Our staff and volunteers are excited also—especially those who have ministered to students before. We pray that the Lord will lead the students to us whom He desires us to befriend, help, and share our lives with. We trust that the Lord also desires than and does so.
One of our roles with new students is to be a “cultural informant.” International students need someone with whom they can ask any question and receive a non-judgmental and factual answer. Sometimes those answers need to be nuanced because the issue is so complex. Questions can make us uneasy, like when a student asks us why our country “does not like” or “trust” his or her country. They need an answer, but it may not be a simple answer.
Sometimes we need to “prime the pump” so the student knows they can ask anything of us. We could say “You know that you can ask me any kind of question and I will be glad to answer you. When I travel to another country, I so appreciate my friends there who will be that kind of friend to me. Questions you may ask me could be like, ‘Are the police here good or bad?’ ‘What should I do if I don’t like my professor or I think my professor does not like me.’ ‘How do I date an American?’ or ‘’What could I do if I run out of money?’”
It is important for us who reach out to international students, and who desire to help them, to know where our personal boundaries are. We encourage all staff and volunteers never to loan or give money to students. Teaching a student to drive may have some unsuspected legal issues. Allowing a student to live with us in more that a brief temporary manner could get complicated. And there may be some questions that are too personal for us to answer.
We rejoice at the Lord’s goodness to bring so many new international students to the U.S. and to give us the opportunity to be their friend and to share our lives with them! Please pray for the Lord to guide the development of relationships for yourself, our staff, and our volunteers.
Principles cited in this blog: The Lord has given us a great privilege to be His instruments of grace and love to new international students. Students have so many questions for which we can be a cultural informant. We all should be clear about where our personal boundaries are in helping students.
Application for ISI ministry: Helping new students brings great joy to us and to the students. Sometimes we have to model what are acceptable questions students can ask us. Everyone needs to know their personal boundaries in relationships.
Next blog topic: The adjustment of students’ spouses to living in the U.S.
Doug Shaw with Derrah Jackson