Though we have missed our Director, Cindy Canoy, due to illness this semester, our faithful team of teachers and encouragers have met each Monday since January to teach English to our Cleveland County neighbors who have come from around the world.
Flavored by wonderful international foods prepared by our students and featuring their grateful words of appreciation, the FBC English as Second Language Spring Celebration last night put an exclamation point of “blessing” upon another year of lessons!
This semester our ESL students have come from Cuba, Nicaragua, Costa Rico, Mexico, Venezuela, Poland, Japan and Guatemala; and, regardless of the country of origin, or the level of English with which they are able to function, they are a blessing to our church family even as they have expressed their thanksgiving to the church and their teachers.
This semester our ESL ministry team has been led by Pat Whatley (Level 1 teacher), June Yarboro (Level 2 teacher), Pat Brooks (Level 3 teacher), Becca Sisk (Children’s teacher), Mark and Sara Greene (hospitality), and our very committed youth assistants Will Hoard, Allie MacArthur and Chloe Thomas. A great group of substitute teachers have been available to assist each week as needed. This team has put a smile on the face of our church’s reach to our neighbors and that smile has been converted to special times for our students.
Last evening, Monday April 8, students received certificates marking their progress in English along with hand made gifts for the women (jewelry created by Pat Whatley) and the men and children received ESL-logo-ed key rings and bag tags (organized by Sara Greene at Sport Pix) as gifts from FBC. Then, several of the students, gathered with family members for the annual year-end celebration, shared their thoughts, including the following!
- “There are lots of bad things that happen in the world so it is good to be around good people. This is a good place to be with such people.”
- “Thank you so much for helping people from other countries to learn to speak English.”
- “I want to thank our wonderful teachers and to the pastor and this church for giving us the opportunity to be here to learn.”
- “I am very happy for taking this class. I love this class and everyone is very kind. I like ESL because it is a good opportunity to learn English. We are happy to be here. Thank you.”
- “I say thank you to Jesus who always helps us every single moment. The work the teachers do is very good to spend time with us.”
The World in Shelby
Our church has been blessed to host these English classes for many years now, and, while our members have led the way in organizing this ministry for the sake of these international neighbors, these new friends have blessed us with a crucial point of view.
Pat Brooks verbalized this point of view at the Celebration when she said to her class of Level 3 students, “We are better world citizens because of you!” She described how the interplay of culture and background at work in the teacher/student dialogue had impressed her with extreme appreciation for the peoples of the world who are our world neighbors!
Jesus — The Light of the World
Throughout the semester, and again for their families at the Celebration, our students have used Bible verses and songs as a medium for language acquisition and as an encouragement for their hearts. Each week during March and April they have recited and chanted from 1 Peter 5:7, “Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.” This verse has given us the framework for talking about the love of God that is ours in Jesus. A love that is for us the light we need to be able to see everything we need to see for living life as God intends for us to live.
As the students presented their song for the final time of the semester, we were all reminded that whether it is for learning language in a land that is not our own, or for trying to navigate the latest struggle that has landed in our path, “We won’t worry ’bout a thing”! Instead, we will trust Jesus, the Light of the World, to show us the way through!