We have thoroughly enjoyed having an International Student in our home this year. Our situation is unique, in that we do not have other children in our home. This was our 1st in 26 years of not having our own children at home (our daughter graduated from AACS in 2016). There will be challenges anytime you are incorporating a teenager into a family. That being said, our experience has greatly changed our lives for the better. Our minds have been opened to a larger world view. I so appreciate the opportunity we have and especially the courage it takes from the student's perspective. The International students come to a entirely new environment, culture, school, language, etc. without the security of their own family nearby. That makes them extremely vulnerable but the student is willing to trust us to care for them.
We have come to love this young man as our own, and refer to him as our Chinese son. I always encourage him to share his perspective with us (not saying "yes" or trying to "please us," as is their culture). One thing I have encouraged and appreciate is being asked "why" (when I do something). It has made me "think" and be more deliberate in what I do and say. An example was bringing home a Christmas tree and being asked why we put it in our house. I don't know, we always have done it that way all my life. I googled the origin and learned something new. This happens ALL THE TIME! Our family has learned much this year.
We purchased a wok and have enjoyed cooking together, Asian cuisine (which is a new experience for him too). Sharing our culture and Maryland traditions has been a joy (like cooking & eating crabs, our families birthday traditions, boating on the Chesapeake Bay, attending MD State Fair and watching pig races).
I can say that I have laughed more this year than any other year in my life. We find humor in our differences and our perspectives. We pray together each day as we drive to school (we hold hands while praying because I did with my children). This was awkward at first but has created an incredibly deep bond between us. We have many open-honest conversations that have greatly blessed both his life and our families members lives.
Yes, it is different and can be difficult, but isn't that what we are called as Christians to be: set apart for God's use. This summer my husband, daughter and I are planning to go to China to stay with his family. Which is very exciting for us and something we would have never considered before hosting our student. We call ourselves "family" and wish to share our cultures together. I know that God is going to use this in our lives in amazing ways. We will see, first hand, how difficult it can be being immersed into a totally different environment. This year He has afforded us the rare privilege to share Jesus in another person, in our home on a daily basis, that has exponential potential for when he returns to China and ultimately for God's Kingdom.
Toni Baden & family