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Homosexual rights activists gain influence in public schools (10/17/04)

Church’s prayer births children’s ministry (10/17/04)

Partner program revitalizes dying church (10/10/04)

Church music festival attracts variety of visitors (10/10/04)

Churches urge compassion for alienated smokers (9/19/04)

Youth ride wooden waves in church parking lots (9/12/04)

A/G, COGIC join forces through inner-city campus (9/12/04)

Christians respond to victimized women and children (8/29/04)

Growing slavic church shares new facility (8/29/04)

Couple embarks on capitol prayer tour (8/29/04)

ADHD requires multifaceted treatment approach (8/22/04)

Small congregation grows — by planting churches (8/22/04)

‘Under God’ stays in Pledge of Allegiance, at least for now (8/8/04)

Church reaches out to those feeling loss (8/8/04)

Churches act pre-emptively to reduce risk of abuse (7/25/04)

Credit cards ensnare record number of Americans (7/25/04)

Church helps out with donated CD, recycled buses (7/25/04)

New wave of pastors minister to emerging adults (7/18/04)

‘Walking Witnesses’ raise thousands for missions (7/18/04)

Healing center offers alternative medicine (7/18/04)

Growing number of Hispanics impact economy (7/11/04)

'Busy' couple finds time for compassion ministry (7/11/04)

Hand-copied Bible leaves 40-year legacy (7/11/04)

Pastor ends hunger strike when strip club promises to sell (6/27/04)

‘Military survival kit’ requests inundate A/G (6/27/04)

Fourth of July outreach draws thousands (6/27/04)

Drivers warned to steer clear of distractions (6/27/04)

Pastors face more counseling demands (6/20/04)

Church uses touch of ‘flavor’ to reach community (6/20/04)

Outrageous self-expression often starts, stops at home (6/13/04)

Runner raises $5,200 for Convoy of Hope (6/13/04)

Euphemisms tempt Christians to conveniently shed sin, guilt (5/30/04)

Funds for Easter play buy groceries instead (5/30/04)

Identity theft threatens millions of Americans (5/23/04)

Spanish speakers face challenges, opportunities in United States culture (5/16/04)

Health experts implore Americans to get fit (5/9/04)

Leaders say Christian faith stems recidivism (4/25/04)

Riders feel at home in Orlando sanctuary (4/18/04)

Churches try to keep human touch with new media (4/11/04)

Christians see Passion as ministry opportunity (3/28/04)

Tutoring improves lives, opens doors for evangelism (3/21/04)

Cybertheft costly — especially for Christians (3/14/04)

A/G women seize new ministry opportunities (2/29/04)

Investment in early spiritual maturity reaps rewards (2/22/04)

Christian families respond to foster care opportunities (2/15/04)

Childless couples grapple with emotional roller coaster, faith challenges (2/8/04)

Few men seek help from abortion grief, guilt (1/18/04)

Women who answer God's call provide valuable local ministries (1/11/04)

2003 PE Report stories

Frontline Reports

2002 PE Report stories

2001 News Digest stories

2000 News Digest stories

Tutoring improves lives, opens doors for evangelism

By Ashli O’Connell (3/21/04)

Thello Jackson didn’t pay attention much in school. He says he didn’t find it interesting and teachers didn’t seem to care as long as he attended and didn’t cause trouble. His good attendance record helped earn him a high school diploma in 1971 — even though he could barely read.

Jackson survived on minimal reading skills and help from friends to get by as a janitor and as a worker in a warehouse. It wasn’t until he found a job as a telemarketer that his poor reading skills almost cost him a job. Fortunately for Jackson, an understanding boss gave him time to improve his reading. He attended classes at a library and kept that job for five years.

But Jackson wasn’t satisfied. He still couldn’t understand much of the Bible, and he comprehended little of what he could read elsewhere. Seven years ago he went to Tulsa, Okla.-based Literacy and Evangelism International where he met Ralph Hord, a retired engineer who volunteers as a literacy tutor. Jackson and Hord worked on reading and comprehension skills and began tackling the Bible one chapter at a time. Today they are almost finished with Ezekiel.

Working with Hord gave Jackson, now 51, the knowledge and confidence he needed to pass a commercial driver’s license exam. He now drives a school bus in Tulsa.

“If it weren’t for literacy volunteers helping me, I wouldn’t have been able to read my driver’s manual to get my commercial driver’s license and get the job I now have,” Jackson says. “Most of all, I wouldn’t know how to read God’s Word.”

More than 90 million adult Americans share Jackson’s reading problem in one form or another. Nearly one out of two adults are classified as illiterate or functionally illiterate, lacking the minimum reading and writing skills to function successfully in modern society. The numbers include immigrants just learning to speak English, those who never completed high school, those with physical or mental conditions that impair their ability to read, and those with vision problems that affect reading.

Forty-three percent of people with the lowest literacy skills live below the government’s official poverty line, and 70 percent have no job or only a part-time job, according to the National Institute for Literacy. The practical effect for millions of Americans is a lower quality of life with limited opportunities for employment.

Assemblies of God U.S. missionary Mike Ferguson often witnessed the repercussions of illiteracy while ministering with his wife, Nancy, among impoverished people in New York City.

“The implications of not being able to read and write are dramatic,” Ferguson says. “Reading is at the core of all we do in life. People who can’t read find it extremely difficult to learn. They can’t get a job or participate in their children’s education.”

There can be spiritual consequences as well.

Native-language Bibles are available for more than 95 percent of the world’s population, according to Cathy Sandidge, director of development for Literacy and Evangelism International, the organization that helped Jackson. LEI provides Bible-based reading primers and training for volunteers who teach basic literacy in the United States and 50 other countries. “If the Bible cannot be read, it is a locked book of truth,” Sandidge says.

The best hope for Americans who can’t read their Bibles is one-on-one tutors who build relationships, break through the barriers of denial, and empower the illiterate with the tools they need to read and write.

That’s where the church can step in, Ferguson says.

“When a church opens its doors to provide literacy programs, it realigns itself as a hub for the community,” he says. “In this era of faith-based favor, our churches need to find new ways to provide service for those who are in need of holistic help.”

Literacy programs require little funding and only a small group of trained workers, according to Ferguson. But the dividends can be enormous. “Literacy programs give churches access to people they would otherwise not have access to — to reach them and love them into a right relationship with Jesus Christ. It is a win-win program for the church and community.”

The Fergusons’ passion for literacy training led them to start an after-school mentoring program that is now a national Assemblies of God ministry. KidCare America started as a form of prevention — rather than treatment — for illiteracy, among other things. “We wanted to get ahead of the problem, work at the front of a person’s life rather than working at the back end,” Ferguson says.

KidCare has partnered with Saxon Publishers, one of the leading educational textbook companies, to develop a reading intervention program for children, youth and adults. They provide curriculum and training to churches and organizations interested in implementing a literacy-training ministry. Organizations such as LEI and local literacy councils also can provide training.

“Lives of both the student and the tutor can be changed,” Hord says. “All you have to do is be able to read yourself.”

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