About 30 international students gather around Mike Millard, IFI donor and volunteer. Unlike many IFI volunteers, he is not leading an IFI life group or sharing a meal with students…he is helping them learn how to change a tire. 

When Mike retired, he set a specific goal: to be of service to others. Once he and his wife moved to Cincinnati, they made sure to get plugged into a church community, landing at Hope Church in Mason, the same church that his friend and IFI staff member, Paul Niehaus, attends. 

His friendship with Paul was how he got introduced to IFI Cincinnati. Mike ended up joining Paul’s support team; however, God was calling him to serve international students in a larger way– he just wasn’t aware of it yet. 

Fast forward to one Sunday when Mike’s wife found out about a new service opportunity Hope Church had launched called “Love Mason Plus” (LMP), an annual week-long serving program held in April with the purpose of finding opportunities for the church body to glorify God in their local community. 

Lightbulb. This was the gateway for Mike to support IFI in a larger way.

Mike got in touch with Jim Gifreda and Rachel Sjoquist, IFI Cincinnati leaders. That’s when the Car Care Workshop for international students was born, launching at LMP in 2023. 

“I’ve never seen that many students be so engaged!”

“Jim always gets requests from students on cars,” Mike said. “So that’s why we ran with it. I’ve never seen that many students be so engaged!”

Seven people volunteered for the workshop, including Paul and his wife, Ann. They first met to decide on topics they wanted to present to the students. It was decided the workshop would consist of tips for buying or leasing a new or used vehicle, information on car insurance and car maintenance, how to jump-start a car when the battery dies, how to change a tire, what to do when pulled over by a police officer, and what to have in your car in case of an emergency. Once Jim and Rachel approved everything, it was held at a church parking lot near the University of Cincinnati campus. 

Launching the Car Care Workshop was the favorite of the 2023 LMP for Mike. He was asked to captain this project and luckily had several car enthusiasts volunteer for the event. The team loved tinkering with engines and now they had the opportunity to relay their knowledge to international students who were eager to learn. As they shared their skills, they felt students’ interest, excitement, and love. 

About 30-40 international students attended, which was a great turnout for a first-time event. They were attentive and weren’t afraid to ask questions. They also weren’t worried about getting their hands dirty. 

“I was laughing my wheels off, it was so much fun!” 

“I was showing the students how to change a tire, thinking the ladies would be stand-offish,” Mike shared. “Boy, was I mistaken! It didn’t matter if they were wearing dresses or down on their knees or getting their hands dirty– they were pushing me away and jumping on the lug wrench to get the lugs off the tire! I was laughing my wheels off, it was so much fun!”  

The highlight of the Car Care Workshop was the time with the police officers. Two either active or retired police officers gave their time to show students what would happen if they ever got stopped. There was role-playing between the officers and students; everybody showed great interest and energy. 

“We didn’t know how the police part would be taken but decided to throw it in there,” Mike mentioned. “I was surprised at how attentive students were and glad it put a lot of them at ease with how to do it.” 

With so much success, it’s not surprising that Hope Church chose to continue collaborating with IFI Cincinnati for its LMP initiative. He continues to ask Jim and Rachel about their international students’ needs, asking how they can support them as a church body. In addition, Mike enjoys researching the surrounding community and finding projects to start in hopes of getting the church body motivated to serve local organizations. 

“Jesus teaches that we must be servants. Your soul is satisfied when you serve others…”

“Jesus teaches that we must be servants. Your soul is satisfied when you serve others; I know mine is,” Mike stated. “I’m looking forward to being involved again this year and am curious to see if more students push me out of the way to change a tire!”

Good news: 2024 LMP put on the IFI Car Care Workshop again on April 25th! Mike was there but only as a volunteer rather than as the captain of the project. Hope Church has about 40 projects this year and over 300 volunteers– praise God!