We’re CSPC ministry partners Darin and Kathy Dolson of Bridges International on the UT campus, and this is how God’s been at work helping us live deeply.
Darin: “Kathy and I were in Milwaukee for a conference in July and started getting bombarded with texts from students back home in Knoxville. Typically the international students we serve at UT come here with no housing set up, but they’re already connected to student groups and get housing after they arrive with no problem. But last summer, there wasn’t housing to be had. There were several factors behind that: the largest freshman class in UT history -largest attendance for the school, period!- plus they doubled the international student population from last year to this year. More students, less housing… it was a math problem. So leaders of international student groups scrambled and started asking us, ‘Do you have any ideas? Any connections with apartments or people who might rent a home or a room?’”
Kathy: “Darin and I felt the Lord asking us, ‘Are you ready to have an international student come live with you?’ Our first response was, ‘Lord, we’ve just become empty nesters!’ What we wrestled with was our own flesh- I like my comfort, being able to come home and know that it’s just my home! Yet as we talked and prayed, it was clear God was still asking: ‘Are you willing to do this?’ The passage that kept coming to mind was where Jesus says in Luke 9, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.’ So I had to ask: ‘Are you willing to die to yourself and your desires?’ It wasn’t long before I received a text from one of our ministry teammates- I thought it was just a contact for one of our new international students. So I contacted the student and said, ‘Hey, would you like to grab coffee sometime?’ And she said, ‘I would love to when I move to Knoxville. I still haven’t found housing.’ Then I looked at Darin- was this maybe the student the Lord wanted to come live with us? We ended up deciding ‘yes’- we had a room to offer, and we were willing to share it. I sent her a text and she texted back right away, ‘Yes, yes, I would love that.’”
Kathy: “Tunmise is a really solid believer from Nigeria. She and her family had just moved from Nigeria to Johnson City in March. Now it was August and she was making another transition here to Knoxville. She told us, ‘I just kept sensing the Lord was going to have me live with a family. When I got your text offering me a place to stay, I burst into tears.’”
Darin: “Tunmise is 19, bright, on fire for God (her bold faith challenges us!)- a pleasure to have in our home. But we did have to figure out ‘What’s life going to look like?’ She’s been pretty independent, even more so now that she has a driver’s license and a car. At first she didn’t and we tried to help her get to school on days when we were also going to be on campus.”
Kathy: “There was a cost taking her to school- it meant we’d have to show up an hour early for a meeting when we could’ve stayed home longer. Or it might’ve meant picking her up late at night when I’d rather just be home reading or working on something else. It shows how the Lord asks us to die to ourselves and die to our flesh, and it’s not comfortable, but there is blessing in that.”
Darin: “It’s been a mutual blessing for all three of us. Tunmise is really grateful and expresses it regularly. Kathy calls her her Nigerian daughter, and she calls Kathy ‘Mama.’ There’s a relational sweetness there, and we wouldn’t have that if God hadn’t grown our ability to be open-handed. Any early hesitation I had was because I wanted my own privacy, my own comfort- to walk around in my pajamas if I want! I had to ask myself: Was I open to losing a little bit of my freedom to bless someone else? A few months in, I haven’t regretted any of it.”
Kathy: “When the Lord asks us to be obedient -even when it’s painful or uncomfortable or not really what I want to do- there’s never regret in that. Jesus is our example- dying the ultimate death so we don’t have to. I’m glad we said ‘yes’ in this situation, and we’re blessed as a result. Tunmise is a dear young woman. I get the added bonus of discipling her, and she’s gotten very involved with Bridges. So the Lord in His kindness brought us this student. Not only did she need a home- we needed her.”