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The Power of a Prefix

Posted by | Teaching, The 658 Center | No Comments
The Power of a Prefix

Written by Carrie Luke, Adult Education Director

Zech 9:12 “Return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope, and I will restore twice as much to you.”

Two weeks ago in ESL class, I taught on how a prefix can alter a word. During our devotional time, we were discussing how God called His people into a season of wilderness wanderings in order to “reintroduce” Himself to them.

Websters dictionary defines the “re” prefix in several ways. One being, as once more; afresh; or anew: reaccustom | reactivate. Another definition is return to a previous state: restore

The Israelites had spent over 200 years enslaved to the Egyptians in a foreign land. It was a brutal time of living in survival mode filled with decades of forgotten dreams and crushed hopes.

It is not a stretch to imagine that in their oppression and His “seeming absence”, they may have picked up new ideas about the true character and nature of God. After all, based on circumstantial evidence, believing in polytheism rather than in a one true God seemed to be working out alright for the Egyptians.

If we are honest with ourselves, even in times of prosperity it can be difficult to remember who God truly is, because it is almost intuitive to think that blessings are a response of proper actions.

But how much more difficult is it to trust in God’s goodness when life has been very traumatic, and it appears that our cries for help have fallen on deaf ears?

Sometimes we need to be reaquainted with the true heart of God when life becomes very dark.

When God does begin to move and answer the Israelites pleas for deliverance, He reveals Himself as one with complete dominance over their enemies. Yahweh literally uses the 10 plagues to defy and dismantle all of the Egyptian’s beliefs in the natural world while revealing his heart for providing for his people.

For example, the Egyptians supreme deity was Ra, the Sun God.

(21) Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward the sky so that darkness spreads over Egypt—darkness that can be felt.” (22) So Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, and total darkness covered all Egypt for three days. (23) No one could see anyone else or move about for three days. Yet all the Israelites had light in the places where they lived.

The Bible is pretty clear that in this world, we will have trouble. But thanks be to God through the sacrifice of Jesus, we never have to live without light in the places where darkness can be tangibly felt.

In a way, the individuals that we are so privileged to serve off of Central Ave often find themselves in similar situations of desperation and confusion upon leaving their native land in search for a new life in the U.S. A refugee by definition is one who flees in search of refuge as in times of war, political oppression, or religious persecution.



At Project 658 through God’s grace extended in our own lives, we desire to be a place of light and “re” for the nations gathering in the heart of our own city. We long to both help individuals reestablish “anew” the life that was lost, but also in a way that restores their hope.

Through our various ministry projects, we seek to fill a tangible need first as we build relationships and establish trust with our neighbors in the inner city. This could be through the offering of clothing, food, medical services, family fun days, or English classes. But even deeper is our desire to offer kindness and compassion through established friendships that can then lead into invitations to share the gospel.

For me, this calling comes out of my favorite “re” word. It stems from the “rewriting” of my own story through Jesus.

God made me a teacher, plain and simple. I have written and taught numerous Bible studies, spoken at women’s retreats and conferences, and educated my own children at home for 13 years. But the irony is that I was a deplorable student and have lived half of my life under the impression that I was a dunce incapable of learning.

I was diagnosed with Dyslexia and ADD my junior year in college. In truth at an institution that accepted me more based on the fact that my best friend’s mother was in the Admissions Department than on my merit as a student.

Before the detection of my learning disabilities, I had grown to detest the classroom environment which for me had become a symbol of great shame and failure. No matter how hard I applied myself, I never could measure up to those around me. I felt cut off from an entire world of opportunity and connection with others, because I simply did not grasp how language worked.

After going on medication and creating new pathways in my brain, I learned that I could learn, and I loved it. In my twenties, I was becoming “reborn” in more ways than one. It was during this time of personal renewal that I also became a Christian. I discovered a love of reading and thinking that was life giving, though I never forgot what it felt like to be a poor student trapped inside my own head filled with misconceptions and confusion.

About two years ago, our family needed some extra income. I had a friend that was teaching ESL to refugees with CPCC, and the class offerings fit nicely with my schedule as a homeschooling mom. I applied and was hired to teach 45 adult learners who turned out to be mostly illiterate in their own languages.

My first day one of my more advanced students kindly corrected my misspelling of the word “Wednesday” on the whiteboard.

But, I also leaned down to help a 60 year old woman hold a pencil correctly and write her name for the first time.

When I told her that she had just written her name, she erupted into a smile filled with emotion that I recognized. It was the spirit of possibility and hope rising up from behind locked bars. Because we do not have to be enslaved any longer to still feel the chains of our imprisonment.

I walked away not knowing that I was on the verge of a calling, but sure I had just met someone that had more in common with me than most of my peers.

Though we did not share a language, religion, or customs, we both knew what it felt like to be marginalized based on our inability to communicate. And she experienced how wonderful it felt to be gently taught instead of flippantly dismissed or harshly criticised.

I quickly grew to passionately love teaching adult refugees and learned that one of my greatest assets in doing this work was my growing up with a mind that did not work properly in terms of language acquisition.

Having to relearn how to learn as an adult, though an arduous process, has greatly afforded me insight into how to teach a language as complex as English to adult learners who come from traumatised backgrounds.

I also did not have the benefit of educators recognizing my learning potential inspite of my learning disabilities, so I know how devastating it can feel to be laughed at or shamed during this process. It makes me extra sensitive to the adult learner who knows what they do not know and they are fully aware that I also can see what they do not know.

So, one of the first things I try to do with new student is to position them in such a way that shows them they can learn and be very successful with patience and practice. They do not lack intellect only confidence and skill.

I could teach anywhere, yet God has seen fit to call me for now into a vulnerable place of teaching adult refugees for Project 658 for a higher purpose. Though it is painful to remember all those years of fruitless toil as a student that I would rather forget, He is allowing me to participate in the redemption of my own suffering while helping to restore the hope of learning in others.

It is God math and kingdom work.

It is hope.restored for us all.




Posted by | Teaching, Training | No Comments

Written by Rebecca Furr, Project 658 Administration and Volunteer Director

rebeccafurrLooking back over the past year God has done some pretty amazing things in my life and the life of my family. I never imagined myself being where I am today, but God had a different plan for my life.

Nearly two years ago, God placed on my heart that I needed to leave my job of 8 years to pursue outreach and ministry. After several months of debate within our family I left my job and began volunteering in an outreach setting. Little did I know that God was preparing me for great things. In May of 2013 I was introduced to Project 658. I began my new job shortly after and thought that this was a great opportunity to grow.

It has been challenging and often frustrating leaving what I knew and did so well and starting something that I had no experience in. This past year I have grown stronger in my faith and relationships within my family, I have gained friends and learned to rely fully on God. Project 658, is a place where my daughter can learn what being a servant of God is. It is a place of community, a place of hope.

Being a part of this ministry has opened my eyes to the needs of those in our area; physical, emotional and spiritual. God has placed my family here for a reason and we want to make the greatest impact possible. On May 30th we moved to the Mount Crest Apartments off of Central Ave to live with the refugee community. Our goal is to be a friend to those in need and be accessible 24 hours a day. Now I am in the process of starting a small group for children ages 7-12. This will be a place where they can come to play, learn about Jesus and have community.

I am excited about what is ahead for me and my family. I hope to make a positive impact in this community. My prayer is that I can make a portion of an impact for them as they have for me. My life will be forever changed.

To support Project 658 and staff members such as Rebecca, click here.

God Puts in a Window

Posted by | Teaching, The 658 Center | No Comments

Written by Carrie Luke, Project 658 ESL and Adult Refugee Education Director

Matthew 6:8 “Your Father knows what you need even before you ask him.”

Next week, I will celebrate my 1 year anniversary of coming on staff with Project 658. I was hired in 2013 to begin the Teach Project which encompasses instructing ESL classes for adult refugees, sharing my vision and expertise about how to teach non English speakers (many of whom are illiterate in their own language), and raising my own support.

I began my first class with a large family from Bhutan in their own apartment. After spending two months in that setting, I felt that having a neutral spot would serve my personality and the students much better. I had only been in their home one week before I began dreaming of my own adult refugee ed classroom. I envisioned myself trying to raise support in order to rent an apartment in our target area to begin conducting my own little school, including a library and a small computer lab for job skill training.

Instead, I was led to a donated apartment in which we already ran our clothing project, thus beginning a 10 month season of opening up the class to the neighborhood. Though I felt more settled in that environment, I still dreamed of my own creative space. One equipped with tables and chairs(some of my students have to sit on the floor), lots of windows allowing natural light for my students to be able to see by and high light our many maps and time lines that would decorate the walls, a closet for our materials and supplies, and a large white board for instruction.

I later learned that everyone on staff had their own dreams about having a building of our own that was centrally located in our target area. We all had similar feelings of displacement and felt unable to minister to our full potential, because our work was scattered in many different places. In the fall of 2013, Project 658 began the journey of asking for funds to restore an old warehouse into a Hope Center right in the heart of the most diverse and densely populated square mile in the city of Charlotte.

On March 18, 2014, Project 658 officially closed on a building that will be ready to host all our desires under one roof in mid July. We were all so relieved and excited that our dreams for more efficient ministry were coming alive before our very eyes. Demolition and construction began immediately.

About 3 weeks ago, I finally made it over to the site for the first time to share a lunch with the construction crew and builders. It was not a great day for me to go, but I felt like I really needed to be with the staff and share a meal with the builders.

My boss gave me a full tour. Though the building was far from completion, walls were up and space designated. I walked through the thousands of square footage in great anticipation of seeing my classroom. Though we are sharing space with a church, I knew there would be at least one classroom for ESL to run 4~5 days a week. My heart raced to get a glimpse of my dream.

As my boss and I reached the hall of classrooms, I started to get very concerned and anxious. I did not want to reveal my fears, but my heart sank as I noticed that none of the rooms had any windows in them. We came to the very last room, and I almost fought back tears of disappointment. I know it sounds very silly, but being in a room teaching for 4 hours a day without a window was almost a deal breaker for me, because I am clinically claustrophobic.

I did not say anything, but my mind began to race as to how I would deal with this situation. This was the answer to our asking as an organization. There was no further journey; it was a last stop. It was going to be our home, and my room had no sunlight.

The next part of this story is all a blur. I cannot recall how exactly I wound up walking back to the rooms with the head of the construction company, except to say that I just stood there for a desperate moment and began to pray that Jesus would help me. I love my job, but I did not know if I could spend 20 hours a week as an introvert with people whose needs are very great in a room that made me feel trapped.

I did not go and find anyone. I did not even ask. Somehow in a span of 5 minutes, I went from talking to the building chaplain’s wife about my classroom not having any windows, to walking back with the head builder who wanted to see if he could put in a sky light for me. He was so very kind to me. He showed me how the back side of the building was all brick, and that it was not feasible to put in windows. I understood. Then he had an epiphany.

“Walk with me for a second, Carrie,” he said.

He already knew my name.

We walked all the way to the end of the hall. He looked at the structure of the wall that faced the outside.

“Carrie, we could possibly put a window on this wall. But, It’s not like there is anything pretty to look at. Are you ok if it does not open?” he asked.

Tears filled my eyes.

“Yes, that’s totally fine,” I said. “I do not need it to open; I just need to see the sun.”

He explained to me that I would have to get permission from my boss for the new costs. He also told me how this was the only time it could happen as he was getting ready to submit the final permits for some other changes. He told me that next week would have been too late.

I was stunned, because I came that day on a whim. Or so I thought.

As we were talking, his head foreman walked in and joined the conversation. He heard my dilemma and was convinced that my class needed a window. “You know, to see the bird feeder,” he said. I stepped back and watched my hopes begin to grow and natural light flood into my darkness.

The next day, I included my class into the story and asked them to begin praying that God would put in a window. To my knowledge, it had yet to be approved.

Unbeknownst to me, construction began almost immediately to bring light into my classroom.

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Not just for me, but for all of us.

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This was taken last Thursday when Laurie and I walked a few students to see the new building, and our window.


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