In the beginning our ESL was small, and we volunteers never envisioned the hundreds of students and volunteers who have been part of our ESL program over the years. In 2000 I retired from teaching high school English, and when I saw an ESL training class offered at Travis Avenue Baptist Church in April of 2001, I signed up for it, having no idea why I was doing it. That fall Harry Wilson with Hope Literacy called and asked if I would help a student from Hong Kong edit and proofread her Master's thesis. That began my ESL career. I wasn't aware at the time that John Spear, who has been our ESL director at Southcliff since 2002, also had one student that year. Even though we were both teaching in the community center our church had rented in Wedgwood Shopping Center, we were teaching at different times and never met each other.
When I began checking into the beginning of our ESL, I discovered that in the summer of 2000, our church, under the leadership of our fairly new pastor, Dr. Carroll Marr, had opened the Southcliff Community Center to “take Jesus to the people, …developing the right to share Christ through serving the community.” That fall an ESL Teacher Training Workshop was held and the first class was held four days later. Several people were teaching, including a man named Peter Wolf and a young couple named Yari and Wendi Mema. In the spring of 200l there were nine teachers and twelve students (one class of Bosnians, one of Iranians, plus one Hispanic, one Chinese, and one individual from the Ivory Coast). Most of the teachers were not members of Southcliff Church, and it was not a unified group, just a number of individuals teaching in the same building. Harry sent me a note that he had written in his devotional journal dated April 26, 2001: "Praise to God--Last night Alejandro and Patricia...prayed to accept Jesus as their Savior and Lord, with Wendi, their teacher. She'd had them read the '4 Spiritual Laws' in English/Spanish.... Praise to God for these 1st Fruits."
A couple of years after that, World Relief gave the ESL a grant to buy ten computers, and a computer lab was established using one of the classrooms in the community center. Danita Gonder taught the class using the Rosetta Stone ESL program. A few years after that a lady named Joyce Cates taught computer classes. Harry had the following in his notes regarding the computer lab dated 2006: "Funding gone. Teacher gone. Class suspended." The computer lab teachers were paid. None of our ESL volunteers have ever been paid, not even our director. We are all "voluntary volunteers."