This month I have another exciting highlight from the Dennis family about their ministry to refugees and international students.  Jennifer Dennis has been working with internationals for three years and has found some great ways to reach out to refugees and international students with her whole family.

GKFTK: What ministries has your family been a part of to show God’s love to individuals coming from other countries? 

Dennis Family: Our family serves with the International Friendship Program that is a part of University of Houston as well as Houston Welcomes Refugees, an organization that welcomes refugees to our country.

GKFTK: How does your family serve an international student through the International Friendship Program? 

Dennis Family: We found out about this program through some friends of ours at church.  We then contacted the director of the program who met us at church one Sunday between services to present a quick overview about the program.  This also allowed him to get to know us better and we then completed paperwork that began the process for us to be matched with an International student.  Through this program, we were matched with a student who was seeking friendship with an American family, and we in turn have shared our lives with her by having her in our home for meals, bringing her to church, and celebrating birthdays together.  It has given her family back home great comfort to know we are serving her in their absence.

GKFTK: How does your family serve with Houston Welcomes Refugees?

Dennis Family:  I serve as the Move-In Team Coordinator, so my job is to manage the volunteers that lovingly prepare the apartments where our families will be living with essential items in order to make a house feel more like a home.  Along with serving on a Move-In Team, families can also help by purchasing household items and assembling them into welcome kits or by serving on a Welcome Team that provides friendship and guidance to a newly arriving refugee family. Our family has been involved by giving Christmas gifts to families and inviting them over to our house for dinner along with sharing meals together in their homes as well.  Hospitality is a big part of their culture, and they go out of their way to make us feel at home.  We also recently took them to a Christmas show at a nearby church, and they seemed to love the new experience along with connecting with others within our faith community. 

GKFTK: How has serving with international students been a positive experience for you kids? 

Dennis Family: I believe serving in this way has been a good experience for our girls because they have been able to gain insight into the uniqueness of other cultures and appreciate our differences as well as grow in their love for people outside their everyday sphere.

What are your kids favorite things about serving in this way? 

Dennis Family: One of our favorite things about serving is fellowshipping over food!  We have been introduced to new cuisine and my daughter is particularly fond of Mediterranean food.  I love lingering around the table with our families and working our way through conversation despite the language barrier.  This has also given me a chance to work on learning basic words in another language, and there is sometimes much laughter at my effort!  We have lots of fun, and this creates an even deeper connection.  Also, through conversation this helps these families improve their English skills as well.

How has your family made an impact on these students by serving in these ways?

Dennis Family: I believe we have made an impact by being the friend they need in an unfamiliar culture and by bringing Hope amidst uncertainty.  By spending intentional time together on a regular basis, they know we are here for them for the long term and are committed in our relationships with them.  There is so much blessing and joy that has been brought to life from these relationships.  As one of my refugee friends puts it, “we are like family” and we take heart knowing they are encouraged by our friendship and ultimately touched by our Lord.

GKFTK: Thank you for sharing your experiences serving with these great ministries to internationals!  It is clear from God’s Word that we are to welcome the immigrant and be kind to those in need, so what beautiful ministries to be a part of! I also love how you have involved your kids in sharing God’s love to those acclimating to our country. May He continue to use your family to make a difference in people’s lives for His glory!

Click here to find out more information about getting involved with these ministries.