December 9, 2014

International Friends Share Our Life Journey — Part 2



Part 2

The following piece was written between July 1985 and summer 1988. It has been updated from then to include relationships to the present date.

During our children’s growing up years they met special people from foreign countries, people who joined their life journey to ours. This is Part 2 of their stories. Read Part 1 at


David, an 18-year-old exchange student from Germany. We co-hosted him with our then neighbors Rhonda and Tom—we had the sleeping space, they did the high school activities with their children and they cooked dinner regularly. David learned a lot during his stay with us—how to do his laundry, how to iron, how to tie a tie. He was great at skateboarding. But most of all, he held a baby, my great-niece Haleigh, for the first time. He returned to Germany at the end of the school year.


Another good friend came from my paternal grandmother’s country, Sweden. We met Roy through a fellow writer, the late Diane Potter. On each of his visits we hung the Swedish flag, which delighted him. He often told the story about dynamite being invented in Sweden, and went with us to a St. Lucia program at the Church of the Savior in Cleveland Heights, Ohio (my son’s church). Read about it at  Sancta Lucia: Swedish Christmas Tradition with Italian Roots


In recent years I’ve had the opportunity to speak with Holocaust survivors Bob Mendler and Janet Singer, perhaps the only two child survivors of Nowytag, Poland. Links to this story are:





ROBERT (REIBEISEN) MENDLER: Laid to Rest Dec. 15, 2009

Rt. 381, Rector PA

Rt. 381, Rector PA

We’ve learned much from sharing with our international family members. Food seems to be a major sharing point between our family and persons from other cultures. International guests seemed to relish using our kitchen to prepare their familiar foods. Our family enjoyed not only their results, but a break from my cooking.

But more meaningful than food is the sharing of our Christian heritages, of what it’s like to be a Christian in other cultures. Even Emmanual and Suzanne were not strangers to our new church congregation—they’d been featured speakers at a mid-week dinner before we met them. Samir and Farial were members of the Coptic Christian Church and Ben’s extended family are strong Christians.

There are benefits to international sharing. Our family received invitations to numerous countries—Singapore, Cameroon, Jordan, Egypt and Germany among them—where we would be warmly received and where we would be shown the culture from the inside, not through the eyes of a tour guide.

Although we never made those visits, one of our family friends from Georgia did. They traveled to Singapore, where they had a special experience after delivering something to Hung Pheng. The ripples spread out far and wide.

When we hear news reports from various spots in the world, or when we pick up a book mentioning these parts of the world, we can personally relate with concern, love, joy, because a part of that culture became a part of us as we walked our journeys together.

Our children grew up with the ability to see the world as God’s place, its people at once different and the same. Textbooks cannot accomplish this. Only merging our journey with another’s can do so.

1 Comment »

  1. Travel is the best education there is to learn geography & social studies for beginners. I’ve always enjoyed the slide shows that missionaries used to do in churches & hear them talk about some of their different things they do with their congregations

    Comment by Grace (&Fred) — December 18, 2014 @ 6:51 am | Reply

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