J-1 outreach: Help us welcome the world to Destin

Cynthia Wilson | Special to The Log
Alex Sici, from Moldova, was one of 50 international students who won a bicycle during last year’s dinner at DUMC.

It is that time of year when we begin to see dozens of young bicyclists riding down U. S. Highway 98. There is such an anticipation and excitement to welcome these J-1 students to our community. What a blessing it is to welcome the world right here in our very own backyard! 

We are planning a community wide Welcome Dinner for the International Students at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, June 2, at the Destin Life Center on the Destin United Methodist Church campus. The dinner will be much like last year’s event with music, games and, of course, the bike giveaway. We will also register host families and students with housing needs, and we will have gift bags for the first 150 students who attend.  

We appreciated all your help with last year’s event as we came together as a community with one mission in mind — to serve and support these students. We would welcome and appreciate your participation again this year. We have needs from setup to cleanup, from the welcoming team with flashlights to drivers with trucks to take the bike winners home. 

Let me know if you, your group, your company, and/or your congregation would like to join the team and fill in the gap — isn’t that what Destin is all about? I love being part of this community, don’t you?    

Many of you attended the event last year and would agree that one of the highlights of the entire year was giving bikes away to these grateful students. OMGoodness, it truly seemed like Christmas in June! We have stepped out in faith and ordered 50 bike packages, which include a bike, light, helmet and lock. You may recall that we are firmly committed to only give bikes away with lights, helmets and locks in memory of sweet Galina Bumbalova, who was one of our students from Bulgaria and passed away in a bike accident on Highway 98 last year.

So if you are looking for a way to make an impact, you (or your company/congregation/group) could sponsor a bike package(s) for $100. We are prayerful that we will reach a goal of 100 bike packages this year. Yes we realize it is double our event giveaway number from last year, but we will meet this goal by all pulling together.

Another highlight of last year was praying over and riding the bikes from the Destin Walmart to the Destin Life Center (DLC) the day before the event. We had a very long procession of bikes with a police escort that morning, and we are hopeful that our procession will be even be longer this year. If you would like to participate in this year’s ride, please let me know.

We hope you will join us on June 1 in prayer, fellowship and exercise.

We have just launched a food drive. You know there are times when these students simply don’t have a dollar to their names. It is so true. We are collecting juice boxes, canned meat, Pop-Tarts, peanut butter and jelly, soups, mac and cheese, or pasta and sauce in microwavable containers. 

Hospitality has deep roots in the heart of Destin. Let's dig deep and provide our international guests with breakfast, lunch and dinner a day or two a week. Please bring your donations to the DLC from 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday; 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday; or Sunday mornings. We will pick your donation up if needed — just let us know.

How would you like to learn about the customs, traditions, languages and cultures of another country and make a friend for life? There is an opportunity to be a host family to our international guests, and we would love to meet with you, your company or congregation to discuss this amazing opportunity to serve the world right here in Destin.

I was honored to have four Chinese students live with my family last summer, and now I have four daughters sharing testimonies of the love in Destin and the love of Christ halfway around the world. We enjoy Skyping often with our girls. What a gift these girls were and continue to be.     

These are just the highlights of our Outreach 2013 Program in Destin for our international students, and we stand willing and anxious to discuss the opportunity to literally serve the world with you, your company or your congregation. We have many activities planned beyond the ones listed above and are excited to hear about the activities you may be planning.

As a very wise man once said, "Small acts of kindness done in the name of Jesus will change the world."

We look forward to joining you, shoulder to shoulder, as a community to serve our international guests and in the process change the world.

Blessings to you and yours.

Cynthia Wilson is coordinator for the International Students Community Outreach Team at the Destin United Methodist Church.


Stay tuned to the Destin International Students - Summer 2013 Facebook page or email cynthia.wilson@cox.net