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[ Reaching The Unreached ]

Who is my neighbour?

Cassie Roberts of ODILS Learning Foundation (Open Doors International Language School) asks two questions: ‘Who is my neighbour’ (Lk 10:25 – 29), and ‘How do I love them as myself?’, particularly if they do not speak your own language, English in the case of ODILS. This is one of the many challenges we face as Christians. ‘How can I really love and serve them Lord? In this contribution to the series we look at one particular and practical way God has given to love and reach our neighbours.

 

God’s plans not ours.
God had always laid on our hearts a desire to serve the poor and for the gospel to reach the nations. We assumed this would be overseas until we went to the Newfrontiers Leaders Conference in 1997. At this conference we felt the Lord say,

‘Stay where you are, continue to church plant and I will bring the nations to you’.

This request was the hardest one to follow. OUR vision was to GO not to stay. But God had other plans. We carried on serving the Redeemer Church in Plymouth, UK, wherever we were needed, whilst praying for and seeking patience for the nations to come to Plymouth.

In 2000, I felt strongly that I was to qualify as an English Teacher in preparation for ‘something’. I took the CertTESOL course (Certificate of Teaching English for Speakers of Other Languages) in July 2000. Then, according to God’s promise to us, in September 2000 Plymouth became a Dispersal City for Asylum Seekers and I was offered a job at the local college as the one and only Asylum Seeker Coordinator! In one year, I personally met 1400 displaced people from 19 nations, most of whom were from unreached people groups.

Less than a year later we felt the Lord give us the vision to start ODILS Learning Foundation. ODILS is a Christian Charity separate from our church, but we partner and serve with our church and others across the Newfrontiers family, particularly in the Advance, Commission and Catalyst spheres. Russ and I have found that the focus of the ‘unreached’ in the UK has brought us into contact not only with our own Newfrontiers Family but other streams as well.

We felt called to do three things through the charity:

  1. Serve and reach the nations on our doorstep – OUR NEIGHBOURS.
  2. Model a sustainable Christian business that could be replicated by other churches
  3. Train and equip the saints to reach the poor and the nations.

Initially we started offering free conversation classes and English classes, with trained Christian TESOL teachers. Over the last 19 years we have grown and now hold several government contracts, support people into employment  and have a growing consultancy supporting Local Authorities across the South West Region and churches looking to reach the ‘stranger’ on their doorstep. We have taught over 8500 people from 49 nations who have come or been referred under the Asylum Dispersal to Plymouth. As a teacher training centre for Trinity College, London we have already trained 360 TESOL teachers who are now serving the nations, planting churches across the UK and Overseas, seeing the gospel shared and many saved.

The COVID-19 Crisis has given Redeemer Church and ODILS more opportunities to support those who are most vulnerable; many are isolated even in normal times. We usually teach about 260 learners face-to-face per week (80% Asylum Seekers and Refugees) but have now moved online. Despite the difficulties of internet connectivity, we have been able to re-engage with 180 of our learners through Zoom. Even those we call ‘pre-beginners,’ who are illiterate in their own language, and our Muslim mums have been able to connect via phones. This has led to a joint project with Redeemer Church to provide entertainment packs, colouring books, pens, chalk and lots more to families who are not connected to the internet and are trying to keep their children occupied, yet they can barely pay for their food. Schools are struggling to support them adequately because of their levels of English. We hope to move from giving packages in the short-term to building good strong relationships, eventually involving the families in church activities once lockdown is ended.

The Lord has given us a way to reach the nations AND our neighbours. Teaching English is a bridge, a tool for the church to reach the nations on our doorstep.

Cassie is the CEO of ODILS Learning Foundation and with Russ her husband, part of the wider leadership team at Redeemer Church, Plymouth.

Article originally featured here. 

 

Further articles in this series:

 

Redeemer Church Office | St Barnabas Terrace | Plymouth PL1 5NN

Tel: 01752 568400

Charity No : 1125216   |   Company No : 6390847