Family shares life, Christ with international students
    October 8 2013 by Shawn Hendricks, BR managing editor

    For the pastor of Three Forks Baptist Church in Boone there is a “down side” to the relationships and ministry his congregation and family have built with international students at Appalachian State University (ASU).
    At the end of the semester most of these students will return to their home country, and it will be like losing family, said David Ricker, who has been pastor of the 100-member church since 2006. While Ricker and his wife Linda have a busy life with four kids of their own, they “adopted” an ASU student from South Korea and welcomed her friends into their family to “live life” through Host the Nations. The effort, spearheaded by international campus ministry leader Anna Kilby, has changed their life.
    “They become like your children,” Ricker said. “If there is a drawback to it, it’s the empty-nest syndrome that you have in that short amount of time.”

    Contributed photo
    David and Linda Ricker, seen here with some of their family, have opened their home to international students at Appalachian State University. Part of the effort is to help expose them to American culture.

    The Rickers first met their student, Hyerin, during an event hosted in August by ASU that works with Kilby to pair international students with families and introduces the students to American culture. The Rickers and Three Forks Baptist Church also host meals each week on campus for internationals and helped Kilby present a “Welcome to America” grill-out dinner during the second week of the semester.
    The event drew more than 50 international students. This year there are about 90 international students on campus.
    Since then, the Rickers have also welcomed some of Hyerin’s international friends – students from South Korea, Thailand, South Africa, Germany and Mexico – into their family.
    During the last few weeks, the family has been able to share some of the finer things of American culture that include riding a jet ski, home-cooked meals, Krispy Kreme doughnuts, a trip to Dollywood, salt and vinegar chips, a Cook Out® Restaurant milkshake and many trips to Wal-Mart.
    “It’s been like Christmas every day because everything they experience is brand new,” Ricker said. “… Some would call it Southern hospitality but it’s really just the love of God.“It’s a challenge to be at a university, period – even in your own country, much less if you’re [from] across the world,” he added.
    “Now you’re in a whole different culture, a whole different environment. You’re away from your family. You’re away from your friends. You’re trying to speak a language that’s foreign to you …  and adapt to that culture at the same time. It’s just a whole lot.”
    Soon after the family met Hyerin and her new friends, the Rickers invited them to Three Forks Baptist.
    “We’ve got a Catholic, two Protestants of faith, a Buddhist and two atheists that are sitting there hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ in a way that has displayed love to them already,” Ricker said. “And they know that we’re not there to sell them anything; we’re just there sharing love.”
    Since then, other families at Three Forks have agreed to host a student next semester.
    Conversations and questions about the Ricker’s Christian faith come up naturally, he said. “Our goal as a church has been to be the family for them that they don’t have with them right now,” Ricker said. “[But] let’s take it a step further; let’s let them see the love of Jesus. … We want to show them the culture, yes, but more importantly let them see the love of God. [It’s] … not with an agenda other than to love them.”
    While the Rickers see Hyerin three to four times a week and communicate regularly through Facebook, they acknowledge that some families might not have that much time to invest. Ricker suggests “just do stuff with them” when you can and invite them to come along whether you’re spending the day on a lake or taking a trip to a store.
    Ricker challenges other churches to also see this as a way they can directly get involved with international missions. “This is an opportunity where the international missions comes to their door,” he said. “And they can reach out across the world and not even leave their house.”
    Kilby said the Rickers have gone “above and beyond” her expectations from when she first asked the church to host meals on campus. She added that one of the families of the students has asked to meet and thank the Rickers for helping their daughter adjust.
    “[The Rickers] have totally embraced these students ... and made them a part of their family which is the ultimate vision I had for this program,” said Kilby, who provides training for churches in reaching out to international students. “This is a church that had no involvement with [campus ministry] until January … with anything we were doing. All they said was ‘yes.’”
    These relationships are important, Kilby said, because 80 percent of internationals in this country never set foot in an American home. Christian families, she said, help bring a special element to the program that Christian students may not be able to offer internationals.
    “[Students] can’t show an international student how to love their family and spouse and children and raise a Christian family,” she said. “You don’t have to shove a Bible down an international’s throat. Simply praying over your dinner could start a conversation. Just live life with these students.” 
    Through these relationships an international student and their entire family overseas could be impacted for Christ.
    “There is a bigger picture here,” Kilby said. “You could be impacting a country.
    “They will take Jesus with them when they leave the United States. A lot of these kids are from places that just are not easy to get into. … We can reach the world right on this campus.”
    10/8/2013 2:35:58 PM by Shawn Hendricks, BR managing editor | with 0 comments
    Filed under: ASU, international students

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