For more than 30 years, Pat Cranfill has lived, worked and worshipped in Abilene.
She is known by people closest to her as someone who loves to help and serve, but it wasn’t until about five years ago that she had an opportunity to put that servant attitude to work on an international mission field right here in Abilene.
Cranfill, a member of the congregation at Southern Hills Church of Christ, answered the call to her new “mission” field by initially helping some young ladies — refugees from Bhutan — find their way around Abilene.
That offer of help has grown into her participation in a program at Southern Hills that teaches English to refugees through Bible stories…
…According to Phil Ware, Minister of The Word at Southern Hills, when the International Rescue Committee began bringing refugees here a few years ago, it was clear that his church could step up and model Jesus to them…
…Using tools and programs like Let’s Start Talking, FriendSpeak, and the World English Institute, more than 50 Southern Hills members are engaged in teaching English to these new Abilenians.
“All the English is taught by reading passages of Scripture from the easy-to-read version of the Bible, which has been used internationally,” said Ware. “The lessons are simple, less colloquial, and designed best for someone with a very limited English vocabulary.”…
…”It is that the Bible is the message, and you are the example. You are not there as a teacher; you are there as a friend”
DeLynda Gray, LST/FriendSpeak coordinator for Southern Hills, said she has seen some very rewarding things come out of using the Bible to help the refugees learn English.
“When you have a different world view than we do the journey through the Bible’s parables and lessons can seem figurative,” she said. “What continues to amaze me is their devotion and excitement to learn. They are so thirsty for the Bible; they really want to go more deeply.”
Gray said several of the refugees have made professions of faith and been baptized into the Christian faith.
“That is pretty amazing in a culture that claims thousands of gods,” she said. “For them to claim the one, true God, and follow Jesus is wonderful.”
Such was the case for 31-year-old Moti Lamagdey and his 27-year-old wife, Tila, both Bhutanese refugees.
“I made a decision to follow the Christian faith and was baptized with Tila on December 12, 2010,” said Lamagedy. “I’m very proud of the decision, and God has blessed us both. I learned so much from the Bible classes at Southern Hills, and the more I learned, the more I wanted to be a follower of Jesus.”
Cranfill said for many of the refugees, once they’re shown enough concrete facts revealed in the Bible, it doesn’t take them very long to get it.
“When they get it, you can see a light go on in their eyes it’s really amazing,” she added.
Gray added that she has seen these English classes as a powerful vehicle for Southern Hills members — who have been tentative about evangelism — to feel confident about evangelism.
“We are God’s ‘community front porch’ this is where the real worship is done,” said Ware. “Lives are changed person to person the same way Jesus did it. Christian life is about touching people walking alongside each other, helping each other become who we say we worship.”
“It takes very little to share the Gospel with them,” Cranfill said. “If more people were willing, we would have Bible studies going day and night wouldn’t that be great to know we were using God’s mission field for that purpose?” Read more here
“Translation of faith”: converting Bhutanese refugees via English Bible lessons
Posted by Christopher Coen on January 21, 2011
This story just amazes me – an evangelical church in Abilene, Texas is converting Bhutanese refugees to Christianity by teaching them English using the Bible. Refugees who have been Hindu or Buddhist all their lives suddenly abandoning their faiths and converting to Christianity after a few of these “English lessons”. Of course, proselytization is supposedly forbidden in the refugee program, so why does the International Rescue Committee allow this? The Abilene Reporter News gives more details: