Don't you just love surprise blessings? They come in many forms, and one of mine this week was a phone call. Kayoko (Ki-yo-ko), a Japanese student I befriended a couple of years ago, called me the other day from her current university just to hear my voice and talk with me about some things she is going through.
Let me give you some background. My sister Debbie actually inspired me to get involved with local international students. She and her husband Keith have been reaching out to internationals for several years on the campus of a major southwestern university and have blessed the lives of many who are so very far away from home. As they touch these students with friendship, they also many times have the chance to share their faith in Christ -- a pretty neat opportunity considering most of these students follow other world religions and may not have had many opportunities to learn about the Christian faith.
Inspired by their wonderful experiences, I decided to try to befriend an international student right here in our community. I contacted the international student advisor at our community college, and she happily plugged me into her Match program which "matches" international students with local families. The result? A sweet friendship with Kayoko, a wonderful young woman from Japan.
While Kayoko was here, we enjoyed (though it wasn't easy because of language differences!)many conversations over ice cream at Braum's or other sweet treats at a local coffee shop. Taking an evening out to celebrate Christmas with Kayoko each year she was here is something I'll remember always. That first year when I pointed out that there was a gift for her under our tree, she couldn't believe it. She excitedly said, "I've always dreamed of having a gift under a Christmas tree!" She went on to explain that in Japan they don't put gifts under their trees. Was I ever glad I had that gift for her! It was such a blessing to help make one of her dreams come true.
Kayoko has since moved on to another school, but we are trying to stay in contact. Luckily, the university she is attending is only about 75 miles away from us. I don't expect to hear from her very often because college students are so busy, especially international ones who have to study even harder because of their language challenges. When she called the other day, I wondered what prompted her to call me in the middle of the morning. As we talked, the reason came out, and she told me I was like her American mother and that she knew she could talk to me. That really touched me.
So what have I found out? In reaching out to bless and hopefully influence the life of international students, I myself have been greatly blessed, not only through the genuine love and friendship that develops, but also through the amazing opportunities to experience first-hand a taste of other cultures. Is the investment of time, energy, and sometimes even expense worth it? You bet. And only eternity will reveal the full impact of befriending these special students.
What about you? Are there internationals in your community who might need your friendship? Maybe even just some smiles and pleasant conversation? Go ahead -- make the investment. You'll get a rich return.
"The alien [foreigner] living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself..." Leviticus 19:34a NIV