ESL Workshops Change Lives in Mississippi

By Send Relief Staff

Joanne Cheng grew up worshipping in the Buddhist and Taoist temples of Taiwan.

“Before I came to the States, I had already heard about Jesus as one of my god options,” Cheng commented. “He was the designated western god.”

As she acclimated to America, however, she was connected to a local ESL ministry at a church in Jackson, Mississippi. Here, the facilitators shared the hope of the gospel message and introduced her to her future husband.

Once Cheng could engage more deeply with the services and worship, she began attending First Baptist Jackson, where she battled with spiritual concepts like the resurrection and realized that the idols she’d been worshipping had not sacrificed as much as the man called Jesus.

“I realized this story was more than a fairytale; it was history,” she said.

Then, Cheng began to see God moving in her life in miraculous ways, ways she’d always assumed were coincidences but now recognized were God’s hands at work.

Once while traveling, Cheng lost her car keys and spent the next hour in a panic. She searched everywhere and eventually got on the road, significantly late for her next appointment. As traffic reached a head, Cheng realized there was a ten-car pileup blocking the street.

“After talking to someone who witnessed the accident, I realized if I’d left on schedule, I would’ve been one of the victims. I learned then that God’s timing is always right,” said Cheng.

Today, Cheng leads Mississippi Baptists’ largest ESL ministry as the International Ministry Director at the very church that brought her to Christ.

Coordinator of the National Literacy Missions Partnership, Claudean Boatman, commented on her success.

“Joanne was the best leadership workshop participant we had this year, both in skills and in heart,” said Boatman. “Our purpose is to share Jesus through literacy ministries by equipping leaders who can then go back to their local settings and train volunteers in their contexts, and Joanne has done that abundantly. For her, sharing her faith has never just been theoretical.”

Utilizing Send Relief’s ESL materials, Cheng has been training volunteers of all different backgrounds—retired flight attendants, nurses, tutors and more—in how to teach English to newcomers.

“There’s so much guidance in Send Relief materials for how to recruit and establish a ministry, build a lesson plan, include Biblical principles, and more,” she said. “Before I started, I thought it would be solely in service of others, but what I didn’t know was that the Send Relief method involves introspection and reflection on my part as well. So be prepared to have these trainings benefit you and your church as well, not just the participants! You never know what kind of spiritual impact could result when a student returns to their home country or family, but because of ministries like these, we can plant far more seeds. Don’t forget the harvest is far greater than the number of students in front of you!”

In celebration of World Literacy Day this September 8, we would love to equip you and your church to start an ESL ministry that has the power to change lives. Click here to learn more!

Published August 22, 2023

Send Relief Staff