On Sunday night, we had the undergraduate leadership team over for dinner and their weekly leadership meeting. (We’ll be hosting them this semester, while Aaron is on sabbatical and Hans is working with the undergraduate InterVarsity chapter.) During dinner, Hans asked everyone to describe their winter break with one word. He started with the word, “exhausting”. When my turn came, I answered with the word, “refreshing”, to which everyone laughed… apparently they liked the contrast between our answers.
The truth is, exhausting is a valid word to describe the last four weeks. We spent the week before the break by working hard to get year-end ministry things done while also spending more time with international students than normal, since they were more available during the exam week. Then we jumped into the car and zoomed to Minnesota, to spend most of a week with my (Lindsay’s) family. My brother, who works a crazy night-shift schedule, was able to be there the whole time we were, and we spent the week playing games, enjoying food together, and of course, celebrating Christmas with all of the Williams family traditions.
The day after Christmas, we jumped into the car and made our way east across Wisconsin and the UP, to Hans’ parents’ house. Both of his sisters and their husbands were there for the weekend, and we enjoyed the time with them. Between playing games, installing solar lights on the woodshed (one of Dale and Mary’s Christmas presents), watching his sister’s bunny run around, and opening gifts, the one full day we were all together passed way too fast. After his sisters left, we had the rest of the week to enjoy being with Hans’ parents.
And then, on January 2nd, Hans and I left Caleb with Grandma and Grandpa and went home. Our time at home was short – just over 24 hours (in which we worked on finishing drywall) – and then we hopped on a plane and went to Texas. The purpose of the trip was to attend an International Student Ministry (ISM) conference near San Antonio, and we took advantage of the time to take a few days before the conference for ourselves.
Even though it was a big reason the break was exhausting, the conference was also what made it so refreshing. We had four days to spend with other like-minded staff, worshipping God, studying the Bible together, and sharing our ISM experiences. Hans and I asked questions, learned a ton, and were re-awakened to the passion that God has given us to serve international students. I went to the conference feeling like ISM was a job, and I left the conference being reminded of it as our calling.
Because our last flight was cancelled, we had to scramble to get home (and as a result had a fantastic visit with friends in Chicago). But that meant we arrived (via an overnight bus) just nine hours before we hosted the leadership meeting I mentioned above. Even with all of that, and though it was hard to leave Caleb for so long, I am incredibly thankful that we had the chance to go to the conference. Here’s to 2015 and what God has in store!
Last Friday we hosted an international worship night at InterVarsity’s large group meeting, led by students from International Fellowship Association (our International Student Ministry). We were excited to share the experience with a handful of friends from the community, as well. It was a wonderful celebration of God’s love for all cultures and languages as we sang, heard scripture, and prayed – in a total of nine languages. For a sampling, see the pictures below:
Our Bible studies on Saturday nights have continued to be a place of diverse cultures coming together in fellowship and study. Last week we had one of the largest (and mixed) groups yet:
- Two Americans (the two of us)
- Two Thai students
- Two Indian students
- Two Chinese students
- Four Nigerian Students
Exam week we held a big Christmas party with international students where we ate lots of good food, learned a little about Christmas traditions, and had a white elephant gift exchange. (Caleb made out with a nerf shotgun, so he enjoyed his first white elephant experience!)
Since beginning the new semester, we’ve started holding international dinners again and had our first one last Saturday. The dinners were held every other week last year, and we didn’t realize how great it was to have a chance to eat and chat with international students we don’t see all of the time until we stopped holding the dinners. We’re excited to have them going again.
We attended Chinese Night in January, which celebrates the Chinese New Year. The night included dinner and a performance, and we enjoyed yummy Chinese food (including one of our favorites – Chinese dumplings) and got to see the Chinese student group put their twist on the folk story The Lotus Lantern. Even though we’d never heard the story before it was easy to follow along and was very funny!
Looking Ahead: There are a bunch of other celebrations coming up. The first one is this tomorrow – African Night (March 1). International Night is March 23, Iranian New Year is March 29, and the Thai New Year Festival is April 5.
If you’re in the area and interested in attending one of these events, let us know and we’ll help you get tickets!
Two weeks ago we invited the jovenes (college students) from church over to play games. We’ve had them over several times before, but not for the specific reason of playing games. (Although, they do ask to play Dutch Blitz every time they come over, so we’ve played games with them before.)
This time, I was able to play Dutch Blitz with a bunch of students because Caleb was happily walking around the apartment in his walker. While we were playing, Hans introduced the rest of the group to Bohnanza, a card game that involves planting beans and harvesting them for gold coins. He later told me that he thinks it is easier to lead Bible study in Spanish than it was to teach the group to play the game in Spanish!
One of the girls in the group celebrated her birthday earlier in the week, so the jovenes surprised her with a birthday cake. She took the traditional “bite” of the cake, but the group was nice to her and didn’t smash it in her face. (Yep, it’s a real tradition here. We’ve both had birthday cake smashed in our faces!)
I know I’ve said it before, but we are thankful for our friendships at church and for the ability to host the jovenes in our apartment! We’re going to miss them a lot.