Two weeks ago I walked into the Job class of World Relief’s ESL program and was immediately asked a question. “Hi Jen, we’re listing all the different ways people in our class say good morning in their languages. Can you add one?” I looked at the board. “Good Morning” was written there in English, Arabic, Burmese, Nepali, and Massalit.
“Buenos dias!” I said, and the teacher added the Spanish greeting to the list.
Four mornings a week, refugees and immigrants from all over the world gather for ESL classes in the basement of College Church in Wheaton, IL. Their preschool-aged children attend language enrichment classes while their parents study.
During break times a beautiful mix of different languages can be heard in the hallways. Refugees from Asian countries converse in halting English with Africans and Middle Easterners. The older women often huddle together, their clothing carrying the wonderful scents of cooking spices. News of babies born and jobs found is shared. Individual rejoicings turn into communal celebrations. When someone grieves, the others say little but their eyes speak a language of shared suffering.
I LOVE this place. I love what it stands for–a church that is giving of its space to those who need it and an organization, World Relief, that serves the most vulnerable. The teachers at World Relief are some of my heroes.
The students are my heroes.
They face odds I cannot imagine, and they do it with quiet bravery.
These basement classrooms are a sanctuary for them. They find and form community here. They meet Americans who welcome them to their new country, who tell them, “This can be your home. You are safe here.” Their children are nurtured and cared for.
These ESL classes are in jeopardy. Because the state of Illinois has not passed a budget, World Relief has had to operate its ESL classes since July without the federal and state funds it should have received. World Relief cannot continue this indefinitely, and plans are being made to cut the semester short and scale down the classes offered in the future.
If you are a reader in the DuPage area, please visit this link to World Relief DuPage’s Advocacy page and read more about this issue and action steps you can take. Pass it along to anyone else you know who might be interested.
And please pray.
Almighty and most merciful God, we remember before you all poor and neglected persons whom it would be easy for us to forget: the homeless and destitute, the old and the sick, and all who have none to care for them. Help us to heal those who are broken in body or spirit, and to turn their sorrow into joy. Grant this, Father, for the love of your Son, who for our sake became poor, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. from The Book of Common Prayer