International Student Ministry (ISM) focuses on building relationships and pointing students toward Jesus. Many international students have little knowledge of Jesus, but generations of disciples come from the seeds that are planted in this strategic ministry. Grace Lee and Minako Ishikawa Wilkinson are on ISM staff and discipled Maiko (name changed).
Maiko’s story — I grew up in the countryside of Japan in a non-religious Buddhist family. However, many of our folk festivals and traditions are firmly rooted in Buddhism and Shintoism.
When I lived in Japan, I knew the name of Jesus but I never knew why He died on a cross. When I was 18 years old, I came to the States for a home-stay to experience American culture and learn English. I was impressed when I went to church with my host family. It was my first experience of listening to a sermon, singing a hymn, and it changed my impression of church. Until then, my image of a church was gloomy and scary. This church was bright—people talked and laughed and I felt the pastor’s speech was very impactful!
After my home-stay, I decided to stay the in States. I lived with my boyfriend while I continued studying English. We argued frequently and I wondered if he was the right person for my life. I felt hopeless as a foreigner in the United States because I didn’t have the support of my family, relatives, and friends like I did in Japan. Finally, I decided I couldn’t live with him anymore.
A Korean classmate, Jina (name changed), brought me to her home. She talked about God, prayed for me, and gave me comfort every day. I remember feeling like light was coming into the darkness. I felt hopeful and my burden was lifted.
Although English is not our first language, amazingly I was able to learn many things about Jesus from Jina. Even when she was having a difficult time herself, she was kind to me and other people. She sacrificially loved us and often fasted and prayed for others.
I decided to live my life as a follower of Christ. Before meeting Jesus, I lived a selfish life. The way I spent money, time, and related to others was all self-centered and pleasure-seeking. I always felt anxious about my future. Since trusting in Jesus, my purpose and values have changed. The love and joy I have received from Jesus, I want to give away to others. Because I have eternal life, I no longer feel anxious and I feel that I can be generous because I have everything I need.
The real reason I came to the United States was all part of God’s plan to start a life-changing relationship with Jesus!