History & Onward2019-05-03T15:39:41-04:00

History & Onward

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IFI 40th Anniversary logo

In 2019, we are doing some looking back at 40 years of history of impacting the nations, and especially, looking forward to reaching many more students with the good news.

Dive into the history below and share this page with your friends.

Do you have an IFI memory from the last 40 years? Share it with us by emailing

Click on each block below to read more.


God gives the vision

It all began with the visionary pastor and big-hearted people of a small church on the edge of a large university town.  Some church members were faculty at the school, some were students.  All were aware of God’s longing that all nations would experience His love and hear the good news of


Mabel Bahler (Co-founder)

In 1976, the people of Covenant Baptist Church decided to formalize their vision for reaching the internationals at OSU who were searching for truth and longed for friendship with Americans.  Mabel Bahler was a key person in this thrust, leading the ministry for almost three years.  She became the face of


Phil and Ruth Ann Saksa (Co-founders)

While the people of Covenant Baptist Church had a heart for reaching students, there was no emphasis on reaching international students until around 1977. By 1979, the church’s desire to work with international students had grown so strong that some members began to discuss incorporating a nonprofit to work toward that



Early Ministry Development

In the 1980’s, God grew IFI and taught us more about building relationships and sharing the good news cross-culturally.  He blessed IFI with a solid core of volunteers who committed themselves to serve internationals.  Some of these volunteers are still active today!  Others have moved on to other ministry opportunities, retired,


1990 – 1999: Growth!

Rich Mendola, current IFI CEO The 1990’s were a time of tremendous growth. In 1991, God brought Rich Mendola to the campus ministry staff in Columbus from ISM work at Ohio University in Athens.  God led Rich to form the International American Fellowship (IAF), a group of American Christian