What started as a conversation partnership turned into an invaluable relationship for an Iranian couple and IFI volunteers.

When Ashkan (name and photo changed for security reasons) and his wife arrived in America, he found the country to be “beautiful and welcoming,” but also a bit terrifying. “I arrived in Chicago, asked an airport officer where I should go next, and didn’t understand a word he said,” Ashkan recalls. “It was at that moment I realized the English I’d learned in Iran needed to be re-learned!”

Over time, Ashkan’s fears subsided and his English improved, thanks in no small part to a blossoming friendship with IFI volunteers Jake and Renee. The friendship grew into something that both couples now cherish. “Shortly after meeting, we each had our first child,” says Jake, “and it was great to have that experience together. We see them regularly, and we care deeply for them.”

The friendship has included cultural exchange on both sides; Jake and Renee learned that Iranians “never want a guest to leave,” and that gift-giving is an important part of expressing friendship. For Ashkan and his wife, trips with Jake and Renee to pumpkin festivals and holiday celebrations have given them distinctly American experiences.

Jake says that they’ve had long, respectful conversations about beliefs. He enjoys seeing the way God is revealed through both cultures. “Whether they embrace Jesus or not, we love them and want them with us for as long as we can have them!”