I’ve been assisting with the ESL program that just got started at Berea First Baptist Church. This is my first time being involved with ESL, and I love it. I chose to work with the basic class, which are individuals who essentially are not yet able to speak or write any English. I think this has been a great challenging opportunity for me so far, and a wonderful weekly encouragement of the beauty around us in life, and the courage within the human spirit.
We started out with around six people in the class, and last night had grown to around 12. Ranging from a 14 year old boy to a 70 yr old woman, spanning Mexico, Honduras, and Guatemala. I’ve been doing some translating for the teacher with instructions and answering questions, and then just interacting with everyone in the class. I feel like I’m starting to build relationships, and am thrilled about it because the individuals in our class are amazing. Everyone works so hard and is dedicated even after long days at work.
Last night I was talking with a few people during the break (that everyone has affectionately dubbed recess) and was struck by the amazing lives people are living. I couldn’t help but wonder how often I look at people, and see jeans and a t-shirt and assume they do what most people their age do….so, if they are young, they probably go to school right? Do HW and hang out with their pals some? A little older, maybe work a job in town and go home to their significant other?
But that’s not how God sees us, nor do I think how he wants us to see those around us that way. I think God calls us to see the spectacular, the special goodness hidden within, his image that is present in our lives. Even with my less than exceptional Spanish abilities, I found out pieces of beautiful and profound stories in just a few minutes of talking with people in the class. My stereotype of a boy who probably went to school in the area was broken down as I discovered a young man who was Guatemalan and had just moved here with a portion of his family. I cannot imagine the kind of courage it takes to do just what he has done in the past two weeks, in a new country, with half your family thousands of miles away, speaking none of the language and having no friends. Yet he is a musician, and provided me with the information to check out some of his work from Guatemala. Or the young man with him, who was a chef in Cancun, before entering the world of imitation Mexican food and Spanglish in the States. Dancers, writers, dreamers, lovers, fathers, brothers, sisters, and mothers.
I wonder if Moses had done a survey during the Exodus if it would have looked similar. Would he have been struck by the resilience of the people he was journeying with? The Exodus story speaks frequently of the justice that should surround the treatment of a sojourner, and yet also speaks of the people’s night of watching the Lord, knowing and yet hoping that he would indeed bring them out and through it all. I don’t think that watching and waiting and hoping and praying ever ended. I think we all do it today, whether we are crossing borders or not. But we don’t talk about it a whole lot. Often times we are cool with seeing the surface level, however things appear is how they are. But as theologian Chris Rice says “The way things are is not the way things have to be.”
The Exodus was liberation, and we celebrate that freedom, and the gift that the new land was for the people. This is somewhat true today. As a gentleman mentioned to me last night, he had to learn English in the “land of opportunity”. But what about the gift that the people brought to the land they were entering into, the land that they would leave their mark upon? Like learning a language, the journey is hard as cement at times, but God is ever present, and has surrounded each of us with fellow sojourners to travel with us, teach us, and love us.
I’m excited about continuing to learn what perseverance looks like.