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Hosting Builds Relationships at Conference
February 21, 2008

The night before the Faith and International Development Conference (FIDC) began at Calvin College, Brian Miller chose to attend when a few people from his university dropped out of the group. “I jumped in their spot and came,” said Miller, a sociology major at Mount Vernon Nazarene University in Ohio. “I enjoyed the conference a lot, and it was refreshing to be around people who shared similar passions for living out their deeply held faith in Jesus Christ.”

Miller was one of three guests hosted by Ross Acheson, a Calvin junior majoring in International Development Studies and a resident assistant in VanderWerp residence hall. The four attended the conference with the theme “Sustainability: Fruit That Lasts.”       

Acheson enjoyed hosting his three guests for the weekend. “I had my welcome-sign up, and I wrote a little map-way to my bathroom which is around the corner and wrote ‘Welcome’ on the sign a couple more times. I tried to make them feel at home,” he said.

“I appreciated the hospitality, period,” Miller said in retrospect. “One thing that stuck out more is that he hosted three guests; that, combined with the fact that I signed up at midnight. That Calvin College was able to find me a place on that short of notice was impressive.”   

According to Elise Ditta, FIDC student volunteer who coordinated the hosts and guests, “I've been amazed by the hospitality and flexibility of Calvin students in hosting people for the conference. This year Calvin students hosted more than 250 conference attendees. Since I am living in the dorms I could see up close the fellowship between Calvin students and conference attendees. It was exciting to see them connect and build relationships.” 

As a host, Acheson valued the unique perspectives his three guests chose to share with one another. “I was also able to spend some time with them on Friday evening and just talk about what we’d been talking about at the conference and talk about adventuring, and other random things. … We also had a chance to pray together, which was really cool,” said Acheson. “It just kind of felt natural, like if you’re living with someone even for just a couple days and you have this common ground of faith in Christ, that I thought it would be beautiful to connect on that level and to share that.”  

Throughout the conference, Miller was intrigued by the integration of community development and justice, yet was especially impressed after attending a particular breakout session that focused on sustainable development in an indigenous community of Guatemala—a session he attended by wandering into the wrong room. “I definitely saw a lot of perspective on community rather than the individual, and I saw that there was a big emphasis on the people as a whole, rather than the disjointed,” he said. 

Looking back on the community that began to develop between him and his guests, Acheson said, “I really think it’s as much a blessing for me as I hope it’s been for them.  It’s really cool to engage with people from elsewhere and to be able to show what hospitality I can. … Even if I never see them again, I think we’ll have been mutually blessed and we’ll have experienced Christ through that.”

~written by Communications and Marketing assistant writer Jacqueline Klamer