Barbara Foxhall’s first experience as a teacher of English as a second language happened by accident. She joined a committee at St. John the Divine to help a Sundanese refugee family who had recently joined the church. Others snatched up all the available tasks - except teaching the mother to speak English. Over the next two years, Barbara learned how to teach. Then came a position at Alliance for Multicultural Community Services, teaching English to students from all over the world.

After eight years at AMCS, she had a vision for her next step. “Many churches offer ESL classes and I thought it would be great if ours did also,” Barbara recalls. “Reverend Reagan Cocke  agreed and said I could use one of the classrooms. On April 2, 2018 I started my first class with 3 students.” In September, an invitation to ‘Free English Classes’ became part of the rotation on the LED sign at the corner of River Oaks and Westheimer. More new students responded, coming off the street and into the church to learn English.

By November, the SJD program had grown to nearly 50 students, learning at three levels, with 3 teachers and 2 subs all from SJD — Barbara, Jane Boldra, Sarah McParland, Marisol Espinosa and Barbara Rountree.  Our English students are from Brazil, Germany, Iraq, Russia, Syria, Ethiopia, and 11 more countries. Many have fled dangerous lives under hostile regimes. All are eager to learn, and to be a part of their new home in America. These classes have brought some students into other programs at SJD, including the Guild Shop, VBS, and Bible study.

“Imagine my delight when one of my new students, a lovely young Chinese woman, told me on Monday that she had taken her 2 year old daughter to our Sunday school class the day before,” explains Sarah. “I was also surprised since we hadn’t talked about the church’s Sunday programs.  A Christian friend of hers told her that all churches have Sunday schools so she came to try it out.  While she waited for her daughter, she browsed in our book store and bought a Bible.  She told me that she is not a Christian but her grandparents in Beijing were and they often took her to church with them.  What she remembers most is the joy, warmth and peace of those Christians.  I remind her of them, she tells me with hope in her eyes, and she wants to know more about this faith.”

English classes are held in Rooms 201, 203 & 208 on Mondays and Wednesdays from 9:00 am – 12:00 pm. On December 12, 2018 at 9:00 am, our ESL program will have its placement exam. The winter term will begin on January 7, 2019. For more information, contact Sarah McParland at 832-491-3242 or sarahmcparland@comcast.net.

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