Written by Emily Callon. Media by Sean McFarland.
At Greenville College, one thing that is stressed is how important it is to experience different cultures. This is done in two different ways. First, Greenville sends students to places all around the world, whether this is through a short term mission trip, a semester abroad, or anything in between. Several students, including myself, have been able to experience cultures by immersing themselves in it for a period of time.
Another way to experience other cultures is to invite people into our culture and listen to their traditions, experiences, and values, as we share our own. One way Greenville has done this is by creating a program for international students. Not only is this a neat experience for the international students themselves, but it’s also a great way for the students here to experience a different culture without traveling to that place.
Although different cultures are cool and it’s fun to learn about, it goes much deeper than that. Connecting with others allows them to feel welcomed and experience culture through relationships. When we, as students well established in this culture, are able to reach out, we have a profound opportunity to display Christ. Some people do this daily by interacting with international students over a meal, in the classroom, or in a living situation. Another great way to build these relationships is to invite an international student to your home.
For example, Qiwei “Jack” Wang came to Greenville College from China in 2011, and was placed with a family in town. When he first arrived, they welcomed him and invited him into their home for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and over the summer. Because of this relationship, Jack became a Christian and is grateful for their love and guidance as he came to know the Lord. They have treated Jack as an extension of the family (their 5th child) and Jack calls them Mom and Dad. Their home has become a second home for him. Because of this connection, he has felt a stronger bond to this family, Greenville College, and this culture. (Jack is now a sophomore and the Vice President of the Intercultural Affairs Board on GCSA.)
Obviously, Christmas is a huge part of our culture and is celebrated with many traditions. Between holiday meals, making Christmas cookies, and decorating your home, this season is full of fun times that highlight cultural traditions.
We want the international students here at Greenville to be able to experience this, as well. I would encourage you to be praying about what it looks like to host an international student over breaks, such as the upcoming Christmas break, as you continue reading this article.
When Jesus was on earth, many of His teachings centered around reaching out to others. Here are three passages in relation to such:
“Each of you should be concerned not only about your own interests, but about the interests of others as well.” –Philippians 2:4 (NET)
“Whoever has the world’s possessions and sees his fellow Christian in need and shuts off his compassion against him, how can the love of God reside in such a person? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue but in deed and truth.” –1 John 3:17-18 (NET)
“Give to everyone who asks you, and do not ask for your possessions back from the person who takes them away. Treat others the same way that you would want them to treat you.” –Luke 6:30-31 (NET)
By no means do I say these things to make you feel guilty or bad if you are unable to bring an international student home. I understand that this is a big commitment and that it can be difficult to make it work with the structure of each individual family. I also understand that most people still live with their parents, and it can be quite the accommodation to work that out with your whole family.
However, this is something that you should think about. Do you have space in your car? Do you have a place for them to sleep in your home? Are you willing and able to invest your energy and time into a relationship with an international student?
If you are considering this at all, please come to the Upper Union this Thursday, December 12 at 8 pm to hear from myself and Tim Caldwell about what this will look like for the holidays. Please come with any questions or concerns you may have.
By coming to this event, you are by no means committing to taking an international student home. Nor are you committing to doing this consistently. Rather, we are only looking for people who are willing to do this for the upcoming Christmas break.
Thanks, and I hope to see you there!