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Bethlehem Church Welcomes International Students to Ole Miss

It was a sweltering August evening at the University Trails apartment complex. A large bus, reminiscent of the buses Rebel football players rid to the Walk of Champions, rolled up to a row of four white tables. Ole Miss students waited at these tables for their classmates from around the world to step off the bus. The students were global ambassadors, ready to befriend Oxford’s newest residents.
“This semester we have 144 international students here at University Trails,” Molly Fryman, adviser for international students from the university’s study abroad office, said. “We’ve been helping them know the surroundings for several years now.”
The international students make their way to University Trails clubhouse where members of the Bethlehem Church were waiting. The church is located in Potts Camp, a short drive north of Oxford toward Holly Springs. However, its pastor and some members of the congregation came to the University Trails to help the international students acclimate to living in Oxford.
Within the clubhouse are tables laden with helpful items and goodies. One table had sweets from local restaurants: McAlister’s, Zaxbys and Sweet Bee Bakery. Another table had a short stack of pizzas, courtesy of the university’s study abroad office. A third table had white bags donated from Visit Oxford filled with pamphlets and maps of both Oxford and the university. Yet another table, located just outside, was loaded with kitchen and bathroom necessities.

A sign greeting the international students at University Trails Clubhouse.
A sign greeting the international students at University Trails Clubhouse.

“This is our first time hosting such a large crowd. We’re giving them free items to help them settle in for a few days,” Sara Vazquez, wife of Bethlehem Church’s pastor, said.
Pastor Jonathan Vazquez was momentarily absent from the University Trails because he was giving five students a ride to the Wal-Mart. Congregation members who came out to volunteer were handing out the necessities to the students, befriending them and ensuring they had what they needed. When the pastor returned one of the members informed him that the students may not have towels. The pastor sat in one of the white rocking chairs outside the clubhouse and mused over solutions to this dilemma as he greeted the passing students.
“Some of these students have been traveling for over 31 hours. They are worn out,” Pastor Vazquez said.
He explained that the idea of welcoming international students started just a few months ago. For five weeks in April and May, the Bethlehem church provided free food to the international students, continuing on through this summer.
“It was when we got an idea of what they needed so we could provide better help for them,” Pastor Vazquez said. “This ministry tonight is the largest we’ve ever had for them, and we want to continue this every semester.”
An international student enjoyed a small dish of soup and a water bottle. Her name is Jessi Park, and she is from Seoul, South Korea. She has a Visit Oxford bag in tow as she took in the gathering at University Trails as American students and international students got to know each other. She is a business major at University of Mississippi.
Park said, “I came to Ole Miss for the experience. I am so excited to start school!”
“If our children were halfway around the world I’d want someone to be there for them. We’re here to help,” Pastor Vazquez said.
A congregation member of Bethlehem Church hands out the necessities to the students.
A member of Bethlehem Church hands out the necessities to the students.

For more information on the church visit www.BethChurch.org..
Callie Daniels is a reporter for HottyToddy.com. Shoot her an email at callie.daniels@hottytoddy.com.

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