Photo by Matteo Paganelli on Unsplash

Love your neighbor, learn their language

Eden Carlton

May 24, 2019

It’s 8:30 a.m. Sunday morning, one hour before Sunday School starts. Students have entered the classroom at St. Paul’s Baptist Church in West Chester, Pennsylvania to learn Spanish. This is no light commitment. Thirty students will start, but only thirteen will finish. The students will spend two hours on Sundays, an hour and a half on Monday nights, and up to two hours every day over an 11-week period learning and practicing Spanish. Welcome to the Language Arts Ministry.

In 2016, Dr. Lisa Croft, wife of Rev. Dr. Wayne E. Croft, Sr., pastor of St. Paul’s, sought the Lord about what it means to witness for Jesus Christ and what that looks like when thinking of people who don’t look like you or speak like you, or who have a different culture than you. What Dr. Lisa received was a call to provide a way for people to learn various languages with the goal of students building and enhancing their relationships with their family, friends, and neighbors in order to share God’s love. Since the spring of 2018, the Language Arts Ministry offers Spanish and French classes, soon to be followed by American Sign Language, Hebrew, Arabic, and Korean. However, the journey doesn’t end with learning the language.

What it means to witness for Jesus Christ and what that looks like when thinking of people who don’t look like you or speak like you, or who have a different culture than you.

With a heart and desire to serve our Puerto Rican brothers and sisters, in 2018 students donated to José Andrés’ World Central Kitchen #ChefsForPuertoRico project. In March 2019, seven students travelled to Puerto Rico to work for a week with American Baptist Home Mission Societies in order to rebuild, restore, and renew places of worship and service in the Caguas area. 

A team of seven African American women from the Language Arts Ministry cleaned the roof of Corporación Milagros del Amor (CorMA), prepared and served meals for the homeless with Iglesia Bautista La Ciudad Deseada Canta Gallo, and landscaped, painted, and learned about the work of Centro Educativo Joaquina de Vedruna.

Every team member was transformed by this opportunity to serve and expressed a deep appreciation for the people of Puerto Rico, as well as the prayerful support of the St. Paul’s church family.

“God is faithful as God blessed our trip by allowing us to exceed the expectations of ourselves as well as others by allowing us to go above and beyond what we could have imagined. God knitted us all together in such a way that our collective mindset was that we came to serve not be served.” — Dr. Lisa Croft

“Through God’s grace I have returned from a rewarding, emotional, and productive mission of Christ’s love in Puerto Rico. I pray we were able to spread the love of God through Christ, opening hearts and minds and debunking some of the myths about women and African-Americans.” — Virginia Barbarin

“My purpose was to let our fellow Americans know that they are not forgotten and that they are still connected to us both nationally and spiritually…we are here for them. The joy of giving and reaching across cultural divides was a blessing to me.”  — Pam White

“I was reminded that no matter where you go you will always find people whose level of faith and empathy in times of trouble can be awe-inspiring. — Stephanie Bass

The journey of learning languages in order to share God’s love continues with more classes and more service. The Language Arts Ministry is planning to work with Iglesia Bautista La Ciudad Deseada Canta Gallo in serving Haitian refugee children in the Dominican Republic.

Eden Carlton leads the Language Arts Ministry at St. Paul’s Baptist Church, West Chester, Penn.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of American Baptist Home Mission Societies.

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