Reaching the nations through ESL ministry
by Glenda Lassiter
CLINTON TOWNSHIP, MI – A few years before I retired from teaching, I felt God pulling me in the direction of teaching English to immigrants. Soon after my retirement, I began searching for opportunities for teaching English, and my first thought was to seek a part-time job with the local public school adult education program. I also started looking for training, but wasn’t having much success..
In January of 2021 I began volunteering with the English as a Second Language (ESL) group at my local public library. One of the teachers there told me about the North American Mission Board (NAMB) training through the Georgia Association where he was trained. When I reached out to Georgia for information I was told that I had missed the registration deadline by three days, the class was already full, and I didn’t live in Georgia, so I couldn’t be enrolled. Three days later I got a call from Karen Elrod, Georgia WMU. She said that the teacher had agreed to accept an additional student and I could enroll. Within a week I started the five week online training.
After my first online training session, it became clear that God was calling me to start an ESL ministry rather than finding a secular English job. The training was wonderful, not only for learning how to teach English to Internationals, but it also gave excellent direction for launching a successful ministry. When I shared the possibility of starting a ministry at Lakepointe Church with my pastor, Scott Blanchard, he was very supportive. 14% of Macomb County residents speak another language as their native tongue, so there is definitely a need. And Matthew 28:19-20 and Leviticus 19:33-34 give us the call to love immigrants and share the gospel with them.
The next step was to enlist a few other teachers and get them enrolled in the Georgia Association online training. Once their training was complete, we began to meet and plan out what the ESL ministry would look like at Lakepointe. I also had help planning from several ESL leaders in Georgia and North Carolina. I was given excellent advice on materials to use, advertising, and organization. They have answered questions and given me great encouragement along the way.
By October 2021 we were ready to launch the ministry. Our first night we had 3 trained teachers, 7 rotating childcare volunteers, 3 adult students, and no children. By the end of our school year in May 2022, we had 4 trained teachers, 13 adult students, and 7 children. Our students were from 7 different countries. Most of the students are not Christians. Most of our volunteers are senior citizens, which shows we’re never too old for ministry!
Every week we begin class with a devotional message, and our students have been open to hearing the Word and asking questions about our faith. We have been so blessed and have had opportunities to meet with our students outside of class to build relationships. Several have reached out to us for prayer. Two of our Albanian students became United States citizens with the help of their English teacher. We gave a baby shower for one of our students whose family lives far away in Turkmenistan. One of our students from Iraq needed transportation to purchase necessities for her apartment and her teacher provided that. We saw needs to be met, and God helped us to meet them.
We have set a goal to double our enrollment this year. This summer we expanded our advertising, especially reaching out to places that employ immigrants and to libraries in neighboring communities. To be prepared for the students that God will bring our way, we will have 5 trained teachers, allowing us to offer 5 levels of instruction. We have also enlisted 12 rotating childcare volunteers. As we begin our new school year, we look forward to seeing what God is going to do!
God is always at work, in our hearts, in our lives, and in our churches. Now, looking back on these last few years, it is clear that He was leading and lining up everything for an ESL ministry at Lakepointe Church according to His will. Maybe He has ESL plans for your church. Is He calling you to reach the nations through ESL?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Glenda Lassiter lives in Clinton Township with her husband, Dan, who is also an ESL teacher. She is a member of Lakepointe Church in Shelby Township where she serves as Director of ESL Ministry. She also serves in children’s ministry and co-teaches an adult Life Group with Dan. She recently retired from 35 years of public school teaching but doesn’t plan to retire from ministry.