A home away from home
This is what the Eigenmanns, a family from the Vancouver congregation in Canada, have been offering New Apostolic students for the past twelve years.
A two-storey house in Coquitlam, a city in Metro Vancouver in British Columbia. It is only a block away from a lake with a beautiful beach. This is where Caren (39), Marcel (45), and their two children, Kylie (12) and Spencer (10), live.
On the second floor of the house there is an extra room with a private bath especially for temporary foreign guests, who become part of the family during their stay. The Eigenmanns regularly have New Apostolic students stay with them who want to live, learn, and study far away from their home country. Over the past twelve years, Caren and Marcel have hosted fifteen students.
An international family
Caren and Marcel have known each other since their childhood, although they grew up on different continents, separated by the Atlantic Ocean. “I was born in Cape Town in South Africa,” Caren says. “When I was twelve we immigrated to Canada, where we had extended family.”
Marcel grew up in Calgary in the province of Alberta. When he was young, the family moved to the province of British Columbia. But his family is not from Canada either: his mother is from Germany and his father from Switzerland. As a child he spent many summer vacations in Europe visiting family.
A host family on request
The idea of offering foreign students a home away from home for a time came from their congregation. “One of our ministers approached us with a student opportunity. Julia, a girl from Germany, had contacted him looking for a New Apostolic family to reside with while completing her course in Vancouver.” Caren and Marcel said yes and Julia became their first guest.
Since then the family has hosted New Apostolic students regularly. Most come from Germany and Switzerland. Caren Eigenmann says that they prefer it if their foreign students share their faith, mostly for practical reasons: “We are very involved in our Church, and having students who are members of the New Apostolic Church makes it easier to include them in our activities.” Her husband is the choir leader, she plays the organ and the flute in the orchestra, teaches Sunday School, and is the Sunday School co-ordinator for their district.
In the middle of the congregation
Both Marcel and Caren spent most of their childhood involved with Church activities. “Both our fathers were rectors of congregations.” This is what they pass on to their children: getting involved in the congregation and maintaining close ties to the brothers and sisters.
“Kylie sometimes plays the flute and the piano in our congregation’s orchestra. She is still learning. And Spencer plays the violin and ushers during Holy Communion,” Caren says.
Never a negative experience
The family’s full calendar and their involvement in the Church has never been a problem for their guests. “We feel as though God has had a hand in the students we have had residing with us. We can truly say we have never had a negative experience with anyone staying with us,” Caren Eigenmann says.
The Eigenmanns have really taken to one of their “sons”. “Reto is from Switzerland. When he first came to stay with us in 2006 it was for an English course and to work. After that he returned five more times. We have met his entire family. We have even spent time with his wife, because he is married now.”
“It has been wonderful. We have loved each student’s unique personality. It is wonderful to be able to expose your children to such a variety of cultures,” Caren says, as she looks back on the past twelve years. She is already looking forward to their next student.