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Oak Creek AFS Student Sings Gospel at Inner-City Church

A foreign exchange student at Oak Creek High School was part of a unique intercultural experience Sunday evening at Victory Missionary Baptist Church.

High school students from all over the world came to the intersection of Teutonia Avenue and Center Street Sunday evening for a rare intercultural experience.

For 15 years, international students from the Milwaukee-area AFS team have taken a field trip to Victory Missionary Baptist Church in Milwaukee to share their native culture with church members and experience an African-American church service.

About 70 AFS students and host families from around the Milwaukee-area participated in the church service, including Oak Creek High School exchange student Sabrina Carli from Italy.

Some of the international students had never met a black person before. Others had never been to a church before. Some of the European students were surprised to see men and boys take an active part in the church service and sing in the gospel choir, which they said is not common in their culture.

"They were all in the same place experiencing the same thing, but they all had different observations based on their cultural background," said Karen Nelson, chair of the Milwaukee-area AFS team.

Nelson said Victory Missionary's partnership with AFS dates back 15 years, due to a connection formed by an AFS volunteer from Brown Deer. Local AFS students have been exposed to an ever-widening array of religious services in recent years: shabbat services at Congregation Emanu-El B'ne Jeshurun in Brown Deer, an American-Indian church in Oak Creek; and at an all-inclusive spiritual center in Milwaukee.

"These opportunities are integral to a learning experience," Nelson said. "It isn't just to offer this to our foreign exchange students. It's also an opportunity for the community to learn about other cultures."

To learn more about AFS and how to become a host family, visit the AFS-Milwaukee website.

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