In June of 2018, the session of the New Wilmington Presbyterian Church, under the direction of the Rev. Dr. Matthew Camlin, formally adopted Dual Language Mutual Ministry as a mission of the church. The vision of the ministry is to connect and serve two populations of the New Wilmington, PA, greater community – those who speak Spanish or other languages desiring to learn English and native English speakers desiring to learn Spanish. A $5,000 Innovation Grant from the Synod of the Trinity was approved to assist the congregation in starting this new ministry. Learn more about the Innovation Grant here.
By starting the Dual Language Mutual Ministry, it is hoped that it will benefit Spanish speakers who will learn English, which is necessary to live and thrive in this area of the United States and will also benefit those English speakers who wish to learn Spanish as a second language. The goal of the program is to foster cultural compassion and inclusion while forming invaluable cross-cultural fellowship and connections. The connections of the two learning areas will create a mutual ministry for all participants.
Dual Language Mutual Ministry will not only nurture relationships between the native Spanish speakers and the native English speakers by having them come together to appreciate and learn each other’s languages and cultures, it will also help the Spanish speakers achieve social relationships within the dominant English-speaking culture of the area and enhance opportunities for career advancement. The opportunity will help create advantages for these Spanish-speakers who at times may be biased against or disadvantaged because of their lack of proficiency of English.
An added benefit for the New Wilmington Church congregation is its 21-year connectional ministry with Iglesia Evangelica in the Dominican Republic. Participants in this class who are interested in going on a mission trip there will gain proficiency in the Spanish language as well as those who want to learn a second language. It will also allow for space in the church for all participants to feel welcome and valued by the Christian community of the church.
A mid-way evaluation of the Dual Language Mutual Ministry was submitted to the Synod by grant coordinators Michelle Shaffer and Tawnee Hunter. Below are some of their thoughts on the program six months into the initiative:
The course has allowed Spanish and English students to develop friendships and conversation. Some of these families have also participated in community events. The families have been invited to participate in our church life and activities. Our Spanish class has been exposed to the difficulties of immigration and the hardships of learning a new language and moving to a new community and culture.
This fall we had from 13-15 Spanish learners in class and 2-4 English learners at New Wilmington Presbyterian Church. Childcare has been provided for free to the families by college students to anyone attending English classes at NWPC. We also started a satellite class at a local Mexican Restaurant, at the request of the owner, which has served an additional 4-5 English learners. This course has been held at the Mexican restaurant, which is their place of employment. Although we hadn’t thought of this as part of our original proposal, we were encouraged that this community reached out to us and we were inspired to accept this further opportunity for mission.
Our next step is to further our outreach to serve more English learners. We also plan to split the Spanish class into two levels to better serve the needs of our students.