This is the second to the last post in this series. Part 1 is A Decision and A Book. Part 2 is A Discover and Downfall Begins. Part 3 is The Valley of Death. Part 4 is Recovering and Remembering That Book. Part 5 is Romania. Part 6 is Many Cultures and Beginning to Teach English. Part 7 is Ministry Begins and Grows.
In 2007, I found out that my denomination was shifting focus from whole countries to cities in Europe. That meant Romania would not have the same focus as it did before. As I wrestled with what Jesus was calling me to do, I read a book by a Catholic woman from Rwanda, Let to Tell, sharing her experience of surviving the Rwandan genocide. As I read her book, I thought about the refugees I had encountered in my city and God gave me peace to stay in my home city and to continue my ministry and work.
Not long after that on a Saturday afternoon I went into a library and saw one of my former students from Vietnam in an ELL study room with three teenage boys. I asked what they were doing. She told me they were her cousins and she was trying to help them with some English before they started school in the fall. The three boys were new to America.
I offered to come the next day and be a native English speaker, but with the idea she would do the lesson. They quickly agreed with the idea. The next day I went to the library and found the boys were there waiting for me but she was not there. I quickly prayed in my spirit and Jesus let me know they were my students now.
Those lessons grew to over 20 young people from Vietnam with an average attendance of 14 to 15 for a while. We had to change to my church to have a room big enough. They were either high school students or had just aged out of high school without graduating but had a diploma from Vietnam. I helped them with English, ACT Test prep, TOEFL Test prep, scholarship applications and more. I got used to being called Mr. Matt.
Our group met in my church. When there were special events in my church such as a Christmas program, they came with me. My church helped me put on a Lunar New Year lunch for them and some friends from church participated in it.
When it was time for the first ones to go to New Student Enrollment at the university in my city, their parents lack of English caused them to not go and some had to work as well. My young Vietnamese friends asked me to go with them as their parent.
My experience with my young Vietnamese friends shifted my paradigm of thought from only focusing on teaching adults to wanting to find a way to help families. The thought that parents did not go with their children to something as important as New Student Enrollment due to language barriers really bothered me.
So when a program called Family Literacy began in my city, I jumped on the chance to teach one of the classes. Family Literacy is a program that empowers parents to help their children. The classes meet in the school where the children go and meets in the morning or afternoon while the children are in school. We connect the English the parents are learning with their child’s education.
Ministry and Education have seemed to be interwoven for me for years. When I reflect on it, I remember a puzzled counselor looking at the results of my personality test during career counseling years before my journey began. The results were 98% match for ministry, 97% match for teacher, and 97% match for Jet Fighter Pilot which was the one she couldn’t figure out. It makes sense to me. I love traveling to other countries, the excitement of meeting a people group new to my city no one knows much about, being in the classroom and sharing the love of Jesus.
Thank you for reading. God Bless.