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February Daily Devotions

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

To view previous month: January Devotions

February 28
A Nation-Changer in Disguise

 

 

Reflection:

It may be easy to view someone struggling with health issues, especially mental illness, as a person who would not have meaningful leadership in the Church. However, King David (a Biblical giant who was favored by God) clearly struggled with emotional stability. His greatness in history is not attributed to his human strength, but (as the Psalms so richly demonstrate) to his utter dependence on God. God can change history through us, despite every human frailty.

 


2 Corinthians 12:9-10
“My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

 

 

 


Submitted by: source withheld

 

February 27
The Healer of Broken Hearts Came Near

The reason I came to America was to escape the past, but I wondered how I would do that! I used to cry all day and night because I could not believe that the one I loved most betrayed me. I felt so worthless, and I believed there was no one who loved me, except my parents. I came to ICF hoping to meet some Chinese people to talk to (in Chinese).

Something happened to me, though. I clearly remembered that one Friday night, we studied the Bible together. We talked about how God created the world, and how He loves everyone. Actually, I did not believe it at the time and argued with the Bible study leader. Then, a few days after our argument, the most horrible feeling came over me one night. I felt so empty and in pain; the only way I could see to end my pain was to kill myself. I was shivering all over, with a cold feeling in my heart.

At that point, I heard a voice in my head. It (He) said, “I love you…even if no one in the world loves you, I love you. I love you all the time.” I was totally shocked by the voice; then, I suddenly remembered the verse we studied that night that God loves us so much that He sent His only son Jesus to the world to save us. I realized that the voice was from God. I prayed and cried…I got through the darkest day in my life.

After I moved to Nashville, I decided to go to church. I went every Sunday, asking God to heal my broken heart. Even though I was still deeply depressed, I kept going to church. One day I read a quote, “If it is the end of human, it is the start of God.” I also seemed to hear a voice saying, “Just be my child.” I told my friend about that and that it might be time for me to be baptized. I decided to do it on my birthday.

After I was baptized, I could feel God work in my heart. I began to enjoy life, knowing that God loves me and created me for a special purpose. I realized that I should not waste time. I am thankful for my Christian friends at ICF because they brought me to the world of God who gave me life. 



Reflection:

There’s a song by Steve Green that urges us to reach out to a hurting world. “People need the Lord. At the end of broken dreams, He’s the open door….when will we realize, people need the Lord.” Elaine’s story is a good reminder that God is speaking and working in hearts everywhere.


Isaiah 54:5
For your Creator will be your husband; the Lord of Heaven’s Armies is his name! He is your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, the God of all the earth.

Submitted by: Elaine, Tennessee


February 26
The Path to Peace

Before she came to America, Sakshee described her life as “an ocean of meaningless.” She went to temple with her family, worshiped their idols, and tried to find peace in her life. She believed the Hindu gods would bless her and give her strength to carry on.

When she was thirteen, she met Troy, who would eventually become her fiancé. Because of him, she started attending church and reading the Bible. Her system of worship changed, but her thinking did not. She still sought God out of fear and a desire to get what she needed to have a more secure life.

“I had a burning desire to know the truth,” Sakshee said. “Yet until a few months ago, all I experienced was fear—an unknown fear that crept out of nowhere after I arrived in America.” She wanted a job, financial security, and just to hear someone say everything would be okay. But that’s not what she got.

Still, God called to her and she continued reading His Word and praying. It became a habit . . . yet she still couldn’t find peace. This made her angry that she could faithfully continue in all of this and yet still feel afraid and uncertain.

Then, one night God said, “Did you really accept Me into your life?” In that moment, Sakshee realized she’d never actually asked Jesus to be her Savior. She immediately knelt, prayed for forgiveness, and gave her life to Him.

Things haven’t been the same for Sakshee ever since. “I feel as if all my fears and worries have been lifted up and thrown away. This is what I’ve wanted all my life: a relationship with God. When we surrender ourselves to Him, we are at peace.”


Reflection:

Only in Christ can you find true peace and freedom from fear. His love can set you free, and prepare you for the perfect plan He has for your life.


Psalm 91:9-11

If you make the Lord your refuge, if you make the Most High your shelter, no evil will conquer you; no plague will come near your home. For He will order His angels to protect you wherever you go.


Submitted by: Sherida, Kansas



February 25
Adopted Family

During the time that international students are in our communities, we spend many, many hours with them. We invest our time and our hearts to build relationships with them and help them practically, socially, emotionally, and spiritually. What a joy to watch when students settle in, becoming more fluent, more comfortable, and more open during the time they spend in the United States.

Sometimes, it feels like watching a flower bloom, as these international students progress from tight buds that slowly begin to open to fragrant blossoms. Most of them arrive, nervous and excited, not quite sure what to expect. We consider it a privilege to help them discover how to manage in their new surroundings, as well as discover new things about themselves in the process.

Needless to say, when the time comes for students to return home or move away, it feels bittersweet. We know when they come that they will not stay here, but it is still hard to say good-bye; they become almost like our own children and grandchildren while they’ve been with us.

We certainly take great pleasure in getting their letters and cards from all around the world, checking in with their “American Mom and Dad!” We feel like we have family spread around the globe. The bonds we establish while these students live among us continue to speak into their lives, wherever they go. We pray and cheer from afar as they go into the world, rejoicing that they know more than they did when they first came to us.


Reflection:

What an honor and privilege to be considered “family” those who have shared our homes, our lives, and our hearts. Family goes beyond friendship; it encompasses a treasured level of comfort and familiarity. May we always provide that warmth for those far away from their families and homes. 



Ephesians 1:5
God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.

Submitted by: Buell, Oregon

February 24
Transformation

Several years ago, I met a young, extremely shy Japanese girl. Yvonne lived just down the street from me; I began to take her to church and have her over for dinner. She seemed scared of the world, broken, and depressed. I felt more like I was dealing with a middle school student than an international college student. We spent a year practicing English conversation and having short Bible studies.  Even though she prayed to accept Christ, I never knew what she was thinking deep down inside.

Yvonne moved and spent the next two years in Wyoming where she attended a community college, preparing to pursue a degree at the university and infrequently attending a fellowship group there. 

I met back up with Yvonne in 2011, only to hear her say that she believed she didn’t need people; she would be okay on her own. I didn't question where this detached thinking came from because I knew her family background. Although I worried and prayed for her, I continued to hold her close to my heart as a younger sister. Despite her "independent streak," from a distance I could see signs of self-confidence growing in her. Ironically, she was also growing in her ability to connect with others. However, she had no interest in church at that time.

Then, out of the blue one day, I got a call from Yvonne. "Hello, are you coming to church? I'm here. Where are you?" Over lunch that day, when I asked her if she wanted to begin Bible study again, she answered with an emphatic, "Yes!" I'd never seen that look in her eyes. She took Bible Study seriously! I watched in amazement as God took this beautiful woman and grew her from someone too scared to have her picture taken, to someone who reached out with love and commitment to her friends. She also admitted that she needed people in her life --- phew! We studied the Bible together, and she understood it. When I suggested we begin our Bible study with prayer and bowed my head, it brought tears to my eyes to hear her pray, OUT LOUD.

After five months of Bible study, Yvonne graduated and moved home. During those final weeks here, many of her deeper feelings surfaced. She shared with me that through our study, she had come to know God as her Father. A foundation had been laid in her heart. I watched her invest interest, thought, and commitment to our study!  I find it easier to let go of Yvonne, now that she has gone, knowing that Scripture has “stuck” in her heart. I give all the credit to God.

Yvonne went home believing that Japan needs Christianity. She could see and acknowledge the difference between life with and life without God. I continue to pray that she meets awesome Christians who want to love her and invest in her spiritual maturity, even as she does the same for others. This is a real demonstration of the full-cycle vision of ISI. It gives me deep joy to watch God work His mission for the world through those whom He chooses, no matter how broken or weak.


Reflection:

When I look at people, I see their limitations, their brokenness, and their past. When God looks at people, He sees their hearts and possibilities. God can, and does, use ordinary people to do extraordinary things. When you look at the world around you, use Jesus’ eyes and believe that the Holy Spirit can bring understanding, strength, and transformation to anyone. 


I Corinthians 1:26-28
Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important.

Submitted by: Becky, Montana

February 23
A Royal Wedding In Two Weeks

One of our student leaders planned to marry a young lady in his home country. He told us that, as soon as she got her Visa, she would come to America and they would be married.

She received her Visa that December. Two weeks before she arrived, leadership gathered for a meeting with the groom-to-be. We all received assignments. Yes, assignments. No discussion. Just assignments.

My tasks included finding dresses and accessories, securing a church, playing the organ for the ceremony, providing food for the potluck reception . . . and doing it all without a budget.

Miraculously, I found four wedding dresses for the bride to choose from: one was ten dollars, two were free, and the fourth was borrowed. Then, at an outlet store, I snagged seven matching dresses for twenty dollars apiece, taking care of the bridesmaids and flower girls.

Finally, the bride arrived in New York on a frigidly cold December day. We did our best to keep her warm and, I’m happy to say, everything came together beautifully. Today, this couple has two small children and love the Lord with all their hearts.

Last year, the world watched the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. Trumpeted for months, it was a lavish, extravagant event. My international friends’ wedding was none of that. We put it together in two weeks on a shoestring budget. But this joining of two hearts was just as lovely and memorable as a royal wedding!


Reflection:

Our faith can be a bright light for all to see, regardless of the situation. Believe God can do great things, then let your faith strengthen and inspire others to believe the same.



Romans 4:20-22
Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever He promises. And because of Abraham’s faith, God counted him as righteous.

Submitted by: Ruth, Connecticut

February 22
A Woman of Influence

Beti was raised in a large family in rural Africa. She faced many challenges growing up with all the hardships of living in an oppressed area of her country. Her family did not have much materially—not by the world’s standards, but her parents were committed to their children obtaining a good education.

With that education, Beti, along with some of her siblings, was able to come to America to study. She started at the New York Fashion Institute and developed a design business that created jobs both in the United States and in her home country. God led her to seminary and then on to New York University and Harvard. Beti’s heart was always to use her position here to help people, not only in her country but also in other African countries.

God has granted her favor. Today, she serves with her embassy in Washington D.C., networks with the leadership of various African countries with the goal of economic development throughout Africa. Beti leads an organization that is designed for the training of business leaders across Africa.

God is bringing hope and change to many nations through the life, effort, faith, and perseverance of this very special woman.


Reflection:

God desires a heart that seeks Him. And with such a heart, He opens doors of service!


Proverbs 4:23
Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.

Submitted by: Teri, Arizona

February 21
His Strength; My Weakness

By the age of 36, I had seen most of my friends marry and I longed for the love and companionship of a committed marriage. Although I am an accomplished, intelligent and multicultural woman, chronic migraines forced me to leave school before finishing the Ph.D. program. I felt God had abandoned me. It took God calling me to lead an ISI group through my church to remind me that He did indeed have plans for me.

Soon after I graduated with my masters, my health took a dive, and I became unable to work or commit to a regular schedule. I never knew when I’d feel well enough to get out of bed or when I would have to remain there in the dark for days on end. As time passed with no relief, I began to despair of ever making a difference in the world, or having close friends, let alone a husband.

Finally, my health got so bad I had to move back in with my parents. It felt like the low point in my life. I recalled meeting an ISI missionary years before and felt God calling me to start a ministry to international students at my home church. God had begun preparing me during those years of feeling useless by giving me international students as roommates. Every time I advertised to rent out the other bedroom in my condo, the woman responding would be an international student. By the time I moved back in with my parents, I had lived with women from 10 different countries. What perfect training for leading a ministry to international students!

Within the first two months, we had 17 attendees. This led to twice a month dinners prepared by volunteers and soon, our ministry blossomed to reach hundreds of students. They came to meet Americans and experience hospitality in our homes. They encountered love, a place to relax, and the chance to hear about God without pressure.

But more than just the students have benefited from this ministry. Previously convinced that I was useless, worthless, and of no interest to any man, I had not dared to dream of dating again. But gradually, as I continued in ministry I began to see that while I remain incapable of performing many of the tasks I wish I could, I am not worthless and God can use me for good. We have seen students come to Christ and entire families touched by our ministry to and love for their children.

After a few years of successful ministry, I met a man who would one day become my husband. Jose, from El Salvador, shared my vision of reaching the world from our doorstep here in California, where so many from all over the world gather, and sending them back with Christ when they return to their home countries. Before long, he became an integral part of our ISI ministry, and I became his wife!

I credit the ministry of ISI with reaching not only international students, but also me! I still experience severe pain and dream of that new body waiting for me in heaven, but I have more hope about life on earth as God has used me to contribute to His kingdom. 


Reflection:

When everything goes the way we want it to, we don’t tend to depend on God, but on ourselves. We begin to think we are the ones who make things happen! But when we encounter obstacles, doubts, rejection and disappointments, we see our weaknesses and realize that it is only because of His grace and power that we can do anything.



II Corinthians 12:8-10

Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.


Submitted by: Vicky, California

February 20
Pursued By God

For twenty-four years, Marie called herself a Buddhist. It was, she thought, her path to enlightenment. She knew nothing about God. And she certainly didn’t understand why Christians would say that knowing God could save someone from hell, as if you could simply earn a ticket to heaven.

But then God started to reveal Himself to her while she was at a leadership retreat in Colorado. She signed up for the chance to go skiing. While there, she met siblings Luke and Esther.

Following the retreat, Marie attended a get-together at Luke’s house and met his parents, Mark and Sherida. “It was then I first heard God’s calling for me—His echo to a lost, wandering child,” she said. “I felt it in an instant. It was sweet-sounding, and truly beyond what I could comprehend.”

Sherida became Marie’s spiritual mentor, helping to guide Marie forward on her spiritual journey. Today, she feels completely new and eager to live according to the Word of God.
Marie said, “Peace is with me in all the things I do. I feel accepted and every time I think of how God would love me so unconditionally as to send Jesus to die for me, I can’t help but cry.”

God sought this girl until she found Him. It’s not something she takes for granted.


Reflection:

Have you sensed God knocking on your heart, calling to you? He longs for you as an adoring Father, with an unconditional love. Open your heart to Him and believe He has chosen you for wonderful things.


Revelation 3:2

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: Sherida, Kansas

February 19
The Coming of Night


Reflection:

How much time does our world have left? It is a question Christians have asked since just after Jesus left this earth, yet it seems to have more validity than ever now. For servants of the Most High, it is never a time for anxiety, fear, or desperate measures. Consider reaching out to one of “earth’s ends” in your community today.


Hebrews 10:36-37
So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised. For in just a little while, the Coming One will come and not delay.


Submitted by: source withheld

February 18
Bubbles

Bubbles…no, not “Bubbles” the cat, goldfish, or dolphin…nor am I referring to the fun of bath time with bubble beards and mustaches. I am referring to our personal bubbles (specifically our cultural bubbles) ---the environments where we feel most comfortable or where we retreat when we feel we cannot handle anymore. These are the places we go when we are threatened, the foods we eat for comfort, or the movies/books we reach for to feel most “at home “… our bubbles. In the words of singer/songwriter Matthew West, sometimes we enter “my own little world of: Population Me.”

We all have bubbles; sometimes, we legitimately need to get away and recharge in our bubbles. There’s nothing wrong with that; the danger comes when we stay in our bubbles and forget about the hundreds of bubbles bobbing around us.

As the world changes and international students in America approach the one million mark, we do not have to go far to bump into many new students that have moved into our communities. While living here, these students need to fall back into their own bubbles sometimes and enjoy comfort food from their homes, watch movies or read books in their native languages, or just get away from the cultural onslaught they face every day.

Our family understands what international students may go through while here in America. When we lived in Taiwan, we were in the minority. We endured stereotypes and judgments just because we did not look like those around us. However, the hospitality from the dear friends we made warmed our hearts in the midst of the unwelcoming stares. What a difference it made to have a safe place to go when we felt overwhelmed by the culture we lived in.

We need to pay attention to our call as Christians while living with foreigners. With all the gifts and resources God has given us, we need to reach out and help relieve some of the stress international students carry while living in our communities and towns. We can, with God’s grace, love our neighbors as ourselves.


Reflection:

When you find yourself judging someone because he is different, take a moment to open your mind and your heart and reach outside your bubble. What can you do to help someone else feel more comfortable in an unfamiliar or uncomfortable environment?


Leviticus 19:33-34
Do not take advantage of foreigners who live among you in your land. Treat them like native-born Israelites, and love them as you love yourself. Remember that you were once foreigners living in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.


Submitted by: Alex, Colorado

February 17
A Trip with an Ulterior Purpose


Reflection:

Have you ever felt like everything in life was a burden, an expectation, or an unfinished assignment for which you were being judged? That burden can weigh heavily on anyone, especially if it stays in place for years. However, that is the last thing God wants from us or for us. He wants to carry all our burdens and give us rest.


Matthew 11:28-30
Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

Submitted by: source withheld

February 16
“Jesus is the Graft”

The day came when Rumiko decided to trust Jesus as her Lord and follow Him. We had been studying the Bible together, as much as possible. Rumiko was very desirous of letting God's word transform her life; she was diligent about obeying, integrating, and applying the Word into her life. She struggled with questions, such as, “Why did Jesus have to die so soon?” and, “Why couldn’t He stay on earth longer?”  Rumiko also struggled with her own flesh---especially in regards to repentance (“saying sorry” to Jesus, as she put it).

Yet, I noticed that Rumiko was growing in her faith as she shared her thoughts about the Father, the Son, and their relationship to us. One day, as we sat at my dining room table, Rumiko looked at the flowers cut on my table and said, “Oh, I think Jesus is the graft that connects us back to God, our Creator. We are the part of the flower that looks alive; however, unless we are reconnected, we will die. So, we need Jesus as the One who binds us.” 

This was a profound truth to Rumiko as gardening is an important hobby to her and her husband (he also works in the field of agriculture). We have not yet studied John about the vine and the branches, but I wonder what her reaction will be. In the meantime, Rumiko is getting connected to a church, returnees, and ISI staff in Japan as she and her husband ready for their return in two weeks. I will miss her; seeing God at work in Rumiko’s life leaves me in awe of His glory!


Reflection:

What a wonderful opportunity we have to share in the spiritual growth of others we minister to! As we take time to have Bible studies with them and watch their love for the Lord grow, we can also expect to be blessed and grow in our own faith.



John 15:5
I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

Submitted by: Becky, California

February 15
Friendship Opens Doors

My eyes grew misty as I read the words our Taiwanese friend, Christy, had written as her profession of faith for baptism. With her permission, I read them aloud to everyone gathered at the lake to witness this milestone in her life.

“Last year, I thought that I was about to die. I prayed for getting into the Promised Land… Here I am. I am alive! God brought me here.

God passed on a vivid message in my dream—to know God is to know our sins. My Friendship Partner, who played an indispensable role in my spiritual journey, helped me interpret the message with the scripture from Galatians, Chapter 2.

My heavenly Father, I trust in you because you are so merciful, faithful, and patient. You’ve been waiting for me for a long time, and you’ve done immeasurably more than I asked or imagined. Now I profess: I turn to you, and I trust in you. I found a new life in Jesus. Jesus is my Shepherd, my Savior.”

With those moving words, Christy received baptism in front of nearly thirty internationals gathered at that lake that evening, most of whom do not yet share her faith. Could there be a connection between that occasion and the eighty new international students who have applied for local Friendship Families? May the Lord continue to connect families and partners according to their needs.


Reflection:

Offering friendship and the comforts of home and family to those out of their comfort zones gives us an opportunity to build relationships we may never otherwise experience. May others see Christ living in and through us and be drawn to Him.


Galatians 2:20
I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Submitted by: David, Colorado

February 14
A Match Made at ICF

Kavi had long desired to receive an American education. When he arrived in the U.S., it was Christians who reached out to him in love and kindness. He accepted an invitation to attend an International Christian Fellowship. Being Hindu, he was very skeptical and asked many questions for a long time. He had fun with the group, going to activities and on trips. Having never known anything but Hinduism, there were many struggles in his mind and heart. But over time and with much prayer, he trusted Christ. 

During the same time, Chana, a Buddhist student from East Asia, found the same group of believers. This group’s love and God’s spirit also drew her in. She had the same challenges of intellectually dealing with years of living with her Buddhist faith to coming to an understanding of the truth of the Scriptures. But God used the group of believers to draw her to Himself.

Kavi and Chana married. Then God led them to her home area in East Asia where Kavi worked as an engineer. There, God gave them favor and great influence. Many of Chana’s family and friends were now government leaders. As a result, Kavi and Chana have been able to share Christ at the highest levels in her country.


Reflection:

God works sovereignly in ways unknown to us to bring glory to Himself while using us in the process! Ask God today to use you in a special way.



Philippians 2:13
For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” 

Submitted by: Teri, Arizona

February 13
What’s in a Name?

An international student recently asked me to help him choose an “American” name. He told me that most Americans had trouble remembering and pronouncing his Asian name. When I suggested Charles, his face lit up because of the connection to his favorite English author, Charles Dickens!

Many of us serving with ISI have had similar experiences as we get to know students and establish trust.  Some students come to America with a “less-foreign-sounding” name that they have chosen already, and many make the decision to change their names after struggling to teach us how to say their real names. Because names often have significant meanings in many cultures, it always makes me sad to hear that a student has resorted to changing his name. Most international students have first names chosen by their parents that highlight a quality the parents want to become a unique part of their child’s character and identity. They hope that their child will grow into his given name.

I have developed friendships with a number of students from India and have even traveled to visit their families. Through these experiences, I had the tables turned on me as I discovered that many Indians have difficulty pronouncing my name! So, I decided to use the name Anand when interacting with Indians. I specifically chose Anand, not only because it sounds like my American name, but because it means “joy” in Hindi. I like telling Indians that joy has a very significant meaning for me because it is a fruit of the Holy Spirit.

This name-changing practice makes for a good conversation starter, too! In conversations about names with internationals, I can transition to sharing about the most meaningful name of all time, Jesus. No other name in world history has greater significance. Praise God for the privilege of serving the One with the unchanging name that is above every name and that fits into every language and culture!


Reflection:

Many parents spend countless hours trying to come up with just the right name for their new baby. Often, even the nicknames people acquire are based on people’s perceptions of them. How amazing to think that not only does God know each of our names, but according to Isaiah, He has them written on the palm of His hands.


Philippians 2:9-11
Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.


Submitted by: Andy, California

February 12
An Honor to Serve

Recently, I drove an international student and his classmate, Lynn, to an interview 100 miles away in the state capitol. As we drove along, the discussion came about that I had taught a number of international students to drive. Lynn expressed an interest in learning, and I told her that I would be happy to teach her. Several weeks later, I sent Lynn a text to follow up on our agreement.

I got a text back asking, “Who are you?” I decided the best way to quickly jog her memory would be to refer to our recent trek to the state capitol. I responded, “I am the chauffeur who drove you and your classmate to the capitol for your interview.” Apparently, this struck a nerve. She explained to me later that my reference to serving as her chauffeur embarrassed her because in her Middle Eastern country, a chauffeur position is considered one of the lowest, most menial jobs in the country.


Once I explained to Lynn that I had not taken offense in serving them in this way, we began driving lessons. After Lynn had mastered all the basics, we went to the licensing station together, so she could take the driving test. She failed the first time for taking the corners too tight and again the next day for taking the corners too wide! Finally, on the third day, she parked the car; the examiner walked over to me and said, “Looks like there’s another driver in the family.”


Driving back to campus, I repeated to Lynn what the examiner had said to me. Amused, I asked her, “Now, what would our family relationship be?” Without hesitation, she explained that in her home country she addressed anyone older than her as “Uncle” or “Aunt,” and anyone younger as “little brother” or “little sister."

It turned out that her father and I were about the same age, so Lynn decided I would have the honorary title of “Uncle,” as one of her father’s brothers. It honored me that she didn’t feel embarrassed to have a familial connection with me—a non-Muslim, white American. She seemed to feel much better about that association than simply thinking of me as her chauffeur!


Reflection:

Many people are used to a certain status according to their upbringing, and they might feel that the things we offer to do for them are below us. We should never feel embarrassed to carry out lowly tasks. May we serve them gladly as we would an honored family member.


Matthew 20:25-27
“You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave.”

Submitted by: Dan, Iowa

February 11
Turning the Tables

During the school year, we organize an International Dinner for the students the first Friday of every month. This social event draws a variety of students from all around the world because it appeals to their cravings for good food, as well as their need for social interaction.

After one such spring dinner, we received an email from an international student. Her simple request, in broken English, moved my heart. We spend so much time and energy reaching out and offering our activities, our meetings, our churches, and ourselves trying to find an open door. It doesn’t happen very often that a student approaches us out of their own recognized spiritual need. What a blessing!

She wrote, "I would like to learn bible on each Sunday with my daughter. But I still could not find someone can ride us to church. Could you help me to found someone to give us a ride?" 

Needless to say, we offered to pick them up and take them to church with us, and they have continued attending with us every week!


Reflection:

When we pray for God to prepare and soften people’s hearts and open their ears, we still usually expect we will have to pursue them. But sometimes, God pulls a fast one and actually turns it around and has the student seeking Him out before we’ve even started!



Matthew 7:7-8
Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.

Submitted by: Randy, Colorado

February 10
The Strong Arms of God

Reflection:

Lately, many reports have surfaced of God revealing Himself in remarkable, even supernatural ways to non-believers. Christians can rejoice that He remains as active today as ever. In this case, He used dreams to give an anxious young woman His peace and reassurance.


Psalm 23:4
Even when I walk   through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff  protect and comfort me.


Submitted by: source withheld

February 9
Unexpected Blessing

My husband and I traveled to Thailand to attend a Consultation on World Evangelization. We extended our trip to seven other countries to visit former students we had built relationships with over the last thirty years. While visiting the home of a government official in Jakarta, a group of former students had a party for us and asked when we would visit Bali. When we explained that we didn’t have anyone to visit there, they responded, “But Bali is our most beautiful island, you must go there.” So, with mixed feelings we added Bali to our itinerary. Since we didn’t have any ‘business’ there, we felt guilty spending money donors had given us to visit returnees.  

At the airport as we waited for the plane, a gentleman fell into conversation with my husband. He saw us looking at a tourist guidebook and asked where we planned to stay. When we replied that we did not know, he did not hesitate to invite us to stay in his home. We spent about an hour in conversation, and throughout that time, he continued to warmly and persistently insist on hosting us. Finally, we reluctantly agreed.

When we landed, the gentleman’s attendant guided us off the plane straight into an army jeep with four soldiers standing at attention! The Jeep immediately whisked from the airport onto the grounds of a palace practically on the beach. Our host seated us in an opulent gallery, with art on the walls, marble statues, and a Harley Davidson motorcycle gleaming under floodlights in a corner! During our conversation, we observed a photo of our host in full, star-studded regalia and deduced that he served as a general in the Indonesian military government.

For dinner he drove us to a restaurant on Kudu Beach and with a single hand signal, the waiters brought us everything on the menu. We discovered our host served as the Governor of four provinces, including Bali. He shared that he had received his advanced military training on an Army base in the United States many years before, making him a ‘returnee.’ Perhaps we hadn’t strayed so far from our intentions!

The next day, the general sent us off with a military driver and an itinerary to see everything before our evening flight. Our escort spoke no English, but would stop the car, open the doors and point. Immediately, attendants led us to front row seats for island dances, and numerous other attractions.

Remember, we had worried about spending money on ourselves, but our host had covered all our meals and entrance fees since we had landed! The only money we spent during the entire 24 hours was on a few small carvings by locals. Back at the compound that evening, the general entertained us again. He and my husband discussed Christianity and Islam, and the principles of hospitality in both religions. When he saw me looking at a delicately painted gourd, he took it off the wall and gave it to me.

We asked him why he had singled us out to be his guests and he replied, “I was watching you, and I wanted to know you.” He could not have known that we had prayed for God to show us where to stay and what to do with our time. My husband looked at his watch and said that perhaps we should head to the airport to catch our plane. The general smiled and said, “There is no hurry. I can hold the plane.” He wasn’t kidding!

On the plane home, we processed what had happened. We concluded that God had just given us an unexpected gift. We understood that we hadn’t earned or requested this beautiful experience; it was simply a gift. We needed to learn to just say ‘yes’ when God opened His hand to pour out a special blessing.


Reflection:

Usually you wait for a birthday or special occasion to give someone a gift. You anticipate the joy it will bring, and relish the pleasure of giving. You give not because someone has been especially good, but because your love for them overflows. We too are the objects of God’s love. Sometimes God gives us gifts when we haven’t asked, or when it wouldn’t have even occurred to us to ask.



Malachi 3:10b
“I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!”

Submitted by: Pat, Missouri

February 8
God Will Provide

So often, married students who come to the United States to complete their studies find themselves in difficult situations. It’s hard enough to fit into a new culture, to speak a different language, and fit in to a society that may be very different from the one at home. A young Middle Eastern couple moved to our town and the university we serve in Montana. Since being here, they have encountered various trials with finances, visas, jobs and academics. Still, every step of the way, the Lord had been tugging on their hearts. The wife desired her husband to be a religious man, and yet they did not have a true faith in Islam, though their home country’s citizenship required them to be Muslim.


They were surprised to find that since coming here, Christians surrounded them during these hard months and blessed them with financial gifts, warm meals, and hospitality. These showers of blessings and love caused the couple to ask questions about Christianity. And soon they also desired to have a personal relationship with Christ.

A few weeks ago, they accepted Christ as their personal Lord and Savior! The currency in their home country is still unstable, so financially they are still struggling – yet they have learned to trust God to provide. They saw God answer prayer for the wife to pass a crucial exam and find a good job on campus. They are hungry to grow in their knowledge of Scripture and will be starting a Bible study with friendship partners. We were so blessed to have this couple in our lives and to witness God’s salvation, provision, and faithfulness in these young believers.



Reflection:

Meeting the needs of friends is an important way to bring them to Christ. Sometimes those needs are physical (as in money and food). Sometimes those needs are less tangible (as in sharing of your time and effort). And still other times, the needs are purely emotional and spiritual. Being sensitive to our friends’ needs opens doors to their hearts and minds. It’s what Jesus did.


1 John 3:17-18
But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?
Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

Submitted by: Seth, Montana




February 7
By Your Bedside

Over the years, our family has hosted many international students, occasionally, for significant amounts of time. One such guest was Kate, a student leader from a European country. She engaged in relationships, loved God, and sought His will for her life.

We had many adventures together while she finished her Ph.D., and we learned much about Kate and her country. Being an only child, she even began referring to our children as her own brother and sister. When she left, it was a difficult day for all of us.

Students often invite us to visit them after they spend time with us. It’s a kind gesture, but I never dreamed we would one day visit Kate in her country. A few years after her departure, though, we were on a plane heading in her direction. I am still shocked to think of it!

Kate was gracious and generous to us. We marveled at how they flushed toilets, stored things, did their laundry, opened windows, and cooked. And I marveled the most at what I saw by her bedside.

In Kate’s room, I noticed a picture of her and my family by her bedside. Just seeing it caught my throat in a small gasp. I was amazed and humbled. That was what she saw when she went to bed at night and when she opened her eyes in the morning—a constant reminder of our love and friendship. I hadn’t realized we’d had such an impact on her.


Reflection:

Our lives touch others in powerful ways. Amazing ways. Ways that we will never realize this side of Heaven. When you think your love and service don’t mean anything, think again. Your picture just may be by someone’s bedside.



Isaiah 49:15-16
“Never! Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you! See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands.”

Submitted by: Ruth, Connecticut

February 6
A Chance Meeting

Joe was sightseeing in Colorado when he met Aazim and Abla. Abla was completely covered, and Joe knew they had come from a strict Islamic country.  Knowing that they probably had few Americans talk with them, Joe struck up a conversation. He found out that they were just traveling through Colorado but would be moving to Texas to study.

Joe was planning to travel to Texas soon, and they quickly invited him to visit while there. Abla prepared a huge dinner and they shared their lives very openly.

Joe offered to find an American friend for them during their stay in Texas. That friendship flourished, and upon completion of Aazim’s studies, they returned home to work in the oil business. They had to cut off communications at that point because of security concerns.

Several years later, Aazim returned to study in another state. He called Joe and asked to be connected with Christian friends. ISI was able to connect them with a church and friends in their new city.

Joe did not hear from Aazim and Abla again. However years later, he was at a conference in Japan and met a pastor from the church where Aazim and Abla attended during their graduate studies. Joe asked the pastor if he happened to know them. He shared with Joe that both Aazim and Abla had put their faith in Christ. They were able to experience a wonderful time of discipleship while doing graduate work before returning home.

Because of the extreme danger to Aazim and Abla, they returned as secret believers. When we think of them, we always say a prayer that God will protect them.


Reflection:

God uses the initiative and love of His people to show who He is to those who are further from Him!


John 13:34-35
Now I am giving you a new commandment:  Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.

Submitted by: Teri, Arizona

February 5
The Greater Friend

When we meet new international students, we never know how our meeting will change their lives or our own. Many in the ministry can describe friendships with students that have become lifelong.

For three years Zhou, a Chinese neurosurgeon, honed his skills at the university, and we became great friends. We practiced pronouncing nouns and verbs together in hospital cafes. We caught fish from a canoe on warm summer evenings. We huddled in deer stands trying to keep warm on crisp October mornings. We worked our way through Mark’s gospel, and wondered why a man wielding God-like powers allowed himself to be killed by mere mortals. And we spent a lot of hours together just working through life’s challenges.

Imagine how I felt when Zhou invited me to join him and his fiancée Ran in Nanjing, China to be a part of their wedding. He said that he wanted to pay for the flight. “Please don’t worry about the money,” he said, “I can earn the money back, but I could not get another valuable friend like you.”

When Zhou left the States, I gave him a big bear hug. I thought it was the last time I’d see him. Now, I am so excited at the thought of embracing my friend once more and talking again about the One who surely summoned him as the Greater friend.
   

Reflection:

What a blessing when our friendships become this important. We know that the impressions we’ve made on our friends are due to the One whose love abides in us. And these friendships open the door for us to share with them their Forever Friend.


Colossians 3:12, 14
Since God chose you to the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. …Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.

Submitted by: Tim, Washington

February 4
In His Care

One of the girls in my Saturday morning Bible study made plans to take a road trip in February—typically one of the snowiest months in Colorado. A very independent and adventurous type, Sheila paid little attention to the forecast for snow on the day of her departure. She admitted she heard a voice speak to her heart that she should wait to leave, but she dismissed the warning and convinced herself that “bad things happen to other people.”

She set off bright and early without any mountain driving experience in a bad snowstorm, headed for the Rocky Mountains. She hadn’t gone far before she got involved in a car accident that totaled her car, but God’s protection covered her and she came away without even a scratch! Sheila told me she knew God had protected her.

Since then, Sheila and I have spent some good one-on-one time together and she is learning to recognize God’s hand and voice in her life. She gained some very important lessons from this scary situation and the Lord has used it to reveal areas of stubbornness, pride and ignorance in her heart. What a joy to watch as she discovers His voice speaking into her and guiding her. Over about nine months, He worked in Sheila, using this and other situations to deepen her understanding and knowledge of who He is. When she finally surrendered her life to Christ and got baptized, I rejoiced to see how far she had come, and how she continues to grow daily as she walks out her faith in Jesus.

Reflection:

Sometimes it takes a crisis to get our attention and let us know that God watches over us and cares for us even when we make careless choices. He goes before and behind us to guide and protect us. May we learn to listen to His still, small voice.


Psalm 121:7-8
The Lord keeps you from all harm and watches over your life. The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.

Submitted by: Laura, Colorado

February 3
Common Ground

We try to share in the everyday lives of the international students we interact with, sharing our everyday lives with them in turn. The more common ground we can find with them, the more comfortable and open they feel with us.

Recently, we got this text from Toby, one of our Middle Eastern friends: “Thank you guys for your prayers, I aced both my tests.” We smiled because early in our friendship with Toby he had told us, “I don’t believe in God. But if there was a God, I would want to believe in Him.” Now that our relationship has progressed, Toby has indicated that he is open to the idea of God’s existence, and believes that He does listen to our prayers. He has watched us, and has seen the part prayer plays in our lives, so he can no longer discount it. We consider this a small but significant step in his journey toward Jesus.

Another example of meeting on common ground with our students occurred when we took our new Iranian friend, Amanda, to her first Christian wedding. We quietly explained the significance of communion, and clarified the rest of the ceremony. With wide eyes she took it all in, absorbing everything intently. Thrilled by the experience, Amanda had her picture taken with the bride and even ventured a dance before we departed!

What a privilege to participate together with these students in their lives. They grow to appreciate and rely on our input and interest and we grow to love and care about their lives and their futures.

Reflection: Taking a personal interest in someone’s life shows an investment in who they are becoming. Show someone you care about them by walking through the details of their life with them.


I Corinthians 9:22b
Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some.

Submitted by: Gayle, California

February 2
Commitment of Love


Zeke worked as a city employee, and Sara worked as a professor at a university in the same city. Zeke and Sara got married in their Asian homeland. Having both been raised in a secular society, their wedding did not include a ceremony, vows, or rings, but instead, it involved a simple formality of obtaining a marriage certificate.

Before long, they had a daughter, and Sara had the opportunity to spend a sabbatical year at a university in Hawaii. Her husband took a leave of absence from his job and joined Sara there. In Hawaii, Sara came to know and accept Jesus as her Savior and Lord. Once they returned home, Sara spent a lot of time at church, but her husband did not have the same interest at all. Sara faithfully prayed for his conversion.

When Sara earned a second opportunity for a sabbatical, she and her young daughter came to Iowa. She really enjoyed participating in ISI activities, so when she got another sabbatical opportunity three years later, she returned to Iowa. This time both her husband and daughter joined her, with Zeke taking another leave of absence from his job. He joined in all the ISI activities, but because of the language and cultural difficulties, he could not fully grasp the presentation of the Christian message.

Nearing the end of his six-month leave, we received an emergency call from the couple; they told us their marriage was broken. With only one week left before Zeke would return to Asia, they cried out to us for help. We offered to come to their home and meet with them for the five remaining evenings, from nine until midnight, while their daughter slept.

When we arrived the first evening, Zeke had written down all his complaints about their marriage. We listened for two hours, as Sara painstakingly translated his words into English. He maintained that he had made huge career sacrifices by taking leaves from his job to join his wife overseas several times. It seemed they had hurt each other emotionally for many years, and that evening they couldn’t even look each other in the eyes.

It took about a half an hour for each of them to admit that each was not the other’s enemy. Exhausted, we prayed with them and went home. The next evening when we arrived, we explained how the triune God had designed authority and accountabilities; we sketched many triangles on a white board, representing the Godhead, roles in government, schools, marriage, families, etc… They took pictures of the white board.

We then moved on to explain the four types of love in the Greek language of the New Testament, and how the roles and responsibilities of husbands and wives were described in Ephesians 5. We showed them that the basic need of a wife is to receive unconditional love, and the basic need of the husband is to receive respect. We discussed these basic needs, as well as the movie Fireproof (which they had seen recently but not fully understood). Again, they took pictures of the white board.

On the third evening, we talked about submission to one another and to God. That evening, Zeke seemed very open to God’s endless and unconditional agape-love. After a long discussion, Zeke proclaimed he felt ready to fully accept Jesus as his Savior and Lord. What an explosion of joy and relief!

The fourth evening we talked about forgiveness; this proved to be a difficult concept for people from their particular Asian country. The wife admitted she had never had this kind of teaching back home, and she felt ashamed that she had not respected her husband. They had never given each other compliments, signs of appreciation, or affection.

When we arrived for our last evening together before Zeke would return home, we observed a changed couple. They had purchased wedding rings, and we performed a wedding ceremony with wedding vows and commitments. Right then, we experienced God’s restoration of a broken marriage as they exchanged heartfelt promises to God and to each other to live a godly life together. We committed to follow up with online video sessions on marriage after Zeke returned to Asia.


Reflection:

When we only seek to satisfy our own needs, our selfishness leaves little room for God to speak into our hearts about how to love and care for others. When we focus on living out Christ’s attitude to those we interact with, they experience the love and respect they need. Take your eyes off your own needs and instead try to meet the needs of those around you.


Philippians 2:1-2

Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.

Submitted by: Ed, Iowa

February 1

Psalm 36:5-10


Your unfailing love, O Lord, is as vast as the heavens;
Your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds.

Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains,
Your justice like the ocean depths.
You care for people and animals alike, O Lord.

 How precious is Your unfailing love, O God!
All humanity finds shelter
in the shadow of Your wings.

You feed them from the abundance of Your own house,
letting them drink from Your river of delights.

For You are the fountain of life,
the light by which we see.

Pour out your unfailing love on those who love You;
give justice to those with honest hearts.

Reflection:

What is unfailing love? Imagine this: a love for you that will never falter or fade. And this comes from a righteous God who gives salvation to the upright in heart. When He looks upon those who love Him, He pours out pure-life like a fountain and sends love flowing over you like a river.

Come what may, you can trust His faithful love for you.

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