It is always a challenge to bridge the gap in International Connection, the English as a second language program at RBC. There can be language gaps, cultural gaps, faith gaps, or even gaps between kids and their childcare workers. We cannot presume that our folks have 100 percent understanding at any one time. It’s one of the frustrating/challenging/enriching aspects of ministry in the ESL world.
This past year, I had the pleasure of watching the Gospel being lived out between a kind-hearted childcare worker, L., and a 3-year-old Iranian boy, P., and his mother, M. They were new to the country and M. had signed up for English classes at the church last fall. P. did not speak a word of English, but he obediently stayed in the nursery while his mom was in classes Tuesday nights and Wednesday mornings. His mom, meanwhile, loved the community she felt in the classroom and sensed that she was gaining strength in her language acquisition.
In Jan., when M. and P. returned for the spring semester of classes, P. suddenly had a change of heart. He began to have panic attacks every time his mom left him in the charge of the childcare workers. These attacks were not just mild, they entailed kicking and screaming! This was a shock to the childcare workers who had seen a quiet and happy child in the fall transition to a very upset little boy in the new year. His mother was equally shocked to see this new behavior! She was unable to leave P. in the nursery without quite a bit of drama. Though it is against program policy to allow a child to stay in the classroom, it was allowed for a short time just to give him a chance to see that she was alive and well, not far away. But this was not a long-term solution. M. stopped coming to classes out of frustration.
One childcare worker, L., decided that she was going to find a way to bridge this new gap in the relationship. She decided to visit the Iranian mother and her son in their home, along with her own little daughter, in order to show them that she was a friend and not someone to be feared. They started to have little coffee times and lunches together to foster friendship and to also get to know one another’s culture. The Iranian mother confessed that she knew she was going to have to put her son into a preschool sooner or later and had no idea how to go about selecting one in the area. She was stymied with many other aspects of living in this country, so L. decided to be as helpful as possible in bridging the many gaps in M.’s understanding. This led to more and more conversations on various topics. Inevitably, M. wanted to know more about this church and about L.’s faith. What an amazing road to deep conversation that started from a seemingly insurmountable problem in the nursery!
L. is praying about how and when to give her whole testimony to M. With the help of some outside resources she trusts that the language and faith barriers will be bridged because now they have a foundation of trust and friendship to build on. Isn’t it amazing that God has used this former difficulty for His good and His purposes?