Meet Darren and Dana Portell, IM Missionaries to International Students in Illinois
We are Darren, Dana, McCayde, and McLayne Portell. We will be serving international students at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana alongside the Penn family. Our family has previously served in student ministry roles in Taiwan and North Africa as well as in sports outreach in southern France. Our two older children, McKenna and McGwire, reside in the U.S. with their families. Darren and Dana were both born in Illinois and grew up in Illinois FWB churches.
Why the University of Illinois?
Having lived cross-culturally for many years, we have experienced firsthand the joy of belonging to a community and plan to create a community for our students. We are excited to see how God will use our cultural understanding from having lived in various countries and cultures to draw students into a relationship with Him.
Another statistic about international statistics is also somewhat shocking and disappointing. 85% of international students will never step foot inside an American home. What this means is that all these people who have no knowledge of Jesus are often surrounded by people who do have this knowledge and yet the two groups seldom get together.
How they are ministering to international students
1Connecting with International Students
English Corner – Darren and Dana plan to come alongside the Penns to connect with students during English Corner. This is an international student organization that provides support with the English language and helps navigate American culture.
Conversation Groups – Darren and Dana will participate in small groups that meet weekly to encourage international students as they deepen their utilization of the English language.
2Community with the Students Through Hospitality
Family time – Darren and Dana enjoy hosting students in their homes for meals and time spent as a family in conversation or game nights.
Holidays – The Portells plan to open their home to students on holidays. Often, international students spend holidays on campus alone so they view this as a good opportunity to share American culture and Christian celebrations with students.
Recreational pursuits – Darren is planning to use his passion for sports as an avenue to connect with students through various endeavors such as creating a cycling group, a workout group, or just a group who love to watch televised sports. Dana is hoping to connect with students through baking or book studies. McCayde and McLayne are hoping to connect with students who love speaking Mandarin or playing violins.
3Cultivation of Curiosity and Commitment Through Sharing of Cultures
Gospel Conversations – Connecting with students and being intentional about building community is an avenue to gospel conversations. By sharing our culture and being open to learning their culture, we foster a natural curiosity about why we choose to live in obedience to Christ.
Bible Study and Church- Darren and Dana will come alongside the Penns during their established Bible studies and plan to utilize the Bridge Church to invite students to attend with them.
How you can pray for the Portells
- Pray that the students connected with the Penn and Portell families will develop deep relationships with God.
- Pray for the Portell family as they seek to raise funds to join the Penn family at the University of Illinois.
- Pray for the Portells as they transition from a decade in Taiwan to life in the United States.
You can partner with the Portells to reach the international students in Illinois with the Gospel.