For more than 45 years, CRISTA Camps’ Miracle Ranch has hosted students from Meysen Academy in Sendai, Japan for an International Friends Camp each summer. Students from the academy come to camp as part of a trip to the United States to have an English Immersion experience. Local kids attend the camp as well, so there is a good ratio of English speakers to Japanese.
The week at camp provides a cultural experience for both groups of students. They engage in all the usual Miracle Ranch activities — riding horses, playing on the waterfront, group games, archery, a climbing wall, high ropes courses, and crafts — while the students from Japan practice their English, and kids from both nationalities make friends across the world.
In 2012, Meysen Academy added a visit to King’s Schools as part of their annual trip. This allows students from Japan to experience an American school and to be hosted by American families. It is fun for the students to see the differences between their cultures that extend to the way they communicate, the set-up of classrooms, the amount of P.E. and recess time they have each day, what they eat for snacks, and so many other things.
A Family’s Experience
Danny Dean, a King’s parent, was nervous to host, but her kids convinced her to, and she’s really glad she did. They had two girls from Meysen Academy in their home.
“My girls were so excited about the opportunity to get to know other cultures, and they also thought it was a great way to share our family and our home and the love of Jesus with people across the world,” Danny said. “It has been wonderful to have the Meysen Academy kids in our home because my home is full of laughter. We have learned a lot about their culture, and they have been really engaged and interested in learning about our culture as well. We are just exploring and having fun.”
Danny’s youngest daughter, Emilie, agrees. She said, “On the first day, we got to meet them for the first time, and it was super exciting.”
The girls played with games from Japan and did crafts together, played with silly string, and even laughed over a trick the Japanese girls played on them.
Dovy, one of the Japanese students, said, “It is super fun to talk and communicate. We sprayed everyone with silly string and then picked it all up and made a huge ball that we dunked in the basketball hoop.”
From a Teacher’s Perspective
MaryChar Bertsch has hosted Meysen Academy students in her fifth-grade class at King’s three times. This year, the students got to participate in a poetry reading and work on building a model of a Spanish mission. In addition to learning about another culture, MaryChar said one of the biggest lessons for her students during the visit is empathy.
“I think both groups of students gain an understanding of a different culture,” MaryChar said. “I really try to stress being inclusive and welcoming the kids from Meysen Academy into our classroom and just supporting them and encouraging them in different ways. Before they come, we talk about empathy and ways we can show extra support and understanding for them, as they are a little nervous about jumping into an English-speaking classroom thousands of miles away from their home.
“It is a valuable experience for my students to be able to be in another kid’s shoes for a minute and either feel for them, learn from them, or see differences. But they also see how we are all the same, running around on the playground, playing soccer together, playing on the monkey bars. It is good to be able to bridge those connections and realize, yes, we are different, but we are all the same and we are all children of God. We are all made in his image, and we can learn from each other no matter what our differences are.”
CRISTA Camps will host two International Friends Camps this summer. For more information, visit cristacamps.com.