God has always shown Donna and Jerry Sauder what He has for them next, and they’ve trustingly said yes. In 2016, the Sauders moved from New York State to Columbus, Ohio, where a new job awaited Jerry, who had accepted an early retirement package from his former employer. Jerry would become the CFO of a missions agency based in Ohio. Surely God would use this new opportunity to make a difference in the world.
Enjoying the excitement of Jerry’s new role, they waited to see how God would use their uncommitted hours and talents in their new church family, new neighborhood, and new friends. They yearned for more.
Their son, Andrew, who is IFI’s Volunteer Coordinator Administrative Assistant in Columbus, had some suggestions. He told his parents about the marvelous work God is doing through IFI volunteers, the backbone of IFI’s ministry. Andrew encouraged his parents to volunteer with IFI.
The prospect of serving internationals again brought back good memories: For their first two years of marriage, Jerry and Donna had lived and worked in Kenya. They had enjoyed living in another culture, experiencing new foods, and feeling the joy of serving God day to day. They signed up to become IFI volunteers, went through training, and asked God to connect them with students whose hearts He had prepared to hear the about Jesus.
God answered their prayer clearly when they hosted their first international guests–Daekyun (a grad student), YoungMi (his wife), and Hyunseo, their 3-year-old daughter. Jerry and Donna were excited but a little nervous: They’d never hosted Koreans. They knew that many Koreans are Christians; were their guests?
The travel-weary family arrived late one night. Donna prepared a meal for them, and they sat down together. Their guests waited. Finally, Daekyun asked hesitantly, “Aren’t you going to pray?” So Jerry prayed! Over that weekend, conversations about God kept coming up. Daekyun said they had no religion. But he was open, even trying to be culturally sensitive to his hosts!
The Korean family stayed with Donna and Jerry for three days until they could move into university housing. Part of the family’s luggage had not arrived–the part that contained most of their household goods. Learning this, Donna and Jerry prayed boldly with them that God would bring their luggage before they moved. He did, and their guests began asking how God answers their prayers.
During those three days, God drew Donna and Jerry to their guests as they asked more questions about Him. Soon Donna was helping YoungMi learn about God in the Bible and through women’s groups at church and with IFI.
Since 2016, Donna and Jerry’s friendship with Daekyun, YoungMi, and their daughter has continued to grow. They include each other in their lives, attending Hyunseo’s violin recitals, celebrating birthdays, and attending small groups and church together. When Jerry’s father passed away, the Sauders were surprised that Daekyun and YoungMi wanted to make the 6-hour trip with them to his funeral in Maryland. The Koreans were surprised that his funeral was a celebration!
Last Christmas, when Daekyun and YoungMi gave Donna and Jerry mugs that say “OSU Mom” and “OSU Dad,” they knew their families were one in heart.
The Sauders are delighted that their families are one in Christ as well. Of their faith, YoungMi says, “I became really curious what makes these Christians not be self-centered but be selfless and God-centered.” She began going to Bible studies–reading the Bible with Donna, attending an IFI Bible study, Bible Study Fellowship, and small groups. She loved God’s Word. And she told Daekyun, who was very busy with school, everything she learned.
As the Lord began to answer their prayers and reveal Himself to their family, their trust grew. Before long, YoungMi sought Jesus in good times and bad to find His restoration and forgiveness.
YoungMi says, “When we come to the end of ourselves, Jesus, our Cleft in the Rock, calls, ‘Come away with Me. Find a quiet place with Me. Rest here with Me.’”
It has been a wonderful journey for YoungMi and her family. There was no exact point when not believing became, “Now I believe.” It has been one step at a time. As their knowledge increased, so did their faith.
YoungMi is eager to pass on what she has received. She has befriended a lonely young visiting scholar from Japan and is telling her about Jesus and praying with her.
What started as a God-guided move to a strange place has become a life of joy for Donna and Jerry. Since 2016, the Sauders have befriended 10 international students through IFI, ranging from conversation partners to airport pickup and temporary housing. They are grateful for these God-given friends and look forward to new ones, too.