|Every Friday, Candace Lehman '06, Charles Richey '08, and Anthony Thomas '06 (pictured left to right) gather with a group of friends to enjoy a meal together before attending a Bible study at the Rafiki House, a special-interest residence for international students. This daily "dinner club" is yet another representation of expressions of hospitality among Messiah College students.
Though they are far from home, Messiah’s international students are known for their hospitality. The Rafiki House, a special-interest residence for international students, hosts a weekly Bible study open to all and attended by students, alumni, professors, and even members of the local community. Every Friday night, everyone is welcome to study and worship—in whatever language or style is most meaningful to them. Gerald Mwangi ’07 from Nairobi, Kenya, says of this weekly gathering, “At Bible study, you come to meet the world in one place.”
As Minoska Villegas ’95 witnesses the international students interacting with U.S. students, she sees “more of what the community of God is supposed to look like.” With students from Bolivia to China, and from England to Ethiopia, it might seem impossible to
imagine people from such diverse backgrounds and cultures living together in peace. “One of the things that amazes me is that our international students come from different countries and they all get along,” Minoska reflects. “When I see that, I think, ‘We have a lot to learn in this country about understanding and accepting one another.’”
Lawrence Burnley, the associate dean for multicultural programs and special assistant to the provost for diversity affairs, diligently works toward sustaining and supporting the increasing international student population. He says, “At the end of the day, my goal is to have the preeminence of Christ, whose life is the perfect example of hospitality, be evident in how Messiah College serves our guests from around the world.” The Office of Multicultural Programs diligently works towards this goal by providing tangible ways for faculty, students, and staff to constructively, thoughtfully, and compassionately consider and address issues of reconciliation and establish a welcoming and inclusive campus culture for all people.
As they arrive in Grantham to embark on their college careers, most first-year students—regardless of their countries of origin—are bombarded with unfamiliar people and surroundings. Whether it’s the changing of seasons, unusual customs, making new friends, sharing a room with a roommate, or studying new subjects—Messiah’s international and U.S. students alike need time to adjust and transition into this journey of personal, vocational, and spiritual growth. For many, as they learn and live together, the Messiah College community eventually becomes like a family to them. But for Agaba Bisengo, the connection runs even deeper. She says, “Messiah is my home.”
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