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Please enjoy the Daily Devotions for December. Each day, a new devotion will be listed
at the top of this page.
To view previous month: November

Reflection:

Good news always spreads like wildfire, and what Christ did for us represents the best news ever shared. We are sharing the Good News of the Gospel; indeed, the strong hand guiding this Good News belongs to the powerful, loving Creator of the universe. This is why the Gospel is so irresistible---no nation or army can fence it out!



Matthew 16:18
“…upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.”

December 30
Full Circle

Vivian grew up in a large Malaysian family. The strong cultural emphasis on a good education in order to obtain wealth and a good life influenced her to pursue a degree in management and human resources in Utah after her high school graduation. While in Utah, Vivian made friends who invited her to church and Bible studies. After about a year of study and fellowship, she prayed the sinner’s prayer and invited Jesus into her heart.

Following her college graduation, she moved to Seattle where the person who had led her to Christ had joined ISI. Vivian moved into the ISI House and looked for a job. During this time, her faith grew in tremendous ways. The Friday night fellowship became an important part of her week, and she built a strong foundation in her relationship with Christ through the cross-cultural and unconditional friendships she made there. She participated in many activities and found herself challenged and encouraged spiritually.

Vivian felt that the Christian fellowship she enjoyed during that time in her life helped shape her worldview and spiritual maturity for her return to Malaysia. Her first few jobs back home kept her in Christian organizations, but she began to feel the Lord calling her into the secular field. She obtained a position preparing students for overseas studies and felt she had found her unique niche.

Although she admits that working in a secular environment brings many challenges, she feels the Lord uses those challenges to teach her trust, humility and dependence. Since she interacts with students from all walks of faith, she has relied on her own experience as an international student to communicate love and care for each individual, whether or not they come to Christ. She thinks of herself as planting seeds, hoping that God will bring in the harvest, whether now or in the future, and she feels privileged to be a part of the process.

Reflection:

How rewarding to see someone you have nurtured in the faith begin to reproduce their faith in others. Perhaps you planted the seed, perhaps you watered it along the way, or perhaps you were there when the harvest rolled in. No matter what your role in the process, fulfill it wholeheartedly, trusting God to use it all for His glory and purpose.



John 4:36-38
“The harvesters are paid good wages, and the fruit they harvest is people brought to eternal life. What joy awaits both the planter and the harvester alike! You know the saying, ‘One plants and another harvests.’ And it’s true. I sent you to harvest where you didn’t plant; others had already done the work, and now you will get to gather the harvest.”

Reflection:

God is the ultimate multiplier. He not only cultivates that which we see increasing before us every day, but He also grows His Church in ways beyond our feeble efforts. We are not responsible for the increase. We are responsible only for the harvest’s seeding and the reaping in season. He takes it from there.



1 Corinthians 3:6-7
I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.

Reflection:

You never know when God will place a life-changing, even world-changing, encounter within the realm of your everyday activities. While we cannot engage every single person we see in a soul-winning conversation, we can remain sensitive to God’s leading. He will tell us when the time (and the person) is right for approaching an individual or group. After we hear from Him, it is our responsibility to respond in boldness and love.


Matthew 5:14
You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden.

December 27
A Family Dilemma

Reflection:

Sometimes, it is hard to remember that we have a spiritual family, as well as our earthly one. God is a loving and gracious father, and He ushers us into the richness of following Christ. He is worthy of having our complete devotion.



Matthew 10:37-39

If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.

December 26
Ready to Save

We can all agree that being an international student carries inherent difficulties. But for Jing, those difficulties only increased when he applied for, but did not receive, a green card.

He panicked. Who wouldn’t? He was in danger of losing his home and, adding to the stress, this change in status would mean that his wife could no longer continue at her nursing job.

ISI campus staff member Tim said he did what he could to encourage Jing, telling him, among other things, “God whispers to us in our prosperity but shouts at us through our pain.” Tim hoped and prayed that God gave him the words Jing needed to find his strength in a stressful situation.

Please join us in praying for Jing and his wife, that they would see that our God is a living God, not only ready to save, but willing to do exactly that.


Reflection:

We all encounter hard times, but it is during the struggle that God becomes real. As author V. Raymond Edman wrote: “Never doubt in the dark what God told you in the light .”


Proverbs 3:5-6
Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.

Submitted by: Tim, Missouri

December 25
“Merry Christmas” Say what…?

If we are not merry about Christmas, who on earth will be? Here is the reality: without Christmas—without being born again in Jesus Christ, we are “…dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air…” Ephesians 2:1-2.

 The reality with Christmas—being born again in Jesus Christ:

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved…” Ephesians 2:4-5.

We have gone from darkness to light!

We have gone from death to life!

We have gone from receiving condemnation to receiving forgiveness!

We have been saved from hell and are granted heaven!

It all has to do with Christmas---with the birth of Christ. It all has to do with the incarnation of Jesus Christ and John 3:16!

Frosty, chestnuts roasting on the fire, Jack Frost, decorated trees, and white Christmases are nice, but they don’t mean a thing next to the real reason to celebrate Christmas. We do have MUCH to celebrate at Christmas…the LORD was born to save us from our sins!

Happy, Blithe, Cheery, Glad, Jolly, Jovial, Gleeful Christmas, or in other words…Merry Christmas!!!

Reflection:

For too many of us, Christmas reminds us of “to-do” lists---things to do for the holidays: plans to make… gifts to buy… cards to write. At times, we may forget why we are celebrating. Let’s put aside the lists. Maybe this year, we won’t even have a list! Maybe this year will be different, and we will just focus on the One whom we are celebrating.


Matthew 2:10-11
When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him...

Submitted by: Ed, North Carolina

December 24
Salvation is Free

“At first, I just went for the free food.” That is what Kyle, a student from China, said when he shared why he started going to some of the events and activities for international students. And while this might have been his initial reason for going, God had different plans for him.

Before I met Kyle, an American family had befriended him, shown him the love of Christ and shared God’s Word with him. God connected us when we both attended the graduation of a mutual friend.

We invited Kyle and our friend to join us for the Christmas Eve service at our church, followed by dessert at our house afterwards. It was a wonderful evening! As our friends were leaving, Kyle asked me to pray for his job interview, which would take place two days after Christmas. I prayed for Kyle and asked for God’s blessings and favor. Well, he got the job! When Kyle and I met for dinner the next week, he told me that I had a special connection with God because He had answered my prayers and provided the job for him. I told Kyle that I wasn’t anything special, and that we can all have a personal connection with God through Jesus Christ. He was very interested, so we agreed to meet the next day so I could give him a Bible and tell him more about Jesus. The next day, January 4th, I shared the Gospel with Kyle as we sat in my car, and he opened his heart and trusted Jesus as his Savior and Lord.

I had just met Kyle three weeks before. In that time, he had been to church, to our home, became a follower of Jesus, and moved to Houston to start his new job. Praise, thanks and glory to God! He used that answered prayer to touch Kyle’s heart, give me favor in his eyes, and open the door to share the Gospel with him.


Reflection:

We never know what God is going to do. Our faithfulness in prayer can move mountains. What an opportunity we have to pray for those we interact with!



Matthew 17:20

“You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.”

Submitted by: Jeff, Texas

December 23
Too Busy

A few years ago, we invited some international students to come with us to see a church drama presentation of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” Nick, a post-doctorate research student we had known for many years, showed up at the rendezvous point on campus, but insisted that he was too busy to join us for the event. He said he had to get back to work in his lab, but had just come by to say “hi” to everyone.

“Are you sure you don’t want to go, Nick?” I asked. “It’s really a good story.”

“I wish I could,” he replied, “but I just really don’t have time. By the way, what is the play about?”

Smiling knowingly, I responded, “It’s about a guy who was too busy to celebrate Christmas.”

“No way,” said Nick. “Really? You’re not just making that up?”

“Really,” I assured him. “You should come with us. After all, it is Christmas time.”

Curiosity began to replace Nick’s reluctance and I silently praised God when he changed his mind and agreed to come to join us for the play. As the story portrayed Ebenezer Scrooge’s encounters with the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future, the crotchety main character began to realize how his past had jaded him from that which is really good and meaningful—caring for one’s fellow man; not just getting ahead in a worldly sense. By the end, his heart had thawed, and he got another chance to make his life count.

Throughout the play, I noticed that Nick seemed transfixed. During the intermission, he confided to me that this play was really speaking to him and was exactly what he needed to hear. He thanked me over and over again for talking him into going. In my heart I knew that God wanted him there. It also made me wonder if I’m sometimes too busy to hear what He has to say to me as well.


Reflection:

Especially during the Christmas season, it is easy to get caught up with plans that really don’t have anything to do with Jesus or remembering His birth. Pray that the Lord will determine your steps today and every day. You don’t want to be so busy that you miss a message He might have for you. Ask Him for open ears to hear what He has to say to you today.



Proverbs 16:9
We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.

Submitted by: Lisa, Texas

December 22
In His Hands

I grew up in a typical Japanese family, not paying much attention to religion at all. For some reason, although I didn’t know who God was, I always prayed to Him before going to sleep at night. Looking back at my life since I arrived in the United States, I can see how God prepared the way for me to get to know Him while studying as an international student.

I had been struggling with a lack of relationships and feeling lonely since my arrival. Even though I had continued to pray to God every night, it didn’t seem to change anything and I thought God didn’t hear my prayers, so I quit praying. About that time, I began to meet a lot of wonderful Christian people who helped and encouraged me through my struggles. They reached out to me and helped me find a host family near my school, and they took me to Talk Time sessions and International Christian Fellowship meetings even when I didn’t live nearby. I started attending church and learning about Jesus. Then I started attending a Bible study with other girls from Japan. Since we all spoke Japanese, it made it easy to understand each other.

We started studying “the fruit of the Spirit,” and the day we talked about peace a specific verse about worrying touched my heart deeply. That night, I prayed to Jesus and talked to him about worries, like my loneliness. Even though my problem didn’t just go away, I could see improvement. I began to really believe in Jesus.

I had been a very negative person. Any little thing that didn’t go well upset me greatly and I would give up on everything and struggle to think positively. Now, I know God is with me and will lead me through these kinds of challenges. I pray about all my worries, and I know God hears me and cares about my life.


Reflection:

When we try to carry all our worries and concerns alone, it doesn’t take long before we feel overwhelmed and out of sorts. Talking through everything with Jesus can help us learn to depend on Him and rest in His blessings.

 

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

Submitted by: Liz, Japan

December 21
Shared Suffering

The day before our family Christmas dinner, Derek, the international student we had been partnered with as Friendship Partners, called to tell us he would not be able to attend. Derek said he needed to undergo emergency surgery for a brain tumor just discovered that day! We met with Derek in the hospital soon after his first surgery and prayed with him. Through his tears, he shared his gratitude.

We had only been Friendship Partners for a year, but during that time Derek had seemed like a perfectly healthy and intelligent graduate student, filled with youthful confidence. Suddenly, he lay in a hospital bed with a rare brain tumor, struggling for his life. We felt honored to stand by him during this ordeal, far away from his home.

Providentially, I work in cancer treatment medications. Both my wife and I had also recently walked with our own son through a rare pediatric cancer for three years before the Lord took him home. So we knew the importance of prayer and God’s hand in healing for Derek’s body and soul.

The year before Derek’s surgery, he and his roommate attended our weekly worship and teaching group, as well as social gatherings in our home. They had many questions about the Christian faith and customs in our country. During Easter service at our church, Derek had leaned over and said, “I did not know Jesus died!”

In order for Derek’s parents to enter the U.S. to be with their son, my wife worked with the medical staff and the Chinese government to obtain visas. His parents spoke almost no English, yet through a local Chinese church (and a lot of sign language), we spent time with them and also explained the basics of what it meant to follow Jesus. Derek’s father’s first question about the Christian faith surprised us, “Can a smoker become a Christian?”

Over the next year Derek had several operations to remove the building pressure on his brain and finally to remove the tumor after ten months of chemotherapy. During this time he and his family expressed gratitude for the Christian community that visited with, encouraged and prayed for him.

Now cancer free, Derek returned to China where he is still recovering from the side effects of his treatments. These complications have delayed his return to the United States, but we all hope he will come back to finish his studies and embrace the God of the universe who brings true healing to the soul and body.

Being Friendship Partners has blessed us immensely—beyond what we could have imagined. Early in our marriage, we had considered serving as missionaries overseas. Now, the Lord in his kindness has given us the opportunity to open our hearts and home here to international students from around the world.


Reflection:

No one enjoys suffering. But when we have the opportunity to use our own sufferings to help ease the road for others in difficult times, we certainly have a greater understanding and perspective that God can use them to make us more effective in ministering to them.

 

II Corinthians 1:3-4
All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.

Submitted by: Kerry, Oregon

December 20
Christmas Prayers

Studying in the United States offers freedoms that many international students do not consider until they are living here. For some Muslims, visiting a Christian church might only be acceptable for attending a funeral or a wedding. For others, it might even be acceptable in order to foster good relations between a Muslim and his Christian friends. What is forbidden, however, is for a Muslim to enter a Christian church to pray or worship any God other than “Allah.”

This is what makes this staff person’s story so exceptional. It was Christmas Eve, and “John” invited nine international students to come to his Christmas Eve service. Three of the students were Muslims; these students were regular attendees Friday nights at the Islamic Center. When they came to the Christmas Eve service with John, one of the Muslim students said, “We could never do this in our country due to restrictions; however, we are in America, and we are free! So, we want to go with you for Christmas prayers.” Whether the students went with John to his Christmas Eve service to observe, to pray to Allah, or to learn about Jesuswe cannot be sure. However, we know that seeds were planted, and God was there to quicken the heart of any student who was open to hear His call. Thank God for the religious freedom we enjoy in our country and praise God for touching the seeking hearts!

Reflection:

We are indeed free as the Muslim student remarked. This is what makes ministry on our home soil so wonderful. Let us not waste our freedom, and let’s keep working the harvest on our doorsteps.

 

1 Chronicles 16:23-24
Let the whole earth sing to the
Lord
! Each day proclaim the good news that he saves. Publish his glorious deeds among the nations. Tell everyone about the amazing things he does.

December 19
You Invited Me In

As Christians, Christmas is that time of year when we consider our Savior’s birth and celebrate what that means to us. These celebrations include taking the time to bring our extended family and close friends near to exchange gifts and share meals. We want to share this beautiful time of year with those we love. Have you, as a Christian, ever thought that the way you celebrate may not be so different from those who are not believers? The Christmas holiday is an annual tradition for many people around the world, including those who don’t know Jesus at all. They, like true believers, want to draw their families and friends near to celebrate the time of year by exchanging gifts and sharing a meal. So how can we make our own celebrations even more meaningful? How can we truly bring Jesus into our celebrations? What if we did what this host family did and stepped outside of our comfort zones, opening our homes to welcome strangers as family? Pete and Kristin shared how they invited nine international students for Christmas Eve dinner.

“We went around the table and each shared who was the most influential person in their lives. This gave us a chance to hear a little bit about each of their backgrounds and history. We recognize the fact that each of them was a very long way from home and families. And we acknowledged that and told them we understood any sadness they might feel. We laughed, had serious times of reflection on some of the stories told, and each of our family got a chance to share a bit of our testimonies. They all have such different personalities and seem so totally thankful for food and time to gather together. We truly love sharing our home with these students. We've invited them again next year and we'll probably invite a few more if we can squeeze them in! Thank you for organizing this and making this become a reality.”

 

Reflection:

Yes, Christmas is a time when we celebrate the birth of Jesus. But how much more meaningful if we share this celebration by taking to heart what Jesus asked of us by sharing our love and the Hope we have in Him with others.

 

Matthew 25:34-35
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home.”

Submitted by:
Leon, California

December 18
A Christmas Gift Like No Other

Instead of just mastering an instrument, Susan came face-to-face with the Author of the music that had stirred her soul. Her American education had done so much more than she had ever expected; in addition to receiving education to perfect her musical gifts, she received the gift of eternal life.


Reflection:

The Arts have become so corrupted in modern times that it is easy to forget their original purpose was to lift human hearts heavenward. As C.S. Lewis once wrote, “The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing... to find the place where all beauty came from.” Art can point a receptive heart to the source of beauty, and those with an ear and an eye to appreciate it often hear its Maker’s voice. Try to cultivate an eye and a heart for the beauty and art all around you. You may discover that He’s made works of art out of your days!


Ecclesiastes 3:11
Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.

December 17
An Offer I Couldn’t Refuse

Sometimes a donor will volunteer to fund an event under certain conditions. This usually means I have a short time to pull something together.

Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?

Recently, a small amount of funds was offered for campus staff to provide a Christmas outreach to students. This opportunity struck a chord in me. I decided to organize an ecumenical concert that partnered with other evangelical campus ministries. We would reach out to international friends—and the community—to share the message of the birth of Christ.

Moving forward, we needed to get permissions, haul equipment, provide refreshments, print follow-up cards, find ushers, and ensure the people we chose to sing, play, or speak were in line with the heart of the outreach. The work paid off as over one hundred people attended “A Christmas Kaleidoscope Concert.”

An “anonymous” donor matched the funds that ISI provided. That donor was my son, who was about 14 years old at the time. He is really good at being there when seed funds are needed. I am grateful for his heart to enable God’s work to go forward, which is why I gladly accepted his offer of fund matching.

Many hearts and souls were touched as a result of this event. I still have people asking me, years later, if we’re going to do it again, or something like it. But I felt this was a one-time deal.

The timing of the Christmas outreach was not great. Two weeks isn’t a lot of time. But it was an offer I just couldn’t refuse.

 

Reflection:

Life is full of pressures and events that pull us in various directions. Sometimes the best offers are those that cause us to stretch ourselves and to cast out seeds of faith.

 

 

2 Chronicles 19:9
These were his instructions to them: “You must always act in the fear of the Lord, with faithfulness and an undivided heart.”

Submitted by: Ruth, Connecticut

December 16
Investing for Life

We count it as precious every student who comes to salvation during his or her time with us, but if we had to pick just one whose salvation stands out, we might choose Erica. Perhaps because of the three years we poured into her life and salvation, and perhaps because her road to salvation involved the full cooperation of the entire ICF team working together.

If you wonder why the process took so long, I’d have to point to the many hurts Erica had suffered at the hands of “friends,” to the extent that she no longer believed people anymore. It took time to win her trust, and for her to see that this faith was not just religion, but the genuine article; God truly is really alive in us! So, the process to get to that point took what felt like forever, but once she got there, the transformation seemed instantaneous!

Today, in Japan, Erica gives back by sacrificially loving those who aren’t always easy to love or relate to—the youth who attend the Sunday school class she teaches at her church each week. Because of Erica’s investment and commitment, kids are giving their lives to Jesus! Erica also reaches out to baby Christians returning home after studying overseas. She knows the difficulties she faced when she returned, and how she struggled to keep her faith alive back in Japan. So she can speak directly into these fragile lives and help them make connections that will nurture and grow their young faith.

Every Christmas we receive a card from Erica with these special words:  “Thank you. If it wasn’t for you and ICF, I never would have come to know the Lord.” Those years of investment paid off! Erica serves as a stellar example of why we do what we do. Not only did she overcome great obstacles to accept salvation, but she has returned home to live out her own ministry calling in Japan.


Reflection:

The people we encounter in this life have been battered and bruised by their experiences and relationships. It can take a great deal of time and investment to break through the walls and protections they have erected to safeguard their hearts. Take the time. Make the effort. People need to see that they are worth it. It can pay great dividends to stick with it.


II Timothy 3:14
But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you.

Submitted by:
John, Oregon

December 15
Bloom Where You’re Planted

Not long after we moved to California, I met a young Japanese mother during one of our coffee times. Her husband was in the United States as a visiting scholar from the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture. This woman agreed to help me begin an International Women’s Connection (IWC).

After we had spent some time together, she asked to join our discovery Bible discussion. She had never studied the Bible before, but her interest grew quickly. "If this Scripture is true, then I can get love from God rather than demand my husband to meet all my needs and be disappointed when he doesn't."

Before long, Rika trusted in Jesus as her Lord and Savior and made the decision to follow Him. She made sure to say “sorry” to Jesus. We have spent as much time as possible studying the Bible together. She genuinely desires to let God's Word transform her by obeying and integrating it into her life.

One day, as we sat studying together, she looked at the cut flowers in a vase on the table and said, "Oh, I think, Jesus is the graft, to connect us back to God our Creator. We are the part of the flower that looks alive but unless we reconnect, we will die. We need Jesus as the binder." We had not even studied the chapter in John talking about the vine and the branches, but since her husband works for the Japanese government in the Ministry of Agriculture, gardening plays a big role in their lives and this visual made sense in her mind. Watching God work in her life leaves me in awe!

Before returning to Japan, she spent time checking out churches, returnees, and ISI staff in Japan so that she would have places to connect and continue to grow in her faith back at home.

Reflection:

What a beautiful picture we see of Jesus as the gardener; whether preparing the soil of our hearts, watering the seeds deep underground, or rejoicing when the shoot pokes above the ground and blossoms. May we remain rooted and established in His life-giving love, cultivating strong roots and fragrant lives.

 

John 15:5
I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.

Submitted by: Rebecca, California

December 14
A Thankful Heart

Over the Christmas break, several of our international students travelled to St. Louis for the Intervarsity sponsored, Urbana Conference, with 16,000 other mission-minded students. Afterwards, we received a thank you note from Shannon, a PhD student from China, who had attended on a scholarship contributed by one of our generous donors. In her broken English, she beautifully expressed her wholehearted appreciation with genuineness and sincerity:

“First, I would like to thank you for coordinating the whole event:

- Asking funding for us;

- Providing van and car insurance. The condition of the van was so good and there was no incidence related to the van;

- Asking Curt (a volunteer) to be our driver and team leader. I agree you choose the right person! He is such a great person to fit this position! He is a safe driver. He is very nice and very caring for each of us. He coordinated for everything and made us a close team almost all the time;

- Coordinate which of us to go together. Everyone showed his/her strength when we stayed in a strange town. We tried to stay together and did not go astray. We contacted and waited for each other all the time. We cared about each other and were not selfish;

- I have great experience, not just about the conference itself, but more about the whole trip, and the interaction with this group of people each day! I believe it will become one of my greatest memories in my life!

Again, without your solid help, I do not think I would be able to go there and had so much good experience! Thank you very much!”

Reflection:

May we all have grateful hearts to recognize the blessings we receive. May we express our gratitude to God. And may we also share it with those around us.



Luke 17:15-19
One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, “Praise God!” He fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking him for what he had done. This man was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” And Jesus said to the man, “Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you.”

Submitted by:
Ron, Nebraska

December 13
How Could They Treat Me Like That?

I’ve had the privilege of traveling internationally a few times in my life. But when I visited one student’s home country, I discovered how small and humble I could feel. Especially in light of the caliber of the students we rub shoulders with every week.

A while back, the head of the International Center needed American families to “adopt” international undergrads. I told her I’d take two.

One of these students ended up living with us for various stints over the years. He and his mother even stayed with us while we showed them around town. It was great to share our home with them and minister to their needs. Like many internationals, they invited us to visit them in their country one day. Well, eventually, we took them up on their offer.

After being picked up at the airport, we endured a bumpy and treacherous car ride to this student’s home, about three hours away. We took in the sights, sounds, and smells, finally arriving at one of the most palatial-looking homes on the island. They lavished us with good food, cooked over a crude fire by a servant. They took us sightseeing. We reaped great bargains as our friend bartered with the merchants on our behalf.

And as we looked at pictures of family members from generation after generation, we heard about how politically connected and revered and powerful they were. And I felt smaller and smaller.

How could these people treat us with such grace and generosity? Why me? Why did I deserve such incredible treatment?

This student had influences in governments and nations. He had all he could ever want, including the opportunity to travel and study wherever he wished. And I thought we were serving him when he came to visit us. We were really serving the nations through him!


Reflection:

When we are called by Christ to serve, we consider what is best for the other person first before we think of ourselves. We don’t necessarily devalue ourselves, but we wrap the proverbial towel of servant around our waist and we love them, wash their feet, and share the gift of friendship and hospitality.



Philippians 2:3-4

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

December 12
Going Viral

One advantage of jet travel is that those who spread the Gospel can readily witness the evidence of its progress around the world. In a single week, anyone can visit a variety of nations where the ministry has made a difference.  The power and appeal of the Good News is truly “going viral!”


Reflection:

How far have you broadcast your faith? Have you been a sounding board, reflecting and rebroadcasting the Gospel with which you have been entrusted? In this sense, every ministry and every individual believer can ask God to “go viral” with their witness.


1 Corinthians 2:4
And my message and my preaching were very plain. Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit.

December 11
Conversational Evangelism

My husband and I heard about the opportunity to befriend an international student through the ISI Friendship Partner program, and after some discussion, agreed to give it a try. We got matched up with Whitney, a bright, energetic young woman from Malaysia. We invited her to live with us for a semester and established a routine of studying the Bible every Wednesday evening.

The first Sunday Whitney came to church with us, the congregation observed communion. She seemed very disturbed as we took the elements and explained that the drinking of "blood" really bothered her. This gave us an opportunity to explain the sacrifice Jesus made for us, and furthered our goal of helping Whitney learn about God and His love for each of us.

One day when Whitney and I were home alone, we heard a tornado warning for an area less than a mile from our home. We gathered emergency articles and tucked ourselves into the basement storage room. During our underground time, we prayed protection over all those in the path of the tornado, including our own safety. In the end, although the area around us suffered much destruction, our neighborhood was spared. We used the phrase “God is good,” several times over the next days.

The weeks to come brought more examples of God’s loving grace, and Whitney paid attention. Whitney had told me that she very much wanted to learn to drive in the United States, so I taught her the rules and took her out to practice. As we drove along in the countryside, we enjoyed seeing God's creation in the landscape and animals we passed. We also talked about human nature and courtesy while reviewing good driving habits. Whitney passed both the written and driving tests and my heart was thrilled to hear her response, "God is good."

Whitney enjoyed bringing friends to the home of her "adopted family." We took weekend trips and enjoyed family activities. She also treated us to foods and customs from her home country. Eventually, several girls invited Whitney to move into an apartment with them near the university. Although I felt sad to see her move out, I felt good that some of her new roommates were also in the ISI program. Whitney continued attending Bible studies and church services with her friends at a local Chinese church.

After two years, Whitney and several of her friends transferred to Oklahoma Christian University. There, she met other Christian students who nurtured the seeds we had planted, and Whitney and some of the other girls gave their lives to Christ. When she graduated, we felt honored and pleased to share that milestone moment in her life and to hear her say, "I thank God that I could come to USA, not because of my Degree Certificate, but to know Christ and accept Him as my Savior." 

When Whitney returned to her home country, she witnessed to her family. Her mother and younger sister became Christians several years later. She remains active in her church and regularly takes part in mission trips.



Reflection:

Do you pass over opportunities to bring your faith into conversations? Do you take advantage of circumstances that provide appropriate segues into the ways God affects your everyday life? Engage in dialogue that allows you to make your faith evident and relevant.


Colossians 4:5-6
Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.

Submitted by: Juanita, Kansas

December 10
A Commitment to Sharing

“A special friend would like to go with me to church every Sunday morning!! And she also wants to join our Skype Bible study group on Friday night! Ha-ha!...Just as we prayed last Friday night, God answered our prayer!!! Thanks for sharing Luke 10:2 with me and Martha. It really meant to me a lot, reminding me that I can also encourage others even as a normal person. I wish I can bring them to the life in God... Thanks again!”


Reflection:

Even oceans of distance cannot stop this believer from learning more about how to share Christ. What obstacles would you brave today to deepen your faith and put it into practice? How far would you go to share what God has done for you?

    
John 12:26
Anyone who wants to be my disciple must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves me.

December 9
A Friend For Today

The tall young man stood proudly and politely next to me at the ISI recruiting table at our local church. Several people came up to our table to inquire about the ministry and I proudly introduced Abe, even though most of the people did not recognize the name of his country. Abe smiled gently at each one. Far away from home, he seemed genuinely happy and relaxed to visit such a welcoming place. Although he knew no one, he did not seem uncomfortable among these strangers, perhaps not only due to their friendliness, but also due to the presence of the Holy Spirit. Many things were new and strange for him here in California, but Abe had plenty of patience, and in his experience with God. He knew he did not walk alone.

He showed that same patience on an introductory ski trip. I had brought skis and winter clothes for his first snow adventure, and he bravely tried them all on at the beginner slope. After a couple hours, Abe and the other students sat on the benches nearby, laughing and exhausted. They had had enough of the cold adventure of the day!

Abe didn’t seem to have any qualms about trying new things, and he laughed when he shared that his family would never believe he had skied. His only worry seemed to be that I would post the photos I snapped of him to our ISI website. He liked hanging out with us, but he made it clear that he did not want anyone at home seeing his participation in a Christian program.

Abe joined our ISI Bible study and activities as much as he could while studying at the local community college. I enjoyed speaking French with him, one of his native languages. We would do fairly well at carrying on a conversation, even with his African accent and my limited French vocabulary.

Coming from a Muslim family, Abe probably couldn’t have imagined this existence only a few years before. He comes from an entire tribe of Muslims, and as son of the tribal chief, he was being groomed as the tribe’s next leader.  Only a few years earlier, a security guard from another tribe, secretly gave Abe a piece of paper that talked about having spiritual life through Christ. Abe read the flyer carefully and grew more and more curious about this spiritual life. He began asking the guard questions and the guard answered him with stories from the Bible. Through a correspondence course, Abe began studying the Bible on his own.

After learning much from the Bible, he made the decision to accept Christ as his Lord. He was the first member of his entire Muslim tribe to become a Christian, and he was their leader-in-training! Presently, Abe began helping a Christian ministry in his area with their translation work. Eventually, he came to the United States to pursue his college degree, beginning at our local community college.  Two years later, he transferred to a prestigious college on the East Coast.

We still keep in touch on Facebook and I am confident that God continues to walk with him on the path He has prepared for his life. I feel honored to have been a part of his journey, a helper, guiding and encouraging him along the way to the leadership role that God has planned for him.


Reflection:

We don’t always have to play a dramatic role in the lives of those we minister to. Sometimes we just need to walk alongside them in their journey, content with allowing God to use us, as He knows they need at that point in their lives. Sometimes that’s just being a friend, an encouragement, or a listening ear.


1 Peter 3:8
Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude.

Submitted by: Peggy, California

December 8
Fight the Good Fight

Sparrow is a college student in my fellowship group. She has long hair and rectangular-shaped glasses. When she walks and talks, she always lowers her head. Her bedroom, as well as her backpack, reflects the chaos in her life. As a child, Sparrow's parents harshly criticized, beat, and rejected her. However, the Lord did not wait for Sparrow to mature in character before He called her.

In the middle of the night, just months after a devastating earthquake in her homeland, Sparrow looked around at the mess in her room and began to cry as she thought of the way it reflected the mess in her life. The Lord used His clear and soft voice to call to her, "Sparrow!"

Immediately, she knew it was the Lord. She remembered the song she had sung in our fellowship meetings, "He Ni Nee", which means, “I Am Here.” The Lord continued calling to her. Finally, after the fourth time, Sparrow answered, "Here I am.”

Then she heard, "Come and follow me. Are you willing?" In tears, Sparrow replied, "I am not worthy. My life is a mess like my room. How can I?" 

The Lord asked again, "Sparrow, are you willing?" Crying and crying, she finally answered, "Yes, Lord. I am willing." Suddenly, she felt a peace she had never experienced before. Fifteen minutes later, a dark cloud appeared clearly on her right. It pulled her in, and Sparrow felt very frightened.

She cried out, "Lord, help me!" But, the dark cloud remained. It felt so real that she knew she was not in a dream. Sparrow continued calling out, "Jesus, please help me." She struggled and forced her way out of the cloud. After an hour, the dark cloud finally left. Sparrow called me at 3 a.m. to tell me what happened.

The Lord is at work in this country! However, the work of the enemy is as real as Sparrow's experience. Please remember those on the frontline. This battle is not fought against flesh but against our spiritual enemy.  


Reflection:

Satan will not easily give up ground or lives to God. He fights dirty, and we must be prepared for his subtle (and not-so-subtle) tactics. Pray for protection against the devil’s schemes and the strength to stand when he attacks. Pray that you can recognize his efforts to entangle you as easily as Sparrow recognized the dark cloud seeking to consume her. Fight against it as valiantly as Sparrow did and reach out to other Christians to stand alongside you.


Ephesians 6:12
For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

Submitted by: Eva, Hong Kong

December 7
The Power of Unfailing Love

This is a wonderful illustration of the practical and life-changing ways ISI staff members reach out to students who are away from home---international students all over the country. Many know God’s love and have “a home away from home” because of faithful servants.


Reflection:

God never tires of watching over and caring for us. In turn, we should always draw on His unfailing supply of strength and perseverance as we reach out to others. May we love others with His unconditional love.


2 Thessalonians 3:13
As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good.

December 6
Many Tools in the Toolbox

We got off to a great start with a Japanese international student, we’ll call her Amy. She enthusiastically joined our meetings and activities for a while. Unfortunately, her interest in God and our relationship with her were sabotaged by another international student who deliberately spun webs and lies behind our backs. Because of these circumstances, Amy stopped coming to our weekly ICF meeting and ISI outings.

But, God did not give up on Amy and continued to work on her from another angle. Our hands had been tied, but another one of the Friday night students we had discipled, began reaching out to Amy. Sometimes she took her to church, and she even introduced Amy to one of our dear Christian host families where she ended up living! So, God’s work in Amy’s life continued, albeit not through us.

Not long before Amy had to go back home to Japan, we received an invitation to share in her baptism! What a blessing to celebrate with her, recognizing God’s constant care and nurture. Although we only got in on the beginning and the end of the chapter, we felt honored to be included in this milestone experience in Amy’s life.

Since returning to Japan, Amy has gotten in touch with a former ISI staff member she had met from our ICF group, and together they pursue God, the Bible and spiritual growth all the way around the world. She continues her journey with the Lord back in Japan, just as we hope and pray all our students will do when they return home!  The enemy will throw up road blocks and attempt to undermine our efforts to share Jesus, but the ministry continues forward, with or without us! 


Reflection:

Even when our own efforts are thwarted, may we continue to pray that God would work in and around us. We must be willing vessels, while understanding that even when He does not use us as we intended, He will continue to pursue and woo the hearts of the lost in this world. In spite of the enemy’s attempts to throw up obstacles and sully our efforts, God has an entire toolbox at His disposal!



I 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: John, Oregon

December 5
The Amazing Ministry of Dan McCoy

All of us can aspire to the kind of legacy Dan McCoy left in God’s Kingdom. Not only can his earthly family rejoice in his work, but a vast, far-flung spiritual family can also give thanks for his years of service for Christ.


Reflection:

How many believers in Christ will mark your passing with gratitude for your role in their lives? How many lives, how many communities, and how many nations will be marked forever by your witness? You do not have to be in “full-time ministry”––just available for Christ’s ministry wherever you are!


2 Timothy 4:7
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.

December 4
Seven Universal Truths

An Ancestor Worshipper from Singapore: “I understand what Jesus did. Even though my parents are upset, I will not worship them anymore. Even though I will still honor them as my parents, I will follow Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord.”


Reflection:

The Gospel is an incredibly powerful message, capable of answering every person’s deepest questions on all levels. Its message crosses all cultural boundaries and language barriers to reach diverse groups everywhere. Today, it remains the most potent message in human history with the power to completely change lives!


Romans 1:16
For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile.

December 3
Bought With a Price

I met Barbara, an international student’s wife, in one of the ESL classes I taught. She hadn’t been attending for long when she started coming to church with us, and joined the Sunday school class on world religions that my son taught. She really seemed to enjoy learning the differences between Christianity and her own Hinduism, as well as her husband’s Buddhism.

Before long, Barbara’s husband Steve started coming to church with us too. One Sunday when they arrived, he seemed very upset. Concerned, I asked him to join me for coffee at a nearby convenience store. When I asked him what was bothering him, he broke down and told me he’d been caught shoplifting at a big discount store. He worried that the charges would cause him to lose his student visa and they would have to go back to their small Asian country.

I assured him that we would help connect him with a lawyer and walk with him through the court process, but I also shared that if he got right with God that would help him more than anything we could do for him. With obvious remorse, not only for this sin, but others in his life, Steve asked for forgiveness and prayed for Christ to come in and clean His heart.

Only a few days later, Barbara also prayed to accept Jesus as Savior. This milestone changed their lives. They regularly attended church with us for the next three years. Barbara got involved in the children’s ministry and Steve spent many hours helping fix electric, electronic, and/or computer problems. When they moved to another state for Steve to pursue his doctorate, they sought out a church right away and got plugged into the ISI ministry there too. 


Reflection:

Sometimes it takes a crisis to get our attention. We don’t recognize how wicked and sinful we are until something awful happens and we see our need for the ransom Jesus paid for our sin. That’s when the enormity of what He did for us becomes clear. Thank Him again for His sacrifice.



Psalm 51:7
Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

Submitted by:
Margaret, Massachusetts

December 2
Blessed are the Poor

What is the difference between a Mainland Chinese college student, a Hong Kong college student and an asylum seeker from Africa?

A few weeks ago, I was in a program to bring a group of Mainland Chinese college students, local Hong Kong students and a few asylum seekers for an outing. When we were walking to the Peak, the African asked us "When did Mandarin become the official language in China? Why Mandarin? What does the word China mean?" None of the Hong Kong or the mainland students were able to give a good answer. Many replied, "I don't know. I have never thought of that!" But when we asked the Africans, "When did Liberia become independent? What is your hope and dream for the country?"  The African young man was able to share casually for 30 minutes and provide detailed information of how the country had become independent, who the first and second presidents were and what they did well, etc.  

The journey to the Peak had a great impact on our Chinese students. We thought we were there to serve the asylum seekers. However, it turned out that we were there to learn, and we discovered how much we needed to be learning of our culture.  We were ashamed that many Hong Kong people look down on them, and in return they were so educated with deep love to their own country and land. Our entire group said they would like to go back to their country and contribute. Some wanted to return to teach the young people in Africa.


Reflection:

Let us not forget who we are, why God had placed us here and how much He loves us. Our lives on this earth may not be like heaven, but He is preparing a place for us, and there we will want for nothing.


Matthew 5:3
God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

Submitted by: Eva, Hong Kong

 

December 1

Micah 5:2-5a

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
    are only a small village among all the people of Judah.
Yet a ruler of Israel will come from you,
    one whose origins are from the distant past.
The people of Israel will be abandoned to their enemies
    until the woman in labor gives birth.
Then at last his fellow countrymen
    will return from exile to their own land.
And He will stand to lead his flock with the Lord’s strength,
    in the majesty of the name of the Lord His God.
Then His people will live there undisturbed,
    for He will be highly honored around the world.
And He will be the source of peace.

 

Reflection:

God sent His son to earth at just the right time. We were in desperate need of a Savior and He gave us one—strong and loving, good and majestic. Yes, He is all these things, but He is also the source of peace.

If you are in need of peace during this month, look to the source. He will lead you in strength and rescue you from the chaos of this world.

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