We’ve never been ones to simply attend church on Sunday. We’ve always been fully involved but when we started attending Hope Church last March, we wondered how we’d be able to serve in a church where we didn’t speak the language of the majority of the people. Not a problem, responded our very big God! As it turned out, Smoky, a young American living and working in Japan and newly married to a Japanese wife, was at that very time, considering starting a monthly beginners English class that would meet after church once a month. He welcomed our help with open arms.
Though we teach English five days a week, the beginners class at church quickly became one of the highlights of our month. It has been so much fun! Unlike school, where we’re required to use textbooks and teach the technicalities of English grammar, we focus entirely on pronunciation and basic conversational skills at church. We eat lunch together and then have a simple lesson that allows the students to practice what they’re learning. We make sure that there’s one English speaker at each table to help them and some of them are bilingual and can translate when necessary. When the class first began last summer, many of the students were terribly nervous but Richard and a few of the young men in the class soon put them to ease with their crazy antics. The class’s reputation quickly grew and it has continued to grow in number.
Yesterday the beginners English class held a farewell party for us. As part of the lesson, Smoky included a number of useful phrases for saying good-bye and wishing someone well then each student got up and said a few words for us. A couple of them had even prepared short speeches in advance. We were totally overwhelmed! Not only were their words so very kind and the feelings they expressed so genuine but we knew how difficult a task it was for most of them and we were so proud of how well they did.
Though the gift of their words was the most meaningful to us, they also had a beautiful farewell cake for us and showered us with flowers and gifts including Hope Church t-shirts. We are so blessed!