Saturday, February 20, 2010

Go Global!

If you've been reading my blog for a while, or have looked through the archives, you probably know that we've been hosting an exchange student since August.  It has been SO incredible!  If you haven't read the story of how we came to add Patrick to our lives, go read it here.

Here are some of the GREAT reasons to host an exchange student, listed from the YFU (Youth for Understanding) website:

  • Gain a global perspective
  • Learn about other cultures because its fun for all ages
  • Expand your family and it expands the fun
  • Create exchange memories that last a lifetime
  • Enrich your school and community by adding an exchange student to your family
 We have certainly experienced all of the above.  I would add a few:
  • Stretch your comfort zone (Why would you want to do THAT??)
  • Challenge you to think about things differently
  • Challenge you to learn new things (like baking bread--grin) and care for someone who is not a father, mother, brother, son, daughter, etc.
  • Share the Gospel
We are on the downhill slope now--we are a little more than half-way through Patrick's exchange year.  We knew it was coming, but when the letter came telling us his departure date (June 24) there was a sadness and reality that hung around my shoulders.  I immediately thought back to the first night Patrick came here.  The night that Patrick's flight arrived in to St. Cloud, I tried to mark every moment.  As we drove to the airport, I wrung my hands in worry that we would not get there in time and he would be sitting in the tiny airport alone.  I tried hard to balance my emotions to enjoy the moment.  I KNEW that in the months to come I would wish I could go back and relive the first day all over again.  So now with the departure date in our hands, there was a solidity and confirmation that he would be leaving.  I wouldn't trade the joy of having him here for anything, even though it means the difficulty (for all of us--kids especially) of saying goodbye later.  {We are also thankful for internet and skype.}

This blog post has kind of a double purpose--to hook you in emotionally and appeal to you to consider hosting an exchange student.  There is a new, fresh group of excited students who are getting ready to come to the USA for the 2010-2011 school year.  We talked and prayed, and finally decided we would like to host an exchange student again.  We have had a lot of fun looking at all of the students' profiles on the YFU website and reading their letters.  Our children are particularly excited and have enjoyed being part of the process.  We've even had Patrick give his input!  :)   There is always a need for new families who are interested in hosting an exchange student in the program. Our family is far from perfect.  In the beginning we really doubted we had anything to offer an exchange student.  In fact, we had many objections, which is very common, but we still expressed an interest in hosting.  We weren't opposed to the idea--we were in favor of it--we just didn't think our situation was ideal.  Our Field Director gently helped us see that host families are very diverse and answered each of our objections.  Perhaps our expectations about the exchange program changed.

Why would you want to stretch your comfort zone, be challenged to care for someone outside your extended family, or change your way of thinking about things???    For us, one reason is to provide a home for a student...meeting basic needs makes the program work.  We are compelled to do such a simple thing.  We also enjoy the chance to share our faith and our values, while learning about those of others.  It has been fun to get to know Patrick's family through him also.  We plan to keep in touch with them when he goes back.  Through this experience we have grown as people--we are better able to relate to others as we become more flexible/adaptable/trainable.

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You may argue that our situation has been exceptional.  And you are right.  There will never be another student like Patrick.  ((big grin))  But there are a LOT of bright students waiting for a placement.  Perhaps a student that will fit just right in your family. Mitch works as a volunteer with YFU and has had the opportunity to meet quite a few students currently placed in and around central MN.  There are many students he and I have gotten to know that we would be excited to host in our home.

YFU will be hosting several Go Global! events across Minnesota in the coming months.  From our Field Director, Marilyn Hostetler: "These are casual, social gatherings for neighbors interested in international education to meet each other and learn about hosting.  Interested families can learn about the benefits of hosting a foreign teen by talking with experienced host parents, YFU volunteers and students currently on exchange."  There will be one in St. Cloud on March 22 from 6:30-8 pm.  Save the date!  If you are interested, but can't come (or are located somewhere else--YFU operates all over the United States), feel free to ask me for information, and I can help get you pointed in the right direction.  Don't be afraid to check out the YFU home page and register so you can look at some of the great new students.

This is a great opportunity to impact the life of a student. The joy you experience may catch you by surprise. :)

And keep watching for more about Patrick. :)

1 comment:

  1. Marilyn Hostetler2/20/2010 10:18 PM

    Awesome blog! Thanks so much to both of you for being a wonderful host family, plus supporting this exchange experience that we mutually believe in!

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