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ome of the details are fading

from memory after 27 years.

But Ipek Jefferson will always

remember the “very nice” and

“compassionate” people from

Columbia International University

who reached out to her as an

international trying to learn English at

the University of South Carolina (USC)

in Columbia.

Jefferson is a native of Turkey, who

later married an American and stayed

in the United States. She first came

to the USA in 1989, to enroll in an

“English for Internationals” class at

USC because she says her “English

was terrible,” and knew that a better

handle on the language could

advance career opportunities for

her. Her English teachers were CIU

students and professors, including

a seminary student, the late Christy

Cabrera, who invited Jefferson to

attend church with her. Jefferson

doesn’t remember the name of the

now-disbanded church that met in

the suburb of West Columbia, but

she recalls that they used the facilities

of the Seventh Day Adventist Church.

Even though Jefferson was brought

up in a Muslim family, she had no

reservations about attending church

with Cabrera during the Easter


“I’ll never forget, (Christy) said, ‘Do

you want to come to church with

me?’ I said, ‘Why not?’ I was always

curious about God. I always knew

there is a God other than in the

Muslim teachings,” Jefferson said.

As Cabrera’s invitations to attend

church continued, Jefferson

continued to accept.

When it came time for Jefferson to

use her new English skills to write a

paper for an assignment, she wrote

the paper about Jesus, which led to

her research her topic. God began to

work in her life.

“When the Holy Spirit comes to find

you, that’s it,” Jefferson says with

a laugh. “There is no escape from


Jefferson recalls the Sunday in church

when God captured her heart, a

moment she finds “hard to explain.”

“We were singing and all of the

sudden, I was overwhelmed. I started


Her thoughts turned to her family in

Turkey and her Muslim background.

“It was confusing, but I said, ‘I do

believe. I believe that Jesus died for

my sins.’”

So what advice might Jefferson give

to Christians who desire to share

Christ with someone with a Muslim

background just

like her? Develop a


She recalls how

one well-meaning

Christian “scared” her

by emphasizing her

eternal damnation in

hell. “He was just so

strong,” Jefferson explained.

She instead gravitated toward the

CIU students and professors who had

befriended her.


“When the Holy Spirit comes to find you,

that’s it,” Jefferson says with a laugh. “There

is no escape from that.”

“They didn’t pressure me. They just

showed compassion toward me,”

Jefferson said. “They showed what

kind of people they are.”

Today, Jefferson lives in the Columbia

suburb of Irmo and manages a Chick-

fil-A restaurant in nearby Lexington.

She says when she encounters young

people looking for a college, she tells

them about CIU.

“I tell them it’s such a great school,

such great people.”

Today Jefferson

manages a Chick-fil-A

restaurant in Lexington,

South Carolina. (Photos

courtesy of Ipek


Ipek Jefferson

becomes a

citizen of the

United States.



CIU Today