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St Johns Southgate

13 Aug 2013

International student hospitality and friendship at St John’s Southgate

For a number of years now, St John’s Southgate Lutheran Church, in conjunction with local Lutheran tertiary students, has been hosting a free “Student Meals” program on Tuesday nights, from 6.30 - 8pm during university semesters.

The program aims to provide hospitality and friendship to international students studying in Melbourne, as well as a chance for international students to practise their English conversation skills in a relaxed, informal environment with local Aussies.

Some of the international students who have attended have commented that Student Meals feels like their family away from home and that the weekly meal is one of the highlights of their week. The meals have a mini-United Nations feel, with people from up to 17 different countries, relaxing, sharing food, and building friendships.

We have welcomed students from countries as diverse as Brazil, the USA, France, China, Malaysia, Taiwan, Japan, Germany, Russia, Singapore, Argentina and others.

Last semester things took on a fun twist with Student Meals organiser, Sonia Gellert, sharing her musical experience and teaching well-known English songs to the international students.  This culminated in a bit of a dance party at the end of the semester!

Student Meals program organisers also try to arrange a couple of outings each semester, including such opportunities as trips to the Healesville Sanctuary or to a game of Aussie Rules.

Funding and most of the volunteers for the Student Meals are both provided by Lutheran Students and Friends (LSF), a group of Christian young adults, including tertiary students and young workers.  LSF also organises a Christian worship service for students and young adults on Sunday evenings at 6pm at St John’s, and mid-week bible studies in and around the CBD for those who are interested.  However, it must be stressed that Student Meals are open to all students, of all ethnic and religious backgrounds, simply offered by LSF as an act of hospitality and service to the community, with no expectation to join in any Christian events.

There are a number of volunteers who share the load of cooking, sharpening their culinary skills by providing a (usually) three-course meal with soup, main course and dessert, always including a vegan/vegetarian option for those who require it.  

There are other volunteers who come to help set up tables, eat, talk with internationals and do some of the dishes afterwards.  

One of the great joys has been a real sense of community as people have returned a number of times and have got to know one another, building lasting friendships across cultures.

If you’d like more information about Student Meals, or would like to attend, please contact Nathan Hedt on nathan.hedt@lca.org.au

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