Did you know that First Christian Church provides childcare for children of our English for Speakers of other Languages (ESL) students each semester so that they are able to attend classes here? We serve approximately 20 children ages 2-5 years each week.
A few months ago I began conversation with our ESL Nursery staff about the purpose of the ministry we provide to these children. For the past several years, our nursery functioned as a daycare center, simply providing care for the children, providing them a place to play.
This semester we serve ESL students from more than 25 countries, many of them arriving from years in refugee camps. As you can imagine, with that background their children often find it difficult to adapt to an American classroom. After some time of discernment we realized the greatest blessing we can give these children is to help them begin to adjust to our American culture and to a classroom setting. Others might teach them the alphabet, but we could help them become ready to learn.
So we shower love and support on them while they learn new skills through structured play, music & movement, story time, and English language basics in either the toddler class or the preschool class. Most importantly, they also learn how to work in a group, sit at a table and work together, and share story-time together.
Imagine a group of toddlers playing with Playdoh or cutting with scissors for the first time. Imagine a group of preschoolers beginning to learn their colors and letters – and finding joy in having school work to do. Imagine them all singing Ensy-Weensy-Spider and doing the hand motions, or Old MacDonald and crawling around imitating the animals. The look of delight and concentration on their faces is a powerful sight. And it happens every day in your nursery.
Unlike a typical group of children, these children, because of their background, are too quiet, too contained. They rarely say a word, even when asked directly. They never shout and often stand on the side of the room waiting to be personally invited to play. Yet with the new structure and the love we share, that is slowly changing. Now you can hear them laughing and squealing on the morning they go to the gym to run and play. Now they join a friend and play tea party or race cars together. They don’t chatter yet, but we hear the change coming in the small sounds of play they are beginning to make.
An amazing transition is happening in the ministry you provide every week with the people of our community. A wonderful transformation is happening in the children who come to us. It is a joy to behold. If you’d like to be more involved with this ministry or simply learn more about the changes we are making in the lives of these families, please ask me – I’d love to talk with you about it!