Friday Feature: Jan Smith

Editor’s Note: Jan Smith and her husband Dan have worked with International Students, Inc. on the University of Oregon campus for 34 years, and today we have the privilege of sharing four stories of how God is bringing students from around the world into their lives.

Story One: During the forest fires last year, an Iranian couple in California had to evacuate their apartment quickly as the flames were getting close to them. They had planned to come to Eugene later for his education, but now with no place to go, they headed north sooner than expected. Through the “Persian grapevine,” they met some former University of Oregon students who told them how to get in touch with us. Halfway up the freeway, they called us, and we were thrilled to have them come stay at our house. Dan and I had just been praying that God would give us someone to help that day, so they were an answer to our prayer!

Story Two: A couple from China saved their hard-earned money for nine years, so they could come to school at the UO. She arrived two months before her husband. Her heart’s desire was to help the children in their country left alone by parents who have to go away to the cities to find jobs. She wants to create social programs to help the children and families. The couple had never heard the name of Jesus until she stayed in our home and I began to tell her about the God who loves and cares about her and those children she wants to help. Our UFC Bible study group adopted this family and gave them a housewarming party, a baby shower, and a first birthday party for their little girl! Jim and Gayle Buie have become their close friends and even went with them to visit their families in China! 

Story Three: A students from a Muslim country asked me if I would meet her and a friend at her apartment. At school she avoided talking to me or being seen with me around other Muslims. I was helping the Saudi girls in a spelling class, but she would never sit at our table. She spoke to me quickly and very subtly hinted an interest in knowing more about Jesus. When I arrived, we went for a long walk and talked about all kinds of ordinary things. Eventually her friend left, and we sat down to talk. When no one else was around, I offered her a Bible in her language. A look of joy came to her face. Then she hesitated and said, “I don’t think I’m allowed to read this.” I said, “I will leave it and you can decide.” The next time I saw her, she had read up to Ephesians and asked me a few questions about what it meant. She told me she had to give the Bible back because she was afraid a family member might see it when they helped her move. But she added, “Don’t worry. I know I can read it online!” The last time I saw her was in a group of Muslims. She pretended not to know me. May God bless her and protect her. 

Story Four: We met two young men from Nigeria at the airport when they arrived and brought them home to stay at our house until they could move into their apartment. I could tell that the food I prepared for them was like nothing they had ever seen before. They were hesitant to try it. I didn’t know what to do, so I looked online to try and find out what kind of food I might be able to make that they would like. Would you believe my banana bread became a favorite that they asked for over and over again! You probably saw these guys at church. They found a lot of friends at UFC. At home they had been told that white people were mean, and when they met us they were afraid. We were the first white people they had ever met. After a while, they called us their American mom and dad. 

My husband, Dan and I have worked with International Students, Inc. for 34 years. He is our team leader here in Eugene. Together we host students in our home, lead Bible studies (this year on Zoom), and take them on fun adventures. We disciple those who want to know more. We host holiday parties at Spencer View. Dan takes students grocery shopping every week. We have been attending the Arab Student Union and Muslim Student Association meetings every week for years until the pandemic. I bring the cookies. We show them love, and sometimes they ask us to share what the Bible says about whatever they are discussing. Sponsored by UFC, our Bible study group and others have been hosting an annual Ramadan dinner. During the evening, Pastor Brett shares the gospel, and we have a big dinner with games and prizes for everyone. The first year we had 200 people come. Most of them were Muslims. 

This gives you an idea of some of what I do ministering to international students. I also do the computer work, make the PowerPoint lessons, make flyers and sometimes I’m the decorator for student weddings and host bridal showers and baby showers. I try to keep up with students and advertise our events on social media. Mainly, my job is to love people who are far from their homes and help them to know Jesus.

I grew up in Maple Valley, Washington with my parents and three brothers. Before I went to Multnomah Bible College (now Multnomah University), I was a flight attendant for Eastern Airlines and lived in Westfield, New Jersey, and Marietta, Georgia. I asked God to choose my husband for me, and He gave me Dan! Dan and I graduated college together, and we have two grown kids, Josh (and his lovely wife Angela) and Bailey, who are miracle gifts from God. We also have two cats and pet chickens in the backyard. I like drawing and painting. I am a discussion group leader for BSF (Bible Study Fellowship). I love our UFC Bible study group. I have a lot to be thankful for. 

Favorite Bible Verse: Proverbs 3:5-6 

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him, 
and He will make your paths straight.

How you can pray for me:

  • For wisdom and guidance about how God wants us to care for my elderly parents. My 90-year-old dad, Bob, has had multiple strokes, and my 85-year-old mom, Elsie, is his caregiver. In addition, my Uncle Jim is in the hospital right now with heart failure, cancer, and other issues. 
  • Pray that God will guide us to meet new international students and build relationships as we come out of the pandemic.
  • Pray for our financial support as we are short in our monthly contributions.