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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 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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