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By Jeannie Dortch. Photos by Jeannie Dortch and Sandra Millican.

Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me (Matthew 25:40, NIV).

calloutSandra Millican began volunteering in First Baptist’s New Americans Ministry in 2010. As part of the Wednesday night “English as a Second Language” program, she was assigned as a homework helper for Than Sein (THan Sane), a Burmese second-grader.

During the next year, she progressed from his tutor to friend, mentor and family member. Sandra said, “Watching Than succeed is pure pleasure, and I am having the time of my life.”

It didn’t take long before Sandra realized that she could be more effective with 8-year-old Than if she also helped him in his classroom at Laburnum Elementary School. Although a fulltime employee of Virginia Wayside Furniture, Sandra began spending Wednesday mornings at school with Than. Then she decided that giving him her best was going to mean less distraction, so Sandra changed her tutoring with Than to after school on Wednesdays. Following these sessions, Sandra drove him to church where they participated in FBC’s Wednesday night tutoring program. By the spring of 2011, Sandra and Than’s schedule included trips to Barnes and Noble, exposure to the history and culture of Richmond, and plans to enroll him at U-TURN Sports Performance Academy.

Than and his parentsInteraction with Than’s parents has shown Sandra that his education is not a family priority because survival is such an overwhelming task for them. With the help of mutual Burmese friends who speak English, Sandra has been able to help the Seins navigate the social services system. More importantly, she has realized that helping Than succeed offers the best chance for his parents’ success as well. Last year, this revelation propelled Sandra to negotiate an agreement between school and parents for Than to enroll in summer school and repeat second grade. As part of this decision, Sandra committed to increase her time with Than from one to three afternoons per week and some evenings for the 2011-2012 school year.

Sandra reflected on the amount of time she’s investing in Than, “My colleagues will invite me to do something after work, and I am happy to tell them I have homework!”

Than loves working with Sandra because he loves to learn and especially enjoys getting good grades. His goal is to be able to read his own tests by the end of the year instead of having them read to him.

Sandra said her experience with Than has helped her, too. “My heart has been softened by this experience, and it has become a passion I didn’t know I had. For me, the kingdom of heaven is here.”

Editor’s note: For more information on ESL or the New Americans Ministry, contact Steve Blanchard, Minister of Christian Compassion.


Jeannie DortchJeannie Dortch joined FBC in 1974 after being lovingly mentored by the members of Buddy Hamilton’s Sunday school class. A grandmother of four, Jeannie has served as a deacon, taught in our children’s, youth, international, and adult Sunday school departments, but is presently a member of the WebClass. Recently retired from 16 years of teaching at Rudlin Torah Academy, Jeannie enjoys exercising, cooking, reading, tutoring New American students at Maybeury Elementary, and writing articles for FTF.

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