You’re probably not even realizing what you are doing. Reading isn’t something you really think about – it’s just a regular part of life. Unfortunately, that’s not the case for everyone. Mississippi has among the lowest literacy rates in the country. 64 percent of adults in Mississippi cannot read well enough to fill out a job application and 30 percent cannot read at all.
Through English as a Second Language and Adult Reading and Writing ministries, eight individuals have come to know Christ this year by learning to read or speak English.
“If you give someone a Bible, they might not be able to read it. That’s a real problem in reaching out to the people right in our back yard,” said Paula Smith, Language and Literacy Consultant for the MBCB. In her personal experience as the State Literacy Missions Ministry contact, she found that she would be called about the needs of those who can not read but there were not enough volunteers to help the vast illiterate population.
But churches are stepping up to meet this need. Albert Holley, pastor of Trinity Missionary Baptist Church in Terry, and nine members of his congregation were certified in ARW last year. In February, he, along with Judy Williams, a member of Morrison Heights Baptist Church in Clinton and a Literacy Missions Trainer for ARW, spearheaded Christian Adult Reading Enhancement (CARE) in the Metro area.
Holley and his wife Sherry, after noticing the low graduation rate in Crystal Springs and Hazlehurst, started working with the Copiah School District to help prepare students for graduation. Their work with reading and literacy eventually led them to the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board— and to Smith.
Eventually, they were led to start CARE, a program for adults to improve their reading skills in a confidential and Christ-like atmosphere.
“We’re really thanking God. This is a Christian reading program; we’re injecting the Bible. We don’t want them to just read the newspaper, but the Bible. We want to bring people to Christ. We hope to create a learning atmosphere where no one has to be ashamed,” Holley said.
Beyond the CARE adult literacy initiative, literacy is being recognized as a mission opportunity around the state. Money given through the Margaret Lackey Offering is used to train tutors. Smith hopes that one day there will be tutors trained and available in every county of the state.