By Pam Vallette
Eager families braved the bitter COLD last Thursday night to come to registration night at the Family ESOL/Kids Club program. Adults came to the church to register themselves for English classes with instructors from Tolles Career and Technical College. They also registered for children’s programming at Kids Club. The families we welcomed are recent arrivals to the U.S. and our community from countries including Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Peru and Mexico to name a few. For the adults, learning to speak English is critical to their assimilation into life in the U.S. as well as their employability. For the children, recreation, activities and homework help support their progress in school as well as their own English language and personal development.
My reflection this morning is particularly on 2 families from Iraq and the wonderful Teens and staff who welcomed them. The first Iraqi family arrived in the U.S. just 13 days ago! Fourteen days ago they were in their home country and birth home. And Thursday night they came to US – to UALC The Church at Mill Run and SON Ministries. They have 3 boys ages 15, 13 and 7 who do not speak any English. Understandably, the boys seemed a bit hesitant at first. I introduced them to several of our Teens who were exceedingly warm and welcoming. With smiles and gestures they invited the boys to play soccer. Within a few minutes the boys were part of the community – interacting through soccer, a universal “language” and bridge builder.
The second family from Iraq has a 13 year old daughter who again speaks almost no English and whose mom originally hoped she could attend English classes too. When the girl approached the gym and saw the children playing soccer and basketball, she was very hesitant to enter. Again, using big smiles and encouraging gestures, I was able to coax her through the gym to our Quiet(er) Zone where we offer art activities, board games and Legos. She quickly sat down at the art table next to a very faithful adult volunteer who is THE perfect companion for reluctant young teens. The girl remained at the craft table, content, for the full 3 hours while her mother went through registration, testing and orientation for English classes. I felt very affirmed. We truly are a full family program and can meet the needs of many different children – all are welcomed and served…
Finally, I need to thank the staff, teens and volunteers who left their own warm and cozy homes last week so we could together receive and serve these new families. While SON Ministries sets the stage, it is truly the members of the community who share the WARMTH and LIGHT in loving and serving the families whom God brings and entrusts to us.
At SON Ministries, people are our priority – RELATIONSHIPS are our goal! Join us?