Crossing the Bridge

Members of Paul’s house church on a recent trip to the Kansas City Zoo.

Members of Paul’s house church on a recent trip to the Kansas City Zoo.

By Paul Kienzle, Director of Latino ESL

On any given Thursday night at Mission Adelante, there is a whole lot of relationship going on! That’s the night we hold our five-level ESL classes for Latinos, as well as Kids Adelante. Our facility and several neighborhood homes are packed with a crowd of lively participants, volunteers and staff.  We believe that effective ministry is relational at its core. Sometimes, the interaction between the students and volunteers in our ESL program is so focused that it’s hard to get their attention for English instruction!  Our intent in fostering all this interaction is for it to inspire mutual learning, a reciprocity to serve one another, and friendship that is life-giving. And beyond our ESL program, there is a bridge some of our ESL students cross that leads to another context to cultivate life-giving friendship: house church.

The members of our faith community gather weekly on Sunday in three house churches.  We routinely extend an invitation to our ESL students to gather with us. Crossing over from ESL into a house church setting has been a great way our ESL students, past and present have gotten further involved and experienced even greater community.  They cross over from studying English to examining the life of Jesus, from sitting in a classroom to gathering in the more intimate setting of a living room, and from reciting responses to English material to sharing a meal and good conversation around a table.  Our house churches are a place where everyone is on level ground, in a safe environment for sharing life’s burdens in prayer and growing together in Jesus.

A couple of young Honduran men, Jairo and Carlos, enrolled in our ESL classes several years ago.  I was quickly drawn to them because of their friendly, outgoing, animated personalities. Both men are painters and work long days.  However, they committed themselves to not missing class, and oftentimes, they would come to class directly from work. Over time, our natural affinity for one another and my respect for their dedication to class led to the start of a friendship.  It was natural to invite them to come to the house church that meets in my home. They accepted, and they’ve continued to come with their families, occasionally bringing along a neighbor or cousin to take part in studying God’s Word and growing together in Christ.  Jairo and Carlos are just two of a number of students who have crossed over to become part of our house church community.

Indeed, there is a bridge that links our Latino ESL program to our house church community. That bridge is built upon the sturdy trusses of interdependent relationship; life-giving friendship, mutual learning and reciprocated service   It leads to a place where the student and his family can grow in Christ together with others. It may even mean sharing the joy of a birthday, ice skating, a cook-out, a meal shared at a restaurant, or a day spent together at the zoo.  The possibilities for sharing life are endless!