Christmas International House began in 1965 when Rev. Pete Petersen at First Presbyterian Church in Huntington, West Virginia saw 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!  With such an overwhelming response by the students, Rev. Petersen was convinced that the program was desired by the students and was a mission opportunity to show “hospitality to the stranger among us” (Deut. 10:18).


Soon after, the Board of World Missions of the Presbyterian Church in the United States decided to expand and coordinate the program to other interested communities and students. Eventually, the program spread nationwide and over 100 church communities have participated with over 40,000 International students participating in the program since 1965.  In 2001, CIH merged with the Atlanta Ministry with International Students (AMIS) in Atlanta, Georgia, which currently serves as the National Office.



From an ELI Director:


Many international students and scholars from GSW have participated in the CIH program over the years and they have greatly enjoyed their experiences. They have been able to spend the Christmas and New Year’s holidays with American families, visit interesting and educational places, and make friends with other international students. Some of the students have enjoyed their CIH experiences so much that they have kept in touch with their host families and international friends for several years.


John Fox

Director of English Language Institute

Georgia SouthWestern State University