Once a month, Paul and Mary Beth Dubuc’s weekly home group in Central Vineyard Church (Columbus, Ohio) obeys Isaiah 54:2: “Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back…” They invite international students whom they’ve met through IFI to join them for an evening of Conversation, Culture & Cuisine (CC&C), an IFI program described at ifipartners.org/ccc.
On CC&C evenings, 15 to 18 American Christians plus 3 to 8 internationals gather to celebrate a holiday or someone’s birthday or graduation or follow a theme that Mary Beth or someone else has chosen. They prepare food for their guests (who sometimes share their own cuisine), discuss ideas and questions at dinner, then play games or do something else together.
Two years ago, Mary Beth hosted an IFI Volunteer Training for the group, but no one became an English Conversation Partner. Knowing her “home-groupies” all had full schedules, Mary Beth followed a principle in the book Simple Church, Returning to God’s Process for Making Disciples: she suggested bringing IFI into what the group was already doing. They liked her idea. Now the group looks forward to their monthly CC&C meetings. (Small groups are the hub of missions at Central Vineyard.)
One week each month, the group welcomes internationals from The Ohio State University in Columbus into their community. Sometimes guests bring roommates, lab mates, other friends, or visiting parents with them. Occasionally the entire group takes a trip together. One trip everyone enjoyed was visiting the Wilds, a wildlife safari and conservation park southeast of Zanesville, Ohio.
Paul and Mary Beth like trying different activities on CC&C evenings, especially simple games that don’t require mastery of English. A new favorite is “20 Questions,” a conversation game. Mary Beth said the game was “a big success, lots of fun,” a good way to expand their guests’ English vocabulary and ability to describe things. Another game that the group enjoys is “Bunco,” a simple dice game.
The group has helped their international guests “expand their tents,” too. When one young woman mentioned she’d have an important job interview the next day, four “home-groupies” stayed after the meeting to help her rehearse what to say and not to say during the interview. She got the job! When another new, growing believer entered graduate school at OSU, Mary Beth connected her with a friend who leads a Bible study for graduate students and faculty on campus. Before going home, a visiting scholar from China, a CC&C participant, said about the people she had met through IFI: “Everyone was so, so friendly! If you needed help with anything, they would help you!”
Incorporating internationals into their meetings once a month is natural for the Dubucs’ home group, who have a big heart for missions; group meetings usually include prayer for missionaries and for an Asia’s Hope orphanage in Cambodia, which Central Vineyard supports.
Mary Beth prepares for home-group meetings each week by cleaning her house, cooking, planning activities, and setting up. “It’s work,” she says, “but it’s worth it.”