by Betty Young
Do you know that reaching out to immigrants can be a very strategic part of fulfilling the Great Commission? Immigrants come to San Jose from all over the world. Indeed, the nations are at our doorsteps. New immigrants arrive with a huge need: the need to learn English. Let us not allow this opportunity to pass by. Let us bring the gospel to this population by teaching English, by building relationships, by sharing the gospel and by making disciples.
Our ESL classes have been a presence in the neighborhood surrounding our church for many years, but ten years ago God provided an opportunity to teach ESL in the Rockspring community. Over the years, friendships developed; and community was built. Teachers heard from their students the harrowing stories of survival, the continual struggle to reunite with family and the hardships associated with living in another country and not knowing the language.
We want to share some stories from this past school year September 2018 to May 2019:
- The director of Rocksprings expressed appreciation that we have served tenants and the surrounding community for so long. She is all too familiar with well-meaning ministries that last only a few months. Time and time again students and others have expressed gratitude for providing a much-needed service.
- This year we presented a workshop on the problem of suicide in the immigrant communities. Many of our students participated in the discussion time that followed and we learned that this issue is common in the neighborhoods of our students. We praise God that we have provided community and a safe place for our students to find hope and comfort.
- In October of 2018, we celebrated the 80th birthday of one of our advanced students. She had started classes with us at the very beginning and had become a good friend to our teachers, having participated in many church-wide activities. We were sad to hear about the passing away of her husband earlier this year. Teachers showed support and attended his funeral.
- Every year we have a year-end celebration to honor our students’ great strides in learning English. Students are proud to receive Certificates of Participation. What is a celebration without good food? We enjoy all the delicious ethnic desserts!
- Every June our students participate in our congregation’s Blue Jean Sunday. It was no different this year as they joined the all congregation barbecue at Valley Christian High School.
In recent months the ESL staff have sensed a time of ripeness in our classrooms. In our conversations with our students, we have noticed a change in their attitudes. They are curious as to why we voluntarily work so hard every Tuesday and Thursday evening. As we have listened and heard their stories, they now seem eager to hear ours.
On July 4 this year, we invited ESL teachers, helpers, ESL students and their family members to join us for a barbecue lunch. We were encouraged when 20 students and their family members joined us. We started out with lunch, a song time where our students learned about the gospel, testimony and small group conversations. We were just happy for this small and humble beginning and to be able to speak freely about Jesus. We did not expect anything significant to happen. But much to our surprise, a woman in our intermediate class received Jesus! We anticipate that this victory will multiply many times over in the months to come.
On that day, we saw many signs that the harvest is ripe.
At this barbecue and during our small group conversation time, a couple asked why we serve the Vietnamese people since we are from a primarily Chinese church. Because of the love shown to their people, they expressed interest to learn more about our church and our beliefs.
An English-speaking daughter of a student expressed her great appreciation for providing a place for her mother not only to learn English but for providing community where her mother has made new friends. She also is grateful for the love and kindness exhibited by all the teachers toward her community. She has asked questions about other ministries in our church.
A teacher whose background is in nursing was able to diagnose and treat a student’s granddaughter who had developed a rash on her face.
We hope to have many more such small group gatherings as we begin our 2019-2020 school year in September. We hope to gather our student/friends into our homes, share a meal, listen to each other’s stories, share our testimonies and perhaps win our students to Christ.
Will you cover us in prayer as we begin this new work? The soil of our students’ hearts is tilled and plowed, good seeds have been planted and perhaps this is the season for harvest. If we are to begin small conversation groups, we will need small group leaders, worship coordinators and prayer warriors. If this is an area of interest for you, please consider serving with us.
Even as we are praying for more helpers to start ESL small groups, we continue to need more help in our classrooms. We need people to be helpers and conversation partners in our classrooms. We also need people who will tutor the children. Perhaps you can help prepare a meal or two on any Tuesday or Thursday evening.
In Deuteronomy 10:19 we are commanded to love the foreigner because we have all been new to this country and have been foreigners at one time or another. Let us show the love of Jesus by creating new friendships, forming a safe and loving community and providing a much needed service to our immigrant brothers and sisters.