ROME, GA - At Rome Independent Baptist Church, English as a Second Language (ESL) has become a top priority. Pastor Mark Franks told TBNN that the entire church is behind their new project, "Everyone is very excited about all of the new ESL classes we will be offering this fall. We have folks teaching that I never thought would be interested in ESL; some might not even be qualified. I guess when God is moving in peoples' hearts, you just can't predict what is going to happen."
At TBNN, we don't question the need for ESL, but we did want to know "why?". In a relatively small community like Rome, GA, why offer so many different ESL classes? What is the motivation?
According to Pastor Franks, "About six months ago, several of the older ladies of the church brought a concern to me. They had seen some people at Wal*Mart that did not look white and did not seem to be speaking English. These sweet ladies were immediately concerned that the foreign language speakers did not have access to the bible. They suggested that we start several different ESL classes as soon as possible."
After a deep breath, Franks continued, "After setting up an ESL committee, we checked in with local government offices to get some demographic data. We discovered that we have more immigrants in this area than we realized. Do you know that we have eight different language speaking groups right here in Rome? Amazing! Because of that, we are preparing ESL classes right now for Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Greek, Malaysian, Portuguese, and Arabic speakers; well, maybe not Greek."
We inquired, "Wouldn't it be a lot simpler in terms of time and effort to first get bibles to them that they could read now? We are sure that the bible has been translated into all eight of the languages you mentioned."
With his smile disappearing, Franks responded, "I'm not sure I understand."
We rephrased, "Teaching English takes a long time. While it is a noble task, it will be quite some time before any of these people could read a bible in English. So why not first distribute bibles in Spanish, Chinese, Korean, etc. to the folks who need them?"
Franks seemed to now comprehend the situation. He said, "The King James Version only comes in English. It can't be translated correctly into other languages without those people missing out on some of the inspired Word of God. By teaching them English through ESL, within just three to four years they can have access to the holy scriptures."
Well, the motivation for the ESL classes now seemed crystal clear.
We had one last question for Pastor Franks, "What about the millions of people in the world who don't speak English and won't ever make it to Rome, GA? Will they ever have access to the bible?"
Franks answered excitedly, "Yes! As a church, we are saving up to send a couple from our church to Zimbabwe to teach the people there English. It is exciting to spread the good news of the KJV!"