The Christian community has been welcoming internationals to Cleveland for decades. One of the early expressions of this ministry was called "International Friends," founded by Tom and Joan Wright. The organization formed partnerships with local churches and connected local Christians with international students to welcome them and meet the physical, cultural, social and spiritual needs of internationals.
In 2011, Art and Kristen Wells were invited to relocate from Columbus, Ohio to assume a leadership role with International Friends. Art had served for years with a growing, regional organization called International Friendships, Inc. or IFI. Two years later, the board of International Friends voted to merge with IFI to benefit from their leadership, training resources, and administrative support. In 2016, Jonathan P. became the area director. Though IFI Cleveland does not have a physical office, the work continues through two full-time staff members, five associate (volunteer) staff and over 100 volunteers connected with IFI through their churches. By God's grace, IFI continues to engage students on four university campuses with love-- a love for all people without partiality. The IFI team is grateful for the privilege of "welcoming strangers" to our city, our homes and our lives. This is a joyful work, transformative for students and Americans alike.