By David Lin, Former ISI Staff
Here are a couple of pointers specific for Thanksgiving hospitality because the situation is usually very different from a regular dinner with the student as a Friendship Partner. Mostly because now there are many other guests, and the host is usually preoccupied. No doubt you have prepared a feast for everyone, but your hospitality should also include efforts to make the student feel welcome, comfortable, and engaged in conversation or activities most of the time.
- Please call the student as soon as possible to invite them to dinner and to arrange a ride if they need one.
- Pray about hosting the students during your family dinner prayer several days before and one day after Thanksgiving.
- If you think this could work for you, you could ask if the student (especially female) would be interested in coming in early and help you in the kitchen as a way of learning about how you prepare the Thanksgiving dinner. Don't forget to thank them and let everyone know about their contribution to the dinner.
- This may well be the first time a student ever sees a whole roasted turkey, so before you carve the turkey, do ask if they would like to see it or take a picture. Students are usually interested in taking pictures with the whole roasted turkey, having you take a picture of them carving it (or pretending to carve it), or a picture with you and the turkey. This will be a lot of fun and a special memory for the student (and you).
Possible problems and how to avoid them:
Students can easily feel left out or at lost when other Americans are talking so fast in their own conversation. This can happen especially since Thanksgiving is usually a time for family reunion, your family members and relatives need to catch up with each other and will be so focused on that that it will be hard even for trained volunteers to include students in their conversations. With the host often tied up with preparing and serving the dinner, the worst scenario could be the student being left alone with other guests showing no interest in them. It can also happen when other guests are playing games such as pool for several rounds, without feeling the need to include the students or explaining to them what they are doing.
- Inform other family members and guests that the international student(s) are also invited, and explain to them the significance of International student ministry.
- During the gathering, introduce the student to your family members and other guests, one at a time if possible. Try to introduce the student to someone you think might be good with international students and encourage them to talk for a while. You could also ask the person to continue to introduce the student to the next person at the end of their conversation.
- Please be aware that you are not just having a casual guest over. You are really undertaking a cross-cultural hospitality ministry when you invite an international student into your home. If you will be very busy hosting, it will be a good idea to designate someone else as the welcoming "Ambassador" to look out for your international guest. This might be a person who is very alert and intentional to help include the student in the on-going conversations or to occasionally steer them into a topic in which the student can participate. It may not be practical to expect all other guests to have this kind of sensitivity. But you could certainly have ONE person be on the look out for this!
- During the dinner, have the student sit next to you or next to the designated welcoming person.
- Please also read the general dinner hosting tips. They should be very helpful.