Starting in middle school, Daisaburo Matsuura searched for meaning through Zen Buddhism and the discipline of stick fencing. Eventually, he was invited to follow a Zen master, a former lawyer who encouraged him, “You can achieve enlightenment.” Although Daisaburo was doubtful (only one student in a million attains it), he studied meditation for 2 years anyway.

After Daisaburo graduated from college, he worked in an engineering firm in Japan. He felt anxious about the future even though he enjoyed his work, the pay was good, and the yearly bonuses were generous. After he had worked for 5 years, he learned that his company was restructuring and his job would be eliminated. What would he do?

Daisaburo had dreamed of getting a graduate degree in chemistry, but he couldn’t find the program he wanted in Japan. One day an ad for colleges in the Lake Superior region caught his eye. He investigated and found a master’s program at Michigan Technological University (MTU) in Houghton, Michigan, that sounded good. He had saved his yearly bonuses; the sum was just enough to pay for the master’s courses at MTU. After many tough decisions and 6 months of studying to prepare for life in the U.S., Daisaburo arrived at MTU in summer 1975 and moved into the freshman dorm.

At Thanksgiving, all the American students went home, and the dorms closed! The few foreign students who remained were moved to bunk beds in a dorm basement. Then something unexpected happened: A young nurse named Jean invited all the foreign students to spend Thanksgiving with her, her boyfriend, and her parents! Daisaburo was surprised by their kindness to strangers, but even moreso when he learned that Jean’s father had fought Japan in World War II!
Jean had also invited internationals from her church, including a warm-hearted Chinese girl named Hedy, whose brother-in-law taught at nearby Houghton College. Daisaburo was deeply touched by Jean’s family’s warmth and by the air of genuine thankfulness in their home. Looking back on that Thanksgiving, Daisaburo says, “God had His eye on me.”

The next summer, Daisaburo rented a small apartment off campus. Hedy and another Chinese girl had an apartment in the same building. They invited Daisaburo to dinner and Bible study. Dinner sounded good, but he wasn’t so sure about “Bible study. “ It proved interesting. The girls invited him again. Over the summer, their dinners and Bible study group provided welcome relief from Daisaburo’s demanding coursework.

After graduating the following spring, Daisaburo was exhausted; school had been a struggle. He had spent all his savings to get his master’s, but he felt empty. Hedy, who wasn’t surprised, gave him several Christian tracts in Japanese. (She admits she didn’t expect that Daisaburo would read them.) In fact, he discarded all but one, The Four Spiritual Laws, which appealed to him as a chemist. As he read it, “I saw my life through other eyes for the first time.” When he read the prayer, he realized that praying it would mean “no going back.” He hesitated, then prayed. “Something fell from my shoulders,” he says, “the burden of directing my own life. I had peace.”

He began doctoral studies and started attending Christian fellowships, where he grew, surrounded by strong believers. He and Hedy married and began hosting internationals in their home–elementary school students, then high schoolers, and, finally, college students. College-age guests seemed the best fit. After the Matsuuras moved to Columbus, Ohio, they were invited to an IFI Banquet, where they learned about IFI’s temporary housing and holiday hosting programs.

They sensed this was God’s will for them.

Today, with 4 children and 6 grandchildren, the Matsuuras host international students from The Ohio State University through IFI. With each student they welcome, Daisaburo recalls the kindness of the Christians who invited him out of a gloomy dorm basement into their warm home that long-ago Thanksgiving.