It’s a usual Thursday night, a group of Chinese students is waiting for someone in front of media factory, a teaching building on campus in Preston, northwest of UK. A 71-year-old British man gets off his mini-bus with holding a paper, he greets warmly with every single student and sends them to the mini-bus after making sure he ticks all the name on the paper.
The man named Paul Marston, a retired university lecturer and also a Christian, a overall leaders of the activities at King’s Church. It is the tenth year he spends Thursday with those students in his house in Leyland, a town near Preston.
This activity is initially aiming to share knowledge of Christianity by King’s Church, it faces to people from diverse countries including France, Poland, Latin American, Malaysia and South Korea.
Over 25 Chinese students and several British Christians start gathering every week, sharing foods and chatting in warm and big living room in Paul’s house.
For some of the Chinese students, it no longer a place just for missionary and learn a new culture. They called it as weekly party with old friends, or family.
“Paul is a short-tempered but very enthusiastic person.” Chunfang Qi, who has longest experience in this year’s house group said.
Chunfang came to the Preston to read a doctorate in law in 2013. Now, she had settled in this place and become director of a local Chinese restaurant named Panda Cool, and she still keeps going to house group every week.
“My friend fell down one time,” She said, “Paul knew it and he got here quickly though it was very late, he accompanied her in the hospital until he makes sure she is fine.
“I believe that for many of people, the house group is not just a place to practice English anymore, it’s a special place which has warm and sincere people that we willing to visit every week.” Chunfang added.
Paul like photographing, he collects the picture he took for a year and select them to update on Flikr. And he also starts to make annual photobook years ago, which have his value family time as well as happy time in house group.
In his collection, there have a special one which records his travel time to China. He visited five cities to meet his old friends.
“His name is Nick, he is a very smart kid,” Paul pointed a boy in a photo. Though he meets thousands of Chinese students, he can clearly recognize most of their face and name. “it’s been a while after I saw him last time, but we finally met again in his hometown Shenzhen.”
“Nick finished his degree in University of Oxford and got married, and now he is also a Christian.” Paul said proudly like talked about his own child.
“Paul love share those picture with others,” Janice Marston, Paul’s wife beamed at her husband, “He just can’t stop when he starts talking about them.”
“Of course, we would be getting tired when we have to get settle everything every week,” When talking about giving up, Paul suddenly started coughing. It is the third time he had to stop talking take a break. But he blamed all on the dry weather.
Paul thank and take his cup from Kevin Tian, one of his friend who is a Chinese graduate student have been helping house group for almost three years.
“But every time we done it, we feel happy.” He gives a big smile, and take a sip of tea.
“It’s good to see new faces come every year, and encouragely people who come last year have come back,” he said, like ten years isn’t a long time for him, “So as long as there have students willing to come, we will keep doing it. ”