Foreign exchange students a blessing for Cotton Center family

Foreign exchange students a blessing for Cotton Center family

COTTON CENTER, TX (KCBD) - In the small town of Cotton Center, with a population of about 174 people, you will find Jim and Sheri Higgs.

They are both teachers at Cotton Center ISD, married for 28 years: but are missing something.

"We never had kids," said Jim.

Last year, a friend told the Higgs this needed to change.

"He said, 'You should have two kids' and I just laughed at him," Jim said, "and I talked to my wife and she just laughed and said 'Well, maybe'."

Three days later, their call came.

"The phone rang and ICES (International Cultural Exchange Services) says, 'We have kids that need to be in Texas next weekend'," said Jim. "'We heard that you want to host them'. And I thought they were crazy."

But not too crazy.

"Nine days later, we had our first girl from Norway," Jim said. "All they need is a place, a room a meal and a ride. But it'll change your life."

However, that is an understatement for the Higgs.

"They filled something we did not know was there," Jim said, "and the chance to share with them our lives, our faith and what God means to us and to see them grow. I mean, that's something special."

Which made it almost impossible last year for the Higgs to tell their students from Norway and China goodbye.

"One moment they're there, they're smiling, they're breathing, they're happy," Jim said, "and the next moment, they're gone."

So it was no surprise when this couple did not hesitate to open the door to their home and their hearts again this school year.

"We are blessed with two wonderful children," Jim said, "Elizabeth Eliesen from Denmark and Inwha Jang from South Korea."

Which means the Higgs family expands each year. So far they have "daughters" from China, Norway, Denmark and South Korea.

"It's pretty much the same as home," said Elizabeth Eliesen, "I would say, personally."

Their passion for hosting foreign exchange students had now rubbed off on two other families in Cotton Center, who are both hosting two other girls from Norway.

"It was neat to watch what the Higgs were doing with their students in the past," Lisa Sanders said, "and when they approached us with it, we thought, 'You know, why not?'"

This means that thanks to the Higgs, four out of a class of about 39 at Cotton Center High School that they teach will be foreign exchange students.

"Its opened my eyes and my viewpoints and its opened my heart," Sheri said, "and so I think we learn much more from them than they do from us."

Their stories and experiences will transform Jim's history class and make Cotton Center's population seem bigger than ever before.

"We're not going to talk about Europe," he said. "They're going to show you. It's an international community…in a cotton field."

The Higgs will keep hosting these foreign exchange students each year for personal reasons.

"These girls walked in my life and I got to be a parent," Sheri said. "I get to be a parent. And I don't know. How do you think I feel?"

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