November 30th, 2010 at 8:00 am
Asha*, a young mother in her late 20s, left her home country of China to join her husband in College Station as he pursues a doctorate degree in electrical engineering. Most days, Asha spends all her time at their small apartment taking care of their two-year-old daughter. She ventures out on her own from their home very little due to her lack of fluency in English.
She studied English in secondary school back home, but hasn’t had much conversation practice to make her feel comfortable in taking with the average Texan. Even if Asha’s English skills were better, she still wouldn’t be able to get a job due to their family gaining entrance to the U.S. through her husband’s student visa, leaving her without a legal way to apply for a job.
Because she can’t work and her lack of conversational English, she feels isolated. Asha represents hundreds of family members who come to the U.S. with a spouse who is attempting to gain higher education here and who feel the same way.
We’ve talked a lot about reaching out directly to the international students, but don’t forget the family members – the spouses and children who came with the student. Many international students are single and come to the U.S. without their parents or siblings. But for those who are married, they encounter additional hurdles to overcome as they have to help their families settle into life here.
Several churches across the state are trying to reach out to the spouses and children who are know trying to make a life for themselves here in Texas. Three churches in the Bryan/College Station are a great example of this type of effort.
Each Wednesday, ladies from First Baptist Bryan, First Baptist College Station and Central Baptist in College Station, gather to offer Discovery, a program for international wives and their preschoolers.
The wives meet each Wednesday morning during the semester for a free time of fellowship, classes and entertainment while their children are cared for in preschool classes of their own. The morning opens with a presentation based on a specific country, holiday or part of American culture. Then the leaders share a short Bible study. After this, the international wives break up into small groups of their choosing to attend one of the classes based on conversational English, art, sewing, knitting, beauty care, cooking, baking, quilting, discipleship and hospitality.
Each class holds about 15 wives and is led by two Texas women. This gives the local woman a chance to reach out to the wives, getting to know them and their families better. All the leaders strive to spend time each week with the women in their group outside of class, further strengthening the bond between them and providing more opportunities to share the love of Christ.
“Some of the girls were talking about feeling very welcomed and they are glad that there is someone they know cares about them,” said Stephanie Barrett, one of the volunteers who leads an art class in the program. “That is pretty cool that they noticed that. I know for each of the Christians that help with the class, we try to invite the girls in our class over outside of class to build relationships with them that way. I try to have the girls over once a week, and I know that through that, I have had a few conversations about being a Christian and what Christ has done for me.”
Outreach efforts like Discovery give Texas women a way to reach out to international students through activities they are already involved in or love.
“I was also new to the area and wanted to make friends so I got involved,” Barrett said. “I love telling them about Christ, especially international students who haven’t really heard about Jesus or much truth about what it means to be a Christian. I’m more of a relational evangelist… where I can go to a class and make friends with them and share with them over tea. It’s just a fun, easy way to share God’s love with them. We are just reaching out and doing things that women like to do any ways.”
For more information on the Discovery program, visit www.discoveryprogram.us.
*Asha is just a representation of international wives here in Texas and what they experience.
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