By Myrna and Bob Russell

We didn’t put a lot of thought into it when we signed up to be an International Friendship Connection family. To be honest, we thought that we would decline after we got more information. But, thank God, we didn’t.

During our first year with IFC, we were paired with two amazing students from China who were graduate students in Public Communications and are now close to finishing their doctoral degrees at another university. It’s been wonderful to keep in touch with them over the years and watch them grow – it’s just like real family! We got to introduce them to CCC and they were very impressed with all the ways our church helps those in need. It was an amazing way to introduce them to why we love others the way we do.

Our 2015 student was from India studying to earn her graduate degree in Digital Science from Kent State University. She quickly became a part of our family and we enjoyed many outings in the two years she was at Kent. One of our favorite times together was when she and her friends would come over and show us how to cook traditional Indian food. Delicious! She recently returned to India to get married and invited our family, and our daughter was able to go! We love our student very much and are so thankful for the times she would come to Bible Study with us and ask about Jesus and our beliefs. It was rewarding to see how our hospitality opened up doors for us to have some really wonderful spiritual conversations with her.

In 2016, we began a loving and warm friendship with two more students from India. Their majors are Public Health, and they will both graduate this August. I’ll never forget how they both used to be so afraid of our dog, but now fight over who gets to hold him when they visit. They are so kind and thoughtful – they even threw me a birthday party! God has been using this relationship to teach us how much joy there is in being friends with people who are so different from us, and how kindness and generosity opens up so many doors to glorify him.

Participating in IFC is the most rewarding and enjoyable activity we have experienced. It’s been amazing to learn about other cultures and in return share our beliefs as Christians with these students in the context of a caring relationship – an opportunity we wouldn’t have had without IFC. They were always very willing to listen about Jesus and ask questions about our faith. We pray that God will water the seeds we’ve planted and continue to bring other people into their lives to love them and tell them about Jesus.

We thought IFC would be all about our students. Turns out God used it to tremendously grow our faith by teaching us how to step out of our comfort zone and follow his nudging. Looking back, we can’t even imagine life without these girls and all the wonderful times we’ve had with them. We are so very thankful for our IFC family and are looking forward to adding to it when our new students arrive this August. We know God has already chosen them for us and we just can’t wait to meet them!

IFC connects you with international students who live at or near Kent State University and could use a friend like you. By simply spending time with you and learning about your life, they will experience comfort, hospitality and the love of Christ in very practical ways. If you’d like more information on IFC or are interested in signing up to be a friendship family, please visit today.