The History of
The seeds of this ministry to international women and their preschool children were planted by Lillian and John Isaacs. Their story as literacy mission pioneers is told in Making the Word Known by Nell Bowen. The Isaacs started teaching reading as well as English in Alaska where John was a pastor. Their programs became important vehicles for sharing the Gospel. When John retired and the family moved to Florida, Lillian traveled from coast to coast conducting workshops and promoting literacy missions through the Southern Baptist Home Missions Board.
A Friendship outreach was started at a church in Texas because of Lillian’s message. Dr. Ron Paddock and his wife, Wy Yun, attended that church before he accepted a job in the International Student Office at the University of Central Oklahoma, formerly Central State University, located in Edmond, OK. The couple joined First Baptist Church and helped in the international Sunday school class. Others in Edmond’s Baptist churches learned about literacy missions through the women’s ministry known as “WMU”, Women’s Missionary Union.
In the spring of 1977, Dr. Paddock and ladies from five different churches met together to talk about having a community program especially suited to meeting needs of international wives living in Edmond, near the UCO campus. Kay Cain, Karen White and Mary D. Winter were among the founding group planners. They recognized some unique needs of wives of the international students. Many were isolated in their apartments because they could not drive, they did not speak English, and they had small children to take care of while their husbands attended classes during the day and studied in the evening. These women were lonely and needed friends. (There were no computers or cell phones to connect them with loved ones back in their home countries as there are today.) The new Friendship ministry would bring the women out of their apartments, introduce them to other international ladies as well as to Americans, teach them English, help them adjust to a different culture and teach them about Jesus Christ from the Bible.
The first Friendship group followed the model of a similar ministry in Norman, OK. Edmond Baptist Churches agreed to give financial support and to take turns providing weekly refreshments. Conversational English classes and craft classes were offered in the beginning just as is done now. The volunteer teachers invited international ladies by visiting the married student campus apartments, knocking on doors, personally talking to ladies or their husbands as well as handing out written invitations to be certain correct information was understood. There were many young mothers who participated that first fall session with over 20 children for the preschool classes.
Kay Cain was Friendship’s first director. Currently (2018) she is a part of our record keeping and enrollment team. Mary D. Winter played the piano for our song time, taught English, gave the Bible lesson for the large group gathering and was director as well. Karen White has been involved with the children’s preschool area since Friendship’s beginning. The Lord has blessed the ministry with committed, faithful leadership.
Through the years, we have grown in numbers and in ways making Friendship better and better for our international ladies. Each volunteer enjoys each Thursday, spending time with ladies form all over the world. If you are a woman looking for help speaking English and would love to make new friends, Friendship is the place for you!