English as a Second Language Program

By Laurel Kehl

“I am Sunni, they are Shia. We study English together. We say Allah together and we say Jesus!” – Halima, ESL student

Regardless of what Halima meant by her last sentence, I caught the sentiment, and it made my day! I don’t know about you, but I can get very overwhelmed as I read the news of our world absolutely falling apart at the seams. I often wonder what difference I can make in a world in which reconciliation is needed at every level and my life already seems full!

That’s why volunteering at ESL (English as a Second Language) classes in Northeast Philadelphia is a good investment of time and energy for me! Creating safe and fun learning environments for our 195 registered students causes our students from over 20 different countries to begin to connect cross-culturally with each other, so that enemies become friends, like Halima with her Shia classmates! We’re doing more than just teaching them English! We are giving our ESL students a taste of the Gospel. Jesus came to earth to reconcile us to the Father, making us, who were God’s enemies, His friends, and seating us with people from every tongue, tribe, and nation together at the table! I can’t think of a better use of my time – plus we laugh a LOT!

And ESL classes are only the beginning of the relationship God wants to give these immigrants. Many have lived here for 10+ years and have never been in the home of a native speaker like you and me! They are hungry for friendships, and the only requirement for us is to have a learner’s heart that wants to love them well. The waiting list for our classes is long (over 200!). So we could use a lot more help – teachers, classroom helpers, childcare workers – but also social workers, nurses and doctors who are willing to donate time to help our new friends navigate the healthcare system, figure out how to get insurance, find the grocery store, etc. Our students are always incredibly thankful for anything we do for them, even if we feel our contribution is small!

So please, consider joining the fun of loving the stranger…and growing in your ability to represent the One who made Himself a stranger in order to come to earth and reconcile us to God.