International students find home away from home

Susan and Art Green serve dinner to international students at their Abilene home every Friday night. (HSU Photo)

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ABILENE—Laughs, joy, fellowship and a spirit of home is what the Green’s weekly dinner is all about. Every Friday, Art and Susan Green serve dinner to all the international students from Hardin-Simmons University and Abilene Christian University—at times more than 100 people—making them feel at home even when they are away from their families.

The Green’s home, within walking distance of HSU’s campus, has been the center of activity for international students in Abilene more than 16 years.

The tradition started 31 years ago when another Abilene family cooked dinner for Asian students from ACU each Friday. After that family moved away, the Green’s took the tradition into their home and decided to open their doors to every international student in Abilene.

Every week, Susan Green prepared her best American recipes to serve for the students. She had such good feedback that every time there were more and more students coming for dinner to try her well-known food.

“We used to have 20 at first, then it kept on growing, and there was a time when we hosted approximately 100 people for dinner. Now, we expect around 50 students,” her husband said.

Being part of this event is special for international students because it brings a sense of unity, respect, fellowship and love.

Sharing is intentional

The Greens prepare homemade food served in a buffet for all the students. After dinner, everyone retires to the living room to worship and praise the Lord by singing. Art Green usually offers a short lesson about the importance of sharing, and he makes those present participate by telling their stories before enjoying dessert and departing for the evening.

“I think the Green’s dinner is the best community for international students who are far away from home and for getting to know different cultures. What I like the most is that there are good food and friendly, warm people,” said Chelvy Eunike, a freshman student from Indonesia.

The Greens work hard to make this experience the best they can for students. They want to embrace the family spirit as much as possible, even with small actions like remembering everyone’s names from week to week. That may seem like a small detail, but when a student is far from home, being recognized and welcomed can make a huge difference.

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Another weekly tradition is to take a photo with those attending for the first time and write their name and country on the photo so that everyone can remember their visit. Many students are surprised at how well Art Green remembers their names.

“I was very impressed at how welcoming and intentional the Greens were in getting to know each person. Even though there were plenty of students from all over Abilene on any given week, the Greens remembered each student by name and always greeted us with such remarkable hospitality,” said Michelle Chahyadi, a junior from Malaysia.

Sharing is a group effort

The Greens have also been blessed by friends and family who help them bring together the weekly meal. For example, their next-door neighbors go over to the Greens every Friday after all the guests have left to help them do the dishes and clean up.

“We want to bring everyone together. We want to serve all these students no matter where they come from,” Art Green said.

Zoey Abigail, a freshman from Indonesia, shared her experience at the dinner and what it means to her. “The Greens is a good place for international students to know that they are not alone, that there are others that can understand what they are going through, that builds a unique community that I think everyone should have. Plus, they serve free food.”

The message that Art and Susan Green are trying to impart to these students is that sharing is what makes us the best people. They learned to open their home to different cultures and different people with the mission of bringing them together. International students are thankful for having the opportunity to feel like they have a home far away from home.

Lucila Decia, a freshman strategic communications major at HSU, is from Buenos Aires, Argentina.

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