A soft place to land: couple opens their home to Lark international students

By Jackie Nelson

HESSTON—While many students have been wrestling with the changes in education in 2020, Hesston College international students are adapting not only to changes at college but also challenges returning home for the holidays due to the ongoing pandemic.

Hesston host families have stepped up and provided international students with a place to call home.

Glenda Maury of Hesston said this year she opened her home for the first time to host international students attending Hesston College. International students arrived weeks before the fall term began.

“I have been a volunteer with the college for three years and felt called to open our home to any student who needed a place to stay,” she said.

Bob and Glenda Maury chose 2020 to be the year they opened their home to Hesston College international students, hosting students both before the fall semester and after dorms closed before Thanksgiving. Despite the pandemic, the couple are called to hospitality.

Maury and her husband, Bob, said their home was well-suited for guests, with two extra bedrooms and bathrooms.

Maury and her husband have hosted three international students from Honduras, Kosovo and Indonesia. Their most recent guest was Gabriella Audry from Semarang, Indonesia, who had a brief stay before traveling to Texas. With dorms closing just before Thanksgiving and not reopening until mid-January, students had an exceptionally long stay away from campus.

“I usually stay with my sister, which is what I’m doing right now. I was going to go back home, but because of COVID, I decided to stay here,” Audry said.

Audry said families like the Maurys “make me feel like I’m at home. I’m secure in where I’m going to be” in Hesston.

“I made my first gingerbread house this year,” Audry said.

Maury is no stranger to having strangers, who become friends, in her home.

“We have opened our homes to many wonderful people during the past 50 years and have been blessed. Some of our guests have been expected, others unexpected,” she said.

Even as a child, Maury’s family had a steady stream of guests.

“Perhaps I inherited that gift from my mother, or perhaps I was also given the gift of hospitality, as well,” she said.

Maury said she does not get caught up in having a picture-perfect home but a welcoming one.

“Our home is an extension of our lives. My house is not always perfect, I have dust, there may be dishes in my sink, or some things need to be put away. I don’t always have perfect meals, but we love sharing what we have,” she said.

Before the fall semester began, Bob and Glenda Maury opened their home to Marcella and Fortesa.

Despite the pandemic, Maury said she was not afraid to open her home to Hesston College students.

“I just really felt like we had a tent of protection of over us and that welcoming a student who needed a place to stay was going to be fine. We knew the college is very careful about students being tested for COVID. We knew [Audry] was healthy. We wanted to welcome her into our home,” Maury said.

However, Maury said she, her husband and their houseguests are very conscientious about wearing masks outside their home, “because we respect others and want others to be safe, as well.”

Maury said she and her husband have had their own international adventures but still have much to learn from their houseguests.

“It is a good way to learn about other people in our world,” she said. “We have traveled abroad several times, so we are interested in hearing about places we have not been to.”

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