Local Christian friendship ministry embraces  visiting international students and scholars

International Friendship Connection (IFC) is a local Christian ministry offering friendship and cultural orientation to international students and visiting scholars studying in the Redlands area.

It was started by Trinity Church Redlands whose congregation initially recognized two facts concerning visiting students and scholars. The first was that although most came with the understanding that the US possessed a predominantly Christian culture, yet the majority would not have opportunity to visit an average American home. Secondly, many visitors often held a rather distorted understanding of Christianity due mainly to the influence of American movies and pop culture. Trinity members responded to what they viewed as both need and opportunity via IFC.

Ken and Debby Pierce who now lead the program said, “The basic idea is simply to invite these foreign visitors into our homes; everything we do is associated with the American home.” IFC presently serves students of University of Redlands and Loma Linda University.

Its schedule revolves around the student calendar year, at the beginning of which a welcoming party is held. At Loma Linda University IFC conducts a booth at opening events. Returning students also spread the word amongst new ones.

Students who wish to participate in IFC fill out a small personal profile, and based on this information IFC is able to engage them at their level of interest, and whether they wish to learn about Christianity.

Throughout the year students and scholars meet together monthly with American friends for a home-cooked meal, fun activities, and lively discussions on a variety of subjects of interest to them. Cultural and language issues often come up.

Besides the monthly get together IFC organizes ongoing events and outings: trips to the beach or desert, participation in American holiday celebrations, sightseeing excursions, etc.

At the end of the year IFC conducts a hoedown at the home of one of their members in Oak Glen.

Debby shared that “for our volunteers interested in Christian mission work their participation really is a great way to have a similar impact without ever leaving the country.”

“Our visitors want to know that people care for them. They are very humble, appreciative, and considerate people. “Little communications mean a lot to them and show our interest and concern: A text, email, or call asking: “how are you doing? How was your test? We are praying for you.”-- And then following up, “‘how did it go?” It means a lot because they are missing home and family.

The Institute of International Education reported 1,169,464 international students studied in the United States in 2019

 Almost half of these students come from China and India

The Department of Commerce reports that international students contributed nearly $31 billion to the U.S. economy in the 2014-15 school year.

Started in 1993, IFC is in its 27th year of operation

Last year IFC worked with 100 students from 19 different countries.

More information: Email Ken and Debby Pierce: ifcredlands@gmail.com or call (909) 335-7333