Australia is increasingly multi-cultural. Immigration is changing the look and sound of our local demographic. Last year, international students numbered 400,000, and that was in addition to the hundreds of thousands of new immigrant workers who entered the country. Some immigrants come as refugees, fleeing appalling situations in their homeland, others come as highly trained professionals: doctors, nurses, accountants, solicitors, town planners, plumbers, electricians, and so on. And one of their greatest felt needs is the ability to speak English.Many have studied English at school, at least from a technical or grammatical perspective, but have lacked opportunities to practice every day conversation. Many also find that the level of English required to gain entry into Australia is below what is necessary to get a job. We “let them in,” but without the means to support themselves.
What are we doing to introduce new immigrants to the good news of Jesus Christ?
Crossover is currently promoting Hear Say, a new missional resource that provides an easy way to connect with non-English speaking people. Here’s how it works:
• A church (or group) decides to reach into new immigrant communities in their area by offering conversational English tuition to people from non-English speaking backgrounds. They advertise in a local newspaper or on a factory noticeboard or via word of mouth. There is usually a quick uptake!
• Having established a client base, tutors are matched with students either individually or in a small group. Tutors and students meet on, say, a weekly basis for an hour and work through simple lessons on pronunciation and conversation. Hear Say provides easy-to-use computer and video based tutorial lessons.
Hear Say creates a wonderful opportunity for mission through the friendships and discussions that develop between tutors and students. In the context of these friendships, tutors are able to invite students to meals or special events in their church, support them during life crises and pray for and with them. “When foreigners reside among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigners residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt…” (Leviticus 19:33-34). The Bible specifically tells us to care for those new to our nation and many new immigrants are wide open to new friendships and spiritual truth. If you’ve ever re-located to a new town or country, you’ll know the feeling of isolation. This even greater when you don’t speak the language.
Crossover has produced a DVD explaining how Hear Say works and has distributed it to every Baptist Pastor in Australia. If you haven’t seen it yet, ask your Pastor if you can view it. Free demonstration packs with samples of tutorial video clips and lesson plans are also available. Becoming a tutor doesn’t require advanced training in teaching English. All you have to do is be friendly, caring and able to follow simple instructions.