Many international students find the process of coming to Canada a challenge—for Grace Kumaresan it was nothing short of a miracle! As bank and visa approvals dragged on and on and classes started without her, everyone around her began to doubt she would get here. But Grace had the assurance Canada was where God wanted her.
Grace arrived at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver at the end of September 2018—three weeks into the semester. It was a long way from her village in India, and she wasn’t prepared for Canada. “I had no money and no winter clothes. I didn’t have a properly functioning laptop for my computer science master’s program. I felt alone and shunned by my wealthy international classmates.”
She joined the FOCUS Club at SFU during her first semester, as well as an international student group at her church. Her motives were twofold—she wanted fellowship and teaching, but also needed to eat! “I had no money,” remembers Grace, “so with careful planning, the $50 food voucher from the university lasted the entire semester.”
Grace quickly became part of the leadership team at the SFU FOCUS Club, where she helped organize meetings and welcome students.
In May 2019, Grace moved to Ottawa for an eight-month co-op term. There was no FOCUS Club in Ottawa, but that didn’t stop her from being involved in drawing together international students, many of whom didn’t know the Lord. Through her church—and in particular, through friends who made her part of their families—she was ministered to in Ottawa and able to step into leadership and mentoring roles, all while working a fulltime job with her former co-op employer. It’s no surprise that when the mission began planning an International Student Ministries group in Ottawa, Grace was invited to join the launch team.
Grace joined the Friends for Dinner* team in Ottawa, and was challenged by its founders to start a weekly Zoom Across Borders virtual gathering with international students. Grace drew in a
couple of other leaders, and met with students from different cities and countries, combining games, Bible discussion, and spontaneous prayer. “It has been so encouraging to hear non-Christians praying aloud and rejoicing in answered prayers from the week before!” said Grace. “We’ve seen younger Christians grow stronger in their faith, and unbelievers learning about the Lord and moving closer to accepting Jesus as savior.” In September, the group had a socially distanced gathering in a park—the first time many had seen each other face to face! For Thanksgiving, Grace and her homestay family delivered turkey dinners to 12 internationals and met virtually to enjoy the meal, play a game, and share from the Bible and about Thanksgiving.
Grace hasn’t forgotten her village in India—she still has the deep desire to help girls in India financially so they can receive an education and escape the cultural grip of their villages. She also has a passion to be an influencer and build into the lives of international students in Canada. God has positioned her in Ottawa so she can do both.
*Friends for Dinner is a friendship and hospitality program that connects international students with local families for dinner gatherings during major holidays. Learn more at www.friendsfordinner.ca.