A Message for You

God’s grace evident in a stranger

by REV. LAURIE TENHAVE-CHAPMAN
First Congregational Church, Rockford

“Whad’ya think?” I asked my husband after we read an article in the paper. It gave a brief bio on a couple of exchange students who still needed host families to make their dream of studying in America come true. We had both talked about serving as a host family before, but weren’t actively looking at the time. Somehow I had been drawn to read the article in which young people from far away vulnerably described their gifts and their hopes. One jumped off the page at me and, as my husband read about her, seemed like the right fit to him, too.

We called the number listed to make a preliminary inquiry. We checked with each of our kids to see how they felt about opening our home to a stranger. They each gave their blessing and we had signed on the dotted line within two weeks of casually perusing that newspaper! Somehow we knew that this decision was not simply our own, but that God was at work. We made the necessary preparations and welcomed her at the airport last August.

What a wonderful year it has been! How can you grow to love a complete stranger who moves into your home? The starting point is prayer: channeling God’s love to this new family member. Being open-minded and flexible are critical qualities when sharing space with a newcomer. Expecting to learn from them even as they learn from you will bring untold gifts your way.

Berenice has broadened the world of my children. We have been reminded that we are pretty much the same around the world. We are all God’s children!

The State Department underwrites the Foreign Exchange Student Program as they believe this is one of the great ways to bring peace to our world. This national priority shows great insight!

The Hebrew people are reminded in Deuteronomy 10:19, “You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”

Jesus praised the righteous believers by saying, “For I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”

We have learned that in a beautiful way this year in our own family.

We will mourn her departure as she flies home to France this week, but assure her that she will always be a part of our family.

Tempted to join in this peacemaking process of turning a stranger into a friend? Give me a call. I can tell you some wonderful stories of God’s grace!

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