Have you ever thought about having a foreign exchange student come live with you? I know what you are thinking when you read the invite from the KOAM foreign exchange program. "We can't have a student from Korea live with us. We are too busy. We don't have the time or the money. We can barely keep up with our own children." I know this because this is what we said. Five years ago, our family read in the school paper that a student that was already in the program needed a place to stay. I will confess to you that I prayed for the student to find a home, but never intended for the student to live with us. Over the process of one week, on four different occasions, I had four different people say to me, "Your family would be perfect for that student."
My response, "No, my husband would never go for it. He doesn't like change. We don't have the money or time. Our lives are so busy already. And, I am a terrible housekeeper." But, God had a different plan.
Mison Cowell (KOAM's Area Coordinator) called our family, "Hello Tara, I have heard that your family would be perfect for this student. Can we meet?" I said the same thing to her, but promised I would at least mention it to Greg this time. To my utter surprise, Greg's first response was "We would need a bunk bed." He didn't say yes, but stated an observation. I emailed to my women's Bible study and in thirty minutes, we were offered three bunk beds and four dressers. This is when we opened our doors for Sojin Yun to join our family for eight months as a sixth grader.
Nearly a year after Sojin went home Mison called again. "Hello Tara, I have a boy that wants to come and his parents want him to have an older sister and brother. Your family is perfect for him." We prayed and this is when Junwoo Hwang came to live with us for a short six months as a third grader.
Up to this point our family never once said, "We want to host a foreign exchange student." It just sorta happened. But, after opening our home to Sojin and Junwoo, we realized that there is something beautiful that happens to our family when we have a foreign exchange daughter or son. We are a better family. We live more intentionally and we observe life with a different view. So, we called Mison and said we want to have another girl. Mison did not have a girl signed up, but she did have DongMin Shin. He came to stay with us for ten months. He will return to live with us next year as well.
This process of inviting a student into our home became not just a cultural exchange of students, but a cultural exchange of family units. They are our children. Our lives have become richer, stronger and more like Jesus simply by having an open home. The LORD calls us to serve one another and to be hospitable. KOAM provides an opportunity for our family to be on the mission field of Korea. Two of our Korean children came to know Jesus as their personal Savior and went home with the daily habit of reading their Bible. In Isaiah 60:22, the LORD reminds us that HE uses that which is small to change nations. Having a foreign exchange son or daughter allows us the privilege to effect spiritual change in Korea though up to this point we have never been there. I am so glad that GOD moved our family beyond excuses because the relationships have become a rich reward that will be with us all the days of our lives and the eternal rewards are beyond measure.