Integrating Foreigners, July 26, 1999


. First priority needs to be identifying people. The church should have a list of all foreign-born people attending, and a list of people who could be host families. This should include people who have been here for 30 years (e.g. John Svaan), which will make the recent arrivals feel less out of place. Info needed:
Email address
phone number
Country of origin
Status (student, post-doc, professor, restaurant owner, etc.)
Family status here-- wife, kids, etc.?
Which service they usually attend--9am, 10:30, or evening.

Once this information is available, it will be much easier to get matches going. It would be good to match hosts with student who go to the same worship service, for example.


. Start with students currently on the church rolls. Once they are provided for, worry about others.

The elders and some sociable students shoudl get together with the entire church roll and go down the list, noting down whatever information each person has on each person on the list. This can be done in a big meeting, or sequentially, with the annotated list being passed along.

The problem of getting information on students not currently on the church rolls is the same as the problem of getting information on visitors generally. (1) A strong request every six months from the pulpit that everyone, old-timers and new folks, fill out the bulletin flaps is one thing to do. (2) The preacher or officiating elders should stand at the doors after services and learn visitors' names. Next to them should stand someone who will write down the names for them. Also, the preacher, after a brief hello, can pass the visitor to the other person for a real conversation so the preacher can get to the next visitor.


It would be extremely helpful to ahve a photo directory. Does ECC hav that already for members? In any case, it should ahve a special one for foreign students, since they come and go. It should have photos and should have pronunciatiojns of foreign and American names both. Photos are important, because people forget names and get too embarassed to talk to other people. Photos can be taken with a digital camera at no expense.


. I'll call them students, but the foreigners will not all be students. Also, it's more important, not less important, for married students with children to have host families. Children raise the need for lots of advice.

Every student should be personally offered the chance to have a host. The student should not have to request it. When they should be offered this is a tough question-- after one visit, 3 visits, membership...?

The relationship should be two-way. Thus, the student should be told that he should invite the host to his home or to some event at least once-- for dessert, or a meal, or just for coffee. Ideally it would be to his home, but for cultural reasons that might not work.


. As for host families: simply asking for volunteers won't work. The church elders should identify potential hosts and ask them if they want to do it. They should not just think who would like to do it, but who ought to do it. They should tell them exactly what they should do-- Plan A and Plan B below are possibilities. This will make it clear that this is not hard. It is, in fact, a good way for someone not filling any role in the church to help, exercising the gift of hospitality. Each host should have at least two students, since it isn't much harder to do things with two people than with one (but with more than 2, transportation is unwieldy).

PLAN A. The host family should be told that they must:

1. Ask the student over to their home at least once a year.
2. Go to the student's home at least once a year. (Or do something else at the invitation of the student.)
3. Invite the student to at least one other event, such as a church picnic, a high school basketball game, or the county fair.

Hosts should be told specifically, in writing, how they can do things (as with FAQs in the computer world). There should be a long list of suggestions for events to which to take the student. There should be comments on what kind of food to serve at dinner.

Plan A doesn't sound like much, but it actually is, and some hosts will fail to fulfill their obligations. Something must be done to handle this. Some supervisor must ask them all after 3 months how they are doing on the three things above, and repeat the question after 6 months. They should be told in advance that the supervisor will ask them how they are doing. If a host fails completely, the supervisor should take care of that student himself.

PLAN B.The host family will simply be a contact. The student meets them after church one day, and that is the only obligatory contact. If, however, the student needs help-- if he is arrested, sued, hospitalized, etc.-- he should feel completely free to call up the host for help.

Every single student should be covered by Plan B, at least. Ideally, the relationship would be much deeper than even Plan A. But it is best to start with something practical. If that works, increase the pressure.


The Monroe County Fair is coming up. That is a very good event to which to take foreigners. It is very American, and perhaps a bit scary to go to solo.

Morel-hunting in the spring is another good outing.


A few days ago I ordered copies of interlinear English-Japanese, English-Korean, and English-Spanish New Testaments with the intention of giving copies to ECC, Good Shepherd, and Sherwood Oaks. Visitors could be pointed towards these, so they can follow along better. (Arabic, Hebrew, and Russian also.)

Even better, tho, would be week-by-week translations of the readings to be used in the service. One person would be in charge of this-- a shy, responsible foreign student would be a good person to be in charge. The chruch office would let the person know by email what the readings would be. The person would then go to the Web and get 5 foreign translations, and put all 6 into a computer file. He would email that back to the church office, which would make 20 copies for the service. These would be put near the entrance, where visitors could see them,with a big sign in the 6 languages.


There are various Bible study groups based on languages, and these groups are disconnected from any churches. The church could adopt an entire Bible study. What could we do for them? I'm not sure, but it would be worth finding out. They could attend a local church as a group, and the church coudl make special accommodation for them-- as with the scripture translations in the previous section.

This,however, is something to do only when the students currently attending the church are taken care of.

Do not set up a Bible study or Sunday school group especially for foreigners. That defeats integration, and looks suspiciously like segregation, even if meant kindly. See what's happened to African-Americans in colleges because of this kind of segregation.


A pastor or a pastor's wife should stop by parties such as the Halloween party, just to chat a bit with the students. Someone shoudl make sure everyone gets introduced. The pastor does not have to stay long-- just put in an appearance. The pastor's wife is a suitable substitute, especially for women students. The idea is to get some human contact with the pulpit.


The easiest evangelism is to people already coming to church. If the church can't integrate those people, it's pretty silly to tackle the atheists.

Next easiest is to make it convenient for Christians or interested unbelievers to come to ECC. The church shoudl have little cards, wallet-sized, with directions from campus, times of services, and the web address of the church. (The phone number is much less important-- a foreigner who doesn't speak English well is not going to want to phone up and ask for directions or times.) Church members should carry one of these cards with them to give to people. From the pulpit in September, members shoudl be encouraged to ask new students, etc. whether they would like to go to church and pass out the cards.

Back to the Rasmusen Homepage.