Linda Pepper continues the story of the Oasis Language School in Ipswich…
Abba said it’s always funny…but in reality it is the most frequent reason why so many good projects fail. We simply don’t have enough money to do all that we would like. This blog is a story of hope and dreams in the midst of financial restraints. It’s also a declaration of JOY when God provides through unexpected means.
Ipswich International Church owns a building. It’s a detached town house which used to be a Dentist’s surgery. We had a mission, ‘to equip refugees and migrants with the language skills needed to integrate into the local community and culture’. We cannot share Christ unless we can communicate. This Church and two other Churches in the town felt that a synergy existed and wanted to support the project.
So Oasis English Language School began holding English Classes in the building (see photo!) in September 2016 with 60 students from 20 nations arriving every Thursday for one of eight 90 minute lessons. One class catered for Absolute Beginners, those illiterate in their own language and unfamiliar with our English alphabet. Two classes at Entry 1, Entry 2 and Entry 3 plus one class at Level 1 completed our first term’s suite of lessons on offer. And then the fire department called.
The building was decreed to be unfit for purpose, and the International Church declared that they had no money to improve it. Too many people, too little fire prevention measures in place. Renovate or evacuate!
In all the paper work we had done to get our Policies and Procedures, bank account and recruitment in place to register as an independent charity, we had not thought that the building itself would become our first term’s biggest issue.
There are no community buildings in this area of Ipswich, except those owned by Churches. We prayed about what we should do. We decided to approach the Borough Council. We wrote a grant bid and we invited Councillors to come to the school. They began to call. They came to see what we do, popping their heads into classes, sharing the hot soup we provide for lunch (after the morning session, before the afternoon classes).
They responded warmly to what they saw, to the students and teachers they met. They agreed that something needed to be done. We continued to pray.
This month, January 2017, two different wards of Ipswich Borough Council have given us over £13,000 to make the building safe and to increase our capacity in it with improvements to two rooms. Ipswich International Church have guaranteed that we can have the building for a minimum of ten hours a week for the next 5 years. God has positively answered our prayers. Trustees, volunteers and students are thrilled with the outcome.
And the need keeps growing. In January we began opening on a Wednesday too, adding a Conversation Club for E3 and above students to our repertoire. Next month I’ll tell you about some of the students who come to us.