student doesn’t look forward to Christmas break? For many it’s their
first chance to go home after a long semester at school. It’s a
chance for them to relax and catch up on sleep! It’s a chance to be
with family and friends, eat home cooked meals, and share in the celebrations
and traditions of Christmas.
most international students, Christmas is a very lonely time. Many
can’t afford to return to their home countries, they have been separated from
their families for a long time, the dormitories are empty and sometimes closed,
and there is no one around to explain the meaning of Christmas.
International House (CIH) is a nation-wide ecumenical-based program which
provides friendship and hospitality to international students during two weeks
of the Christmas holidays. International students finally have the
opportunity to visit a home, experience American family culture and Christmas
and more churches and communities which see the value of cross-cultural
interaction are getting involved with CIH. Congregations are finding
joy in sharing the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ and in sharing
God’s love with people from all around the world. Through the
generous hospitality and financial support of these churches, civic groups,
American hosts, and volunteers, international students have an incredible
See a different part of the country than where they are going to school
Discover the business of a big city, or enjoy a quiet rural area
Participate in an American family life for two weeks
Amend false impressions of Americans and our way of life
Eat home cooked meals!
Learn about and experience Christianity and the Christmas
Share their own culture and foods with their host and other
Meet students from around the world, some of whose nations may
even be hostile towards one another.
WHO ARE THE STUDENTS?
students from around the world – their country’s best and brightest – come to
the US to study each year. Many of these students obtained government grants and
visas, others had to compete for a scholarship, still others are trying to pay
their own way. They are determined
to improve themselves and their country by coming to America to
study. These international students have aspirations to become Prime
Ministers, Cabinet Members, lawyers, educators, scientists, politicians, and
feel tremendous pressure to succeed and when their studies do not go well at
first, they become anxious and depressed. Most are not fully
prepared for American collegiate life and suffer culture shock. Language may be a barrier to making friends and
participating in school events. So
many new and perplexing sights, sounds, customs, and mannerisms may make them
homesick and feel lonely.
experiences in our schools and communities will shape their minds and hone
their skills, which could change the course of history. Their
experiences with American people and Christian homes will shape their hearts
and challenge their values.
as these students believe that one person CAN impact the world, so does CIH and
we invite you to be part of a life that could impact the world.
believes that despite diverse manners of dress, accent, religion, age, skin
color, level of education or political ideologies, everyone stands together as
one human family. While sponsored and predominantly funded by churches, it
is important to note that CIH is a friendship and hospitality program, not an
evangelizing program. We believe our faith is modeled through our actions,
friendship, hospitality, and love for strangers.
International House began in 1965 when Harry F. “Pete” Petersen, Assistant Minister
at First Presbyterian Church in Huntington, West Virginia suggested to his
congregation that there was a need for housing international students over the
Christmas holiday. He and his wife sent letters to colleges and universities
east of the Mississippi River to invite international students to come to West
Virginia for the holidays. That
first year, they hosted 180 students in their church! With such an overwhelming response by the students,
Reverend Petersen was convinced that the program was desired by the students
and was a mission opportunity to show ‘hospitality to the foreigner among us’
the enthusiastic response of both the students and the hosts, the Board of
World Missions of the Presbyterian Church in the United States – then located
in Nashville – decided to expand and coordinate the program to other interested
communities and students. In 1966, seven churches in other states joined
the program and in 1967, a total of 14 churches participated. Eventually,
the program spread nationwide and now consists of over 30 participating cities
with the headquarters located in the AMIS Office in Atlanta, Georgia. At its peak, 1,500 students were hosted across the
nation. More than 40,000
International students have participated in the program since 1965 with 20,000
turned away due to lack of space. A number of the students are “repeats” as they realize the joy of
lasting, other-than-academic friendships made through this contact.
For the duration of the Christmas holidays, each host community
plans a program of activities for its group of students. Accommodations
are provided in private homes or in group housing. Opportunities are made
for the students to know the local families in their homes and businesses through
shared meals and parties, joint sightseeing and daily excursions.
Students in a Florida Christmas International House may spend the holidays
swimming, those in Pennsylvania skiing.
of the host communities are local churches and through Christmas International
House, the congregations gain the chance to know personally, people from other
parts of the world and to express their “love for the sojourner.” Some of
the students are Christian; many are not. Christmas International House
is a program of hospitality and friendship rather than an evangelizing
program. Dialogue and exchange of ideas characterizes the program
rather than efforts to change views and beliefs.
long-time observer of this program has said, “In these days of ‘global village’
and internationalization of the Christian mission, the Christmas International
House program provides one of the most effective and important channels for
grass roots experience in education for mission. The extent of the
program is indeed amazing when one considers all the people in the local
churches and communities who are personally involved and continue to maintain
these personal ties long after the actual event. It provides a real
handle where our church members can actually take hold and give of themselves
in personal relationships which involved the whole world.” Many church
members begin to experience Christmas in a new meaningful way.
When a community agrees to sponsor a Christmas International
House, it agrees also to cover the local expenses of its group, including room,
board and some entertainment. The participating students pay a modest fee
to the NCIH Headquarters in Atlanta, GA. Students are also
responsible for their transportation to and from the local community and some local
Christmas International House has its Coordinating Office within
the Atlanta ministry with International Students, Inc. (AMIS). AMIS is a
Christian Organization of friendship and hospitality with International Students
that has served the Atlanta, GA Community since 1978. Since 1973, CIH was
operated from Atlanta and moved under the umbrella of AMIS in 2001. The
Coordinating Office is responsible for the notification of over 500 foreign
student advisors and chaplains on college and university campuses about
available hosting communities. It promotes the enlistment of new host
programs and advises interested communities. The host programs gain
suggestions and ideas through a program manual and other materials developed in
the thirty-eight year experience of Christmas International House.
International student may indicate three choices on the application form, and
is then assigned by the Registration Office to a particular program. Then
the assigned hosts forward, through the Registration Office, information about
arrangements as well as words of welcome to the students coming to their
National Christmas International House Committee (accountable to the AMIS Board
of Directors) meets periodically throughout the years. An Advisory
Council representing local host programs and several participating groups meets
in February or March of each year to review student and community evaluations
to the previous year’s program and to make plans for the coming year’s
Christmas International House.
carries the bulk of the program administration. At least seven
denominations have cooperated in planning and participation in programs
throughout the country. One of our hopes is that there will be more
sponsorship as each year many students are turned away because there are not
enough spaces in the programs.
Mission Committees, Peacemaking Committees, and Outreach
Committees in your local congregations and community organizations are invited
to consider this program as a mission ministry and a peacemaking event in the
life of your local congregation and community. In the 21st century and
after 9/11/01, we are called upon as the people of God to be peacemakers as
Christians and citizens of the USA. We must lead the world in global
understanding of cultures, religions, languages and human relationships based
on dignity and respect of all people. Friendship and hospitality through
Christmas International House during the Christmas holiday will help our people
to experience our small global village on a 1-1 basis through love, acceptance,
justice and peace.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Christmas International House
3434 Roswell Road NW
Atlanta, GA 30305-1202
www.christmasih.org - Web site