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.