English classes help Michigan church reach Hispanic community

English classes help Michigan church reach Hispanic community

by
Daniel Sperry for Nazarene News
| 21 Mar 2024
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English classes

In an isolated corner of Michigan farm country, a small Church of the Nazarene has become the county's sole provider of English Language Learning classes. Some of the first students are now on track to become church members this summer.

The classes began after a pastor at Hastings Church of the Nazarene came up with the idea to start a multi-ethnic ministry. Soon the church staff learned there were no English language courses in Hastings or even Barry County.

The church partnered with West Michigan Works, an organization that helps residents get jobs, to host the classes and set out to find students.

"We reached out to a lot of local farms that are predominantly run by either permanent or migrating Hispanic workers," said Lead Pastor Danny Quanstrom.

Their message was to come and learn English and find "ways to get better connected to the community and improve your work skills."

Hastings was once a sundown town known for purposely segregating itself from anyone who wasn't white, so Hastings Naz has tried to be an example of what the Kingdom of God truly is.

"The kingdom of God is multi-ethnic, multilingual, and multinational," Quanstrom said. "If the kingdom of God is supposed to come on earth in Hastings as it is in heaven, then maybe we should be encouraging this reality."

Hastings Naz will soon welcome some of the students as church members, including Erick Ramos, who began taking English classes just 10 months ago. He credits the classes for bringing his family to Hastings Naz.

"I have been taking the English class for a year now, and from the first day, I felt motivated and, above all, accepted," Ramos said. "From the first day, we felt accepted, welcomed, and trusted. Even though we did not completely master the language, they took us into account and made us feel like family."

Ramos moved to Hastings from Mexico to work on some of the local farms. And while the change was hard for him and his family, Hastings Naz is why they now feel at home.

"Here we feel comfortable. No one judges us," Ramos said. "On the contrary. [The church] supports us in developing our faith with preaching, worship, teaching, and service to others."

Ramos and his family will become members of the church once they finish their membership classes. And soon, the church will be offering Spanish-speaking membership classes.

Quanstrom says the church's heart to reach out to their community and find those who are on the outside or marginalized is what led to learning about the unmet need for English classes.

"We ought to be a place that is welcoming for all nations, tribes, and tongues," Quanstrom said. "And the church, especially, ought to be that and should promote it in our community to better reflect the kingdom of God."

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