The value of life together with the IVEPers

IVEP host insight

A group of four people smiling for a photo
Nancy Catron, Princess Tshuma, Phillip Dillon, and Emili Krinski enjoying time together in River Market in Kansas City, Missouri. Photo/Emili Krinski

In 2022, we were asked to host two young women, Princess Tshuma from Zimbabwe and Emili Krinski from Brazil, who were in the United States as part of IVEP. We saw it as a great opportunity to learn, serve and grow.

The two young women have been living with us for over six months now and it’s been a delight. My wife, Nancy, and I, as well as Princess and Emili, have certainly learned, served and grown.

Before they came, we’d heard and read about the cultural hurdles we’d need to navigate. To that end we’d boned up on the history and customs of Zimbabwe and Brazil. While those tidbits were helpful, we found that our interactions with Princess and Emili were far more valuable than textbooks or historical documents could provide.

And this is the primary lesson we learned: navigating the cultural and historical differences is not really difficult at all. While there were some cultural differences, they never became impediments to our very human, interpersonal relationships.

So, here we are a bit over six months into our adventure. In that short time, we’ve learned that Princess and Emili are like so many other young people here in the U.S. They are exploring life and the opportunities that lie ahead of them. Knowing that has made our task so much easier than it could have otherwise been. It hasn’t been a matter of schematics and strategies but more simply a matter of living life together, being ourselves, and allowing them to be themselves.

It has worked quite well.

In terms of exploration, we've had our share of adventures. We took a Thanksgiving trip via Amtrak to Chicago. In a few short days we ate Chicago’s famous deep dish pizza, a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner at a downtown restaurant and some of the sweetest breakfast delicacies imaginable. We walked together along the shore of Lake Michigan, with Princess and Emili exclaiming, “It’s BIG!” over and over as we did. For me, that was not only fun to hear, but also fun to watch. We shopped together in Chicago’s traditional Christmas market, which is a bit like the Christmas markets Nancy and I have explored in Europe. And we watched the annual Thanksgiving Day parade.

Closer to home, we spent a day at a fall festival in the small town of Weston, Missouri, where Princess and Emili got to see the virtues of rural life first-hand. And, oh the food was good too!

Even closer to home, we often find our weekends together exploring Kansas City’s River Market. It’s an amazing place. When the weather is nice, they got to interact with Amish farmers selling their produce and Mennonite women selling their breads, pies, cakes and pastries.

They got to hear street musicians playing saxophones or strumming Kansas City “blues” tunes along the streets. The food samplings were incredible, from Brazilian to Middle Eastern, from Mexican to Italian. And no trip to the River Market would be complete without a trip to Betty Rae’s for ice cream. Just the mention of the words “Betty Rae” now make Princess’s and Emili’s eyes light up.

We have had so many shared adventures. I could go on and on, but I’d like to close this with what I believe is the most important lesson we’ve learned. There may be cultural differences, but they’re far less important than the Christian faith that Nancy and I share with Princess and Emili. As the Apostle Paul so ably put it, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28).

We’ve seen the truth of Paul’s statement played out on a daily basis with Princess and Emili. We prayed with them. We’ve worshiped God with them. We’ve lived life together with them. Whatever cultural differences there have been months ago have evaporated, which has been a testimony to God’s faithfulness.

Our time together has been a joy and will continue to be so until Princess and Emili move on to their next adventure.