“So how did it come about that you are hosting an exchange student?”
This question in various forms has passed through my ears into my brain countless times in the last couple months. The fascinating thing is I literally have no clue where the idea came from initially. I was standing at my stove making breakfast one morning and the next thing I knew I was pondering what it might be like to host an exchange student. I quickly put it out of my mind for a multitude of reasons and went about my day.
But, obviously, since here we are 8 months later with a teenager living in my home, it didn’t actually stay out of my mind for long.
Later that day I was preparing for a youth lock-in that weekend. We were going to hang out at the church that night and then do service projects with a local organization the next day. A few hours before students arrived the director of the organization called and informed us that due to circumstances outside their control about 3/4 of the project we were supposed to do the next day wouldn’t be able to be done. With a few hours to try to pull something together I began scouring the internet and other connections and resources to figure out what to do with 30 teenagers. I had used a volunteer matching website to plan some past mission trips and decided to quick see if there happened to be any opportunity for groups on there. Opportunities for 30 teenagers to serve in their community the next day were not among the results… but opportunities for WNYers to host a foreign exchange student next year were. Screen after screen, search after search, “host an exchange student” kept appearing before my eyes. Again I quickly put the thought of a teenager in my home out of my mind to attend to the tasks necessary to welcome dozens of them into our church that night.
However, the “coincidence” wasn’t lost on me and after recovering what turned out to be a great lock-in I began seriously praying about whether God was potentially leading me down this path. Without giving details at first I also asked a few close friends to begin praying about this as well as another related idea that had come to mind, both of which would involve living with other people.
As I prayed no clear answer was given, but the concept of hosting kept appearing in my life in the most random of places.
Later that week, or maybe the next, I was filling in for someone helping cook and serve the Lenten Dinners at our church. While filling containers with applesauce so the woman next to me could put cinnamon on them, she made the statement, “I think we should leave some without cinnamon. I had a foreign exchange student 22 years ago and he didn’t like cinnamon. Maybe someone doesn’t like cinnamon.” At least one or two times before the night was over, she had brought her exchange son up randomly in conversation.
If this didn’t get my attention enough, I found myself only a few days later in a conversation with a woman in the choir I’m in as she described the trip she was preparing to go on to visit the AFS student her family hosted while she was in high school.
Along with my prayers, I decided to start taking some small steps of exploration. I visited some websites. I had some conversations with people who know and love me. I researched different programs and step by step I found myself getting more and more excited about this opportunity.
So, really, I’m not exactly sure how I got into this adventure. No one asked me to host. No one even presented me with the idea. It just came to mind as I cooked breakfast on February Friday morning, but my life has never been the same, and for that I’m grateful!