It began in early August when Ed and our ministry team began picking up over 75 international students, primarily all from India from the Indianapolis airport. Ed made warm connections with every van full of students, affectionately referring to them as his Airport Pals. One particular student, after asking Ed, “Why do you do this for us?” replied, “You have inspired me today. What you do for us…is inspirational.” Another student softly shared with him at the end of the airport run, “Ed, you are my very first American friend.” It is such an honor that we are able to connect with these students during their very first vulnerable and jarring beginnings.
This year, Emily, our 15-year-old daughter, joined Ed for three of these airport runs. He found it easier to drop her off with a clipboard of all of the student’s names and a sign for her to hold. She then warmly greeted the students, led them to baggage claim and helped them find Ed in the awaiting van at the curbside. Emily LOVED this role this year, and on her first night, she exclaimed to Ed, “Dad! I might be the first American they’re going to meet! Wow!” What a joy that this ministry allows our children to join us in ministering as a family to these students!
Soon after the students arrive and start to get settled, they have to endure those long days before their academic classes start. So often, those are the days when loneliness and withdrawal seeps in and grab a hold of our students. We have found that many of our students, especially those who come from very urbanized and populated cities love to participate in our yearly Hiking Trip.
On this particular trip, our son David joined Ed, and proved to be the ‘life of the party’ as always. At one point, Ed looked over and saw David offering ‘Free Photo Ops” to all the students taking a picture in a cool hollowed out tree. For some students, David posed on their shoulders. (David reminds me of an eleven-year-old Ed!:) Not long after the hiking trip, Ed received the following email, “Hey Ed, We had a really great time today during hiking. We love that you guys take out so much of your time for us international students and help in any ways possible….I’m very grateful to have people like you and especially David around here…Have a good weekend.” (I love that David made the note!:) Another student wrote “Hi Ed! Thank you so much for taking students for the hiking trip. Everyone had a great time hiking, eating and playing the icebreaker. Getting involved in activities with you and Elan makes me feel like this is a family away from family back at home. Thank you for your time and efforts once again. I really appreciate it.”
Yesterday, Emily and I drove a van full of international students outlet shopping over Labor Day. This has become a family tradition as we help students from very warm climates buy their first winter coat at more affordable prices. It’s about an hour drive, and it allows Emily and I ample time to get to know the five girls in our car, chat about shopping and then honestly share how their transition to Bloomington have been going. Every year, I always enjoy those car rides more than anything. Yesterday, one Chinese gal hollered up from the back seat, “Jennifer, I really want to go to Ed’s Bible study this week, but I have to tell you that I don’t know anything about the Bible. Is that okay?” My heart melted. “Is that okay?” It’s the very reason why we’re here.
Submitted by Jennifer and Ed Huff, staff at Indiana University