When I brought home a piece of paper that offered a chance to host an exchange student for a three-week summer course in English immersion, I never dreamed that my life would take the turn that it did. I showed Kevin the paper and he agreed that it would be a fun experience, and when we realized that the school paid a stipend of 400 dollars to the host families, It made the deal even more enticing. I was in school, Kevin had just graduated and had his first “real” job…….we were broke, and the prospect of 400 dollars was too good to pass up!
Every summer from then on we hosted ESL (English as a Second Language) students. They stay for 3-weeks, become part of the family, and then go back to their home country. It was simple, until 2009. Typically we hosted girls, polite, proper dutiful and quiet…………………..well this year there were two boys who needed a host family. One from China and one from Japan. Stupid me, I should have paid attention in that part of history class, because (as I later found out) the Chinese hate the Japanese……..long standing feuds, hard feelings and a general annoyance of each other.
Things worked out fine, after a heart-to-heart about the “rules” in my house. The boys ended up being great friends and we still have conversations over Skype. The boys email me when they’re stressed out during finals and I get Facebook messages that look like this:
These boys are family to us, they call me mom, Kevin is dad and the boys are their “American” Brothers.
On the last day they were here in Montana, we gave them each a bible, one in Chinese and one in Japanese. It was an incredibly moving sight to see them both pouring over the book, each of them speaking out loud in their own languages. Humbling, and incredibly powerful at the same time.
I talked to our Chinese son a few months ago, and I asked him about his bible and if he still read it? He told me that he reads it all the time and that he prayed to know Jesus.
I may never see my Chinese son with my earthly eyes, but I know that because of a small influence that we had on him, he will spend eternity with me in heaven.
Earlier this fall we told the Director of International Studies that if there was a student that was missing home and needed a “family” for the remainder of their stay in the US, we would be more than happy to let them stay with us. A couple of weeks ago, she let me know that there is a student from Saudi Arabia who is homesick and misses the busyness of family (he comes from a family of 12.) Kevin and I decided that we would love to have him stay with us. Things are going to be slightly different here in our house for the next few months. He is Muslim, we are Christians…. Our faiths both stem from the same genealogy but they are vastly different. We don’t know what the next few months will look like for us, but I know that our lives are connecting for some divine reason, I refuse to be a person who carries prejudices and lets ignorance run my life. My children will have opportunity to love like Christ loves, to be missionaries in our own home. Maybe someday in the future, our Saudi son will call me and say that he prayed to know Jesus. Maybe he won’t, but our understanding of each other will be greater and our prejudices of each other a bit smaller.
There is a passage in Esther, where she is asked to go in front of her husband the King of Persia and ask him to spare the lives of the Jews. She replies, that if she goes before the king without being summoned,the king will kill her.
Her uncle, who asked Esther to plead on their behalf, says to her: “’Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. 14 For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?’ 15 Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: 16 ‘Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.’”
I know that this is an extreme example, but more than anything, I want to remember that God had his hand on Esther when he placed her as queen of Persia. That same God has his hand on my family while we open our doors and build a bridge between Muslims and Christians.