ESL Evangelism

by Zecharias Weldeyesus, Pastor, Redeemer Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Atlanta

People who have come to the United States as refugees with no ability to speak or write English would always tell you how much they appreciate believers in a local church who taught them English in their early days here in America. But more important, they would also tell you how grateful to the Lord they are for using those men and women to show them the love of Christ and point them to the Lord Jesus Christ as the only way to inherit eternal life by faith in Him alone. 

That’s why involvement of the local church in teaching ESL (English as a second language) is such an effective way of sharing Christ and His saving work with refugees whom the Lord brings to the church–although, of course, it is subordinate to the preaching of the word of God as the primary means that the Holy Spirit uses to convict and convert sinners. 

ESL classes offered by a gospel-saturated and witnessing church uses volunteer teachers in building up friendship and trust with refugees, not only by teaching them English, but also by showing them the love of Christ as refugees share their burdens, by praying for and with them during every class, by sharing the good news of salvation through Christ with them, and ultimately by drawing them into the worship of God and the ordinary means of grace in Christ’s church. ESL also serves as an efficient tool for the evangelist of the local church to use to advance Bible studies with refugees and to help build a foundation toward planting a sound and worshiping church of all nations. 

Please pray that our church’s ESL evangelism classes would bear much fruit for the Kingdom as our evangelist, Pastor Melaku, calls refugees to repentance and faith through the preaching and teaching of God’s word and as our volunteer ESL teachers show the love of Christ to the refugees under the care of Redeemer Mercy Ministry in Clarkston.     

This article was taken from Redeemer Mercy Ministry’s October 2022 newsletter, with permission. You can find their entire issue, including more about ESL, here. Photo: Dr. Martha Wright with prospective learners from Redeemer OPC. She met with them twice at Refuge Coffee Company in Clarkston to assess their needs, skill levels, and concerns.


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A Summit Not To Be Missed!

by Trish Duggan, Communications Coordinator, OPC Committee on Diaconal Ministries

“Please don’t use the expression, ‘I’m only or just a deacon,’” Rev. Bill Shishko strongly and lovingly cautioned the men at the 4th OPC National Diaconal Summit. “Hopefully that will be knocked out of you if you’ve used it in the past.” Shishko went on to share his experience at his former church, the OPC of Franklin Square, and how he worked to build the diaconate there. Diaconal work is hard work, he admitted, but, “I just came to revel in the work, the variety of the work, the excitement of the work that deacons do. I love and esteem the work of the diaconate, and I’m hoping that I can bring some of that love and excitement to you this evening.”

That type of wind of blew throughout the three-day event. Plenary sessions as well as workshops gave practical and spiritual encouragement to lift each deacon brother. Just like Aaron and Hur lifting the arms of Moses, one man lifted another in training and in fellowship. The Bible teaches that “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” There was no lack of that this year.

Registration began early on Thursday, June 2. One group arrived very early in Chicago, coming from California; they had taken the red-eye. Each one registered and some made their way up to take a quick nap before the events of the day officially began. Slowly, and steadily the nearly 200 men, deacons, deacons-in-training, elders and pastors coming to support their deacons, arrived; smiles and greetings to all, thankful for this special occasion.

It didn’t take long before the smells of barbecue filled the lobby of Fischer Hall, drawing the participants out of their rooms. The unseasonably beautiful weather enabled the use of outdoor picnic tables spread across the lush green grass that lined the small slope of the dorm lawn. Soon the seats were filled, and a loud hum of conversation and laughter filled the air. And this was just the beginning of the warm comradery that developed as friendships were established and re-ignited.

The schedule was full; dawn till dusk. Immediately following the first main session on Thursday evening, its content described by one deacon as “steak for breakfast”, it was time to cross the campus to the gas-lit firepits where dessert and fellowship began to stir. Handshakes and hugs animated the scene as small groups gathered to catch up, further confirming the appreciation to again be face-to-face.

From there it rolled: sessions, food, and fellowship. Plenary talks by fathers of the OPC, Bill Shishko, Al Tricarico, Ron Pearce, Craig Troxel and Nathan Trice, were given to the whole group, while workshops, taught by pastors, elders and deacons, were attended in smaller groups. 

Rev. Al Tricarico, associate general secretary of the Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension, and former missionary to Uganda, reminded the group of God’s grace, “Brothers, you know Christ. You have been rescued from stranger status. And have been welcomed by Jesus into the home of his Father. Now, remember that and gladly welcome strangers in. It’s hard. It’s uncomfortable. People who are not like us or not known to us can make us feel uneasy. But if God has welcomed you, how can you withhold your welcome when others come into your life and orbit?”

Challenging workshop offerings such as Rev. Eric Watkins’, “Mercy Ministry in a Social-Justice World” gave insight to what is missing in secular, social justice arguments. After carefully protected directness, Watkins said, “I feel like our deacons are one of our most underused resources in our church as it relates to confronting some of the challenges of Mercy Ministry that the world calls social justice. Who carried out the heart and compassion of God, not only in the church but outside the church in the Old Testament? It was to be the priest. How does that ministry translate in the New Testament? It comes to the office of Deacon… “[Deacons need] to be the sort of frontline of engaging some of the things that are now popping up in a social justice context, and we’ve got the best tools and the best resources. “This is what mercy, justice and compassion really looks like. It’s gospel-centered, it’s church-oriented.  It’s the hands and feet of Jesus reaching our communities where the pain actually is…”

Rev. Chris Cashen in his workshop, “Refugee Relief”, also focused in on the need to love the stranger, and how the deacons can encourage their congregations to love and minister to the refugee community. “For deacons, ministry to refugees is such a practical way to encourage your congregants, to engage the congregation, [and] to participate in Mercy Ministry.” He reminded them that they are to lead the charge, but encouraged them not to do all the work. 

All five plenary sessions and nine workshops were squeezed into the limited time allotted, offering much wisdom and ability to share experiences and challenges; something that can’t be done by phone or on a Zoom call.

The three-day conference came and went quickly, but not without leaving a lasting impression on all who attended. “Attending the summit helps you understand the best practices as a deacon and reminds you that you are not alone. Getting good instruction is vital to being a good deacon. The food and fellowship is an excellent way to be refreshed and excited to return to church life,” according to Peter Heinisch, deacon at Providence OPC in Rockford, IL. 

Luke Fawcett, deacon, Resurrection OPC, Matthews, NC said “If you haven’t been to a Summit, you got to do it,” and his deacon-mate, Nathan Brinkerhoff, agreed, “There’s one thing you can’t experience by watching the videos, and that is the singing. If you’re not ready for it, it will almost take you by surprise. It is wonderful— it’s that good.”

If you missed it this year, you’ll have to wait several years for the next, but in the meantime, go to OPCCDM.org to check out the videos of the sessions. It’s truly not the same, and in the future, we hope you’ll make plans to attend in person. No doubt, the food and training you’ll receive will be great. But the infusion of encouragement from the fellowship and the obvious strength in diaconal numbers you will find irreplaceable! 

 


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Coming Together to Aid Ukraine

by David Nakhla, Administrator for the Committee on Diaconal Ministries

The OPC Committee on Diaconal Ministries is committed to using the gifts given to the Ukraine Crisis Fund for ministry to those affected by the war in Ukraine, ideally through Presbyterian and reformed avenues—those with whom we share similar understandings of God’s word and the proper uses of diaconal funds. In seeking to determine where the funds might be used the best, we have grown in our understanding of the number of reformed and Presbyterian churches, missionaries, and organizations ministering to Ukrainian refugees in Eastern Europe.

Planned Assessment Trip of the Ministries to Refugees, May 10-16
Further, I am planning to travel to Eastern Europe for a whirlwind assessment trip of the various ministries, accompanied by Rich Bout, the URCNA Missions Coordinator.  The dates for this trip are May 10-16.  Please pray for the Lord’s blessing on this trip.

Mission to the World (MTW, the PCA’s mission organization), has had a presence in Ukraine since the early 90s, following the fall of the Soviet Union and communism.  As a church-planting mission, MTW birthed the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Ukraine (EPCU). There are now 16 EPCU churches and/or church plants sprinkled throughout Ukraine (and one outside of Ukraine in Krakow, Poland), as seen on the map below.

Locations of Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Ukraine Congregations
Prior to the war, MTW had teams concentrated in three cities: L’viv, Odessa, and Kiev.  At the outbreak of war, MTW determined to relocate most members of the team in L’viv about 200 miles west to Krakow, Poland.  The team in Odessa moved its operation 350 miles west to Brasov, Romania. The team in Kiev has been dispersed to various places.

MTW established the Ukraine Crisis Church Fund with the goal of raising $4 million.  In less than 8 weeks, they raised almost $4.5 million ($75,000 of that is from the OPC’s Ukraine Crisis Fund). 

With the L’viv team now in Krakow, and the Odessa team now in Brasov, MTW has been able to use these funds for the facility, material, and personnel expenses related to housing, feeding, transporting, and clothing refugees in those locations.  For some refugees, they have also had to provide medical care and counseling.

The funds have also been used to enable a ministry to the many sick and elderly who have been left behind in many of the cities in Ukraine.  Through the faithful, tireless, and heroic efforts of some of the saints in the EPCU, truckloads of humanitarian supplies are being purchased and driven to eastern Ukraine to help care for the sick and elderly.  When the vehicles return westward for more supplies, they do that transporting more refugees out of the more dangerous areas of Ukraine.

We look forward to seeing the work of MTW in Krakow, first-hand on May 12.

Please continue to pray for the safety, comfort, and care of many EPCU church members who have been left behind in many dangerous areas of Ukraine, especially the city of Kharkiv near the Russian border in the Northeast.

The Reformed Presbyterian Church of Central and Eastern Europe (RPCCEE) is another young denomination, now almost 25 years old, located in Hungary, Romania and Western Ukraine.  The OPC enjoys a healthy fraternal relationship with the RPCCEE, delighted in seeing these like-minded brothers prosper in their work to establish a faithful witness in that part of the world.  Being next door to Ukraine and having 3 of their 27 churches in Ukraine, the RPCCEE has been actively receiving, hosting, and helping refugees coming to their churches in Hungary.  Many reformed/presbyterian churches and organizations are seeking to come alongside the RPCCEE, given their strategic location and their faithful efforts to organize in a trustworthy fashion.

According to a recent update, refugees are now being routed to detention camps by the Hungarian government.  As a result, the RPCCEE reports the following: “As things stand now, it is very probable that our focus will change, from offering shelter for Refugees, to helping those who remained in Ukraine and those who settle in Hungary. There are of course many unknown factors which may turn this plan upside down, and the influx of refugees might increase again. Then we will have to make the necessary adjustments.”

We have asked how we can participate and they have invited us to send $9,900, designated for “Post-War Needs”.  Those funds have been sent.

Visiting the RPCCEE labors in Budapest and Miskolc, Hungary, are our first scheduled stops, May 10 & 11, respectively.

World Witness, the foreign missions agency of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, has missionaries in several strategic locations in Europe.  They are in Warsaw, Poland, 150 miles from Ukraine’s western border.  They are also in Lithuania, just north of Poland.  Others are in Germany and Spain.  Each of these outposts are either receiving refugees or ministering to those in their area.  In Warsaw, their focus has been to teach Polish to those Ukrainians desiring to settle in Poland.

Lord-willing, we will observe the work of the ARP in Warsaw on May 13 and their work in Kaunas, Lithuania, on May 14.

Hearts of Hope:An OPC deacon and his wife live in the very corner of Southwestern Ukraine, just next to the border with Romania, by the Black Sea.  Greg and Bonnie Harrison have adopted some children from Ukraine and are providing foster care for others.  Since the start of the war, they have been relocated into Romania, where they live as refugees and also minister to others with lodging and care, as well as providing translation assistance at the border. We will not be able to visit this family on this trip.

Tolle Lege: Another ministry located in Warsaw that has reformed connections is that of Tolle Lege and its director, Dariusz Brycko.  While the focus of their ministry has been in translating reformed works into the Polish language, Tolle Lege has sought to rise to the occasion in playing a role in trucking humanitarian relief from its strategic location in Warsaw to Ukraine.

In a recent newsletter, they shared the shocking news that one of their drivers came under gunfire on his way home from a delivery in the Kharkiv area and was shot and killed, leaving behind a wife and six children.  These brothers are carrying out these deliveries at great personal risk.  They covet continued prayers on their behalf, for courage and safety.

Lord-willing, we will visit Tolle Lege and this operation on May 13.

There are many other ministries sending funds over.  But, at this point, these are those of which we are aware at this time.  Please pray that the Lord would continue to guide and direct.


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