Day-trips, weekend overnight trips, camping trips, going to a lake, taking in a professional ball game, or seeing a famous landmark can all be examples of things to do. If there are farms or ranches, students often desire to see one up close. Holidays are a great time to host small local events—Halloween, Thanksgiving, going to see Christmas lights.
Staff and volunteers in Texas take new students to tour NASA in Houston. Working with local churches there, they have a pot-luck supper followed by a presentation by NASA employees who are Christians (or a Christian astronaut) before sending student home with church members for an overnight stay. Sunday morning everyone goes to church together, and the students get special recognition in the service. For the students, the highlight is always staying in an American’s home. For the staff and volunteers, the highlight is the discussions in the car on the 2-4 hour drive to Houston and back. Many spiritual conversations have been begun after initial conversational niceties are completed. These conversations can be followed up one-on-one in the week following.
International Students, Inc. sponsors “TRUE Retreats” across the U.S. and in these four-day events leadership principles are taught. But more importantly, the teaching is combined with games and recreation which the students love as well as planned discussions about leadership (which can morph into spiritual discussions). Follow-up discussions often go late into the night.
Friendship Partners may take students with them to go see Granny for a visit or to a child’s soccer game in another town. Local events might be a child’s school program, local museum, or athletic event. All of these have a warm family feel to them, and students begin to heart-bond with their Friendship Partner family. The conversations to-from-during events are a key. Listening and discussing are powerful relationship builders.
Principles cited in this blog: After initial adjustments, students desire to see some of the sites and country around them. Formal and informal trips and events help new students to adjust and to learn language better. Discussions often morph into spiritual discussions naturally during these.
Application for ISI ministry: Building on student interest and time with them is great for building strong relationships. Special events and normal family events are attractive to new students.
Next blog topic: International Christian Fellowships and Home Groups
Doug Shaw with Derrah Jackson