Skip to main content


Showing posts from 2008

Questions about tentmaking

I recently did a piece on missionaries and working, in which I challenged the use of certain terminology and noted some pros and cons of various options.

At missions' prayer the other evening, we had an interesting discussion about "tentmaking." Again in some ways I dislike how it's been made into a catchphrase, and I don't necessarily agree with taking one example (Paul) and making it into a rule. I think the situation is a little more complex than that.

As I mentioned in my previous piece, there are plenty of good arguments for missionaries to have a career aside from their church activities in the field. The question is, how does one go about becoming a missionary with a job? Is it actually possible to take what many people have theorized about and put it into practice?

Here's one scenario. At 18, a missionary hopeful already knows where he would like to serve, as well as what his gifts are. He chooses a college major that will give him the education to work …

Christmas withdrawal

It's over. Doesn't it always seem sad that after weeks of preparation, Christmas just...ends? I was used to the clock radio waking me up with a Christmas hymn (or "Dominick the Donkey"). And now it's back to the same old rock music and silly morning shows.

People are already throwing out Christmas trees and taking decorations down. It seems as though Christmas never happened, although if I look around, I see the pile of presents, or turn on my digital camera, and there's the evidence.

Even if it's a feeling of relief that the cooking and entertaining is over, doesn't it feel surreal? Anticlimactic, perhaps?

It seems that Faith Hill's "Where are you, Christmas?" would be appropriate here. The song was first sung by a little girl in "How the Grinch stole Christmas." I guess everyone knows that, but I never actually saw the film since I was kind of loyal to the book and the old animated version.

Just like a child may be disappointed b…

Love languages and Christmas gifts

A few years ago, I tried taking the "Five love languages" test by Gary Chapman. It didn't work very well since the test was aimed towards married couples and I had trouble answering questions like "Do you like it better when your spouse buys you chocolate or washes the dishes for you?" (Okay, I made that one up). I also tend to sabotage the results of such tests because I overanalyze the questions.

So I never did figure out whether my love language was "words of affirmation," "quality time," "receiving gifts," "acts of service," or "physical touch." (Brief explanation here).

Human beings are complex, and I'm not going to endorse this as a fool-proof system for living in bliss with all your friends and family members. But it's always good to be reminded that people are different, and that there is a difference between misunderstanding and insensitivity.

I remember scoffing at the "gift" option, thi…

A family for Christmas?

I suppose I'll have to wrap up my unofficial "Misha" series, now that he's being adopted.

I've never actually met the family that's adopting Misha, but Misha said they lived in Texas. Then another adoptive mom did a little research so Misha could stay in touch with his other orphanage buddies who've been adopted. She found the organization through which Misha was hosted and is likely being adopted. I noticed from my own research that the agency had to stop Russia adoptions temporarily as the Russian government was requiring many adoption agencies to be reaccredited. Perhaps that explains the delay in Misha's case.

When I left Russia a month ago, Misha was waiting for his adoption to be finalized. There's a possibility he's already with his new family for Christmas. That's a happy thought.

The work permit problem in St. Petersburg

Well, this is interesting. All this time I've been researching work visas, when it turns out the main problem is the work permits themselves.

Back in the summer, the quota was reached. I'm not sure if my application got in before that or not.

"Effective immediately, the Federal Migration Service (FMS) of Russia will no longer accept Work or Employment Permit applications for foreign nationals seeking employment in St. Petersburg and the surrounding Leningrad region in 2008. The 2008 quota established by the government for St. Petersburg and the Leningrad region has been reached." -From "2008 Work Permit Quota Reached for St. Petersburg." Fragomen Global Immigration Services. Published online 8/13/08.

A St. Petersburg Times article about illegal immigrants observes how the new visa laws of 2007 have changed things. "In 2007, due to a tightening up of the rules regarding migrant workers, a number of companies decided to legalize their foreign personnel, l…

Christmas presents

I found a vintage set of blocks from Russia for my niece! So cool! It says "Made in USSR."

I suppose I could have bought them in Russia, but that would have weighed down my suitcase quite a bit!

My brother and I did a quick inspection.

Misheard (Christmas) lyrics

I went to my town's Messiah "sing-along" this evening. They had scores to borrow at the door. I'm not very good at sight-singing, but I hit a few (correct) notes. I wished more that I was in the orchestra than in the choir.

A couple years ago, I got my own recording of the complete Messiah. It came with the full set of words and scripture references. It adds so much to be able to appreciate the production as a worshipful piece. I like how it tells the whole story of Christ's coming, from the prophecies to His death and resurrection.

If you like listening to the Messiah, I would recommend looking closely at the text. I, for one, often mishear lyrics, and I honestly had no idea what most of the songs were about, aside from the Hallelujah's. Here's one of them I misheard:

"He's raising...the lucky ones."

Real text: "the dead shall be raised incorruptible." (1 Cor. 15:52) Wow, talk about the wrong idea. That would make for interesting theo…

Anti-americanism and civic activism

I was tagged by an acquaintance of mine in a video on the Russian version of Facebook. I ignored it for awhile because the videos are often composed of things like pictures of kittens put to a song about friendship. Then I decided to check out this latest video. It's called "The American Show," and it's in the political category.

I might be a little late tuning into this, but I don't normally follow politics.

In the beginning of the video, "President Bush" begins enlightening us on how the American Empire got so powerful, beginning with World War I. You could say the film is in a Michael Moore "exposee" style.

Since the version I was watching was dubbed in Russian, I decided to go hear what the English sounded like. I found an English version on Youtube, and lo and behold, the George Bush impersonator is in fact Russian.

Meanwhile, a lot of people (mostly college-aged) were leaving comments like "This is so true!" "This is a great v…

Christmas Politics

I don't know about your town, but in many places it isn't too common to hear "Merry Christmas" anymore. It's been replaced with "Happy Holidays."

I suppose I would be irritated as well if someone congratulated me on a holiday that I don't celebrate.

Yet, it seems wrong not to hear the words. It isn't right to neutralize everything. If you really don't want to offend someone, wouldn't it be better to show an interest in his life and ask what holiday he celebrates, rather than just playing it safe?

My friend Ashley is involved in the "Campaign for Christmas." Pictured is one of their pins. My dad and I both wear one. My mom thought it seemed provocative, but isn't that the point? Our war isn't again the cheerful folks who say "Happy holidays." Our war is against the principalities that want to silence our attempts to honor our Savior's birth. After all, the Good News is for everyone. If we congratulate only our…

A trip to the library

The last time I went to the library, I didn't prepare myself beforehand. Normally I have a list of authors or some topic I'm currently interested in. This time I was starting from scratch.

After determining that there was nothing to help with Greek study (except a Greek-English dictionary), I headed for non-Fiction. I ended up with a pretty random selection of biographies (well, most of them are people of faith).

My favorite one so far has been "Take my Hands" by Dorothy Clarke Wilson. It's the story of Dr. Mary Verghese, an Indian woman who, despite enduring a car accident in which she became a paraplegic, went on to become a surgeon, mainly treating leprosy victims.

I like the straightforward and positive tone of the book. It's inspiring without making you want to gag over the saintliness of the people described.

Without giving away the story, here are a few observations I made:

1) Mary often recalls the words of "Take my life and let it be..." and con…

Winter and other arrivals

Winter's here. We don't have much snow yet, but the transformation is underway.

My youngest brother got home (in the middle of night) just in time for some snow clean-up.

My oldest brother and his wife are flying in from Africa tomorrow and we're thinking of ways to keep them warm.

Purposeful attitudes

A few mornings ago I woke up to the radio blasting, "Ain't that America." It wasn't hard to remember where I was! I switched to a Christmas station and a song was playing about "gratitude" being the "right attitude" for Christmas. I don't know what the song was called or who sang it.

It's not a bad idea to look for reasons to be thankful around Christmastime. "It's better to give than receive," people always say. It's a good time of year to look around and give thanks for having family, food, and a warm place to be, as well as God's gift to us of His son.

But this is beginning to sound a lot like Thanksgiving Day, which we celebrated not too long ago. In addition to Thanksgiving, there are many qualities, specific to Christmas, which we can focus on. For example, there are the four candles of the Advent wreath: Hope, Peace, Love, and Joy (not necessarily in that order.)

The hope of the people as they waited for the Messi…

More pieces of the puzzle

I hadn't heard from my boss in over a month, so I decided to try emailing her again, even though I already emailed her two weeks ago and she hasn't responded yet.

Today I got an email from work, but it wasn't from the boss. It was from one of the other teachers, who recently volunteered to take over some of the organizational responsibilities. She sent a spreadsheet with information about all the teachers and travel dates. I was curious to see if I was even on the list.

Next to my name, it lists the company I had been teaching at and says "New contract for 2009 to be signed." So maybe that means I'll have my old students back! That would be nice. I was already preparing myself to start over with new students. Or maybe it means they are supposed to invite us back and haven't yet?

For the travel dates, I obviously have a question mark as my return date. The other teachers are all going home for Christmas and New Year's and coming back for the next semester…

December sunshine

The sun was being a tease today. It kept darting behind a cloud every time I tried to take a picture. It's hard to believe that it will be getting dark in an hour or two. Tonight it's supposed to be 13 degrees (-11 Celsius).

Jesse Tree reading, Second Thursday

1 Samuel 8 (New International Version) Israel Asks for a King 1 When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as judges for Israel. 2 The name of his firstborn was Joel and the name of his second was Abijah, and they served at Beersheba. 3 But his sons did not walk in his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice. 4 So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. 5 They said to him, "You are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have." 6 But when they said, "Give us a king to lead us," this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD. 7 And the LORD told him: "Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. 8 As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. 9 …

NT Greek self-study

I've been working through Mounce's "The Basics of Biblical Greek" on my own for the past several years. Hmmm, I think it is only supposed to take one year. I do like the presentation of the book. I think I've mentioned this before, but there are a lot of accompanying study aids, as well as a constantly-developing website.

I registered for the online class at, and now I can listen to free lectures with accompanying slides.

The problem with self-study is of course no accountability. The website offers quizzes that I've done a few times and then corrected myself. But in general I don't learn the material well enough and end up having to do the exercises with my book and notes open. And then if I try to translate something, I have to go searching through my book again.

But I do like Mounce's grammar explanations. I don't like the way that a lot of books for "laymen" or whomever tend to oversimplify the grammar. Yes, it can be easier …

Around Town

I took some pictures of the night lights a few days ago. I was sitting in a car for some of them, so they didn't come out very well.

The center of town. Sorry it's blurry....

A jewelry shop, all spruced up.

Can you spot my parents?

Some other shops...

The Animal

My room is in the attic. There is a storage tunnel on the outer perimeter, and little doors are placed here and there to grant access to the storage.

Late at night, when the lights are out and all is silent, The Animal comes out. I begin to hear a series of scrabbling, squeaks, and the pitter-patter of a living creature. I can hear him as he makes his way from one end of the storage tunnel to the other. I can put my hand up and touch the wall where the noise is, and imagine who is on the other side.

I stuck a camera in and snapped a picture during the daylight hours. I don't see anyone there, do you?

Once, I heard a thump against one of the doors. Curiosity got the better of me and I opened the door a crack, to see an injured bat flapping around inside the storage space.

I read somewhere that a bat colony can live in the same house for up to 100 years. It can be almost endearing to think of a lone creature; a solitary mouse or bat or even some bigger creature. But a colony? Yuck.


2nd Sunday of Advent

My Jesse Tree looks a little better now that it has some ornaments on it!

Today's passage is Isaiah 9:2-7.

2 The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned. 3 You have enlarged the nation
and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you
as people rejoice at the harvest,
as men rejoice
when dividing the plunder. 4 For as in the day of Midian's defeat,
you have shattered
the yoke that burdens them,
the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor. 5 Every warrior's boot used in battle
and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for burning,
will be fuel for the fire. 6 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, [b] Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the …

Divisions and confusion

I'm about to give away the climax of a story. I liked the way that this Jewish man's realization of his conversion is described:

I was not a praying man, but I opened my mouth. “Praised be Thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe. I thank You for the fellowship and friendship at this table. I thank You for what we have learned at this meeting. I ask You now to bless this food, and I do so in the name of Jesus, the Messiah.”

For a moment I sat there amazed. I had prayed in the name of Jesus, the Messiah! It had not been planned by me. But the words had come from my heart.

The others at the table could have missed it, but they didn’t. They all knew of my inner struggles. Their faces were suddenly jubilant.

“Stan, you’re a believer! Praise God!” They got up in turns and hugged me. Several cried with joy.

And then I too began to cry.*

The story goes that one of the daughters in a tight-knit (American) Jewish family tells her parents that she has accepted Jesus as the Messiah. In shoc…

Happy times

Mary sent me some photos she took from the last time she visited the orphanage with me. After that I only visited one more time before leaving for the States.

There were two pictures and this was the silly version. The kids look like themselves. :) The girls looked especially cute that day though, because they were dressed up for some sort of dance recital.

Misha, center, on the floor, is on the brink of being adopted. He probably won't be there when I get back. I didn't manage to get his new address, although I doubt he knows it anyway. So I'm not sure how I will be able to get in touch with him. All I know is that he was hosted by a family in Texas a few years ago, and now he's being adopted by a family from Dallas. I'm not sure if it's the same family or not. But I'm pretty sure they're Christians.

I got my picture taken with the counselor, Raisa. It was supposed to be a group shot with the boys, but for some reason this boy was shunned and the others r…

Russian work visa FAQ

No visa news, but I finally found a helpful website that explains the process in steps.

I'm going to paste some excerpts here.

Justification for obtaining a work visa:

-In general, a foreign employee assigned to work in the Russian Federation should have a degree of appropriate knowledge, specialized skills or managerial/executive-level skills that are not available in Russia's labour market. [native English speaker will suffice]

-A foreign employee may not convert her/his immigration status from a "Visitor" (travelling on the basis of a tourist or business visa) to "Work" status while remaining in Russia. [this just means that you have to leave the country to get the new kind of visa. So, even if my invitation had been ready in October as expected, I still would have needed to make a visa trip somewhere]

Here's the process. It's pretty long. I'll try to break it down.

1) What is required of the employer (the company where I teach): In order to spons…

My career

I wrote a Russian friend recently telling her about my visa situation, and she wrote back saying that she wished me luck, whether I returned to Russia or decided to "stay home" and start my "career."

That made me wonder, just what have I been doing all this time if I haven't started my career? Just what is a career, and how do you know when you've started it? And why is it important?

The first word that comes to mind when pondering the meaning of career is "profession." People in Russia are always asking me what my profession is, and I dislike answering. I suppose for simplicity's sake I'm a teacher, but I really dislike putting my life in a box like that. I've been teaching informally for about 8 years; what difference does it make if I earned money from it or not?

If career relates to education, I have studied many subjects. Why does it matter what degree I've earned? I've poured out passion into subjects that I only studied for…

Russian adoptees in the news

A few people so far have alerted me to the recent 20/20 series on Russian adoptees which can be viewed in its entirety (in 5 segments) on ABC's website. You can read the text here or go directly to the first video segment, linked here.

The series focuses on adopted international children who have been found to have Reactive Attachment Disorder. I found the program fairly accurate in its portrayal of the struggles that families and children face in such cases. Any of the children portrayed could be children whom I know.

I had a little trouble with the presentation. I didn't appreciate the way that 20/20 overdramatized everything, such as the family's disgust at the lack of hygiene that their newly adopted children displayed. The narrator emotionally announced the family's horror at seeing the bath water turn black. There was another scene in which an adopted girl from Russia ran around crying for an hour, captured on home video. I didn't like the way that the report t…

The next holiday...

I don't have the emotional energy to write an intellectual post. So this is a "show and tell" sort of update.

After the last of the Thanksgiving guests left, I decided it was time to make my Jesse Tree for Advent. That took the majority of the afternoon.

I made it out of wire.

I had a picture in a book, and my mom had some ideas, but as usual I ended up not following instructions.

After making the wire frame, I wrapped it in colored paper.

And then some more colored paper.

Now how am I going to make the ornaments match? Hmmm....

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit...
-Isaiah 11:1

Today and forever

I will praise God's name in song

and glorify him with thanksgiving . Ps.69:30

The flight

It took me just under 24 hours to get from the apartment where I live in Russia to my house in Massa- chusetts.

My flight was at 6am and I did not bother going to bed before leaving at 3:00. I have found that this method works best. In times when I tried to sleep for a few hours, I ended up with migraines.

I was thankful that the weather had calmed down enough for both the drive and the flight out of Russia to be smooth.

I'm not sure how the first flight went because I was asleep. After that I had a 5-hr wait in Frankfurt. During that time, I received a text from my boss-once again a little late. I'm not sure what is going on, but I'm praying for better communication. She was texting to tell me about the teacher training this Saturday, in St. Petersburg.

When I found my seat on the second plane, I had the window, the aisle seat was occupied by a Russian lady, and in the middle seat was a woman somewhere around my age. The Russian woman turned out to not speak English. I kept l…

The Future of Missionaries in Russia-Part IV

I haven't written on this topic for a few months, but my perspective is definitely changing as rules come into effect. Last year it was "wait and see." Now we're seeing.

When we used to visit Russia back in the 90's, I remember people talking about Russia "closing again" someday. To missionary activity, at least. Get in while you can, they said.

Everything seemed calm for awhile. I'm always aware of things going on behind the scenes-churches being denied registration, having to pay fines, things like that. The occasional arrest of someone doing "illegal" missionary activity. But it hasn't affected me much.

And now, for the first time, the political situation is making me a little nervous. I can't even explain the feeling, but I sense something coming. Obama is going to be inaugurated about the time I will (hopefully) be entering Russia next, and I wonder what foreign relations will be like at that time. I guess it's the next "…

The elusive Sabbath

I read an article recently that caused me to ponder anew-when is the Sabbath and how should I observe it?

I have two main thoughts about the Sabbath. The first is that it's a time to put life's worries aside and focus on the Lord and people I'm close to. The second is that it's an act of trust: I don't work on this day because it belongs to the Lord and I believe that He will provide.

There seems to be some confusion in modern-day life about whether the Sabbath is Saturday or Sunday or some other day. The Sabbath had always been Sunday for me. Whether I worked or studied, I tried to finish everything by Saturday night so that Sunday would be free. If I had exams or something and wasn't able to finish, I still tried to relax enough to have fellowship on Sunday and then rest a little before getting back to work.

That was in the past. Saturday recently became a very stressful day of the week for me. It was a marathon of cooking, cleaning, errands, preparing for churc…

Devotion to Christ

So deeply did he love that any clouding of the Master's face was felt, and felt at once with anguish of heart...

It is the bride who mourns the absence of the bridegroom, not one who has been a stranger to His love.

(Hudson Taylor and the China Inland Mission, p. 170)

Missionary Zeal

The word "zeal" used in the Bible can mean "fervent," but the literal meaning is to "be hot," even to "boil."

When you have that kind of faith, you can't sit still. As I read his biography, Hudson Tayler strikes me as someone who embodied zeal.

On the boat going over to China, he and his fellow missionaries pray day and night-not only for the Chinese, but for the shipmates. "Soul-winning" is always in their thoughts and hearts.

The book details the conversion of one of the shipmates.

"Had a special prayer-meeting for the conversion of Mr. Brunton is the entry in Mr.Taylor's journal for August 3.

And the following morning: Could not retire without seeing Mr.Brunton. Read to him at 12:30, when he came from his midnight watch, part of Mackintosh on Exodus xii. (the Passover). After much conversation and prayer, the Lord brought him into liberty."

In the own words of one of those present, more details on what happened:

By the fi…

Doldrums and Answers

The snow has arrived. I'm glad to have a warm coat and boots to bundle up in. I feel disoriented in the mornings when I wake up and it is still dark.

I looked up some old blog entries from last year at this time to see how I was doing with the change in seasons. I didn't find a lot of references to weather, but a year ago was when we were just hearing about the new visa laws and wondering what effect they would have.

From an entry that I wrote about a year ago: My feeling is that living here is going to become more complicated, but not impossible. But I'm not worried, because the Lord is with me.

My boss finally wrote and answered some of my questions. First of all, she's out of the country herself and waiting for a new visa so she can come back in and deal with some of these issues. Also, she can only give me about 2/3 of the pay from October because the company hasn't paid yet! And finally, she confirmed that, yes, unless there is some urgent need for me to come ba…

Boring teacher stuff

I passed exams! I mean, my students did. I spent yesterday and this morning preparing for these sudden final tests that were supposed to have a spoken and written component. I made study guides and squeezed all of the grammar concepts we had covered into a few pages. I made the written test based on classroom/homework exercises, and chose some of the more conversational concepts for the speaking part.

I was printing out the last copy, just in time, and decided to check my email. My boss had finally gotten the opportunity to write from Latvia or wherever she is, getting her new visa. In fact, here were some tips on how to prepare exams, just as I was getting ready to walk out the door. At least her advice was pretty much in line with what I had planned.

She also said she was going to reschedule our teacher training. It doesn't really matter to me at this point, so I'm going to write back and politely remind her that I'm not going to be in the country for training if I don'…

Polite politics

Recently I encouraged some adult ESL students to talk about politics, but it was only for an exercise in "polite" arguing.

First, we reviewed some phrases that might be useful in discussion.

Me: "If you disagree with someone, how can you answer politely?"

Students: "I disagree."

Me: "But politely."

Students: "I'm sorry, I disagree."

Me: "What else can you say?"

Students: "In my opinion...."

Me: "Okay, but that's about me, me, me."

Students: "I think....?"

Me: "Still about me. How can you show the other person you were listening?"

Students: "What?"

Me: ""

The students were stumped. I gave them the phrases "I understand what you're saying, but...," "Good point, but I'm not sure that I agree with you, " etc. As well as clarification questions.

Meanwhile, we tackled the question about how long…

Russian/American Medicine

I was still lying in bed under a pile of pillows a few mornings ago. Zhenya came in and asked if I wanted some honey mixed with jam (to help me feel better).

"Sure," I said. I dragged myself into the kitchen when it was ready. She put a bowl of something in front of me and even through my clogged nostrils I could smell something strong.

"What's in this?" I asked.

"What do you think?" she replied.


"Yep. And honey, jam, and lemon."

"Interesting." I decided to eat it since when I'm sick I'm pretty much ready to try anything. Maybe I could even convince myself to start liking liver.

After breakfast...

Zhenya: "When you're ill, you must wash all dishes with soap."
Me: "What?"
Zhenya: (same thing)
Me: "Ummm...I always wash dishes with soap. You're supposed to do that BEFORE you get sick, as a preventative, not AFTER."
Zhenya: "I usually just use soap if it's really greasy.&qu…

An early end

I found out earlier this week that the classes I've been teaching are over at the end of 2008. That leaves me less than two weeks before my visa trip, and then a few more weeks in December.

Then I got another message yesterday from our secretary with a list of requests. Keep in mind, today is Thursday:

"[Company where I teach] emailed me yesterday and they said that our planned hours with them run out this week.

They are asking you to please prepare an evaluation test for their students, which should include writing and speaking.

They want their test this Friday (November 14).

I emailed them back and said that it's more likely that the test will be ready only for Monday (November 17) due to this short notice on their part."

So my classes are, in effect, over already. I'm fairly surprised as they hadn't said anything to me about it and I still had several topics planned. And I hadn't talked to my students about it at all. So it seems a little sudden.

At least I…

Laughing and coughing

I had fun at the orphanage yesterday. It was Mary's last day and she had brought some treats. I decided it would be a good day to do a little etiquette lesson so the kids could earn their treats. :) They know "please," "thank you," and "give me," but they don't know complete, polite sentences. So we practiced, "May I have...?", "Here you go," "Thank you," and "You're welcome" in the proper order.

Other than "Thank you," the other three phrases can be represented by one word in Russian. The kids just wanted to say "please" all the time, so we had to practice several times to get them used to using "here you go" and "you're welcome" as well. It was fine, though. I think the counselor was even impressed because they were speaking and learning something useful.

The group gave Mary a craft they had made, and they all signed it and wrote their address.

Today I woke up w…

Real life

So what's going on amidst reading and movie screenings?

Yesterday: Prepared 9 lesson plans, taught 4 of them.
Today: Prayer meeting, orphanage, Bible study.
Tomorrow: Teach 6 lessons.


In other news, my visa is already reaching its end. I'm going back to the States in a few weeks. These 3-month visas are so strange!

I don't know yet how I'm going to get back in. No news on the new visa.

I also found out yesterday that our contract at the company where I'm teaching is up at the end of 2008. So where am I going to teach after that? Hmmmm. My momentum suddenly took a nose-dive.

Seeking blessings

I recently got reacquainted with the movie, "Fiddler on the Roof." I hadn't seen it for a long time, at least not since I was old enough to understand what was going on. I did see the play about 5 years ago, I think. But my memory of that is blurred as well.

There are many powerful moments in the movie, but towards the end (or at least into the third hour), one scene stood out to me.

Daughter Hodel and her fiance approach her father and ask for his congratulations on their engagement. He protests the engagement, but they reply, "We are not asking for your permission. Only for your blessing. We are going to get married."

You can feel Tevye's shock and disappointment as his fatherly role is challenged. Of course it is the matchmaker's task to make a match, but the daughter's hand still belongs to her father. This should have been his moment to shine and make the decision that he had the right to make for each of his daughters. But instead, he is offered …

The inconquerable work

I have been trying for about the past 2 years to read Augustine's "Confessions." That doesn't mean I don't like it. Some of the best works are best read a bit at a time and savored. Sometimes I take that approach to reading the Bible. ;)

But I don't know why Augustine is such a struggle. I open a chapter, start reading, and the topic seems interesting, the words compelling...yet I can only manage about a page (if that) before I either get totally lost or fall asleep.

Maybe part of the problem is the translation. Though Latin, by definition, is made up of complex sentences in which you forget the beginning by the time you get to the end. In my opinion. It would be hard to preserve that in another language.

I can't remember how the topic came up, but I was explaining this problem to my roommate. I brought in "Confessions" to show her, and she began to read out loud. She's a non-native speaker, I might add. And as she read, I suddenly began to und…


There must be thousands of commentaries written on Paul's struggle in 2 Cor. 12:7. I'm not motivated to read them because I don't want my impression to be tainted. But it's clear that many have meditated on this passage throughout the centuries. "Thorn in the flesh" even has its own Wikipedia entry, and variations of the phrase are widely used in the English language to denote a persistent trial.

I opened my Bible to refresh my memory about this incident and to see if there was anything I could apply. I was surprised to read about Paul praying only 3 times. Maybe it is figurative, who knows. But it seems like very little. I think that after 3 times I would keep trying. I don't know if I would have heard God's voice or recognized it as an answer.

I wonder which is better: to keep hoping for deliverance or to accept a condition and move on. Sometimes it seems like people who adapt to life with constant difficulties (physical or otherwise) are more conten…


It's school vacation week. It doesn't affect life that much, but the kids from the orphanages have been parceled out to different locations: some to camp, some to relatives. And a few are still in the orphanage.

I wanted to do something fun with the remaining kids, like we had done in the past. I'm working with a different counselor now though, so when I suggested going into the city for bowling or a movie, she didn't seem very enthusiastic. "I'll only have two kids here," she said. "The rest of them are going to relatives." I thought that was all the more reason to help the remaining kids have a fun vacation. Then the counselor suggested that we go to the movie theater near the orphanage, so I agreed. I wasn't sure it would be the fun excursion that I envisioned, but better than nothing. Maybe the counselor just didn't want to go to the trouble of getting permission to take the kids out and make the trip to the city.

On the day I was supp…