From teaching phonetics, to baptisms, to sharing lives and saving lives – there’s never a dull moment for those involved in the English classes at St Mark’s, Pennant Hills.
Now entering their eighth year, there are four English classes weekly, from beginner to advanced, run by a team of 23 volunteers. And the classes do more than just teach language.
So much more than language
“It’s because we all know Jesus and because of his love that we want to share his love,” says Patricia Wang, co-ordinator of English class ministry.
“Once our students understand this, they are quite amazed that people are so willing to give up of themselves to do something that they’re not getting paid for. Students want to know more. This is a really important aspect of English class ministry: how we commend Christ to the students in the way we speak and act.”
Ms Wang knows the importance of helping people find a place to belong in a foreign land, having migrated to Australia from Hong Kong in the 1980s.
"We commend Christ to the students in the way we speak and act"
“It was difficult going to the local school with no English, and at that time there was very limited support because there weren’t many migrant children attending school,” she says. “I still remember the foreignness of being in a new country. Even something as simple as hearing different birds singing brought a lot of grief and loss. It’s really about giving back with that history and understanding.”
God’s hand has been at work in these English classes, with several families baptised and now calling St Mark’s home.
The Lord worked through a welcome pack to bring an older Iranian woman student into his kingdom. “Azzizeh is part of the starters class, and received a copy of the gospel tract in Farsi,” Ms Wang says. “One day her daughter walked in and said to a helper, ‘My mum wants to be baptised in this church’. We were all taken aback. She never gave any hints!”
Her whole English class showed up at the baptism to support her. “This is a wonderful story, because it challenges our understanding of evangelism,” Ms Wang says. “At the end of the day, if God wants someone to know him, he does the work. God works in his powerful way to bring people to himself in a way that is unfathomable to us.”
"My mum wants to be baptised in this Church"
Not only has the Lord used the classes to save souls, he’s used them to save lives as well – in one particular case, a well-timed lesson in the starters class on health and the signs of a heart attack.
“One student thought, ‘I am experiencing this now’, and went from class to the doctor,” Ms Wang says. “She got admitted to hospital and had heart surgery, all because of a lesson on health.”
Developing gospel opportunties
The Rev Rick Hall, assistant minister at Pennant Hills, is thankful for the gospel opportunities that have developed through this ministry.
“I think English classes have shown the church what a great mission field this is,” he says. “Many from different backgrounds are not spiritually closed like some of our Anglo neighbours can be. I want to reiterate the amazing value this is, both in serving new migrants and doing that with the goal of sharing Jesus.”