Where does the relationship go from here? How does it mature and deepen further? The simple answer is this: any way the student desires it to. FP relationships are just that—relationships. There is no pressure to do anything but enjoy one another.
Ethical guidelines International Students, Inc. requires volunteers to sign clearly maintains there is not to be any pressure on students regarding religion. That does not mean religion cannot be discussed. Much of the fun of life comes from discussing politics and religion! However, we are clear that there is not to be any pressure or quid pro quos for students to adopt the Friendship Partner’s religious beliefs. If a student is interested in learning about Christianity while here in the U.S., then that is fine. If I were living in Indonesia or Pakistan for some time, I would be interested in learning about their practice of Islam, their beliefs, and their traditions.
The bottom line is that the Friendship Partner® is bounded by only giving invitations to the student, and the student is in the position of choosing to accept or reject a particular invitation. So how does a relationship mature?
Typically, relationships develop through increasing stages of intimacy. Initially, the discussion is about facts—history, details of family structure or culture, or descriptions of past or present experiences. Then the discussion moves deeper into the thinking, values, and beliefs which inform the decisions we make—why we believe what we do about culture, people, and events. Then the discussion moves deeper into feelings about how circumstances and events impact our deepest selves. At this stage of maturing we share who we are as people and make our selves vulnerable to the reactions and responses of others. Unconditional acceptance is critical at this stage of maturing of the relationship.
Celebrating together, crying together, grieving losses together, laughing together are all part of the maturing process. These are the “life” of relationships and bring joy to each of us. How long the maturing takes is different for everyone and every relationship. Relationships cannot be rushed and are dependent upon the interest and skill of each person in developing them.
Principles cited in this blog: Students ultimately lead the development of relationships with Americans. Levels of time, interest, and skill are part of what determines the maturing of these relationships.
Application for ISI ministry: Friendship Partner® relationships are a mainstay of the ministry of International Students, Inc. We honor students by allowing them to determine the depth of relationships and boundaries. Ethically we are bound by these out of respect for the student.
Next blog topic: Individual evangelism and discipleship with students, especially Chinese and Muslim students
Doug Shaw with Derrah Jackson