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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

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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