Gordon Mellis was fascinated as a child to hear the stories of pilot-mechanics returning to headquarters from their various field operations, as his father, Charlie, was one the founders, and past president of Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF). This, along with his family’s commitment to worldwide ministry gave him a truly International perspective. Cindy was raised in a Christian home in Orange County.
In 1989, Gordon began working with Air Serv International, a sister organization to MAF, and the family moved to Redlands. After three years with Air Serv, MAF asked Gordon to fill-in as program manager for one year in eastern Zaire, now The Congo. They were eager to go even though this would be the first time Cindy and the boys traveled outside the U.S.A. Before going to Zaire they lived in Santa Ana and enjoyed working with international students at Chapman College through their church, but now they would be the foreigners. Cindy knew there would be challenges and adventures, and she would have to overcome culture shock. They were beginning to sense how foreign students must feel when coming to America. She looks back on that year in Zaire and remarks how God had caused her to be more sensitive to the needs of others, and said, “that one year changed my life.”
Trinity became their church home in 1996. They were soon invited by MAF friends to get involved with International Friendship Connection (IFC), which is a ministry of hospitality and friendship to help International students understand God’s love by opening our hearts and homes and reaching out to students from around the world who have come to America to further their education. Gordon and Cindy became a Friendship Family for IFC and have served on the leadership team.
In 2013, Gordon and Cindy agreed to use their gifts of administration to become overall coordinators for IFC, yet they are quick to say that IFC is a team effort, with a host of volunteers that bless the ministry by using their gifts of service, being an “American Friend,” providing a place to meet, assist the team with bringing some food items, and helping with transportation. Cindy remembers how she wondered if there would be enough food at the monthly IFC events, but the Lord replaced that with joy as she has experienced His provision every time.
Gordon shared how one student had only been in this country for two weeks and was depressed, homesick and ready to call his parents to say he wanted to return home. After attending an IFC party, his attitude changed and it wasn’t long before IFC became his family away from home.
Another student came to America hoping to meet some Christians who could answer his questions. Gordon believes it was by divine appointment he was invited to IFC the first week on campus.
A Chinese student had learned English by watching TV programs in China, but had no idea what it was like to be in a loving Christian home until she came to IFC.
Since the founding of IFC in 1993, by Dr. Ev Bruckner, this global ministry of Trinity Church has grown from just a few students from one university campus to many who meet each month, who come from the University of Redlands, Loma Linda University, and Cal State San Bernardino. Gordon and Cindy find that some students have been exposed to Christianity in their home country through TV, radio or personal contact with a traveler, but their own religious background or family ties restricted them from learning more. Coming to study in America provides them with an opportunity to meet genuine Christ-followers.
“IFC gives a friendly environment where they can ask questions, share a meal, and make new friends,” emphasized Gordon, “and all International students live on their own, so IFC volunteers find great joy in being their friend, taking them sightseeing and shopping, or by inviting them to visit in their homes for a home-cooked meal.
“When God called us to Zaire and we responded, there was great joy in that obedience. Ask the Lord if there is a place in your heart to become involved with IFC and experience great joy meeting International students who love to get to know Americans. You will have a part in reaching the world without leaving home, because they are coming here!” exclaims Cindy.
To learn how you can become involved and partner with our International ministry team, contact Gordon and Cindy Mellis (909) 798-7817, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
By June Hedlund