Life will never take you back to a specific time but my experience as both an IVEP alumnus and now a YAMEN host surely takes me back to the golden time of my life when I was an IVEP participant. The experience of doing IVEP was not just a one-time experience but a year-long lesson that changed my entire life going forward.
I always thought that I wanted to host someone from another country, but I wasn’t sure if it would be possible. I believe that God makes things possible and the Bible says faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. This blessing appeared in my life, by hosting Denise Dushime, a current YAMENer from Rwanda, here in our house in India. Being a host is a great opportunity for my family to learn new things that I’ve experienced before in IVEP.
As someone who was an IVEPer five years ago, I know that many things pop up in a participant’s mind. What is my host family going to be like? What will the living arrangements be? How many people will be in the house? How will I fit myself into their culture and food? In my experience, food and culture were the biggest shocks.
There are ups and downs in cross-cultural experiences and in many situations you will feel alone. Some people called home sick during these situations, but it's part of your learning. Sometimes it’s a bit unreal and you will start feeling anxious, angry or sad. Every single day is challenging, but at the same time, know that you will miss these things over the years.
A challenge for hosts is that you have people from places you don’t know much about, with different cultures, traditions and lifestyles as part of your life for a few months. This challenge is not only for you, but also for the guest you're hosting who is in a new environment.
It also takes time for us to adjust to the role of host parents since our ages are quite close. Our food and culture are different, but I find that the best way to connect is by sharing food and testimony of God’s goodness and grace in our lives. God chooses us from dust and shapes us into a beautiful piece of pottery. It is such a blessing to be able to host someone who once was a stranger and now became part of my family.
During IVEP I learned to be open and supportive of others, to be honest about what I am doing, not being judgmental, accepting and being thankful to the Lord. It is always fun to look back at the old memories from my time as an IVEPer — it's really true that time flies, but it's also true that good memories can never be wiped away from our hearts.
IVEP is an amazing opportunity to make a family outside of your family back home. My encouragement to new participants: no matter where you are, no matter where you work, no matter what your skin color, God's love is equal for all the people in every nation.
Header photo caption: (L to R) YAMENer Denise Dushime, Shradha Emmanuel Mahendra, and Ayaan Emmanuel Mahendra being held by Emmanuel Mahendra when they met for the first time in Raipur, India. (Photo/Sushant Nand)