SYCAMORE – Dan Stovall’s trip to China this summer was marked by generosity.
It was the kind of generosity the pastor of the Sycamore Baptist Church shows for people who visit and live in the U.S. When Stovall and his wife went to Beijing, they were invited into the home of a man who had been a visiting professor at Northern Illinois University.
Stovall had helped this professor when he lived in the U.S. by providing free furniture. It’s one of the many services his church provides not only to visiting professors but international students in the DeKalb and Sycamore area. But it’s not all about giving away furniture.
“The nice thing about this is that we don’t just provide the furniture, we begin a relationship,” he said.
Stovall said he started the service five years ago to meet the needs of international students who come to NIU without desks, couches or tables. The international students can get in touch with the church by phone, email or social media to request furniture they need, he said. The church doesn’t provide smaller household items such as pots and pans, though.
“We’ve been at this long enough to know the students’ needs as well as our limits,” he said.
Kalyani Sunkara, an NIU mechanical engineering graduate student from India, said she found the program helpful and the people who volunteer for it friendly.
“It’s kind of cool,” she said. “It’s so helpful.”
Demand tends to be high at the beginning and end of the semester, and the program has grown in size over the years, Stovall said. It has provided furniture for more than 200 students this semester, he said.
Volunteers started with one storage space for the furniture and now have three. Much of the furniture is donated either from the community or in the Chicago area.
Some international students ask him why he runs a program like this, since they do not find one in their own country.
Stovall said it’s because he wants to show them Americans are good people, and Christians are, too.
“I’m a Christian and I want you to know Christians are OK people,” he said.
International students can learn more about the program by emailing the Sycamore Baptist Church at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 815-895-2577.
Donations of furniture can also be made to the church.