Fully Alive in God’s Story
We know that International Programs can generate revenue and fill enrollment gaps for Christian schools, but can an International Program actually help fulfill your schools’ mission? Can International Programs glorify God, educate for wholeness, and shape God’s world?
Most schools have had challenging, even frustrating, experiences with International students — students who come with behavioural and learning difficulties and who do not integrate well into our school communities. Some experiences are positive, but perhaps you are left wondering if there is any lasting impact.
Allow me to share with you the stories of two students who attended SCSBC schools.
When I first met Allen, he was an awkward grade 9 student with limited English communication skills. To be honest, my first impression of him was that he would not make it to graduation. He struggled in his classes, his homestay, and his friendships. Before coming to Canada, Allen describes his life as being “chaotic and utterly hopeless. Chaotic because I was physically and emotionally abused which led to my dysfunctional behaviour. Hopeless because the path I was traversing was always a dead-end.”
Over the course of four years, many people impacted Allen’s life, helping him to see his identity in Christ. Allen says, “My host family and instructors have influenced my life significantly by valuing the importance of forgiveness, diligence, and respect for others and have taught me what it means to live a life of integrity.” The relationships he built helped reshape his purpose in life, which he now believes is to serve God and others.
Reflecting on the transformation in his life, Allen says, “My life would certainly be different if I had not gone to a Christian school, in that it would be a world of confusion, doubts, hopelessness and frustration.” Allen believes his life now can be encapsulated in one biblical verse, paraphrased from Jeremiah 29:11:
Before coming to Canada, Tsubasa attended a Buddhist school in Japan which offered a year abroad program for students wishing to improve their English and have a new cultural experience. Tsubasa agreed to attend a Christian school, despite having no interest in Christianity and a negative perception of religion in general. Wanting to make the most of his one year at a Canadian school, Tsubasa worked hard in his classes, was intentional in developing his English skills, and got involved in as many extra-curricular activities as he could.
Tsubasa quickly realized that there were many challenges with studying abroad and building relationships due to cultural differences. Tsubasa says that when he was feeling overwhelmed by these challenges, his teachers gave him advice, not only for his academics but also for life, and influenced him to believe that studying isn’t everything in life. Tsubasa was also greatly impacted by his Christian host family. He says “My host family is undoubtedly one of the best families in the world and in my entire life. They treated me as actually one of their family members and taught me anything I asked them. My deepened understanding of Christianity and English skills comes from them.”
Tsubasa’s perception of Christianity completely changed during his time at a Christian school. He says, “As I kept learning about Christianity and getting to know my Christian host family, I was extremely amazed at their wonderful kindness and the way they live their lives. Because I could learn and know God in Christian school, I now thank God that I can live this wonderful life every day.”
Tsubasa currently attends a Christian university in Tokyo.
If your school welcomes International Students, I’m sure you have stories like Allen’s and Tsubasa’s as well; stories of lives transformed by the good news of Christ; stories of teachers and homestay families who took the time to get to know these students, encourage them, and speak truth into their lives.
Your school’s International Program is one amazing way to fulfill your schools’ mission. Through your staff and students, your program will glorify God, educate for wholeness, and shape God’s world. I encourage you to speak to those involved in your International Program- your ELL Instructors, your Homestay Coordinators, your EAs — and listen to these stories from your own community. If you are encouraged by their stories, I would love to hear them as well!
Amber Watson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
SCSBC International Student