Since IFI’s mission is to provide hospitality and friendship to international students out of reverence for Jesus, it would make sense to base ourselves in the areas with the most international students, don’t you think? For this reason, IFI has focused on 10 strategic locations– influential areas in the country where international students thrive and where world-renowned universities attract thousands. These strategic locations generate prayer request upon prayer request, as our IFI family hopes for devoted workers to populate those areas with new IFI locations in order to befriend international students and make the world feel at home.
All of this to say, we are pleased to announce not one, but two answers to prayer: the establishment of IFI Chicago and IFI Tempe! Both locations began in mid-2023 and have already hit the ground running.
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to start a new IFI location from scratch? I certainly have. So where to begin?
First things first– a heart surrendered to God and a passion for serving cross-culturally. That’s how Nick Miller and Dylan Woodbury began. Nick is currently serving IFI in Chicago, Illinois while Dylan is on the West Coast serving IFI Tempe, Arizona. They were empty-handed yet full of zeal, ready for God to start moving in their respective areas.
Nick had already been on staff with IFI for about a year but worked in Athens, Ohio. Once his wife got a job promotion 30 minutes away from Chicago, Nick saw the opportunity to tackle one of the nation’s biggest international student hubs while supporting his wife.
“I loved my job there,” Nick said. “But I knew Athens wouldn’t be long-term. I still wanted to continue with IFI, though, so when my wife got a work promotion in Batavia, Illinois, I knew it wasn’t a coincidence that I had the opportunity to be in one of IFI’s top strategic locations.”
On the other hand, Dylan had been working as a high school English teacher. Her practice of hospitality and cultivating a welcoming classroom were the catalysts of her journey to becoming full-time with IFI. Her values towards building family and mentoring students fit perfectly with the mission and vision of IFI.
“I was at the end of myself when we started Tempe,” Dylan confessed. “But I guess that’s where you need to be. God is leading this; all we need to do is get in line with what He’s doing.”
Networking and mobilization are key to beginning IFI locations, as “the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few” (Matthew 9:37). Establishing a solid foundation of support is necessary so international students have somewhere to go once connected.
When the two each said “yes” to their adventures and trusted in God’s provision, doors were opened in unimaginable ways. Nick and Dylan saw their prayers being answered regarding networking and mobilizing the church. With the help of individuals like Rich Mendola, IFI’s Global Ambassador, Nick was able to get 19 families excited to host international students. He also reached out to Moody and Wheaton College students who are eager to serve and put their degrees into action, including a former IFI intern, Joy Chilala, who had relocated to Chicago about the same time Nick had– what are the odds of that?
“Through it all, it’s been made clear that I’m not alone,” Nick shared. “There are so many people that love Jesus and have a heart for cross-cultural service.”
God was moving on the other side of the country, too. With partnerships at universities, churches, and volunteers showing up left and right, Tempe was able to secure 20 events in less than half a year of launching. They now have contact with 70 consistent international students and have paired some with 15 friendship partners. And to add a cherry on top of God’s abundance, they’ve secured a dedicated volunteer, recognizing them as their “campus mom”.
“My church has completely embraced IFI’s vision,” Dylan stated. “So much so that it’s even considered a part of our church volunteerism. All people have to do is click on ‘befriend an international student’ on our church app!”
Chicago and Tempe haven’t even scratched the surface of their potential yet. What’s ironic is that both Nick and Dylan still question and doubt their current positions; I mean, who doesn’t as a start-up? But it’s their risk and obedience that honors the Lord. They each admit that they highly identify with Moses, often asking the Lord about their leadership qualifications and whether their areas will flourish. Will I be able to lead the Israelites out of Egypt? Or in Nick and Dylan’s case, will I be able to lead these international students as they navigate life in the US? But as Nick so vulnerably shared:
“I don’t know what the location is going to look like, but I know God is in control and has a purpose in what He’s doing.”
Note: If you or anyone you know is feeling a nudge from God to take a step of faith like Nick and Dylan, don’t hesitate! Learn more about our available positions on our Careers Page.