Overcrowding Requires Another Move
The first night we met in the fall of 2016 the head count was over 300. We had outgrown the loft area. John and the church staff realized we needed more room, and the only place available was our fellowship hall and the classrooms in our educational building. Faye and her helpers who prepared the refreshments moved from the small kitchen across from the loft to the large kitchen adjoining the fellowship hall. Thanks to John's gift of organization and help from several volunteers, the transition was smooth. And once again the faculty turnover was minimal, adding to the stability as we continued adjusting to the growth. Andrew Moore returned to co-teach Level 1 with Guy Gordon, and a new volunteer, Lois Forehand, began teaching Level 2. By the beginning of 2017 we had 122 children enrolled, more than Sharon and Tom could possibly teach, so two new volunteers, Bettie Woolery and Virginia Kennedy, came to their aid, and the two children's classes became three.
In 2017 we became the largest ESL in Tarrant County and were awarded a Hope Literacy Program of Excellence. The statistics from the fall of 2015 to the spring of 2017 reveal the phenomenal growth God blessed us with those two years. At the end of December 2015, there were 216 adults, 34 youth, (grades 6-12), & 85 children enrolled; by the following May we had 309 adults, 47 youth, & 117 children; in December 2016 we had 297 adults (a slight drop), 45 youth, & 122 children. Then came a remarkable growth spurt. In May 2017 we had 439 adults, 94 youth, and 184 children enrolled. The large growth of our youth class, which basically doubled, was largely due to the strong faithful leadership of Daniel Irizarry, one of our church's interns; likewise, another intern, Danielle Holcomb, took leadership of our children's group with another amazing story of growth. Even though we can give credit to the leadership and faithfulness of individuals, we also say, "Not to us, Lord, not to us, but to Your name give glory" (Psalm 115:1). Last fall (2017) our enrollment numbers dropped a little: 265 adults, 75 youth, & 129 children. Anyone familiar with statistics knows that enrollment and attendance are not the same, but we have had consistently good attendance these last few years.
When we had our planning meeting at the beginning of the fall semester of 2017, we had the most vacant teaching positions in our ESL history. There were eight teaching positions open, including mine. Once more John asked us to pray for God to supply the needed teachers, and He did. On our first night, two weeks later, the positions had been filled with the following: Deborah Henry replaced me (5); Deborah Williamson (4) replaced Darby Gilliam, who moved to Level B; Becky Glass (2); Melaney Hoover (1); Ralph Pemberton (BB) replaced Hope Shukers, who went to help with pre-school; and Mie Millard, began co-teaching youth with Daniel Irizarry. Becca Brokenshire replaced Danielle Holcomb as director over the children's classes. We also lost our two long-time faithful children's teachers; Sharon Ladd and Tom Neill both had to give up ESL, and Kristina Kekich, Barbara Staley, and Georgia Kelly took their place. For 15 years I loved teaching Level 5, but I felt God leading me to resign so that I could begin interviewing students during ESL and writing their stories, which will become part of this blog. As I have heard them share their stories with me, God confirmed that this is indeed what He has called me to do at this stage of my life. What blessings I have had as they have shared the stories of their lives with me! And I am certain more people will be blessed as they read these stories.