The nudge

Insight from IVEP hosts

Family of eight stand with an IVEP participant in front of a Christmas tree.
From left: Jesse, Bethany, Addilynn, Rose, Annie, Jonah, Cyprus, Elijah (in the back) and Innocent. (Photo courtesy of Bethany Zimmerman)

Editor’s note: Bethany and Jesse Zimmerman, along with their children, are hosting 2023-2024 IVEP participant Innocent Chuma, who is from Zambia. 


Our children’s school hosts an IVEPer every year. Due to COVID-19, they stopped for a little while. This was their first year since then, and they put out an email asking if anyone would be interested in hosting. They attached a picture and a brief story about the person. After reading the story, we felt a nudge to offer up our house. We felt like Innocent had so many similarities to our other children and would fit right in.

To our surprise we were chosen to host him! We got started right away, getting his room ready and preparing our children for someone to come and live with us for the year.

Innocent was able to find our middle son, Jonah, on Instagram and they immediately hit it off! After a few days of talking, we were able to FaceTime with him and get to know him. We ended up FaceTiming once a week until he arrived in the U.S. This helped us ask questions of likes, dislikes and what he was looking forward to seeing or doing while he was here.

While Innocent was here, he did run into a few health issues. Walking alongside Innocent during this time made us really be able to see his heart and his relationship with the Heavenly Father. He puts Americans to shame when it comes to real faith! His relationship and the belief he has in our Father, and that he will be taken care of, touched us so much and made us want to have a better relationship with God. (We thought we were doing good, but we saw we can always grow.)

Family and IVEP participant stand in front of a wooded lake.
The Zimmerman family and Innocent go on a hike. (Photo courtesy of Bethany Zimmerman) 

Innocent is such a delight to anyone who meets him. He loves people with his entire heart. He spends time really getting to know you, not just a 5-minute conversation with you. He prays for you and your family. He checks in on you if you are going through something. He is a great example of what selfless love should look like. Our children have learned so much about how to treat others by watching him this past year.

My children would say that the best thing about hosting Innocent this year was: “His attitude, always looking on the bright side of things; his smile and his laugh were contagious. And he would always play games with us!” We would say one thing that we probably struggled with was the fact that he was so busy, it barely left us time to do all the fun things we wanted to do with him. Innocent made so many friends here and everyone wanted to do activities with him. 

IVEP participant stands smiling and holding tongs in front of a stove cooking sausages and eggs.
Innocent learns to cook Saturday morning breakfast with the family. (Photo courtesy of Bethany Zimmerman)

Through the ups and downs of this time we have had many experiences that grew us closer to Innocent and the Lord. We hope and pray that he continues to keep the Lord first over everything — that he will not get distracted but will keep his eyes on the Lord.

To anyone thinking of participating in the IVEP program, I would say YES! Get ready for a great adventure. Learn to over-communicate and laugh a lot with each other. Learn as much as you can about your guest’s culture and teach them as much as you can about yours. Be patient, it’s not always going to be easy, but it will always be worth it. You are bringing the nations together! 


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