My brother and I were raised by Christian parents in a small town in Arkansas. We went to church every Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday night. I was very involved in church from a young age.
When I was young, it was not uncommon for churches to occasionally have nightly church services every day of the week for an entire week. They were usually led by a visiting preacher. At age eight, during a weeknight revival service, I felt Jesus Christ seeking to come into my life and have a direct relationship with me. I accepted Him into my life as my King. This was a strong, definite communication from God. I have received many messages and confirmations from God but few as clear and direct.
One Sunday morning when my godchildren were in elementary school, my goddaughter asked me if all people that go to church are Christians. What a great question! The answer was “no.” Just because you go to church does not make you a Christian. I don’t remember having this conversation with my parents as a child but I did know as a child at eight years old that I needed to accept God’s free gift of forgiveness in order to live forever with Him in heaven.
Another strong, clear message came to me after a Southcliff church service on a Sunday morning in the fall of 2001. The missions minister announced that they were seeking volunteers for an ESL ministry. I knew that was what I was supposed to do.
I attended teacher training that utilized the North American Missions Board ESL teacher training curriculum. My teacher was Dorothy Westfall. She has since gone to be with God. I immediately began teaching. My first student was a man from Guatemala named Juan. Juan had a hard time in America. He had come to join his wife and kids who had come to America before him, but he was very disappointed in the way our culture was shaping his children. He wanted to go back to Guatemala and did before the next semester. If the lesson for the night was about food or food preparation, I would bring food (like apples) with me and would send them home with him after class. On the last night of the semester, before the Christmas break, I asked him to come to my car after class because I had something for him and his family. I had several things for him, his kids, and his wife. We had become friends and I always got things for my friends for Christmas. He started crying when I was giving him the presents. I don’t think he had experienced much kindness from Americans while he was here. That was the last time I ever saw him.
I followed the NAMB manual for arriving early and setting up, etc. It wasn’t until much later that I realized that I had been following the instructions for an ESL program director (instead of a teacher). Perhaps God didn’t want me to know that they were additional roles besides the teacher’s role. I’m not sure what I would have done otherwise.
Our ESL Director at the time was Harry Wilson, the Executive Director of HOPE Literacy. Southcliff’s ESL ministry was a plant site for HOPE Literacy. Harry was not a member of Southcliff and neither was the teacher of the other class that met on Wednesday night when I taught. The only other member in the ESL ministry was Sue Vaughn who met earlier the same night with a student from China. One night, Harry said, “Since you do all the things a director does, how would you like to be the director of Southcliff’s ESL ministry?” I agreed to take the job.
We felt it was important to have Southcliff members involved in this Southcliff ministry. We agreed to pray for three teachers and God provided exactly the number we asked for. In the fall of 2002, we started our ESL ministry with Southcliff volunteers. We all agreed to begin praying for thirty students. We started with twelve students and continued to grow each week until we reached thirty. God provided exactly how many we asked for and then we began to ask for more. Each year since 2002 God has put a specific number of volunteers and students on my heart to pray for. I asked the volunteers to join me in prayer for God to provide those numbers. God answered our prayers. Prayer has been at the center of our ministry.
When God called me to get involved in ESL, I obeyed, but I had no idea what He had planned for me or our ESL ministry at Southcliff. Check out the history of our ministry here in this blog and see the amazing things God has done.
|Men Who Love God & Internationals|
|John, Hunter, and Harry||David, John, and Mike|
|Early Years in the Community Center|
...and in the same country, there were shepherds abiding in the fields
18 Years of ESL Ministry -
John has grown up &
Sue has grown old
|"Thanks, John" Through the Years|
|John's Gift of Giving|
|And the winner is...||Let's see what you got||Happy Birthday Abbas!|
|Serving with a Smile|
|Greeting New Students with a Smile||Ready to Serve - International Dessert Fellowship|
|"Don't ask me. I know nothing."|