Many of you may not know that my parents immigrated to the U.S. in the 1970’s. My mother was brought by my grandmother in her teens while my father escaped through joining the military. Both came from poverty and neither knew English very well when they came to the States. My father learned English in school but not enough to carry a conversation or even be accepted fully in the United States. Through his Army boot camp and military friends he was forced to learn English. With that came friendship but also shame and hurt. People looked at him as less than because he had a “funny” accent or didn’t understand the nuances of many words and phrases. Even today my father has a fairly heavy accent that is still noticeable. It was through a relationship with a Black Army officer that my dad found someone who was willing to help him culturally but also with his English. They related to one another feeling like outsiders and took the next six years learning from one another. My mothers road was smoother as she went to Catholic school and learned English extensively and learned it quickly. By the time I was born they could communicate quite well but with heavy accents. Both my parents tried very hard to make sure we adjusted and assimilated to whatever culture we were in (we moved a lot) and could speak the language. Why? Because they knew that language was an essential part of being accepted into a society. This was built in as a kid when someone would yell to my parents to speak English or when they would ask my dad to repeat himself 100 times.
My parents understood the struggle of being accepted both through language and culture, as my mother became an ESOL (English Speakers of Other Languages) teacher. I remember her bringing people from all over the world to our house for parties. I also remember how much they loved my mom after those classes would end. They were grateful not simply for the teaching but for the relationships built. The struggle of my father and the beauty of service from my mother, has always left a mark on my life. So when the community near our Ministry Center asked for ESOL classes this was an easy move. For the last couple of months, we have been cultivating a crew to help serve and love this community through ESOL classes. Our vision is to love and serve those whom English is not their first language and whom we hope through serving them will know the love and grace of Jesus Christ. These classes will take place Tuesday nights beginning Feb. 6th from 7-9pm. Most people ask: Do I have to know Spanish, Urdu or Arabic or do I have to have experience? No, you don’t. We are looking for people who love people and want to develop relationships with people who want to learn English but are seeking something much deeper. If this interests you or you have questions, I would love to have a conversation with you. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org . I want to leave you with a quote from my mom about her experience of ESOL. She says she loved, “…being exposed to different cultures and their respective norms/values … .their eagerness to learn, seeing how you could ease their fears living in another country and helping them to navigate life in a different country.”