The CBFNC Welcome House Community Network is about more than providing housing. It’s about prioritizing relational ministry that invites people to face challenges together, to work in ways that allow neighbors to form lasting relationships and to provide support to vulnerable neighbors that does not dismiss material needs but moves beyond them. One of the ways the network supports new neighbors is through English as a Second Language classes (ESL).
Welcome House Raleigh has a team of volunteers that teach in-person and remote classes, serving hundreds of people who are at various levels of English proficiency. Gwen Bowles, a retired educator and member of Mars Hill Baptist Church in Mars Hill, is one of the ESL teachers who is helping to not only support new neighbors across our state, but also form friendships with them.
“When I first read that Facebook post from Welcome House Raleigh asking for volunteer’s to each ESL online, little did I know what a difference it would make in my life,” said Gwen. “In-person classes had been shut down because of COVID. I had never taught ESL but I did know how to teach people to read.”
Gwen shares that together, she and her students began to learn. Sure, her students learned to speak, read and write in English. But, according to Gwen, they have all learned so much more:
- To be friends and share their lives and families with each other.
- To pray for each other in their variety of faiths.
- To support each other through times of sickness, grief and joy.
- To share their countries’ customs and celebrations.
- To support each other in further education and job searches.
- To continue their friendships via texts even when they no longer have class
One former student put it this way. He said, “I really appreciate your messages.
These make me feel like I have a part of my family nearby.”
Gwen adds, “Because I live in the NC mountains, I have never met any of my students in person. But, yes, that is what we have learned; to share the love of God’s wonderful family despite our differences. I am grateful for my new family.”
Want to get involved and help grow this ministry?
- Make a donation to support Welcome Ride. Give online here or mail a check to CBFNC, 2640 Reynolda Road, Winston-Salem, NC 27106.
- Follow Larry and his Welcome Ride team as they bike from the mountains to the coast on CBFNC’s Facebook and Instagram pages. We will share daily photos, videos and updates along the bike route.