International Students Get a Unique Taste of American Culture

Post a Comment » Written on February 13th, 2007     
Filed under: News
LITTLE FALLS, MN (February 13, 2007) – A dozen international students were the special guests of Grace Covenant Church recently, when the congregation held its annual wild game feed event. The event, aimed at those in the community who enjoy hunting, featured meals made from venison, pheasant, salmon, halibut, mallard, and groundhog.

“The students were willing to try everything,” says Lois Hokanson, the church’s outreach pastor.

“Grace Covenant always has a wild game feed each winter as one of its outreach events geared to men and boys who enjoy hunting and wildlife,” adds Hokanson. More than half the attendees come from outside the church.

Guests at this year’s event included students from as far away as Nepal, Sri Lanka, Korea, and Malaysia. The students attend nearby St. Cloud State University and are new to the area, having arrived a few weeks before the event, Hokanson says.

Ten of the students had never been inside a church before.

“When they took a tour of the building and came to the sanctuary, they immediately sat down on the pews and had their friends take their picture,” Hokanson says. “They were very curious and asked many questions about Christianity and the Covenant Church.”

More than food was on the event schedule. A natural resource specialist from Camp Ripley spoke on wildlife projects involving bears and wolves. Pastor Joel Osterlund, an outdoor enthusiast, also gave an inspirational talk.

Hokanson said she had a chance to talk to a number of students, and said many were dealing with culture shock and loneliness—
many come from cultures where they live with extended families.

“They so longed for opportunities to connect with community families who could become their surrogate parents and grandparents. They also treasured the opportunity to be around young children,” she said.

Their appreciation was evident in an email from a Nepalese student. He wrote, “I feel like I am a part of the family. The foods were great.” Another student from Malaysia said he would join the church for its ice-skating event February 24.

Many of the students had met church members three weeks earlier, during an orientation event on campus. Twenty-eight volunteers from Grace, located 30 miles from the campus, had provided a soup supper for the university’s 100 new international students. The students had arrived on campus before the school’s food service was open for the new semester.

St. Cloud State has more than 600 international students on campus with a majority coming from countries often referred to as the 10/40 window, Hokanson says. The 10/40 window is an area of the world that contains the largest population of non-Christians. It extends from 10 degrees to 40 degrees north of the equator, and stretches from North Africa across to China.

“These countries are often closed to Christian missionaries,” Hokanson says. “Grace Covenant realizes it has a wonderful opportunity to extend God’s grace to individuals who have never heard the gospel. Cross-cultural hospitality will do much for the students and families involved.”

The church is planning an event for women in March. Members plan to attend cultural events sponsored by the students including a Chinese New Years gala later this month.

For more information on the church’s ministry, contact Hokanson at (320) 632-3284

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