The RBC Club House room was packed with international faces and languages – children, adults, seniors – all chattering and eating. The annual Thanksgiving Dinner for International Connection (our ESL, or English as a Second Language program) was a chaotic but lively and warm gathering! We welcomed 168 guests, which made it shoulder-to-shoulder in that space.
The buffet area was set up with two rows of international cuisine – tamales, rice pilaf, spring rolls– mixed in with traditional dishes of turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing. The International Connection volunteers (plus extra helpers) provided the traditional Thanksgiving fare to give our students a taste of North America. The students proudly contributed the bounty from their home countries. What a feast!
After dinner, the children were dismissed to take part in their own supervised activities while the adults remained to enjoy the program. Pastor Ed Nalle led us in singing “Give Thanks with a Grateful Heart” and then performed “Be Ye Glad” to a rapt audience. We watched a short video that presented the history of the holiday. Then there were class presentations and individual student speeches – the highlight of the evening. From the choral readings to the personalized expressions of why they are thankful, it was a time to count our blessings and then focus on the greatest gift of all – Jesus. Mike Meyers, Children’s Ministry Director, reminded us to stop and recognize the good things right in front of us that are easily taken for granted.
Our students come from about 25 different countries and 14 language groups. They are sometimes mystified by the new culture in which they find themselves but when they come to English classes here at RBC each week, they find an oasis where they can practice their language skills in a safe and caring environment and where they can learn about how to adapt to life in this country. Many come for the English but come back for the friendship and more. May God give us grateful hearts this holiday time as we think of those who are struggling to survive in the midst of so much upheavalSusan Morinaga - Director of International Connection