Dale & Cheryl Ramsey
Online Content & Data Specialist
International Student Ministry (ISM) in Cincinnati, OH has developed steadily and gradually since the late 1970s. A Welcome Dinner in 1980, offers of help settling-in to new students and occasional social activities were the early efforts by pastor Richard Fisher, Baptist campus minister John Gilbert and Cindy Carlson which set the foundation upon which others would build.
From 1993-1997, Friends of Internationals (FOI) at University Christian Church encouraged friendship partners, published a monthly newsletter for students, and held monthly activities – Furniture Give-Away, Harvest Party, Christmas Party, games and pictures night, Valentines Party, July Fourth party (fireworks) and camping. From 1995 to 1998 a local Chinese Church offered Friday evening Bible studies in Chinese and English and beginner level English classes, primarily for the spouses of students. In summer 1998, several leaders from this group formed International Campus Fellowship (ICF). ICF initially met every Friday evening with a potluck dinner the first week of each month and Bible studies the other Fridays. Student participation was usually sufficient for two small Bible study groups on a consistent basis.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Suzanne Boys and Russ McNamara worked as International Students Incorporated (ISI) staff. They cooperated with FOI, taking turns planning monthly social activities, and held a weekly meeting for conversation around life and spiritual topics called Coffee and Concepts. Suzanne held one-on-one Bible studies and activities with a women’s focus. Duane Villenauve began as half-time staff with ISI and inherited the ISI office and furnishings at Old St. George Catholic Church, which led to International Campus Fellowship and then International Friendships, Inc. (IFI) meetings being held at Old St. George.
Randy Bruins, one of the founders of ICF, because of former ties with IFI Columbus, arranged for Cincinnati ISM workers to attend IFI summer and winter retreats for several years prior to any formal connection between Cincinnati and Columbus staffs. In summer 2004, God brought full-time staff Julie Rhine, Shaun Rudolph and Pat Durst together to begin IFI Cincinnati. In 2013, Dale and Cheryl Ramsey joined the staff. Jim Gifreda was appointed Director of the Cincinnati ministry in October 2016.
With the establishment of full-time staff in 2004, and through significant contributions from local churches and volunteers, the numbers of activities with/for international students multiplied quickly.
- Three weekly Bible study groups
- Dinner and fellowship before Bible studies
- Airport pickup, temporary housing, shopping, apartment hunting
- Furniture Sale
- Thanksgiving Hosting
- Christmas Party
- Christmas Activities – Festival of Lights at Zoo, concerts, cookie-baking, social events
- Local, regional, national trips and conferences
- Motor-boating, swim parties
- English classes
- One-on-one meetings for evangelistic Bible study or discipleship
- One-on-one meetings for conversational English
IFI currently enjoys a good working relationship with University of Cincinnati International Services (UCIS), which consistently welcomes the efforts of Christian ISM practitioners on behalf of international students.
Future Room for Growth
Current IFI ministry is focused on international students and visiting scholars at the University of Cincinnati.
International Student Ministry is engaged at Northern Kentucky University.
Further research to ascertain level of interest as well as the specific resources and commitments required would be necessary to begin IFI ministries at other schools in the greater Cincinnati area (most notably Xavier University, Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, and Miami University).