Vicki Johnson has spent her career teaching English as a second language to immigrants in Southern California.
“I love my job,” says the member of the Bellflower, Calif., Brethren Church (Tom Hocking, pastor). “I go to work to relax,” she adds. “I’m there for my students.”
She’s had a heart for internationals since her days as a student at California State University, Long Beach, where she earned a degree in language and composition and helped begin the International Student Ministry at the Long Beach, Calif., Grace Brethren Church, where she then attended. (She went on to earn a master’s degree in linguistics.)
Today, she teaches four days a week for the Long Beach school system, leading classes of 10 students at a time in basic literacy concepts. She also knows many who grace her classroom need to know about Jesus.
Still, she is quick to emphasize, “I am not paid to proselytize.”
Outside the classroom, she and her husband, Guy, a literacy coach for Los Angeles Unified School District, invite her students to their home during the Christmas holidays. “For many of them, it is the first time they see inside an American home,” she says. The evening includes a presentation of the Gospel.
“We’ve become friends with a few of [them],” she adds, “and have seen them come to know Christ.”
Last year, several women asked her to help them learn to knit. So they began to gather every Friday morning at a coffee shop in Cerritos to work on various projects.
“We have a great time,” Vicki says. It has become a mix of Korean and Chinese women, with a few American Caucasians. The focus of their meeting is to learn English, but she also wants to use the time as outreach. She encourages most English-speaking women who ask to participate to seek knitting lessons at a local yarn shop. “I don’t want it to get too big,” she admits.
She’s cautiously begun to initiate spiritual conversations with the ladies, knowing that the exchange will be better received once a friendship is established. “Some of the Korean women are Christians,” she notes.
This native Californian’s heart continues to beat for the disadvantaged and dispossessed that come from around the world to seek a better life in the U.S.
“I think these people are the most overlooked in cities,” she says. “[Most] people just don’t see them.”