Merry Christmas

“What do you notice in this painting?” is a question we ask students who pause at our table in the student Union. At Christmas, we displayed “Jose y Maria” by Everett Patterson. Although intriguing, many did not know the story of Jesus’ birth to begin with, neither international students or Americans. In my search for paintings to display I came across “The Census at Bethlehem” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, painted in 1566. Bruegel was Dutch and the scene is a Dutch village in which Mary enters on the donkey led by Joseph. In front of them is a rowdy crowd in front of a building. The sign on the building is the coat of arms for the Hapsburg empire who ruled over the Dutch from Spain under Philip II. The problem for the Dutch was unreasonable taxation on top of their famine and poverty. The slaughter of a pig in the bottom left of the painting suggests that people were so poor they had to kill their animals to satisfy the demands of the government.


And what about Mary and Joseph entering this chaos. They had nothing to offer, no solutions, only a need for shelter and a place to give birth to their promised son. And yet, into a hopeless situation, they brought hope in the form of a Son who will one day rule the world with justice.

I wonder what you and I would illustrate, what chaos would we depict and then place Mary and Joseph in, bringing to all hope of a Savior and King? Sometimes hope comes from sources that at first glance seem doubtful, like an ordinary couple needing shelter. Who would have guessed that their son will one day bring justice to the world and end the suffering of mankind everywhere. May I not be tempted to become hopeless but trust God for the fulfillment of a greater picture than I can now see or comprehend.

For unto us a child is born,
To us a Son is given.
And the government shall be upon his shoulders.

  And his name will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the greatness of his government and peace
There will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom,
Establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness
From that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
Will accomplish this.

Isaiah 9:6-7

For more information about this painting, please refer to Google Arts & Culture


Fall Splendor

Once again, it is a pleasure to meet new international students who come in the fall to our university.  Considering Kansas State University is in the middle of the USA and not exactly a destination, I am always curious to know how students found us. While each student’s story is unique, I find that people sometimes find us on the internet or through an acquaintance, professor, or friend that recommended our school.

So how are we welcoming them? We offer them opportunities to meet people, their peersouUpfBj9TeKNfO8J+cKLug and people who live in the community.  On Wednesday nights we host the Conversation Café KSU where we play games, eat, enjoy music, and discuss topics of interest. Last week we shared stories of our holidays. This week we are talking about the tendency to stereotype people and places. Next week we are looking at UNESCO world heritage sites.

Our hiking club is off to a good start. Yes, hiking in Kansas! The Tall Grass Prairie is fullsizeoutput_536cdownright breathtaking, especially at sunset. And last week we were kayaking, trying out archery, and playing lawn games at the nearby state park.

Of special enjoyment to me is using the Conversation Art Cards with students who want to practice English. These cards were recently published by Cru Press and are astonishingly beautiful and compelling. Recently, two young women from Japan, shared the hero story of Anpanman with me. Looking at the art, we also discussed the hero story of Jesus Christ.

If you would like to learn more about the Conversation Art Cards, they are described onfullsizeoutput_538d.jpeg this website or go to and search for Conversation Art Cards.


I wish you all a happy autumn,












Summer Fun

What do you like to do with your international friends in the summer? Perhaps swimming, picnicking at a park or lake? How about a museum?

For starts, a museum is cool, not just because it is a beautifully designed place with architecture and layout that demands your notice. It literally is cool. They have good air conditioning.

Next, a museum is not just about your culture and time. Most museums have objects from the past. Perhaps they have paintings, sculptures, or artifacts like machinery or clothing that transport both you and your friends to a place neither of you may be familiar with. You become equals. There is a lot going in the objects you look at and therefore a lot to learn and enjoy.

Finally, sharing a museum experience will give you and your friends opportunities for new conversations.


Japanese Palace Museum, Kyushu.                           Below are three of the pieces I saw inside this palace. At the top left, I love the simplicity of the landscape, the elegance of the woman, and wonder if I am looking at a horse race (bottom piece). What do you think?

Discussing what you notice or what’s going on in an artwork allows you to get to know one another in ways that are new. Neither of you need to be an expert to look and reflect.

This summer I will go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I’ve wanted to go for a long time. It is not that I will see everything. It will be about appreciating what I do see, growing in my understanding and astonishment of the creative ways people express themselves.

I wish you joy,


The Easter Case

Finally, spring is here in Kansas. It seems like it was a long cold winter. With spring fernuVdGSPmve3S3FeiqSQcomes Easter.
How will you celebrate with your international friends?  Over the years we have had a variety of Easter events: coloring eggs, attending Good Friday services, and hosting a Sunday lunch followed by an Easter egg hunt.  One of the more popular events is a Readers Theater, written by Amos Wilson, called, The Easter Case: Did Jesus Christ Rise from the Dead?

The play calls for a cast of fourteen. We ask four students ahead of time to read the parts of the Narrator, the Judge, the Prosecutor, and the Defender. The Prosecutor and the Defender call up historical people like Pontius Pilate, Mary the mother of Jesus, and Annas, a member of the Jewish council. These “witnesses” come from volunteers in the crowd that turns up for the event. The crowd in general is the jury.  Half way through the trial and then at the end, students in small groups of 4-5, discuss the evidence. At the end they vote, based on how they understand the evidence, did Jesus Christ rise from the dead?

The script and jury notes are in the Topics from a Biblical Perspective section of the Discussion Guides. I would love to hear your comments.



New Semester/New Topics

A new semester demands new topics. I have added eight new Lifestyle discussion


“Welcome, New International Students to Kansas State University”

guides that we used in the fall of 2018. These topics were chosen by our students who participate in the Conversation Café.


Most of the discussion guides are at a sixth-grade reading level but a few are on an eighth-grade level.  For example, the guide on Personal Boundaries is at a higher level, not because of the writing style or vocabulary, but the concept of boundaries may be new.

Here is the list of the new Lifestyle guides. I hope you will check them out and have some fun.

Kansas Culture

Emotional Intelligence


Favorite Phone Apps and YouTube

How to Solve Arguments


Money Tips for College Students

Personal Boundaries

I also added eight new discussion guides to Old Testament and Biblical Perspective categories. These somewhat go with the Lifestyle topics, but they stand on their own as compelling conversations.  One of my personal favorites was the one where a quote was listed and the participants decided, well, sometimes guessed whether the quote originated in the Bible or in William Shakespeare.  Here are the new Biblical themes and where to find them on the website.

New Beginnings in Genesis                                         Topics from a Biblical Perspective

Deliverance from Slavery, Exodus 2, 3                      Old Testament

Proverbs, the Book of Wisdom                                    Old Testament

Hebrew Poetry                                                                Topics from a Biblical Perspective

Dreams and Visions in the Bible                                 Topics from a Biblical Perspective

Solving Conflict in Old Testament Times,                  Topics from a Biblical Perspective

Solomon’s Perspective on Money and Wealth          Topics from a Biblical Perspective

The Bible or William Shakespeare                              Topics from a Biblical Perspective




Don’t forget to play some games and have some fun:)

The Wonder of Hiking

This fall, our international student club called Bridges organized a hiking club.  While Kansas is not a destination state for hiking, we found some remarkably beautiful places. If you have never hiked on a prairie, then you are missing something really special.


Our first hike was to the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, which is just south of Council Grove, Kansas, in case you were wondering. We started in the late afternoon because we wanted to see the sunset across the wide prairie sky. We were not disappointed. We ate our snacks on the top of a hill and watched as the sky turned colors of pink and purple and then grew dark. In the end, the heavens were lit with stars. The first wonder is the marvelous beauty surrounding us.

The second wonder is the conversations that arise on a hike. I heard stories about wedding traditions in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Columbia. I learned about the political turmoil surrounding Kashmir and India. Another student explained his perspective about Hinduism, Buddhism, and the caste system. And in-between was a lot of good-natured joking and teasing.

There are many ways to help international students feel welcome in the U.S: English conversation clubs, dinners in homes, and giving rides to stores and airports are among the many. But enjoying the out of doors together has to be at the top of my list of pleasurable things to do with international students. It combines beauty, conversation, and friendship. Please join us!



Speak Out Camp, 2018 Keszthely, Hungary

Every now and then it is a good thing to break free from the routine of our lives and do something different. This summer, I went to Keszthely, Hungary to help out with an English camp for high school and college students. Think “camp.”  Not the kind in the woods, living in tents, but the kind with a week-long experience in a dorm with about 90 campers per week and almost as many staff. Think camp food, skits, music, games, and free time and you’ll have a glimpse into my life this past July.


Skit time on Sports Day

What did I observe?

First, the campers had a wonderful time. Who wouldn’t? The beach on Lake Balaton was a 10 -minute walk from the dorm complete with at least 3 opportunities to buy a foggyi (ice cream) or a langos (a kind of pizza with a deep-fried dough and topped with sour cream and onions with bacon.) Or you could walk with your small group through the picturesque town that leads to a palace and garden, again laden with opportunities to treat oneself.

Secondly, the topics taught and discussed appealed to the campers. High schoolers learned about a hero journey and created and performed skits. College students studied Emotional Intelligence.

Thirdly, each afternoon, the campers and their tutors experienced intentional English conversation time that covered topics about spirituality, faith, and the Bible. Yes, this camp is operated by Christians and it is advertised that way.

Finally, each evening offered a variety of fun experiences. For example, there was a staff scavenger hunt when campers ran through the town in groups trying to locate all of the staff scattered about wearing costumes.


“The Wicked Witch of West” and Dorothy (Jane) waiting for campers.

What will I take with me? I will remember to make learning fun. I will remember the value of conversations in small groups and with individuals. I will remember the courage of some campers coming to a camp not knowing anyone, to speak a language they may not be entirely comfortable with. I will remember the joy of seeing them form friendships and leave with a sense of accomplishment.

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Thank You Speak Out Camp, Hungary, 2018