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Showing posts from September, 2008

Why don't they come?

Why don't people go to church? I don't mean people who used to go and now have stopped; that's another topic. I mean those who are supposedly "searching." When I see people around me begin to believe, they often display an aversion towards attending any sort of organized meeting.

Problems in individual congregations are many. But there's a larger issue at stake. Sometimes it seems that the desire to be a part of a worshiping body seems to evade seekers or new believers. And it's not a cultural thing; I have seen it in many places.

What's the problem? Is it the churches themselves? Is it their reputation? Is it the way we witness? I rarely invite anyone to church on Sundays anymore. But I talk about my church all the time. People get interested and start asking when they can visit. But they never come. Some are interested in Bible study and different Christian topics. Bible study is okay, but a church service isn't. Holidays are okay, but regular ser…

Dangerous crossings

Crossing the street near my building is always really difficult. There are many forms of transportation moving quickly. Recently, a new crosswalk got installed. I did see a car stop once or twice, but that's a rarity.

The other day, I was looking at the crosswalk more closely, and I realized why it is so difficult to cross there.

1) The crosswalk is painted where the driveway comes out! That's right, if you are standing in the crosswalk on the driveway side, you are standing directly in the way of cars both coming and going (and usually there's not enough room for two cars and someone has to back up, also potentially flattening pedestrians). Or if you are crossing towards the driveway, you are walking right into the path of a car. See that silver car pulling out?


2) As pictured above, you have to compete with cars, buses, and trams.

3) Not only is one end of the crosswalk a driveway, but the other end overlaps with a bus stop. So if you are trying to cross the street from the…

Where were you?

As usual, the older kids at the orphanage weren't particularly interested in English. "I have A's in English," they all said. Riiiiight.

I could hear the counselor snapping at them to take the opportunity to get help from me while I was there. Eventually, 12 yr old Liosha approached with a textbook and reluctantly sat down at the table with me. As usual, he seemed very distant and spoke with his head down as if he were talking into his shirt.

"Where were you?" he asked suddenly.

"When?"

"All this time."

"I was in America visiting my parents, and then I came back."

"But why were you gone for so long? You weren't even here for September 1st (the first day of school)."

"I was waiting for my visa," I said.

He gave some grunt to indicate that he would accept that answer. Could it be that he had missed me? Or was he afraid of abandonment, even by a teacher?

We practiced some dialogues together, and as I used funny voi…

A visitor and the return of Misha

People are always blogging about meeting other blogging friends in person. Now it's my turn. A few days ago I met Mary, a young woman who reads my blog and arrived in St. Petersburg recently to work in transitional homes for older orphans. She visited the orphanage with me to see what I do.

As with all visitors, I decided to have Mary act like she didn't speak any Russian, so that the kids would have a chance to practice their English.




Misha had come right out to meet us when we got there. I hadn't seen him yet this year. He told me that he's being adopted in a few months. I'm really happy for him because he had seemed to be really longing for a family. Some kids are less at-risk, but with how withdrawn Misha had been lately, I think a change of environment is going to be good for him. He seems to be pleased with the prospect.




The English lesson went okay. It was chaotic as usual. I suppose it would be boring otherwise.


On the bus on the way home, we had a little adven…

New

Life has just gotten a lot crazier. I started my new teaching job on Monday. I wasn't really sure exactly how it was going to go because a Russian woman had been teaching there while they were looking for a native speaker. So I didn't know how the transition would be.

I finally got an email at about 10pm Sunday night with previous lesson plans and instructions about meeting Sveta (the other teacher) the next day. I still wasn't sure about what to do the first day. Should I continue a topic that Sveta had started? Should I just stick to get-to-know-you activities? Should I pick something completely new?

I started to panic that I wasn't prepared at all. I was also really tired. So on Monday I woke up and had to spend the morning making four different lesson plans. It was rather frenzied.

I needed to have not only a written lesson plan for each class, but handouts for each student since they don't use textbooks.

Finally I had the papers ready and had to organize them all.…

Saturday afternoon

Today I spent time with some teenage girls from one of the orphanages.

On the way home, we stopped for doughnuts. Yum!




I met this group within a week of moving to St. Petersburg in 2004. It is one of my first memories of living here. Now the older girls have already graduated and the younger ones are not so little anymore. Time flies!

Bags

I can tell that a new school year has begun, because my bags are starting to pile up again. For some reason I've never gotten into the habit of unpacking my bags at the end of the day, and then I'm always in a rush and start a new bag each time. So I have a separate bag for each orphanage and all the other places I visit.


Below: purse, flute from Sunday morning, Tuesday's bag with orphanage/Bible study materials, Wednesday's bag with documents and a notebook (Monday's bag has either gotten lost or actually got unpacked).




I also haven't gotten completely unpacked since arriving from the States about 10 days ago. That's mostly because I don't have any more empty shelves. Thankfully some of the things are for other people, so I won't have to keep them for long.

Copying from Word and pasting in Blogger

Lately I've had difficulties with copying texts that I've written in Word and pasting them into Blogger. I'm no expert, but if you look at the "Edit Html" tab, there is all this extra code that comes with the text when you paste it. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't. I don't know why.

In the meantime, I found a workaround. If you paste the document into Notepad first and then copy from there to Blogger, you seem to get rid of the code problem when pasting from Word.

Blogger in general is giving me a lot of problems today, particularly with Autosave. I'm not sure what is going on.

Pronouns

At some point in my school years, I remember being taught to use he/she for a singular subject. Many English speakers incorrectly use the pronoun “they.” Other variations were offered, such as “a person,” “a student,” etc.

It had been the tradition in the past to simply use “he.” By default, the pronoun is left masculine. This is true in many languages and has never bothered me. In my politically correct hometown, however, that is not an option. In my recent teacher training we were even advised not to teach students words ending in “-man.” That includes mailman, fireman, policeman, businessman, etc. We should teach a gender-neutral form such as “mail carrier, firefighter,” etc. My trainer described a MEN WORKING (construction site) sign that left her steaming every time she passed it.

All this pretty much went in one of my ears and out the other.

Meanwhile, I opened up some textbooks that I bought recently for teaching. Each has an explanation in the introduction of their (the editors’)…

Back in St. Petersburg

My poor blog hasn't had much of a chance to live up to its name lately. For the better part of the last 6 months, I've been either located somewhere else or trying to figure out what I'm going to do next. Now I'm back and ready for "normal" life in St. Petersburg to begin again...

This week I will resume visiting orphanages. At one of them I have an open invitation, at the other...well, I wasn't sure. I'm invited by certain people, and others are not so excited to see Americans.

So I was supposed to call this second orphanage today. I even put it on my prayer list this morning, because I knew that if I offered it up to God, I would feel more motivated to follow through. After attending training for my new teaching job, I arrived home and reviewed my to-do list. There was that phone call waiting to be made. I decided to put it off for a little longer. In fact, I wasn't really planning on calling at all. I thought maybe I would just go to the orphanag…

What would you do?

When I was in the TESOL program, I had to teach a lesson on the “Unreal Conditional.” My trainers suggested using the phrase “If I had a million dollars…” to start out. Logically, it is easy to use this example to show the meaning and formation of the grammar point. The person obviously doesn’t have a million dollars at the moment, so it is clearly unreal. I didn’t really want to use that example, however. First of all, I didn’t know if it would be culturally appropriate with our foreign students. Also, I think it is difficult to predict what you would do if you were in a situation that is highly improbable. Why should I make plans for non-existent money? It’s just a waste of time and will fuel desire for something I might never have.

I think that a lot of times, hypothetical situations just aren’t worth thinking about. Sometimes in high school we had “moral debates.” The teacher would read out a moral dilemma and ask us to argue about it. I suppose this could be an opportunity to witn…

For Russia/the U.S.

No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength.
A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save.
But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,
to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine. We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield.
In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name.
May your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD, even as we put our hope in you.
-Psalm 33:16-22 (NIV)

Airport notes

While I'm getting over jet-lag, here are some observations from spending a lot of time in various airports over the past few days.

Logan airport, Boston

-right by my gate, people are sitting in a restaurant eating what appear to be very heavy meals, and drinking alcohol. Aren't they thinking about what effect this is going to have on their stomachs during the long international flight? (note: my last meal was McDonald's, so maybe I'm not the best example. But, it was still a few hours before my flight and I did not overeat).

-an elderly man with a hearing aid in front of me is holding a piece of luggage on which the first name on the tag is "Slug." I wonder if he plays baseball?

-pet peeve: insufficient updating of flight announcements. Once I was in some airport, I think in Philadelphia, and my flight was delayed until further notice. There weren't any seats in the waiting area, so I sat in the adjacent one. All the announcements sort of mingled together. I …

Aftermath

The storm left a little gift for us after all.
















You don't have to lie and say this is a pretty photo. :)

Not anymore

Just thought I would add that we're not waiting for rain anymore. It's here.



But Tropical Storm Hanna isn't looking too fierce at this point. I think she's on her way out.

Storm season

The U.S. mainland hasn't been hit too hard this year from hurricanes, and we're still waiting for rain in Massachusetts.

But Haiti has taken a beating. Friends of ours from church go to Haiti regularly and have heard some first-hand accounts of the after-effects of the successive storms. In the sidebar, you can see some options for donating money or finding out more.

Pray for the people of Haiti!

Campaigning

First, there was the Democratic National Convention. Now, the Republicans are convening, or whatever it's called.

I've never been to any sort of conference that didn't have something to do with worship. So I don't really get it. What is there to get excited about? What could such a crowd of people have in common?

Okay, I watched the Olympics. It's exciting to see displays of talent. But the convention is odd. I haven't found any of the speakers to be very eloquent. And I don't understand why the crowd chants things like "U.S.A."

Enlighten me?

Leaving/Arriving

All the relatives have gone, and it's almost my turn! My time in the States is drawing to a close and I'll be boarding a plane for Russia on Monday.

I guess I'd better "enjoy" the heat here...

Russian Christianity Retrospective

Earlier today I picked up a Christian magazine and read the headline, "The Church in Russia: What Does the Future Hold?" I thought the article might be one or two years old at the most, but when I found the publishing date, it was 1992. So I was holding an article that predicted the outcome of a time period that has already passed.

I knew virtually nothing about Russia in 1992. If I did know anything, I don't think it made a very strong impression. I didn't go there myself until 1996, and then my experiences were limited to summer camp. The author of the article, presumably an American, describes the situation as he sees it upon visiting Russia in 1992. One notable theme that he notes is how the question of theodicy applies to Russian history.

"Their suffering has become a profound treasury of hard-won experience that has quietly elicited spiritual growth and deepening reflectiveness. No one would wish another to suffer, but when it does regrettably occur, it is …

Avoiding boredom

Do you ever feel totally brain-dead when listening to a sermon or reading your Bible, like it has no effect on you?

John Piper suggests praying Psalm 119:7. Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.

Another thing I can suggest is to try another language! I was totally tuning out during a sermon recently and I was realizing that it's because it was in English, and English sometimes sounds like "blahblahblah" to me. In your native language, you can skim books and still get the gist, and also tune out parts of conversations and still know what's being said (not that I would ever do that!).

So when I go to read the Bible sometimes...I know who's going to win and who's going to lose, and I'm not always interested in the journey to get there.

In Russia, I have to pay close attention to sermons and readings, simply because if I miss a few words, I risk missing the point. In another language, it makes a big difference if you miss key words like "…

Fall

The seasons are changing.




But it's still pretty hot here in Massachusetts.

Labor Day at home

Sept.1st is "Knowledge Day" in Russia, along with being the first day of autumn. It's the first day of school and the students all come in their best clothes, and lots of flowers are exchanged.

But since I'm in the U.S. right now, I celebrated Labor Day instead, which happened to fall on Sept. 1st this year.

We had some guests over for tea and fellowship.



The first four guys from the left were all leaders in a youth group called Young Life that my siblings and I all attended while in high school. The guys were mentors and friends to my brother, who is the fifth guy.


With the four visiting families plus my niece, there were 12 kids at our house! First, we spent time outside....






Once we got tired of playing outside, we found indoor entertainment.





I tried to get my niece to sit still while she was eating her banana. She squirmed away about 5 seconds later.






I snuggled with my big sister, too.


It's over!

I finished my ESL training on Friday. After presenting final projects, our group tossed a ball of ribbon around and talked about our favorite moments, as sort of a closure.




I always used to scoff at those brochures that try to make a place look multi-cultural, with the token white, black, hispanic, and asian students. But this is a real representation right here:





Some of the countries represented below include Rwanda, Congo, Turkey, and Russia (oops, I mean the U.S.!):



Here are students reading their collection of stories that was published as a final project. There are some amazing pieces of writing in there!






These are our students who came to "free class" for our practice teaching. The three Turkish ladies, plus a girl from Congo! I have to admit, it was often hard to understand them, but we had a lot of fun!




My certificate's "in the mail." :)


The "Maul"

We sometimes refer to the mall as the "Maul," meaning that it can be a brutal experience. I wrote that yesterday's trip to the mall was tiring, but it wasn't really that bad.

The "crowds"? Nothing compared to a subway car in St.Petersburg. And the people are entertaining. Even the crying kids make an interesting study in how different people discipline their kids. I saw gentle parents, and I saw a frustrated 2 year old sprint away from her mother and hide in a store. One of the more amusing scenes was a multi-generational hispanic family gathered around as a tiny baby had her ears pierced.

I saw the occasional Russian as well. I always find it interesting that they seem to have been living here for awhile, yet have retained enough of their Russian mannerisms that it's quite obvious that they are Russian. I suppose I am refering mainly to their dress. I like that about the U.S., that there is freedom to do that.

It is so easy to spend money! In Russia it is…

Movie Review

I now pronounce "The Bachelor" the stupidest movie ever. I didn't even like the "happy ending." All of the characters in the movie had horrible values, except maybe for the priest.

There, that's my movie review.