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International assistant leaves lasting impact

Students call her the “Blessings Lady.”

For 5 1/2 years, Shohreh Noorbakhsh, winner of John Brown University’s 2014-2015 Faculty Appreciation Award, has welcomed everyone who comes into the international office with a smile, hug and greeting of “blessings on you.” Her passion: serving the Lord by loving each person she encounters.

“I love the Lord with all my heart, and whatever he calls me to do in life is my delight and joy, and I never look at it as a job or an avenue for income,” Shohreh said. “He provides for me as he sends me to accomplish his purposes and plans in all kinds of places in this world.”

Work for Shohreh often means dropping whatever she is doing at the computer to pause and listen and talk to any student who drops by to see her. Shohreh said she and the other members of the international office aspire to be available to anyone who steps into the office.

“With prayer and sweet times of laughter and crying together we have tried to love them well, encourage them, and pray with them and always make ourselves available to them,” Shohreh said.

Usually arriving at work at 7:30 a.m., Shohreh frequently stays long after the office has closed to catch up on work she didn’t accomplish during the day as a result of talking with students. She never minds the extra hours in the office, however, viewing her time with each student as a precious gift from God.

Tabitha Greenwood, a recent JBU graduate, has many memories of talking with Shohreh long after everyone else had gone home.

“Some of my favorite memories are of finding her in the office late at night and just going in there and sitting and having an hour-long conversation about what is going on—whether it’s with me or her—and praying together,” Greenwood said.

Shohreh listed prayer as one of the most important parts of her life.

“It is through this precious gift that the Lord enables me at times to become deeply aware of his attention and burden for someone around me, and he gives me his love for them to a degree that I cannot wait to go talk with, hug and pray with them ‘for him.’ ”

Students said Shohreh’s commitment to prayer has challenged them to pray more themselves.

“She prays about the small stuff—things you normally wouldn’t think to pray for,” JBU junior Klara Johannesen said. “That reminds me to pray about everything.”

Johannesen said that Shohreh has a special gift for making students feel loved and cared for, and a special sensitivity for noticing where students are emotionally.

“She sees when something’s wrong, and she’ll not let me ignore it,” Johannesen said.

“One of my favorite characteristics about Shohreh is how observant she is,” senior JBU student Julianna Shedd said. “Whenever I come in to say ‘hi’ to her in her office, she always notices if I changed anything about my outward appearance, even if it is the slightest thing. She is also able to pick up on what kind of mood I am in when I walk into her office. There is no pretending with her, and I really love that. I can be myself.”

Shohreh makes a point of knowing the name of each international and missionary kid under her care.

“One of the ways in which Shohreh has blessed me is her encouragement that she has given to me,” Shedd said. “During my freshman year at JBU, her encouraging words meant a lot to me. Not only that, but she invested in me. Before I even really knew who she was, she knew who I was, and I was already on her long list of people to pray for.”

The international students and missionary kids have found in Shohreh someone they can trust and depend upon. Several students can credit Shohreh to rescuing them from difficult situations.

“A couple of years ago the missionary kids went on a camping trip,” Greenwood remembered. “On the drive back one of the cars broke down really badly. They called Shohreh and she drove a couple hours to pick everyone up to drive everyone back.”

Several students said they appreciate that Shohreh challenges them to rise to their full potential.

“She’s not afraid to push people to be better and to seek to honor God in everything that they do,” Greenwood said. “She’s always speaking life, and also always calling you to further God’s kingdom and seek Christ more.”

Shohreh’s time at JBU has come to an end, however, and she does not plan to return to school next fall. Although she does not know what her future holds, she looks forward to discovering what God has planned for her.

Students, however, will miss Shohreh’s loving, welcoming presence.

“During the past three years at JBU, visiting Shohreh in her office has been one of my highlights,” Shedd said. “I am really going to miss that.”