Just before Josue left the US for Costa Rica (I was already back in CR) we got a package in the mail…a belated wedding present (SO fun…I love presents!). As Josue unpacked his suitcases back in Costa Rica he pulled out the most beautiful handmade table runner, with a matching table cloth and napkins that was sent to us by a sweet couple who were Josue’s host family when he was in college in the States.
Paul and Paula Phillips, and incredibly loving and giving couple who run a music store in Siloam Springs, Arkansas, opened up there home in 2001 to Josue, as a part of the international student program at the university Josue attended. Through his four years there he spent weekends, weeknights, holidays and Sunday afternoon family meals with the Phillips family. They took him in and allowed him to be part of their family for the four years he was at John Brown University, giving him not only a home away from home, but in insider’s view to their life and culture. They also drove 9+ hours to come to our wedding in Kentucky, and it meant the world to us to have them there.
As long as I can remember, my parents had internationals living with us or visiting us. At 5 months old, a young girl from Britain came and lived two years with my family. Later we hosted and exchange student from Austria, then one from Russia who both spent more than a year living with my family. We have also hosted people from South Korea, France, Brazil, Australia and probably a few more countries. Each time we opened up our home and our lives we were so blessed. We got the incredible opportunity to hear their stories, their languages, and learn about their lives and their cultures. Each experience broadened us and taught us to see the world through more than just the American eyes we were born with. Hearing Nastia’s stories of Russia during the Cold War taught us to see history through different eyes. Tracey introduced us to true British tea and one of our fav-o-rite snacks, salt and vinegar chips (back in they day, they didn’t sell them in the States…just in England!).
I tell you all that to show how much we as the host family benefited from opening our home. We have stayed in contact with most of those internationals and have even had the chance to visit some of their homes!
Being a foreigner in a far away country is hard. It’s that simple. Being away from all you know, your culture, your home, your family, your friends in a new place where so many things feel strange and foreign and lonely is TOUGH. I’ve been there…and I’m there now. There are days when all I want to do is drive over to my sister’s house and hug on my neices and nephews, but I can’t. There are days when I just wish we had a family to spend our Sunday afternoon with, but here we don’t. That’s the reality of living in a place far from home. So when someone reaches out, opens their home, invites us over and lets us into their lives, it means the world.
This weekend at church, our pastor asked all the foreigners to raise their hands (he’s never done this before), then he told the church that it is our responsibility as the church of Christ to be the family and community to those people who are away from home. Then he asked them to put their hands on us and pray for us. Well, needless to say, I cried like a baby. People of all ages surrounded us, put their comforting hands on our shoulders and backs and prayed for us, committing to be the family that we don’t have here. It was an incredible moment, and even though I’m the foreigner in this situation it was a reminder of our responsibility to open our homes and our lives to those who may not have families, or may be far from home.
I encourage you to open your home to someone…it may be an international student at the University nearby, someone you met at church, or some new neighbors that look like they might be new in town. Let me tell you, it not only change their life and their experience in the US (0r wherever you are), but it will change you.
Go, be blessed, and open your home.