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English class went great tonight! There were seven students, including several that had never come before. If I remember right, we had folks from Sudan, Bosnia, El Salvador, Cuba and Jordan.

In addition to great geographical diversity, we also had a good bit of diversity in language capability. Luckily, the folks that spoke the least English were native Spanish speakers so I was able to help them a little bit more. Had I known high school Spanish would come in so handy I would have payed a little more attention. I guess my Mom was right after all…

I worked on colors and numbers with the beginners group and the more advanced students practiced filling out job applications. I haven’t been able to secure a second teacher yet, so Gale Naff bailed me out yet again by helping that group when they had questions. Gale is a man from Grace Church who has quietly and faithfully been volunteering at our classes since the beginning. I know he wasn’t planning on being a teacher, but his willingness to step in tonight was a lifesaver.

So thank you Gale Naff for rescuing me, thank you everyone for your prayers, and please continue to lift us up.

It’s Sunday afternoon and Gretchen and I are relaxing on the couch watching Ghostbusters 2 (one of my favorite movies). I thought I might take a minute and write an update about how we’re doing personally.

Gretchen has been enjoying her job at Virginia Heights elementary very much. For those of you who don’t know already, she works with hearing impaired students as an oral interpreter. She’s been bonding with her students all year and she talks about them all the time. It’s funny, I hear about some of these kids so much, I feel like I know them. Gretchen is also getting to be friends with some of the other teachers she works with. Several of them are Christians, and God has been using them to provide some much needed encouragement and guidance for her.

I’ve been pretty busy at work with our new outreach efforts in the community. I’m pleased with how they’re going and I’m praying about new ways to reach out to other parts of the community. I’m also trying my best to get my remaining classes done as quickly as possible. Taking ten hours of classes this semester in addition to work and family responsibilities is really helping me appreciate the freedom I had in college.

Life is good right now, and God has blessed us with high spirits. Thank you for your prayers and encouragement.

Just a quick update, English Classes on Thursday night went well. The folks from Bosnia arrived early and I was able to have a very interesting discussion with them about their faith. They are both Muslims and their only experience with Christianity is the Catholic and Orthodox churches in Bosnia. They were very interested in all the different Christian churches here in America, and I had a difficult time explaining that Grace Church is “non-denominational”. I don’t have the ability to communicate with them very much yet, but they are curious about our church and there is definitely an open door to talk about Christ and the gospel.

In other news, Gretchen and I have acquired a second dog. We had been going back and forth for some time about the necessity of having a friend for Ben, and last week Gretchen found a very sweet Beagle at our local SPCA. We took Ben out there and they seemed to get along very well, so we decided to adopt her. (click for larger images)


She has been a great addition to our household, and I think she has actually had a calming effect on Ben. We named her “Weezy” because she had a little bit of kennel cough when we got her, which has since spread to Ben as well.


She spends most of the day sleeping, which is somewhat irritating to Ben who wants to lick her face continually (I wonder how he got her cough…). He does seem much happier than he was before though, and they appear to be getting pretty attached to one another. I was skeptical at first, but I think I might actually say that two dogs are better than one.

Gretchen and I just got back from our first English class for international refugees. As I said earlier, I was very nervous. I had no experience with classes like this at all and I didn’t quite know what we were getting into, but I’m pleased to report that everything went great!

Seven people came including two volunteers from Grace. That doesn’t sound like much but its more than I expected for a first meeting like this. We had a man and a woman from Bosnia (including the lady I spoke to at the bus stop on tuesday), one lady from Laos, one guy from Cuba and a lady from Sudan. The three ladies were fairly competent English speakers already, but the two guys didn’t know a thing. They were all very eager to learn though, so we got started right away.

Gretchen took the ladies and started talking with them about where they were with their language skills, and I took the two guys and started at square one. We spent a full hour talking and laughing and trying to break down the language barrier. By the time we were done everyone was smiling and promising to come back next week and bring their friends. It really was amazing. I can honestly say that all of those folks left with a little more confidence in their English skills, and in the process we all had a great time. I am very excited to see what God might be doing here.

I’ll post more and some pictures later.

We had our first After School Bible Club meeting yesterday. I went over a little early so I could make sure everything was set up and relax a little. I tend to get pretty nervous before any first time event like this one, so it was good for me to sit and collect my thoughts.

Mrs. Brokaw and Mrs. Ledbetter (the ladies who would be leading the club) arrived a few minutes after I did and started setting up, so I headed over to the bus stop. I spoke with the half dozen parents waiting there about the Bible Club, and they had all seen the flyers already. A couple of them said their children were coming, and one lady said that she was a Muslim and her kids would not be coming. She did say she and her husband were planning to come to the English Classes however, so we chatted a little about that. It turns out she came to Roanoke as a refugee from Bosnia three years ago and has had a difficult time adjusting. Her english was very good already, so I was a little intimidated that she was planning on coming to class, but who knows what the Lord will do.

When I got back to the community room there were already six kids there. Mrs. Brokaw and Mrs. Ledbetter were already in high gear with the singing so I was able to sneak in unnoticed. They were using some Child Evangelism Fellowship material that is probably older than I am, and my first thought was, “Oh no, these kids are going to hate this”. Much to my surprise however, they were loving it almost immediately, laughing and singing at the tops of their voices.

The Bible lesson was a very basic story about Jesus’ life. Mrs. Ledbetter told them about Jesus birth and death and resurrection and his promise to come again. I was a little surprised by how little those kids knew about Jesus. At one point, Mrs. Ledbetter asked them how Jesus died, and one child responded, “In a burning bush”. I need to stop making assumptions about the Bible belt, Christendom is moving out.

After the lesson we had snack time, which was a big hit, and I was able to talk a little with the kids. It was really interesting to hear some of their stories, maybe I’ll post more about them later. As for now, the plan is to meet again next Tuesday and see what happens.

Thank you for your prayers!

Yesterday I went over to the El Ray apartments with some folks from church to a little service project. On the backside of the complex they have a small community room that, until recently, was used to store broken air conditioning units. I was looking for a convenient place to have our English classes and After School Bible Club and this room seemed perfect. I got a key from the manager and we spent a few hours cleaning it out and scrubbing away some of the grime. Here is Pastor Tim working on one of the windows. (click to enlarge)


In fact, so many volunteers came to help I was able to spend some time going door to door and advertising next weeks meetings. I met a lot more non-english speakers who seemed very interested in our class, and quite a few mothers interested in the Bible Club as well.

Here is the community room in all it’s sparkling glory. Lord willing, it will be filled with elementary school children this Tuesday afternoon, and international refugees learning english on Thursday evening.


At this moment I am waiting the first meetings of our English Language classes and After School Bible Club next week. We’ve done just about all I can think of to prepare, but I am still a little anxious about them, particularly the English class.

Pastor Tim and I went door to door in the community yesterday with a couple guys from Grace letting everyone know about what’s coming up next week. In just an hour of visiting we met probably half a dozen folks with very little or no English speaking ability. Tim and I had spent a several minutes with one lady repeating, “English Classes!”, loudly and pointing to ourselves like monkeys when she seemed to grasp the word “English” on our flyer. She dragged us into her apartment and called her son at work so he could translate.

Right now I am praying that God will just use us to improve the lives of those folks. I don’t know exactly how that is going to happen, but I know that He has a love for them thats much deeper than I can imagine.

I’m testing out this new blogging format as a way to keep our ministry team updated about what’s going on here at Grace Church. Our newsletters would still come out monthly, but I thought this might be a good way to send out shorter updates more regularly.

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  • Philippians 2:13
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