Last summer, we had an opportunity drop in our laps to have a foreign exchange student from Montenegro live with us.
We’ve really enjoyed having her stay with us. She truly has been like a daughter to us.
We realized that we were blessed to have such a beautiful home, and even though we are experiencing a great deal of stress, we decided we wanted to reach out to a student from a foreign land, giving her this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity by providing a home and a family.
We truly have embraced her as one of ours and she has embraced us as well. In fact, without her, I think I would be so depressed and down I couldn’t move. I believe she has more faith than I do!
What about your home? Could it facilitate a foreign exchange student? I know Wordlink, the organization facilitating our exchange student, is desperate for host families!
But how can you give them the best experience possible?
Here are some ideas to get you started:
1) Be yourself. I think I don’t need to explain this very much. Just be enthusiastic and do everything the way you normally would, including your student in your family. When we went camping, we took her along with us. She fit right in! Tried everything we threw at her, including waterskiing. We took her to our church and this week she is going to visit my Mom with me in the hospital. I am real with her about our circumstances and am open and honest.
2) Talk to your student! Ask a lot of questions about his home country. Listen! Americans can be very cold, especially to children. I heard of one foreign exchange student whose host family members don’t even talk to her! Before you take on a student, make sure your whole family agrees and is willing to interact with that student like a fellow family member. If you have had a foreign exchange student live with you before, do not compare them!
3) Argue behind closed doors! Not even your own children want to hear arguments between you and your spouse! And certainly not foreign exchange students. If you argue, do so in private. Every once in a while is understandable, we all get short tempers, but arguing chronically will make a student feel very uncomfortable. And this goes for shouting and yelling, too. Control your anger and make sure your family members can control their anger. Repeated yelling and shouting will not only make your student feel uncomfortable, but your student will feel sad and will want to go back home, missing out on his prime opportunity to be a foreign exchange student!
4) Have an open house and invite your friends, family, and neighbors and let your student invite their new friends. We are planning one for later in October and we can’t wait! It’s going to be a lot of fun! Talk about outreach!
5) Realize this is a long-term relationship. Building a relationship takes time and it takes mutual respect. I love the saying, “I don’t care what you know unless I know that you care!” Help your student feel less homesick by incorporating her special holidays into your schedule. You will learn about a new culture and she will be ecstatic!
6) When sharing your faith, remember your primary job is to plant seeds. Share your experiences–your personal encounters with Jesus–be open for tough questions, and be alert for new opportunities. Always treat your student and their beliefs with respect.
I hope that gets you thinking about this exciting kind of ministry! I know for us it has been an extreme blessing and has definitely helped us to reach new heights!