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Many years ago, during a lunch ‘walkabout,’ I encountered a parent who, as she looked across the high school plaza, asked me this question: How many of them are you going to let in?

Initially I had no idea what she was talking about, but then I saw a group of international students sitting together eating lunch. As someone who works in leadership with our International Student Program (ISP), you might imagine my reaction, but truthfully, I didn’t walk away from that conversation feeling angry. Instead, I found myself puzzled by the implications of this parent’s question.

I found myself wondering why, as a whole, we tend to be so uncomfortable with differences. These might be differences in food, customs, family cultures, traditions, worldviews, and even people. We often use highly intellectual words like “weird” to describe people who look different, who speak a different language, who have values we don’t understand, and who come from places we’ve never been.

However, working abroad has taught me that we are all much more the same than we are different, especially when it comes to our children. A mom is a mom is a mom. When I travel, I often meet with the parents of our international students, usually the mothers.  Even though we have never met, and even though they typically speak very little English, they embrace me and simply hang on to my arm the entire time we are together.  Why?  I truly believe it is because I am the connection to the child they miss terribly who is studying far from home. They are most often concerned with two things: 1) Who is giving my child a hug and loving them when they are sad or having a hard day? 2) Are they getting enough to eat? Universal mom concerns!

At Linfield we seek to create a culture of “same, but awesomely different,” acknowledging that we are all created in the image of God (Imago Deo) and in need of His saving grace regardless of our country of origin or heart language. We are humbled that God would entrust children to us, and our intent is to create a community that represents the world in which we live. If you are fortunate, your student will step into a friendship with one of our amazing international students. I encourage you to invite them over, love on them, and feed them. They will be over the moon, and I know you will be challenged by their courage and independent spirits. If you aren’t careful, they will quickly endear themselves to your family and become just like one of your own!

My heart’s desire is to raise up the next generation (in our increasingly small world) to see others with the eyes of Jesus. The challenge we face is that we live in a culture of sameness and security that sees differences as inconvenient and inferior. At Linfield, may we champion the Imago Deo, the universal truth that we are ALL created in the image of our Creator God.  Linfield is blessed to have “Lions for Life” from around the globe, many who have come to faith as part of our community.

You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood, men from every tribe, tongue, people and nation. – Revelation 5:9

Gay Bennett
High School Assistant Principal
Director of International Program