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“And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?”
An Iranian ISMC board member on staff at Western University described 35-year-old Mike (not his real name) as a lively man with much hope.
Mike, halfway through a Ph.D., was killed, along with 176 passengers and crew when Flight 752 was blown out of the sky in January at the Tehran Airport. The dead included 138 passengers headed to Canada, many of them international students. ISMC ministries in London, Vancouver, Montreal, Winnipeg, Guelph, and Halifax had victims, some of whom were involved with us and on the path to crossing the line of faith.
Three thoughts have stayed with me since that terrible January morning.
First, regarding world geopolitics: leadership matters immensely. It was leadership that provoked and it was leadership that retaliated to cause this disaster. Everything rises and falls on leadership. ISMC will not relent in its efforts to develop and train international students as godly and effective servant-leaders to impact the world through Jesus Christ for good and God’s glory.
Secondly, no matter how well and long we live, there is a hereafter that every promising, über-smart international student must be made to think seriously about. Beyond their supple bodies and sharp minds, each of them has a soul with an eternal destination. Beyond academic excellence and enviable living standards in Iran or Canada, this question requires deep reflection: “What do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your soul?” ISMC has been positioned by God to make the existential questions of identity, purpose, faith, salvation, and eternal life a non-threatening yet crucial conversation on our campuses from coast to coast.
Finally, I think about those on Flight 752 who were told by ISMC staff or volunteers: “When you return from Iran, we’ll take the Alpha course” or “We’ll start a Discovery Bible Study after your Christmas holidays.” Somehow, we assume we have all the time in the world and say to ourselves, “Before Mike (or whomever) finishes that Ph.D., I will share the good news of Jesus Christ.” Tomorrow never comes. Today is the day of salvation; now is the only time we have. The Tehran tragedy sparked a sharp sense of urgency in me.
My hope: that those who died rest in peace, but who can tell? All I know is I will not—cannot—rest in peace until every international student in Canada has the opportunity to encounter the love and message of Jesus Christ! How about you?
Dr. Yaw Perbi