Originally published February 2018
Since 2011, Morrison Heights Baptist Church has offered free English classes as a way to help those from other countries acclimate to life in America.
“It began as a way to meet a need and reach out to the community,” says Pam Anderson, Director of ESL (English as a Second Language) Ministry at Morrison Heights.
Classes meet every Tuesday night from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Morrison Heights Missions Campus, located at 201 Morrison Drive in Clinton. All nationalities and ages are welcome. A free dinner is provided by MHBC life groups, and child care is also available.
The program currently offers beginner and advanced level classes, but Anderson says they add classes as needed. The beginner class is designed to help teach those on the very basic English level, focusing on necessary communication such as going to the doctor, buying groceries, and other introductory level conversations. The advanced class is for those who want to fine tune their English skills, particularly, grammar and pronunciation. As students progress, they can move up to the next class.
“We’ve had students who know zero English and we’ve had students who want to perfect their English,” says Anderson. “Everyone is welcome.”
Each Tuesday starts with dinner and conversation at 6:30. Anderson says it’s a chance for students to take part in the American custom of sharing about their day over a meal. Classes consist of playing games, answering discussion questions, and learning more about American culture and social norms. The first Tuesday of each month is dedicated to conversation, but the rest of the classes focus on reading and writing, as well as communication skills.
“It’s more about them being able to communicate,” says Anderson. “There’s a lot of laughter and fun.”
She emphasizes that anyone is welcome, regardless of background. They have students from Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Guatemala, China, Japan, and more. Many are family members of international students at Mississippi College. Classes range in size, but there are currently ten teachers in the program so students can receive individual assistance.
“All our teachers are certified to teach English,” says Anderson.
Students can join at any point, and there is no registration required. All necessary supplies, such as pencils, paper, and folders are provided. “All you have to do is show up,” says Anderson. After attending 5 classes, students receive a bilingual bible in their native language.
Anderson says that the group acts as a great resource for those trying to establish a life in the U.S. “We have really deep relationships,” she says. “And we care for each other.”
Anyone who has questions about the program can contact Pam Anderson by calling or texting 601.942.3240.