Meet the Team - Andrea Bailey, ESL Trainer
Lancaster County, Pennsylvania boasts to be the nation’s refugee capital, taking 20 times more refugees per capita that the rest of the US according to BBC news. But even before we could proudly own this title, God was already at work in this place, preparing hearts and leading churches in our area to start ESL ministries that would grow to serve the needs of the people He was bringing to our doors.
When we began ESL ministry 6 years ago, I would have never imagined our program existing as it does today. As I look back at our beginnings and where we are today, it is evident that God’s hand has been at work.
Initially, having some background in ESL and considering the location of our church, I encountered several people in the community who wished to learn English but for various reasons, were not able to. I spoke with our pastor and began to pray that God would show us how to move ahead. During this time, our family moved to a new home and we just happened to move next door to a woman who was directing an ESL ministry at a neighboring PCA church! God was at work, going before us and making connections that were clearly by His hand.
I began helping in our neighbor’s ESL ministry and during that time I met Nancy Booher, attended a training, and the church approved a small budget for our ESL ministry. We began our ESL ministry with just a handful of volunteers and faith that God was already at work and would provide what we needed!
Being so small, our pastor asked us how many students we thought we could manage well and I said maybe fifteen students. Before we began, a group of church members met and prayed for our ESL ministry. They prayed that fifteen students would come and on our first night of class, fifteen students arrived!
And so it began, God faithfully showing me through every turn and obstacle that this was His work and that he would provide for it. Over the years, we began partnering with another local PCA church and eventually moved our program to their building. Every year, we have had students from all over world and this year we have welcomed students from 34 countries coming together to learn English each week. Our students tell us that our program is different than other programs they’ve attended and that they feel that we are more like a ‘family.’
I can tell story after story of ways that God has accomplished this work in our community, ministering not just to our international neighbors, but using ESL ministry as a formative and life-giving experience for those who serve in our program. We have a group of 41 volunteers who serve faithfully each week to make this ministry happen. I have seen the many and various ways that God has used this ministry to inspire, challenge, heal and bless those who give each week to make it happen.
And we believe that God's presence, at work through His people, is becoming known on our corner. We hear people from the community thanking us for what we are doing and one local resettlement agency told us that their clients report feeling loved and cared for in our program. Back in November, I was able to speak at a community forum, sharing the stories of those who come each week, giving our local neighbors a chance to hear about the amazing people we have the privilege to work with. We have seen this ministry bring life to those it touches and that is God’s spirit at work in the lives of all who are involved.
Over the years, the truth of God’s welcome that we have shared with our international neighbors has touched our own family as we welcomed twins into our family through adoption, making us a family of eight!
When I consider God’s hand and how He has orchestrated the details of my life, it is amazing to see how He has prepared me for the work He has put before me. ESL ministry has been one of the most spiritually formative experiences of my Christian faith. It has been a privilege to both experience and witness God’s faithful care for our students who come through our doors each week.
ESL is about getting involved in individual's stories
by Linda Moffett (submitted by Andrea Bailey)
I cried after class yesterday.
No, I am not a middle school or high school teacher.
No, I didn’t have a classroom full of unruly students.
No, I didn’t fail to follow my lesson plan nor did I feel my students were confused or bored.
Quite the contrary. My classroom is populated by some of the most interesting,
engaging, fun-loving, hard-working, generous people you will ever meet. Weekly I
am inspired by their bravery and their intelligence. Most speak at least two
languages; some three or four. They are smarter than me, braver than me, more
generous than me.
You see, I teach an ESL class for immigrants. And last night, I started class by
talking about hospitality and friendship. When I asked them about hospitality in
their own countries, the class lit up. Yes, in their countries, the stranger was invited in. There was always enough rice or soup or stew. Yes, a plate was set for the newcomer (whether they agreed to stay right away or not!) No, there was no planning ahead, no worry about what was served or the condition of their homes. There was just joy in welcoming a guest to their table.
There was silence when I asked them what hospitality was like in America. You see,
they didn’t really know.
Why is it, I asked them, why is it that many Americans are inhospitable? Again
silence. Finally Joseline spoke up.
“It’s because they don’t believe in us.”
They don’t believe in us. What did she mean, I thought. Others joined in. “Trust” was the word they decided on … Americans did not trust them.
No wonder they feel that way. Our current political climate cannot be called
welcoming by any means. And the utter lack of hospitality they experience supports that idea that they are mistrusted, unwanted, even intruders.
My class is a Level Three English class which I team-teach with another volunteer, Bethany, on Wednesday nights. Eleven students (out of a possible 20 or so) showed up for the evening’s class. Only two of the students have been here for a year or less, the other nine have been here anywhere from two to 16 years.
So I asked them a question: How many of them had an American friend?
We discussed the difference between a “friend” and an “acquaintance” before they answered. Most were not familiar with the word “acquaintance” but soon
understood. You say hi to an acquaintance; you wave at them; you might have
small conversations with them. A friend you spend time with; laugh with; eat with.
One student raised her hand. One student had an American friend.
So I asked how many had been in an American home. Again, one student raised her hand. Just one. In a class of eleven, most of whom had lived in America for years, ONE person had been invited into the home of an American.
I would like to say I was stunned, but truthfully I was just very sad. I am guilty of
not opening my home, of not making time, of not being hospitable. Of course I have excuses. Three children getting married in a span of five years; a major surgery; working and job transitions; new grandchildren arriving; some health challenges in my extended family. But these “excuses” are really just life …it’s what happens. When will I not be living my life?
During our normal break time that night, the students had planned and prepared on their own initiative an amazing surprise baby shower for my pregnant co-teacher Bethany. They brought dishes from their own countries – delicious, labor-intensive dishes. Bison meat-stuffed empanadas; delicate little coconut treats, and little cups of maria mole. There were generous gifts, too. A gift card, sweet clothing for the
expected baby girl, diapers, little shoes, even a handmade sweater from Colombia. Their generosity was truly overwhelming.
These students – not shown hospitality nor invited into the homes of others –
showed enormous hospitality that night.
So later that night I cried. I cried for the times I have not shown hospitality or
friendship. And I asked God to help me be a little more like my students:
Gracious. Generous. Hospitable.
Here are some practical suggestions of ways to show hospitality to your ESL students.
- Invite them to your home for a game night. Pick a few easy games – UNO, Racko, etc… Set up card tables throughout your home and pair students with teachers/volunteers so that they have to interact and talk!!
- Invite them to your home to watch a sporting event – Basketball, Soccer, etc… It doesn’t matter if you are really “into” the sport or not. It’s an excuse to gather. Serve traditional American tailgating type party food. Remember to put 3x5 cards in front of each dish with the name and the ingredients on it.
- Take your students on a field trip. Does your church have a bus or big van? If not, just carpool. Go to a local museum or other historical landmark. Possibly do a little vocabulary and history/cultural lesson before you go.
- Invite them to a celebration in your home: birthday, anniversary, new baby, etc…. Explain the American traditions associated with the event.
- Invite them to your home for a covered dish dinner (make sure you explain what that is first). Ask each student to bring a favorite dish from their home country. Have them share about that dish and a memory associated with it at the dinner.
If you haven’t opened up your home to your students yet, what are you waiting for? Your house will never be perfect and your students don’t expect it to be. Push the clutter to the side and invite them in. Ask a volunteer or friend to help you. If you are the ESL Director at your church and your teachers are not practicing hospitality with their students, then you will need to model it for them!! True biblical hospitality will bless not only your students, but you too.
Upcoming ESL Teacher Training Events for 2017:
- Marco Island, FL - March 24 & 25
- contact Pastor Jan Werson at email@example.com
- Portland, ME - April 28 & 29
- contact Sharie Pillsbury at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Peoria, IL - May 12 & 13
- contact Mike Uno at email@example.com
- Orlando, FL - June 1 & 2 (MNA Mercy Conference)
- contact Nancy Booher at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Greensboro, NC - June 12 & 13 (PCA General Assembly)
- contact Nancy Booher at email@example.com
- Salisbury, MD - June 16 & 17
- contact Faith Shelton at JaredandFaith@gmail.com
- Murfreesburo, TN - June 23 & 24
- contact Tim Ehresman at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Akron, OH - July 24-26 (CMA Summer Camp)
- contact Bruce Lyman at email@example.com
- Dayton, OH - August 4 & 5
- contact Firmino de Almeida at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Marriottsville, MD - September 8 & 9
- contact Barb Cober at email@example.com
Additionally, if you are interested in starting an English As A Second Language (ESL) Ministry or want to schedule an ESL Training at your church,
Already part of an ESL Ministry? Here are ways you can help MNA ESL spread the word to others.
Pray with us that God would use MNA ESL to reach the nations God has brought to our doorstep with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Specifically pray for more churches to start ESL Ministries.
And be sure you share your excitement about ESL with your family and friends.
Lastly, we ask that you prayerfully consider participating with us through your financial support. You can make a tax-deductible contribution online. All contributions go directly toward growing the ESL Ministry and nothing is used for personal support; God has already provided that. You can also mail contributions, made payable to Mission to North America to:
Mission to North America
PO Box 890233
Charlotte NC 28289-0233
Designate: MNA English As A Second Language (ESL)