Foundation: Hope Literacy
I wanted to find out more of what had happened prior to 2001 when John and I had our first students, so I met with Harry Wilson, the director of Hope Literacy. He shared some of the history with me, then offered to let me use his Hope Literacy notes to get more details. Some of these facts may sound like "dry history," but I want to include them to show that our ESL was established on a strong foundation. The work and prayers of several individuals made it possible for those who desired to learn English to have that opportunity.
In 2001 Cindy Harrison, who was a North American Mission Board Literacy Missions Associate at that time, wrote about the beginning of HOPE (Helping Other People Excel) Literacy in a small pamphlet. Her first sentence: "HOPE is an answer to prayer." She had been helping churches in Tarrant and Palo Pinto Counties begin literacy programs for twelve years, and she wrote in an earlier paper how heartbreaking it was to see most of them last only about three years. Cindy gave what she thought were the reasons that so many ESL programs were short-lived: (1) programs were staffed with volunteers only, which meant transition; (2) directors had full-time jobs, and the responsibility of the ESL program became difficult & discouraging; and (3) students wanted to learn English but didn't make it a priority, so they dropped out, which in turn led to more discouragement for volunteer teachers & directors. As Cindy and others prayed for a way to help churches begin and "maintain a consistent standard of excellence" in their literacy programs, the idea of HOPE Literacy, Inc. was born. It was founded and incorporated as a non-profit organization in 1997 with Harry Wilson, Cindy Harrison, and Lyn Hall on the board of directors. Harry became the director, and he and his wife, Cyndi, were assigned to HOPE by the North American Mission Board. Its goals included: (1) "to share the gospel ... through teaching English; (2) to strengthen the churches by helping them establish and maintain literacy ministries for refugees, internationals ....; (3) to train literacy workers and directors in cooperating churches and ministries; and (4) to receive and disperse private contributions and grant funds to literacy ministries." Without the vision and the foundation laid by Harry Wilson and these others, the Southcliff ESL would have never been started, much less succeeded.