DAVE MOSIER/independent editor
group of 11 Chinese college students who visited Van Wert recently pose
with trip coordinator Aaron Burns during a tour of Vantage Career
Center. (photo submitted)
It wasn’t only a group of Chinese college students visiting Van Wert
and other U.S. cities as part of the Grow, Learn Overseas (GLO) program
who learned, and grew, but local residents also were changed positively
by the experience of hosting students from another country.
The 11 Chinese students spent three weeks in the United States, with
much of that time in Van Wert, although the group also spent time in
Chicago and Ohio’s Amish country as part of the trip.
Pastor Jim Burns of Liberty Baptist Church, whose son, Aaron, lives
in China and coordinated the students’ visit to America, said he was
amazed at how much impact the Chinese students’ visit made on church
members who helped house the young people.
“GLO Ohio and our Chinese guests coming to Van Wert County made the
biggest impact on our local church than anything I have ever experienced
in my 37 years of pastoring in four different churches,” Rev. Burns
said of the experience.
For many of the Chinese students, the trip was eye opening — and life
changing — because of the friendly local residents they met. Although
their English wasn’t always the greatest, the thoughts they shared were.
Here’s what they said:
Wu “Leo” Qinyan, a student from Nanjing, spoke in lofty terms, noting
that his visit to Van Wert “meant a chance to experience the American
life, to know the American spirit, to befriend American people.”
Some of the most meaningful experiences for the Chinese students were
events that most Americans would take for granted. Liu “Claire”
Wenjing, a student from Yantai, China, said visiting Mayor Don Farmer’s
office, as well as the Van Wert police and fire stations, was meaningful
because she wasn’t able to do so in China. “We can’t be accessible to
those places in China,” she added.
“The trip to Van Wert makes me know
deeply about unconditional love, which cannot easily be found in the
areas I working,” said Zhang “Eden” Xiaoping, who lives in the Chinese
capital of Beijing. “I learn how to be humble, how to be kind, how to be
strong … I love these people and I would try my best to see them
“My visit to Van Wert is a turning point,” said Zhang “Florence”
Yaxing, who lives in HanDan. “I feels lots of love for the very first
time come into my life. The most important and unforgettable part is new
friends and families (which) are a great sum of treasure for my whole
life. I love them forever.”
Gao “Jackson” Gao Jiaqian of Dongguan said he enjoyed “not only the
beautiful sights, but the people there. It was such a blessing to me
that I had the chance to visit Van Wert.”
For Yuan “Jessie” Dongyang of the Chinese city of Zhengzhou, her time
in America “is the most precious memory in my whole life, and I’m so
lucky to have a family there. I will never forget what I experiences in
“The visit in Van Wert broadened my view and opened my heart because
of all the love shown by the people we met, and all the amazing things
that we tried for the first time together,” said Zhang “Lynn” Ruilan,
also of Dongguan.
Zhang “Mary” Lin of Nanchang, China, noted that “the visit to Van
Wert let me understanding what love really is, and it’s unconditional.”
Han “Nancy” Xiaonan of Luoyang, China, said she was grateful for the
chance to visit America and Van Wert. “This is a great memory in my
life, and I will never forget about the love and care I got from all of
the people in Liberty Baptist Church and my host family,” she said.
“Their love and encouragement make me feel braver and stronger.”
Lu “Scott” Yang of Shandong, China, noted that, before his trip to
Van Wert, “I was confused and trying to find the meaning of life; as
time went by, I lost my hope and did everything passively. Life a touch
of sunshine, it (the trip) brought me hope and made my life brighter.”
Zhang “Sophia” Xiao of PuYang, China, said that, because of her poor
English, she didn’t dare to speak with people in that language before
coming to America, adding, “but when I arrived to America, I found the
people are all very friendly to me; they all took care of me, make me
feel warm, so I become confident. I’m very thankful for all of them.”
Liberty Baptist members who participated in the cultural exchange
program agreed with the Chinese students that the experience was
memorable and also helped them understand that, while the government of
China may not be something Americans like, the Chinese people, which the
students represented, was a different story.
Van Wert City Schools psychologist Doug Grooms and his wife, Sandy,
said the experience was very positive. “We were truly blessed to host
Nancy and Jessie in our home as part of GLO; we enjoyed having them cook
for us and to have them try our foods,” the couple said. “It was fun to
see them grow so much through their friendships with the other Chinese
students and the people they met here in Van Wert. This experience has
made a lasting impact, not only for them, but also for us.”
Sue Eickholt agreed. “The students were a very receptive group of
kids, very appreciative of anything we did or gave them. It didn’t take
them long to use the words ‘I love you’ and really mean it,” she said.
“They were loving and eager to be involved in any activity. I really
believe we planted some good thoughts about a country with freedom of
religion and a better way of life.”
Ashley Kittle said the three weeks she spent with the Chinese
students “will be forever etched in my memory. I thought by having them
here we could teach them a few things about life, but, in reality, they
taught me more than I ever taught them.
“Americans take so much for granted,” she added. “The Chinese
students were full of love and happiness and such a good example to me.”
Local couple Doug and Marcia Germann have hosted other exchange
students, but said having two students was really fun. “They could
communicate with each other in a comfortable language and together help
clarify something to us if we weren’t understanding,” Marcia Germann
“Hosting the students gives us the chance to more personally
understand how different their lives are from ours and how we have
similarities,” Doug Germann added.
Marcia Germann said some of the more interesting experiences were
those that involved the Germann farm operation and the animals they have
there, including the cows they saw in the Germann’s backyard. “We also
have horses, and most of them had never seen a real horse before,” she
said, adding that the “open spaces” of Van Wert County was also a shock
to the city-dwelling Chinese students.
She also noted that the differences in culture between Americans and
Chinese were something she hadn’t considered. “They aren’t used to
seeing smiles on people’s faces, which is what several of them told me
they loved about our area,” Marcia Germann said.
Lisa Hawn said the experience allowed her to get a glimpse of a
bigger world outside America. “GLO Ohio has opened my eyes to what’s on
the other side of the globe,” she said. “It was so exciting to see the
Chinese experience life here and they were so appreciative of
everything, something we could take a not of. They definitely made their
mark here and won’t be soon forgotten.”
Terry Reynolds said he learned that people everywhere had a lot in
common, as well as their differences. “Some of the things I came away
with is that the students, even as far away as China, are the same
people,” he said. “They have some of the same fears, joys and laughter
as we have.
“I also noticed the way they responded to the freedoms that people in
the U.S. have, and how they do not have those freedoms in China.”
Aaron Burns, who has lived in China for a number of years, said he
was very pleased with the way the trip turned out. “GLO Ohio is simply
amazing and a blessing to be a part of,” he said. “As the coordinator,
it was so encouraging to see the Van Wert community come together to
make a difference in these lives from China.
Burns said he has been in touch with each of the Chinese students
since their visit to the United States and all of them now have a great
impression of America: “The people they were able to meet and become
friends with, and the love that they saw in people working together in
unity simply for them.”
He also thanked those who took the time to make a difference in the
Chinese students’ lives and hopes that a second trip can be arranged
because of the success of this one.