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F* has recently joined a team serving in the Islands. He shares how teaching English to the Islanders is opening doors to share the gospel.
* All names changed for security reasons
Being a blessing
Ask anyone on these Islands learning English why they want to learn it and the answer is universal: it’s an international language. Whether that answer is learnt by rote or demonstrates a genuine desire to be part of the wider world, it has opened doors for us to be here, and to provide something that will be a blessing to them.
Hungry for the word
One of my teammates, Jacob*, has been meeting regularly with Obed* and his family. A few times a week Jacob heads down to Obed’s home in the evening. They share food and talk about life, and then Jacob shares a story from the Bible in their language. These stories have been carefully selected to show the nature of God and man, and the plan to save us from our sin. Visiting with Jacob, I had the privilege to observe while they listened to the story, retold it, considered what it meant and then decided who they were going to share it with next. They are hungry for these stories; they seem to make sense of the world for them. It has been exciting to see how they discover the Messiah who was promised in the Old Testament stories and realise that these are being fulfilled in Jesus. We are praying that God would open their hearts to see and respond to the truth.
Several evenings a week, in an old community building, the lights are switched on, the tables and chairs dusted down and the blackboard is wiped clean as students keen to improve their English swarm in. Many are learning it at school but their enthusiasm makes them want to know more. Others are looking for work and see English as an additional tool to help them to do so.
As the newest member of the team, it has been exciting to see that enthusiasm, and, even though I’ve not taught very much yet, I’ve really enjoyed interacting with classes, playing games, laughing and seeing them understand new things in English. That’s not to say it’s all plain sailing: there are a few students who adamantly refuse to say anything in class, which makes you wonder why they like to come at all!
Sharing more than knowledge
Whilst we do want to do a good job in teaching, it is not the only reason we do this. It enables us to live and work among these Island people. In the mornings our office is open for people to come and sign up for new classes or ask for individual help in study. Of those who come in, many do ask for that help, but others talk about the challenges of their lives, some even ask for us to pray for them. This more intimate environment has enabled us to go deeper with students and share our lives with them, as well as the hope that we have.
Teaching & Learning
For me, I am still learning the language; those opportunities are limited for me. But for our team these small windows into people’s lives are potentially the beginnings of a journey, a journey to life in Jesus. It is a long journey for many; for people from this religious background there could be many years of questioning, debating, and listening to stories before they decide to leave something that is a huge part of their identity. As a team, this means we need to be ready for a long journey. With this in mind, it becomes essential that we teach to the best of our ability, so we can stay here, and through which we can build long standing friendships in which to share Christ.