On behalf of International Ministries, we want to thank you for volunteering to be a Friendship Family. We are excited that you and your family have chosen to open your home and extend Christian hospitality to international students and scholars. Following is a guide and info/commitment form to help you prepare.
Click here for our online Friendship Family Application
Being a Friendship Family
Have one or two International Students/Scholars over to your home for a meal, and go out together for one community event. Community events can consist of anything from going to the beach, attending an Eat the Street together, or watching your child’s sports/performance. The idea is to introduce them to something fun in the community, and enjoying it together. Please do not choose something that costs a lot of money… something free or inexpensive is preferable.
Beyond having them to your home for a meal and enjoying a community event together, it is up to you and the student whether you will continue to spend time together. If you are able to invest more time in the friendship, please do invite them again; but remember to be sensitive to the interests, availability, and needs of the student. Make it easy for them to politely decline if they need to.
Being a Friendship Family will give you the opportunity to live out your Christian faith by serving, loving and listening to these internationals. Focus on building friendships with them. Please realize that this is not a time to try to force your opinions or beliefs on these students.
The decision of becoming a Friendship Family is a commitment of your family’s heart and time. It is essential that your family is committed to growing in your relationship(s) with Jesus Christ. Your family must also be part of a Christian church, and receive a favorable recommendation form from your Pastor or Small Group Leader.
Application and Matching Process
International Ministries manages the ongoing applications for internationals who would like to go to a local family’s home. After you complete your online application and we receive your completed Recommendation Form, we will match you with a student/scholar and email you their contact information. (We usually have a large number of international applicants at the beginning of the Fall semester, and a few throughout the rest of the academic year.) The student will be informed that you will be contacting them to set up a time to have them over to your home.
Understanding Different Cultures
Being in a warm and welcoming home is something your students will treasure, and likely remember as a highlight of their time abroad. Focus on making your guests feel welcome. Be aware that time is not as important in some cultures as in ours, so don’t fret if guests are late. In some cultures, guests always present the hostess with a gift; if this occurs, accept it gracefully.
Please inquire about any dietary restrictions your student may have before you eat together.
Be respectful of other cultures, religions, types of government, music, art, etiquette, etc. Be careful not to take the attitude that the US way is the best way or the only way.
During the Visit
Have all family members dress modestly. Let your guests know if your dinner will be more formal or informal, so they can come dressed appropriately. Turn the television off. Be sensitive to the fact that your guest may be uncomfortable with indoor pets, and keep them outside if possible. Ask your guests general questions about life in their country. Be good listeners, and be careful not to express criticism or disapproval of their culture. Be humble and interested. Avoid political discussions, if possible; respond tactfully if questioned.
Staying Involved in the Lives of Your International Students
Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
- Include your student in family activities such as game night, shopping, watching movies, going to the park, etc.
- Invite your student to spend breaks and/or holidays with your family. This is a great time to teach them about American traditions and the meanings of our holidays.
- Ask your student what holidays they celebrate with their family and do something special on those days. This is a great opportunity to understand your student better and to learn about other cultures.
- Offer to provide transportation for your student when needed (many students need to go to Wal-Mart on a weekly basis)
- Invite them to come to church with you
- Send your student some special goodies around exam time
- E-mail or call your student regularly to keep in touch with them, but realize they are busy students and may be slow to respond
- Invite them to come over when you have your children or grandchildren over to make them feel like part of the family
- Find out when their birthday is and make a point to celebrate it since they are away from their family
- If your student is an athlete, go to games and cheer for them