GROW is a “Word and Deed” ministry. We teach English as a second language using a curriculum that can be found across America in venues from individual homes to college campuses. During a portion of each class we share Scripture verses to tell our students about God and the good news about Jesus. In each class we also pray for our students needs.
How did the GROW ESL program begin? In June 2005, God brought together a Christian from Albania , the congregation of New Life Northeast Church, and folks from New Life Dresher Church to run a Vacation Bible School in Mayfair. Not many children showed up the first morning, so the pastor sent teams to distribute more fliers around the neighborhood. One team noticed a large number of children in the playground at St John’s Lutheran Church, just up the street. They stopped to talk with the director and learned her story. She was an Albanian Christian who was running a summer camp for neighborhood Albanian children whose parents both worked. The next morning, she brought 30-40 children to the VBS, along with 3 teenage helpers. As she continued to come and relationships were formed, she asked if the church would provide English classes for new Albanian immigrant adults.
God had been preparing the church for this kind of ministry. That spring, the pastor had sent one of the church members for training to teach ESL. It is the same training many of our teachers now receive. After recruiting teachers, classes began in February 2006. There were 4 morning classes on Monday and Thursday from 9-12. Evening classes were held on Monday and Wednesday nights, from 6-9. The Level 1 class enrolled 120 Albanian adults, but as time went on, typically 40 came each night, led by one teacher! The women began meeting once a month for brunch to hear stories from the book of Genesis. There was a lot of excitement as relationships formed.
This initial ministry grew exponentially and eventually became GROW, which was established in 2014 as its own separate nonprofit with a vision for serving immigrants and refugees throughout the Greater Philadelphia region through ESL classes, life skills training, relationships, and the hope of the Gospel. Also at this time we began renting space in the NCC building for classes and an office. As its numbers continued to swell, GROW reorganized its administrative model in order to be replicated at additional sites, and in the Fall of 2017 a second site was opened by renting classroom and administrative space at another gospel-centered NE Philadelphia church.
In the calendar year of 2018 GROW had 575 students from 43 countries attend classes. The large teaching and administrative load of this ministry along with its outreach and expansion efforts is carried by 4 part-time staff and 107 volunteers.
GROW continues to develop and expand its ministry with long-term goals and dreams in mind. Currently we are working on updating our online presence, improving our services to immigrants, and increasing our fundraising efforts. As additional funds and new volunteers become available additional classes can be offered and our plans for a 3rd site can proceed.
GROW welcomes the coming years of service as it pursues the goal of helping immigrants thrive while spreading the Gospel until it reaches all the people groups of the world
“Now to Him who is able to do more than we ask or imagine-to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus.” ~Ephesians 3:20-21