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International Outreach in Her Own Backyard

As the city continues to diversify in terms of residents from around the world, one Gray Road member is a good model for us in how we can shine a light for Christ among the nations without even leaving our home.

Norma Andrews will be mortified at any reference to her being a good example of a Christ-follower, but there’s no question about it. Her giving of time, effort and love to internationals through her ministry of teaching English as a Second Language, is a true outreach for the sake of the Gospel.

Norma was a nurse for many years, most recently at Wishard Hospital. When she retired in 2011, she and her husband Greg took a course in teaching ESL over three weekends at Wheaton College in Illinois. In her nursing job she used to visit internationals in their homes to help with pregnancies. She began to develop an affection and a burden for Muslims in particular; so the ESL idea seemed a perfect fit for her once her career ended.

Norma also received some training with the Crescent Project in how to minister to people of Muslim background, but she was already getting opportunities to build relationships, often being invited into the homes of Muslim families all over the city. She has taught English at various levels to people, some who were college-educated and at least one who was only semi-literate in her own tongue of Arabic.

Norma now teaches ESL to three Spanish-speaking people as part of the church’s Beech Grove Village ministry, where she also helps Kathleen Tennant with the bible study. Kathleen credits Norma with making a major difference, in part due to the sheer force of her personality. The lady just loves people.

“It’s easy to be Norma’s friend. She doesn’t give you a choice,” Kathleen said. “When she walks into the room, she just naturally jokes and laughs with whoever is in there--irrespective of who it is. That, coupled with a genuine curiosity in and care for people, makes her a potent force for the gospel. She’s not scared to share her beliefs, but her openness and care open the ears of her listeners. She also won’t sacrifice her relationships for some other agenda, which actually gives her more opportunities to talk about Christianity than someone with ulterior motives. “

Norma shared a touching story about a Muslim couple whom she helped as they were going through a pregnancy. The pregnancy was difficult, and in fact, the child died just a day after being born, but Norma witnessed the care the parents gave the malformed newborn. As she left the hospital, the husband even gave Normal a hug, very unusual by cultural standards for his home country.

Norma remains welcome in the couple’s home to this day, a privilege she enjoys with the many of the people she has taught over the past few years.

Along with the ESL and bible study ministries, Norma volunteers with remedial reading lessons at a school and is an industrious soul when it comes to coming alongside ailing friends. She also is a stalwart on the GRBC Missions Committee, helping with hospitality and other ministries to those who serve Christ overseas.

She stresses that there is no hidden agenda when she teaches English, and opportunities to share the Gospel come up as God allows, especially as relationships form. She was able to read through a book on the birth of Christ in both Spanish and English with some students, and on another occasion used a flannel board to go through the biblical narrative from creation to the crucifixion. As is generally the case with people of Muslim background, the process is very slow.

The Beech Grove Village group meets twice a week, and on Fridays the group might be found at Kathleen’s house, play-acting and doing other fun activities to aid in the learning of English.

“My philosophy is, if we’re going to learn, we might as well have fun doing it,” Norma said.

Norma said the opportunity is there for others to get involved in ESL, but only if they truly want to do it. In terms of her own outreach at Beech Grove Village, she could use some help beginning in August from someone who would keep the small but energetic children of the adult students occupied.

It may seem like a small thing, but “little” efforts like these can be used by a great God for His glory. Our friend Norma is a very good example of this at Gray Road.

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