Every fall, there is a great migration to Bartlesville, Oklahoma. Students travel from all over the U.S. and from different countries, to come to Oklahoma Wesleyan. Many students move into the campus dorms and houses, but a few students have a unique opportunity to join new families for the year. These host families include everyone from local churches, to OKWU professors, to OKWU’s President and First Lady, who themselves have hosted more than a dozen students over the years.
Often, host families “adopt” students for just the school term, but end up building life-long relationships. Recently, OKWU had the opportunity to learn more about those relationships in conversations with a host mother and two OKWU alums who lived with a host family.
The Family: Caroline Casselberry
Caroline Casselberry, also known as “Mama C”, has been hosting students from OKWU since 2005. Over the years, she has hosted more than a dozen students. She also provides regular meals to students and has had numerous students come out for events on financial management, for holidays, and bonfires. She is a community member that “cares about college students and supports Christian education.”
OKWU: Why do you host OKWU students?
Caroline: I have a passion for sharing my faith and life experiences with young adults. I made some poor decisions during those years…and I hope and pray that I can encourage them in their value as His son or daughter, their personal relationship to Him, and that based on knowledge of His character and His great love for them they would not compromise their obedience to GOD’s loving guidelines/commands. They are making so many critical life-long decisions during these years; I pray I can help them seek Him and not their emotions or our culture.
Do you have any hilarious stories from hosting students?
Those who were the biggest pranksters on campus, or in my home, are now some of the biggest movers and shakers in outreach and church ministry. Whether it be lighting a bonfire and causing a “boom” and the ensuing worship singing while making s’mores, or the laughter and teasing as they lay on their backs watching the total eclipse…it is hard to choose any one hilarious event. Board games, puzzles, Thanksgivings… all provide many moments of laughter and continue to do so as many return to me for holidays even though graduated.
What’s the best part of hosting students?
There are many wonderful benefits to hosting students. Years ago my husband and I would always reach out to some students in our church. Those first ones were with me as his brain tumor took David away from us personally and then as he died. My “adopteds” brought life into the midst of our home where there was an impending death of a loved one, of whom an ultimate healing was going home to the LORD. My children needed the fun life that came in the door with Charlie, Nathan, and Randi. In recent years, as a widow with an empty nest, I, too, benefit from the lively fun of these young adults. They help me with property and traveling needs, serving me as needed.
Perhaps the most rewarding part is watching them grow and wrestle with their faith and our culture. They are the ones inheriting the next mission field in America, as well as around the world. To see them realize that they are in ministry no matter where they are or what they do is an exciting blessing to watch.
What does the role of a host family look like?
More than anything, a role of mentoring and being a home away from home. Boundaries are important to keep from any misuse or being taken advantage of, but the relational aspect is incredibly important and valuable to both parties, a vulnerability in how one has learned to live life with the LORD as it unfolds and the intentional pursuit of Him.
The Students: ‘Pika’ and Stevan
OKWU alumni, Vladan ‘Pika’ Glavonic and Stevan Djukic lived with another host family, OKWU Professor, Dr. Doug Quick and his wife Kathy. Pika and Steven were both international students, thus living with a host family provided a more affordable way to attend OKWU.
OKWU: What is the value for a student with a host family?
Pika: After a while, I did not see them as just a “host”, they literally became my family. Their constant support and care for our well being was second to none. It was always great knowing you can count on someone to help you through everything. Without their help, I would not have been able to attend OKWU and they are a huge part of any success I have achieved while being here. Now, 6 years after I moved out of their house, I still go over for Thanksgiving. When I go back to their place, it still feels like home.
Steven: Dr. Quick is my spiritual father, and that alone speaks volumes. Both he and [his wife] Kathy sacrificed their privacy and free time so they could make sure we ended up on the right path. The Quicks, among many other people at OKWU, bettered my life.
I guess when you find yourself 6000 miles away from home, realizing they have done so much for you, there is nothing you can do to repay them, and that’s when you discover the value living in the host family.
Host families who open their homes to OKWU students are providing an experience for the students where they can learn and grow in a “family away from family”. Families like the one Caroline provides are a blessing to their students, and in return, the students are able to be a blessing to her. Living with a host family brings a unique experience for each OKWU student that steps into these homes, and OKWU is grateful for a community committed to supporting our students.