Happy Monday everyone! I’d like to introduce a new segment from Literacy Connexus. We are beginning a new series called “What’s Your Story?” where we highlight the experiences of volunteers who teach English. I am so excited for this series because apart from the training and classes I took when studying to teach English as a second language, one of the things I learned the most from, was the experience of other teachers in the field. Listening to other teachers experiences in their own ESL classrooms gave me insight, ideas, and allowed me to better understand my role as a teacher. 

Tell of His greatness among the nations. Tell of His great work among all the people. 

I Chronicles 16:24

So without further ado, here is a story (actually two) from Phyllis Merritt about a student she has taught.

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For two years I taught in an adult education program funded by public education. We met from 9:00 to 1:30 with a thirty minute break. Because we met in a church, once a week during the break time, students were invited to a Chapel service to have cookies and coffee, sing and hear a devotional. I attended when we didn’t have teachers’ meetings and my students knew I was a Christian. 

Some in my class came not knowing one word of English or even how to write “A-B-C.” I used everything I had ever been taught from all the Conversational English and Adult Reading and Writing workshops ever offered. I came up with Lipson lessons (picture sequence stories) for the Laubach charts. It worked, faster than anything anyone else was using.

One day one of my shyest students came in what a piece of paper where she had written:

Techer us need Bibl

Since her registration form said she was from Laos, I found a Laotian Bible to give to her and her husband. She had a big smile and I thought I had done a good job. But the next day, she came in with another piece of paper. It said:

Bibl speak Hmong. 

She “explained” that her husband could read the other Bible but she could not. They were from the mountains of Laos and were Hmong people. I was grateful that I could get her a Bible that could “speak” in her language. 

As we learn to love our students, we can mass our forces, lend a hand as we speak the language of love—God’s own language.

For ten years I had the joy of living in San Antonio and being a part of the program that Dora Parnell directed on Thursday mornings and Peggy Dockery directed on Sunday evenings.

One morning I was on the way inside First Baptist Church to be a part of the Week of Prayer for Home Missions, whose offering is named in honor of Annie Armstrong.

But there, sitting on the church steps was a young woman from Thailand. She just appeared. I found out that she could not read, write or speak English. Somehow she had learned the church could help her so she came. 

She wanted so desperately to learn that we set up a time after the Week of Prayer program each day that week to study reading and writing, and English. She came to all the classes offered by the church. Other teachers helped her as well. She later enrolled in college classes, even while working two jobs. More importantly she became a Christian and was baptized. One summer she brought four new people to the Sunday International Bible study I taught. 

Indeed as Annie Armstrong wrote over a hundred years ago, “Men and means were not forthcoming fast enough for the great work of foreign missions, so God turned the stream this way and sent us great masses.”

What a privilege! How much richer my life has been from knowing these people and having an opportunity through teaching English to also tell of God’s greatness among the nations. 

Phyllis Merritt
If you would like to share your story send an email to Lester@literacyconnexus.org and include a picture or two if you have them.