A little than two years ago, our church was asked by Jubilee Reach in Bellevue if we would be interested in starting an ESL program at our church. Jubilee Reach was receiving some interest from students in Issaquah and Sammamish and contacted our missions pastor. A group of us received some basic instruction training from Jubilee Reach and a suggested coursebook. Most had never taught before; it was definitely out of our comfort zone. Now in our third year, we have learned about our students and their needs and have tailored the program better to fit their needs. We continue to add to the number of students we have served as word gets out. We have become a support for each other and each person’s strengths are being incorporated and utilized. We all feel needed here! As a result of this program’s influence, I have completed a certificate in TESOL (Teaching English as a Second Language). Who would have known this would open the door to other opportunities had our missions pastor said no to Jubilee Reach?
The best part of the ESL program are the students. They keep coming, getting the word out to their community, and sharing their gratefulness and generosity; they have formed their own community here. Many students will stay long after class is over. It can feel very lonely when everyone else is speaking so fast and our students are lost in their google translations. We know this: having a sense of community can get people through many difficult circumstances and moving to another country where another language is spoken can be quite isolating. In addition, the cultural nuances and norms are hidden and can be very confusing to our students. In our talk time with upper level students, we uncover those nuances and help our students to become more confident and at ease to navigate those situations. We have learned a lot about our own culture through the eyes of our students as well.
Tricia tells this story:
Sue, who is going back to Korea in a week told me that before our English classes she hid out at home, afraid and embarrassed to talk to her neighbors. Now, as she leaves, she’s made friends with her classmates and her neighbors, her English is much better and her confidence improved. She’s had parties with some of her classmates, the husbands have met etc. ...I pray she will remember our faith expressed through our work..
The students are also very grateful for the actual classes even though, to us, we feel that we are just trying to offer something of use for them. But like the boy who gave his lunch to Jesus to use, we offer our “lunch” and get to be a part of watching God work in us and in this program. Though the path ahead can feel ambiguous and unclear, as is the case for most new programs, we have learned about trusting God in the ambiguity, connecting with people across cultures and generations, and being open to surprises!