By Brian Blackwell, Baptist Message staff writer
COVINGTON, La. (LBM) – The opportunity to reach the world for Christ has come to Louisiana Baptist churches through English as a Second Language classes, according to leaders of various teaching ministries.
“It’s exciting to see God use ESL ministry to reach lives for people to share the Gospel, and for students to be encouraged and helped through our churches,” Shannon Brown, a Louisiana Baptist ESL trainer, told the Baptist Message. “You don’t have to have certain qualifications to serve in this ministry. If you speak English, you can teach ESL.”
According to Brown, a member of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church, New Orleans, at least 50 Louisiana Baptist churches host an ESL ministry. However, many more are needed to make a Kingdom impact on non-English speaking Louisianans, Brown added.
“Churches should know they should get involved, no matter how big or how small they are,” she said. “As long as they have the heart for others, they can make an impact in a big way through ESL.”
JEFFERSON BAPTIST CHURCH
Twice a week, more than 100 students from 12 nationalities participate in ESL classes at Jefferson Baptist Church, Baton Rouge, church records show. But more importantly, six of those students followed through with baptism, Sept. 25. Another student is scheduled to be baptized, Nov. 20.
“The students are happy to have learned English better but also to have learned about Christ,” Jefferson Baptist Spanish Pastor Miguel Flores said. “The people from the church are very excited to see how this ministry has touched lives.”
ESL ministry holds a special place in Flores’ heart, he said. Before he was on staff, Flores was an ESL student at Jefferson Baptist in 2014.
“I see myself in those students,” he said. “Each week, our 20 volunteers are building that connection with the students who then come back each week because they feel welcome here.
“We ask that you pray the students will continue to feel that love,” he said. “We pray for each one to know Jesus. Also, please pray that our teachers and volunteers will continue to be bold and share Christ with their students.”
Each Sunday evening at First Baptist Church, Covington, 19 volunteers teach ESL classes to more than 40 students from 14 nationalities, ministry team leaders said.
“It’s so exciting to me because the world has come to us,” co-coordinator Joy Mohr offered. “God has brought them here and made us more aware. In the past, I have suggested ESL as an opportunity for those who want to be involved with international missions but are unable to go. Through this ministry, everyone has a chance to minister to internationals.”
Prayer has been key to the success of the ESL ministry, Mohr said. Each week, Mohr sends prayer letters to at least 100 people, including FBC Covington staff members.
“We continue to rely on our ESL prayer supporters for God’s direction,” Mohr said. “We have seen how God has provided teachers and other volunteers right on time. He also provided many more students than we anticipated, for which we are thankful. We continue to be amazed at how God is using us to reach out to the non-English speaking community around us.”
While they have not recorded any salvations, volunteers continue to plant Gospel seeds they pray one day will reap a harvest of souls.
“We try to encourage teachers and other volunteers to be loving and to get to know them by name,” Mohr said. “Some of them will open up to us and share their prayer needs.
“We have two Ukrainians who have been with us since September and have been overwhelmed,” she continued. “They shared with us their needs and within a few weeks they had a car, clothing, and permission to work. One Connect group class, led by Pastor Boren, were blessed to meet some of the material needs of this couple. It’s amazing to see how God is blessing them and others who go through our ministry.”
For information about how to begin an ESL ministry, contact Brown at 504-345-5208.