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Reaching out by inviting them in (Issue 23 bonus material)

By Felicia Erickson

Middleton Grange International College in Christchurch has been serving the international student community since 2000. From the beginning homestays have been part of our strategy and we’ve placed thousands of students in primarily Christian homes. Our school moto is “In Thy Light shall we see Light” from Psalm 36:9, and with this as our focus we’ve been able to equip our students with the truth of the Gospel and shine light into the world.

As a Christian organisation, part of our God given mission has been to find ways to include international students in the school, most of them coming from non-Christian backgrounds. But can the hosting of students – the welcoming of students into homes and families – also be seen as missional? Rather than answering from the school’s perspective, I thought it’d be interesting to hear from one of our host families. Below is an interview with one of our host mums.

 

Why did you consider hosting for a Christian school?

I’ve been hosting international students since 2009. A friend asked me to host for Middleton Grange since she knew I had hosted other students for different English language study providers before. Now that I have hosted for Middleton Grange I will certainly continue to be available for their students in the future.

As a Christian, I want to be free to share my faith, and hosting for a Christian school means students are constantly interacting with other Christians. This means there is continuity between their experiences at school and home – there’s a missional overlap between their formal life at school and their informal life as a temporary member of our family.

How is welcoming home-stays into your family life a missional opportunity?

While they’re with us we include students as members of the family, providing support as they adjust to life in a new country and are away from their families. This hospitality is one way we outwork our faith.

We openly share our faith through our day-to-day relationship with them and include them in the ways our faith is outworked at home. We also include them in our faith-based activities, including church and youth group as well as a Christian outreach to the homeless and less advantaged at Latimer Square on Friday evenings. At home, I make an effort a few evenings a week to play cards one-one-one with my students so we have an opportunity for conversation. This has often turned to faith-based discussions that have emerged through conversation about their daily activities and issues they are working through back home with friends and family.

What sort of fruit have you seen?

Through the time together closeness develops and I think my faith shines through as I show them love and genuinely come to love them. We’ve been encouraged by comments from students about how loved and welcomed they felt, many saying they now feel part of our family. We also celebrate when students say that their faith has become much stronger during their time with us. The students we’ve hosted who happen to go to church only go for Christmas and Easter. Many have commented how different our church, Grace Vineyard, is and how much more fun it is. They say they look forward to church and youth group and now realise it is not only for ‘old people.’

We’ve also discovered that hosting students encourages us in our faith. It has provided opportunities for us to see the fruit of living out our faith. So it’s not just for the benefit of the students!

 

Why not consider hosting international students as part of your family’s mission? What could be more missional than welcoming someone into your life, allowing them to see your faith in action. This is one very simple, very concrete way you can welcome the ‘stranger among us.’

For more information about Middleton Grange’s International College feel free to contact call 03 341-4054 or email a.wright@middleton.school.nz

 

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles, each edition of Intermission will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. Why not take up the challenge and start using Intermission in your community? For more information or to order copies click here.