English Center Builds Bridges

“Our community center helps build bridges of relationship in which we can have longer conversations to unpack the Gospel,” explained Stephen Learsi*, who, with his wife, Rachel, operates an English language community center in Serbia.

The couple, who are both teachers, moved to Serbia in 2010 to teach English under a different organization. They recently connected with TeachBeyond’s LinGo program. “We were excited to see TeachBeyond’s initiative for community centers. Our children attended Black Forest Academy and had a great experience there. That’s how we got to know TeachBeyond,” Stephen said.

Community Center in Serbia

At their community center they teach English in private and group sessions, and offer cultural activities such as pancake night, Texas night, and Thanksgiving. “We are a social club and language center. We aren’t holding classes like a traditional language school. We don’t emphasize grammar rules or written exercises. We focus on conversation, because the learners are not getting that elsewhere. We help them practice their spoken English. We want to be an encouragement to them learning English.”

“We begin our English sessions with a Bible story that is used as a springboard to conversation. One woman who had a Serbian Bible was excited to find the stories in it that the group was reading in English. Having that connection was important. There’s a perception that we are foreigners and our cultures are separate so Serbs don’t do what we do.”

“Two years ago during Thanksgiving we were talking about how the holiday reflects our thankfulness to God, and a Serb who was there said, ‘Yes, that’s what I believe, too.’” Everyone turned to him and paid attention to what he was saying because he was one of them, not a foreigner. They heard it in a different way,” Stephen recalled.

The city where they live is the site of a university with 30,000 students, many of whom find the language center a welcoming place to practice their English. “We’re hoping to build a team,” Stephen said. “We are looking for younger people to join us because we have college students coming and they are most open to hearing about the Gospel.”

You can learn more about TeachBeyond’s LinGo program and ask about opportunities to join a team at this page – https://teachbeyond.org/lingo/

*Names changed for security reasons.