|My current English class includes these beautiful ladies from|
Iran, Bangladesh, Morocco, South Korea, and China
I showed up at my first FI event—the 2018-19 welcome tea—unsure of what to expect, but it didn’t take long to get caught up in the excitement of both the staff and the returning students. Hugs and shouts of greetings and laughter filled the church assembly space. I quickly became aware that this program is not solely about teaching/learning English. It is about developing relationships and demonstrating Christian love a very tangible way.
Friendship International began in 1977, when a group of women from three area Southern Baptist churches began teaching English to international wives living near then Central State campus. The teachers began this ministry as a way to share Christ’s love, but they soon became aware of another need in their students’ lives—the need for friends, for community. Unable to speak English or drive and having small children to care for, the international ladies spent most of their time in their apartments. Their husbands, who attended classes during the day and spent evenings studying, provided their wives little relief from their isolation. After several months of prayer and planning and with the help of Dr. Ronald Paddock, the church ladies formed Friendship International Wives’ and Children’s Program. The name was later changed to Friendship International Women’s Program to include the expanding group of women who are in this country for a variety of reasons. The organization offers classes in English, Bible, citizenship, cooking, sewing, quilting, painting, embroidery, literature, and choir.
|Nena Thomas who teaches the sewing class made|
these darling Christmas trees--over 20!--to decorate the tables.
Friendship provides a place for ladies of different cultures and religious backgrounds to gather and be free from judgment for their countries’ politics or religious beliefs. So far this year, Friendship volunteers have had the privilege to share God’s word with ladies from thirty-five different countries. Few places in this world can lay claim to hosting to such an extraordinary event: Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, and Hindu women—and even those subscribing to atheism—willingly attending a Christian church gathering while aware a Bible message will be shared.
No matter the country or culture, women are women, sharing desires and hopes for a better world for their families and friends. Friendship International relishes the opportunity to encourage them in the pursuit of these hopes and to plant the Truth of God’s Word in their hearts.
This is my second year to participate in FI, and I have been blessed in numerous ways. Last week, we held the annual Christmas brunch. Along with beautiful decorations and delicious food so lovingly prepared by the staff, music was provided by the choir. Listening to ladies from all over the globe sing of the birth of Christ is a true Christmas miracle. I never felt the hope for "peace on Earth" more strongly.