By Michael Ireland and Bill Bray, ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net)
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA (ANS – Oct. 27, 2016) – For many of the 1.2 million international students in the USA, this Thanksgiving will be their first opportunity to experience the inside of an American home.
For American “Friendship Hosts” it is a great opportunity to extend a welcome, share cultures and build new relationships during the most American of all American holidays.
November 10 is the “Friendship Family” host deadline this year. Church volunteers and host families need to let local leaders know as early as possible if they want to be matched with an international student guest for Thanksgiving, Nov. 24.
The need for friendship family hosts is huge, says Debra Yarde of the OSM Operation Esther Circle. “The presidential election has captured the imaginations and focus of many Americans this year and both students and host families are slow to register.
“By now, here in Charlottesville for example, we should be working with dozens of local churches and individuals. Usually our registration deadline is the first week of November, but because of election fever, we have postponed it until November 10,” said Yarde.
“However, even with the delayed deadline, we still are promoting Thanksgiving Meal Matches right during the election – but people are just not ready to think about Thanksgiving or the Christmas holidays yet! I suspect we will see a last-minute rush and many disappointments if we don’t plan ahead now.”
“Operation Esther Circle” is the local community prayer group that supports international outreach on university campuses, and is sponsored by The Overseas Students Mission (OSM).
The OSM National Headquarters are located in Charlottesville, VA and OSM is seeking to match-up students with community friendship hosts in 3,500 campus communities across the country. Their community volunteers work with University officials, local campus ministries, churches and community groups to find host families.
Among the campus ministries cooperating with OSM in the effort are Ambassador’s for Christ, Bridges International, Cai Alpha, Cru/Bridges International, International Friends Meet, International Students, Intervarsity ISM, Navigators and many denominational groups as well as ACMI (The Association of Christians Ministering among Internationals).
If possible, friendship hosts should be willing to set two extra places at their holiday table.
Host families should be able to provide safe transportation to and from the University.
“We recommend that you invite a pair of students rather than a single student,” said Yarde. “That way they can feel more comfortable and conversation is easier.”
For more details, please talk to volunteers at the Thanksgiving Match-Up Desk, Overseas Students Mission, 434-295-6488 or 434-227-0811 or visit the website www.OSMission.org and click on the home page “Thanksgiving RSVP” feature.
Photo captions: 1) Debra Yarde 2) Students praying. 3) Bill Bray. 4) Michael Ireland.
About The Writers: Michael Ireland is a senior correspondent for Assist News. Bill Bray is an author, retired foreign correspondent and freelance journalist who specializes in Christian missions, international students and university ministries. He has traveled on assignment to over 65 countries. Bray welcomes interaction with our readers about the topics he covers and can be contacted personally at email@example.com.
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