The Value of Thanksgiving Hosting

When I was an international student studying abroad in Spain, I had many memorable moments. Some were great because of the speculator nature of them: surfing in Portugal, wandering the ruins of Pompeii, seeing the marvel of Michelangelo’s David in Florence, standing in a bull-fighting arena, walking by breath-taking cathedrals, rowing through canals with my friends.

And some moments were great in their simplicity, like eating dinner with a Spanish family during an important Spanish holiday. I remember the day well. My host parents brought me to their relative’s house, a short walk from where we lived on the river, and we helped set the table. We pulled up a couch and some chairs around the table, and then we simply ate together. The Spanish family was falling into their familiar ways and speaking rapidly in Spanish to each other, a little too fast for me to follow the whole conversation, but I remember the feeling clearly: I felt warm, happy, at home. Even if I couldn’t understand all of what was being said, I felt the love, and I felt like part of the family. That was enough for the memory to stay with me years later.

We have the opportunity to share this kind of love this Thanksgiving. International students in the Twin Cities are far away from home and often homesick for family. Their cultures don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, but they have the time off from school with nothing to do. Through Hospitality Center, we can sign up to host a student or two for Thanksgiving. Maybe hosting a student means adding a chair or two to your elaborate dining room spread. Maybe it means pulling up a couch to your makeshift table. The setting doesn’t matter. The love, family, and connection are what stays with students for years to come.  

I’ve hosted a student for Thanksgiving many times over the years. I’ve watched students excitedly try Thanksgiving foods, learn the rules of games my family played, and participate in the “what are you thankful for” conversation. They lean in so eagerly into the experience, and it’s amazing to watch them discover an American holiday.

The connection you establish at a family-oriented day like Thanksgiving is a unique one, and it opens so many opportunities to share the gospel. After Thanksgiving passed, I had many spiritual conversations with the Chinese friend I hosted. She once texted me that she lost her credit card and was obviously concerned and frazzled. I told her I would pray and did just that immediately. I asked God that not only would she find her credit card right away, but that she would find it in a silly spot and laugh about it. A minute later, I received a text from her that said, “I found it in my hat!!”

I’ve been hosted, and I’ve hosted, and I can assure you that there is value here. My family is hosting a couple from Bangladesh this year, and I can’t wait! A simple invitation to your Thanksgiving table could not only offer an international student a piece of home, but it could also launch you into a deep friendship where you can learn, grow, and share your faith. Let’s embrace this opportunity together!

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Posted by Hannah Varberg

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