at some point, really give the believer an acceptance of life’s hard times, as well as the deep peace that only He can provide.

Ben seemed to accept my answer and continued to study the Scriptures with me for several more months. During this time, he also attended a local Chinese church. One day, Ben told me that he’d made a profession of faith in Jesus. He also said that my helping him with his “Why?” question had helped bring him one step closer to the Savior. Praise the Lord!

 

Reflection:

We accept that we live in an imperfect world. We probably won’t understand the painful things that happen until we see the Lord. The difference, however, between us and nonbelievers is that we have blessed assurance. God will be with us through the hard times. His peace will be sufficient. If seekers can see this confidence in us, it helps to answer the hard question for them.


1 Corinthians 13:12

Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.

Submitted by: Margaret, Massachusetts

August 8
Amazing Love

Like many students who come to study in the United States, Angie grew up in a family with many privileges. Her parents served as diplomats and so her childhood years presented her with opportunities she never would have had if she had always lived in the strict Muslim environment of her home country.

At early as 4 years of age, Angie had a young friend who told her that Jesus loved her. She asked, “How can Jesus love me, since I’m Muslim?” Her young friend could not elaborate on that, but affirmed Christ’s love for her. Already, God had begun His pursuit of Angie.

During her high school years Angie attended an English speaking school for missionary kids and participated in many debates and discussions comparing and contrasting the Christian and Muslim faiths. As her college years approached, Angie decided to attend college in the United States so that she could continue to explore and investigate the truth. While working on her bachelor’s degree, Angie developed friendships with a wide array of people, including many who followed Jesus. Through these friendships, His pursuit continued.

One year, the Christian groups at her university rallied together to bring an evangelical program called “After Dark” to the campus. Since the group normally goes to large college campuses, they required that the university guarantee an attendance of at least 3,000—quite a stretch for our campus! God came through and we were able to piggy back our event on to the end of the men’s basketball team winning the finals—bringing our crowd to the required 3,000!

Angie stood in the crowd of students that night. As she watched, the speaker literally took an axe and built a cross on stage while explaining the Gospel plainly. In amazement and at long last, Angie gave her life to Jesus that night.

During her journey to faith in Jesus, Angie had become entangled in an unhealthy relationship. She immediately broke it off, but found herself pregnant. An ISI friendship partner brought her into her home and walked with her through the pregnancy and ensuing adoption.

Angie’s faith has matured and grown so that now, whenever the opportunity presents itself, she shares with others how Jesus relentlessly pursued her. She encourages and challenges them to consider where she came from and how Jesus’ amazing love found her.


Reflection:

Sometimes we have to look back to fit the pieces together and see the amazing ways God pursued us with His love and grace. Take a moment to consider the tapestry of your life and how He weaved together what seemed like random threads to bring you to where you stand today.



Ephesians 4:8-19
And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

Submitted by: Mark, Kansas

August 7
The Word is Alive

One of my favorite “take homes” from a recent international women’s Bible study came from a young Russian student. We had just completed the book of Ruth. Our reading and discussion had generated a great deal of interest and conversation. Afterwards, Natalie thanked me for the experience, saying, “This story has everything that we experience in life. I never knew this story before. I am surprised by it.”

This simple observation really encouraged and ministered to my jaded heart. How often do we become numb or stop paying attention to what we read in the Bible because we’ve heard it over and over again? Then, someone or something jolts us back into awareness and we realize all over again that the Bible really speaks into our every day lives, even thousands of years later. We no longer have the same traditions, culture or language of the times, but the personal stories and applications come shining through. It took that innocent comment from an international student to remind me how real and applicable it remains today.

And the fact that it surprised Natalie struck me too. Probably many international students go into a Bible study or class with certain expectations. But when the Holy Spirit begins to soften and work in their hearts, the actual content and message can surprise and excite them because it defied their expectations.


Reflection:

Stand back and wonder again at the message God left for us in the Bible. What does it speak into your heart and life today ?

Hebrews 4:12
For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.

Submitted by: Kim, California

August 6
Fertile Ground

We experienced great blessing building a relationship with Steve, an international student from the government agricultural department in Laos. From the first time he came to our house for a meal, he asked amazing questions about Christianity and Jesus, which opened doors for us to share the Gospel.

Another time at a potluck dinner, Steve invited me to sit at his table alongside his professor and several assistants. Even though he had an official “host family” assigned through his program, Steve referred to us as his host family on Facebook. We really enjoyed his happy, funny (he could make jokes in English!), kind and polite personality.

One weekend he asked if we could take him to see Napa Valley. His roommate from Tanzania had his wife visiting, so we all went on an agricultural and wine tour of one of the more well-known vineyards.

We also decided to celebrate Steve’s birthday, so after the tour we had a picnic lunch and lit the candles on his birthday cake. The couple from Tanzania enjoyed eating outdoors because they told us that they always eat outside, gathered with many other people in their culture. They agreed to attend church with me on Sunday and share a meal afterwards.

Since Steve, a Buddhist, had seemed so open, I ordered a Laotian Bible online to give him as a good-bye gift. In the car, on the way to the restaurant where we planned to have our good-bye meal, he asked many more questions about Jesus. After we ate, we presented him with the Laotian Bible. I asked him to turn to the book of John chapter 3 verse 16 and read it out loud. Then I explained further what Jesus did in dying for our sins, rising from the dead and paying the price for us to enter Heaven to be with Him.

I may never know if Steve made a decision for Christ, but I pray that the soil in which we planted those seeds will continue to be fertile, and that the seeds may take root and grow into a strong faith.


Reflection:

We treasure some friendships we form with people we may never see or hear from again. We must make the most of every opportunity to love and enjoy them while they are among us, trusting that God will soften their hearts for His message now or in the future.

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. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

Submitted by: Karen, California

August 5
A Not so Coincidental Coincidence


Reflection:

If you want to evangelize the world’s unreached groups, they are already here in America; God sent them to us! As the world’s borders become increasingly hostile, even closed to traditional missions, God responds by sending an ever-increasing number of future leaders to our own shores. Truly, we serve an infinitely creative and powerful God. How has He shown that creativity and resourcefulness in your life?


Lamentations 3:22-23
The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.

Submitted by: source withheld

August 4
What Does It Mean?

We first met Sunny when she was a new believer; her husband had transferred to a local university to complete his degree. She admitted that she really knew nothing about what it meant to be a Christian. She and her husband, Clay, had come from China with the typical dreams of learning English, getting degrees, finding jobs, starting a family, and possibly staying in the United States long-term. During an intensive English program, they had their first exposure to Christians and described them as “good people” who cared about and helped them.

We helped them get settled and made plans to help Sunny find things to do, as she would have a lot of time on her hands while Clay completed his degree. I invited her to join my women’s English Conversation Group. We cooked together and shopped together; all the while, we talked about things that matter: marriage, children, life, and the Lord. Very sweet and appreciative, Sunny enjoyed getting together as often as possible. In our time together, it didn’t take long for me to realize just how little she understood about her Christian commitment. She had some desire to know God and seemed open, but I could tell she really didn’t understand what it meant to put her trust in Christ.

I introduced Sunny to one of our volunteers, Libby, who had taught English in China. Libby eagerly desired to study the Bible with Sunny and began with the basics; Libby also helped Sunny with her English along the way. She focused on helping Sunny understand who God is, and how sinful and helpless we are. One day, Sunny said, “You know, when we began studying the Bible together, I thought it would be cool to practice my English with you and learn a little about God. But, now I’m beginning to understand more about how awesome God is, and how He deserves my worship.”

God was clearly at work! Sunny had always remembered the lessons from week to week, but now she began reading the Bible between lessons and bringing really good questions to their meetings. When Sunny would go home, she would tell her husband what she had learned. Excitedly, she explained to Libby that she felt like a missionary because she was telling others what she knew about God. Little by little, Sunny is coming to understand her commitment and to appreciate what God has done for her. We rejoice as we watch her blossom in her understanding.
 

Reflection:

We don’t always see clearly how God is working in a person’s life. It might be discouraging when others still don’t seem to “get” the Gospel; however, that doesn’t mean that God isn’t at work! True understanding comes with time and diligence.



Philippians 1:6
And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

Submitted by: Anne, Florida

August 3
Driven to Compassion

Anyone who’s been on an international flight knows how exhausting it can be. And finally arriving in a foreign country can leave you tired, uncertain, and, perhaps, even a little fearful.

So imagine making your way past the gates and security, through crowds and down long terminal hallways, not knowing what to expect.

What a blessing to find at the end of your travels a smiling face—someone waiting there just for you! But, you might wonder, why would an American go to the trouble to pick up someone they’d never met?

One of our ISI staff shared her experience:

“For the last several years, I’ve had the pleasure of handling all of the August airport pickups. There may be anywhere from twenty to sixty new students. After receiving names and flight information, I contact the students over Facebook, and coordinate their arrivals. Many are surprised and overjoyed that an American is picking them up! As I drive them back from the airport, they quiz me on all sorts of things. For many, I’m their first American friend. It is such a blessing to them and really opens the door, allowing me to invest and pour compassion into their lives. I’ve kept in touch with every one of them.”

Reflection:

You can be a blessing to someone with something as simple as picking them up at the airport, inviting them over for a meal, or helping with a difficult task. Be open to anything . . . and pour the love of God into the lives of others!



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: source withheld

August 2
Hands-On Help

The month of August usually keeps ISI staff hopping! Most international students arrive some time that month, and their needs range from airport pick ups, to acquiring cell phones and bank accounts, to finding temporary housing.  I have personally witnessed the value of ministering to them in all these practical ways, right from the beginning when they are most vulnerable.

This kind of availability really helps establish the best of relationships, not only with the students themselves, but with school administrators, professors, and advisers. We don’t even have to toot our own horn—the students talk about it! They wonder and discuss why we help them. They promote the things we do for them, and word spreads.

I am an especially big advocate for helping international students with housing. In reality, when done right, both the students and the volunteers win. These relationships can develop into long-term and even lifetime bonds. There is something about spending time together helping with the “real-life” stuff that really creates space for the Holy Spirit to work in hearts. Helping in this manner speaks deeply into the minds (and hearts) of international students. This also provides the opportunity to speak into daily life situations of the students and gives us opportunities to show the love of Christ. I have seen it happen over and over again, year after year.


Reflection:

God presents us with so many opportunities to serve others. Always be on the look out for practical ways to be the hands, feet and heart of Jesus to those around you.

Romans 12:13
When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.

Submitted by: John, California

August 1

Revelation 7:14b-17

Then he said to me, “These are the ones who died in the great tribulation. They have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb and made them white.

“That is why they stand in front of God’s throne
    and serve Him day and night in His Temple.
And He who sits on the throne
    will give them shelter.
They will never again be hungry or thirsty;
    they will never be scorched by the heat of the sun.
For the Lamb on the throne
    will be their Shepherd.
He will lead them to springs of life-giving water.
    And God will wipe every tear from their eyes.”
  

 

Reflection:

Once you’ve made the decision to surrender your heart and life to Christ, you become His. You are one of His people and a member of His church. He even calls you His child—His son or daughter. As such you are under His protection. No harm will come to you. So, take comfort in His presence.

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