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ESL at Second by Gwen Phillips

ESL at Second…

I’m not sure how many of you know that we have a volunteer program for English learners at Second.  About nine years ago, several of us spent the weekend in training to be certified as English as a Second Language instructors.  Fourteen hours later, it was official!  Over the years, we’ve had friends from Mexico, Guatemala, French-speaking Canada, Colombia, Peru, Iran, El Salvador, South Korea, Sudan and Morocco.  Some of the learners have come for a season and are gone.  Others continue to come when they can and learn all they can.  I’ve had the privilege of being in their homes, getting to know their families, helping them move to their first owned home…I even taught one friend how to drive.  Scary!

It can be hard not to have “favorites, ” and really, I have loved every opportunity.  But, let me tell you about my sweet friend, Lilian.  We have been friends for about five years.  She is from Guatemala and has a smile that just makes you like her immediately.  She came to me wanting to learn how to “speak better” and communicate with the people around her.  We worked on everything from vocabulary to verb tenses.  We practiced talking on the phone and making appointments.  We role played parent/teacher conferences and asking for help at a department store.  We went to the grocery and learned about where to find different foods. 

Then one day, I asked Lilian if she would like to become a U. S. citizen someday.  I told her I could get the questions that they would ask her when she took the test and we could practice together.  She said “yes,” and we began to study.  Finally, the day came where she made the appointment to take the test, and she was successful!  She received the announcement about where her citizenship ceremony would be and asked me to come along with her and her husband.  What a thrill!  We joined about 85 other new citizens at the Truman Library in Independence.  I wept through most of the ceremony.  None of us will ever know the sacrifices these friends have made to get to this place, and I was just so incredibly proud of all of them, especially Lilian.

My sweet friend continues to come once a week to English class.  She speaks English well and talks constantly!  I am so very thankful that Second Baptist encourages each of us to follow our passions and provides the place to make it happen.  May we always have our doors open to new friends and new opportunities.


Posted by gwen phillips at Friday, November 10, 2017 | 0 comments
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Celebrate Our Differences by Eric Zahnd

I guess he would be surprised.

Twenty-five years and two teenagers later, my wife Tracy and I remain happily married.

That’s not what he predicted. He said we would never make it, and we should just hang it up.

He was wrong.

He was a couples counselor at Glorieta Baptist Conference Center in New Mexico. Tracy and I had gone there on a college retreat in 1989.

We were dating at the time, and one of the workshops was geared toward couples. The counselor administered a personality test to the group and then held brief individual counseling sessions with each couple.

Tracy and I scored as polar opposites on every axis of the inventory. She is an extrovert; I am an introvert. She likes to sense things; I am more intuitive. She feels; I think. She perceives; I judge.

When he met with us, he told us in no uncertain terms that our relationship was doomed.

“Someday,” he said to Tracy, “you’re going to need Eric, and he won’t be there for you. You would be better off accepting that now and moving on.”

He was a fool.

I’ve never seen the movie, and I’m given to mocking its famous line, but Jerry Maguire offers more soundly Christian advice than the supposed expert at Glorieta.

“You complete me,” Jerry utters to his true love in the film.

That’s true of Tracy and me. Her strengths compensate for my many weaknesses, and vice-versa. Although we sometimes have to work hard to reconcile our different ways of approaching the world, we ultimately make a great couple—with a healthy and lasting marriage to prove it—largely because of our differences.

This is also true of a healthy church and a healthy Christian. One of the things that continue to draw me to Second Baptist Church is that we embrace diversity, particularly diversity of thought.

Unlike many churches—on both the political and theological left as well as right—Second Baptist Church has decided to embrace diversity of thought. Too many of our Christian brothers and sisters—again on the left just as often as the right—have instead adopted a theology of exclusion borne of a dangerous arrogance that they have God figured out.

Too many churches and Christian leaders today neglect the Christian virtue of accepting the ambiguity that comes with humbly acknowledging that God is infinitely bigger than any of us can imagine. Too many Christians today want to believe that they somehow have captured what God would have us to believe and how God would have us to act in very complex circumstances. They disregard the doxology from Romans 11:33-36:

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!

    How unsearchable his judgments,

    and his paths beyond tracing out!

“Who has known the mind of the Lord?

    Or who has been his counselor?”

“Who has ever given to God,

    that God should repay them?”

For from him and through him and for him are all things.

    To him be the glory forever! Amen.

In my marriage as well as my church, I know no one will try to force me to approach a personal, political, theological, or moral issue from a certain vantage point. Instead, I humbly accept with those closest to me the reality that we see only “through a glass, darkly.” I Corinthians 13:12.

The humility required to celebrate differences has sustained Tracy and me through more than two decades of marriage. That same sort of humility has enlivened Second Baptist Church for nearly 175 years.

So the next time a supposed Christian couples expert or a strident voice from either Christian extreme insists to you that you have it all wrong and divergence invites defeat, I suggest you do what my wife and I and the people of Second Baptist have done:  stick with one another and rejoice in the strength that comes from our differences.

at Monday, November 6, 2017 | 0 comments
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A Crowded Race by Angie Fuller

As a high school track athlete, I proved to be mediocre and gullible. I was a 100-meter hurdler – though I never mastered the stride necessary for speed – and was usually assigned to a couple of 400-meter events. Somehow, one of those events was always the 400-meter hurdles, a brutal quarter-mile “sprint” around the track interrupted ten times by horizontal obstacles (again… gullible).

The final event of each track meet was the 4x400-meter relay. It often started after 9:30 PM, when most competitors were packing their bags and trudging toward waiting school buses. My 400 split didn’t earn the fastest “anchor” position, so I ran the second or third leg of the relay. By the time I got to the backstretch of the track, all I could hear were my panting breaths and the spikes of my shoes in the asphalt. I felt weary and alone. But then I’d hear my friend Kari. Her field events were long over, but she faithfully positioned herself inside the track on that backstretch, yelling my name and cheering me toward the final curve. Once I rounded it, I caught sight of the green and white jersey of my teammate – her arm outstretched for our baton exchange.

Hebrews 12 opens with a well-known race metaphor: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us … run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer, and perfecter of faith … Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” We take comfort in this imagery of a cheering crowd, a well-marked lane, eyes focused on the finish line, and infinite stamina. In reality, though, we stumble in following Christ’s example. Sometimes our courage and trust are mediocre. We are gullible when faced with temptation. The course God has marked out for us becomes difficult to see. Unexpected curves and hurdles appear in our lane.

But on this All Saints’ Day, I am reminded that this race is not an individual event. It’s a relay. The list of specific witnesses commended for their faith begins in Hebrews 11:3 with “we.” In God’s eyes all of us … the “holy catholic church, the communion of saints…” are runners on a universal relay team. We run with saints such as Moses, Mary, and Paul. Saints like Martin Luther, Harriet Tubman, Desmond Tutu, Corrie ten Boom, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Saints like Nettie, my 4-H mentor and high school Sunday School teacher. And even saints among current and future generations whose contributions to this relay are yet unknown.

When we grow weary, we look not only to Christ but also at those who have already run. They stumbled, too. But they relied on God’s strength to persevere. We are encouraged by their examples and humbly seek to stay the course, holding fast to the baton of God’s Word. When this relay is finally over, there will be no Hall of Fame – no framed jerseys or polished plaques. There will simply be a HUGE crowd of witnesses and that baton of God’s Word covered with their fingerprints. During my leg of this race, I will cling to that baton and listen for the voices of my teammates as I follow their footsteps.

at Wednesday, November 1, 2017 | 0 comments
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