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Showing posts from October, 2008

On a positive note

The umbrella is an excellent invention.

What happened to Wednesday?

Today I woke up and thought, "I really need to ask the Lord for energy today!" Then I wondered what day it was. How could it be Thursday already? What happened to "Worrisome Wednesday"? Yesterday among my prayer requests there was nothing about motivation. Strange! I think that I was too busy yesterday to think about whether or not I was motivated enough. I'm not sure if that's good or bad. I suppose a day without lethargy, especially in the dreary days of fall, is a triumph.

Orphanage update

Whenever I visit a certain orphanage, I feel like I'm going into a battlezone. Yesterday I prayed throughout the day before going there and Mary said she had asked various people to pray as well.

Lately I've had this feeling that I've been doing everything poorly. Quantity without quality. I just barely get everything done but all I can think of is how I should have done it better.

I wanted to prepare well for the orphanage visit, but the classroom situation is so unpredictable. The kids' mood can be thrown off by the smallest thing. At the last lesson, the counselor had yelled at them for not taking the lesson seriously enough, and she snapped, "You're not going to play any more games in English class! It's going to be just like a school lesson! You'll sit and repeat words after the teacher and write in your notebooks!"

You can probably guess how the lesson went after that introduction. Things were complicated further by the fact that the first grad…

Learning from kids

It was the end of a 3-part Sunday school series. First we weren’t clean enough to come before God (Moses and his dirty sandals), then Jesus became the bridge, then we received a gift that we hadn’t earned ourselves. It sounds funny described that way, but those were the main points given in that book I’m not so crazy about.

After going over the third part, we reviewed the whole unit. Then we learned the verse, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” –Eph. 2:8,9.

After that, the kids had a drawing assignment. They were supposed to draw the true path to God. I had drawn some false paths on the paper with works, money, etc. At the previous lesson we had talked about Jesus being “the Way” and at this lesson we had talked about salvation coming through faith, so I expected the answer to include those concepts, although I wasn’t sure exactly how the kids would draw them. I made the dra…

A sidenote

My posts have been sparser lately not because of a lack of time or material, but because of a lack of purpose.

‘Meaningless! Meaningless!'
says the Teacher.
'Utterly meaningless!
Everything is meaningless.' (Eccl.1:2/NIV)

Lately I have started many posts and then refrained from publishing them. They didn’t seem edifying enough: too depressing/cynical or just plain stupid. It seemed like every topic I started writing about was pointless.

I do this with speech, too: if I feel strongly about something, I wait a few days before verbalizing it; make sure it wasn’t just a certain mood. And many times when I return to it, it doesn’t seem worth the time.

This blog is about “Life in St.Petersburg,” but sometimes life is just life. Nothing glamorous to find here.

Blogging is not a vice for me, and I don’t feel a need to quit or fast, but I do stop to reevaluate the content sometimes.

Right now a lot of things are “pending.” I can’t put a check-mark or report about th…

October skies

This is what the sky looked like at 9 am yesterday.

Pretty, but doesn't really entice me to go outside and begin my day.

Worrisome Wednesdays

Today was my first Wednesday without a headache! Hurrah. The last few Wednesdays I have had bad ones and I’m wondering if it had something to do with the Tuesday commute. Last week it took me 3 hours to get home! Yesterday, Mary and I decided to try taking the train instead of the bus, and it was a lot smoother. No traffic jams and plenty of seats! And I only got yelled at once; that was for going to the wrong ticket counter (she yelled at me as she took my money and tore off the ticket; apparently it wasn't such a big problem).

I have another problem with Wednesdays, though: apathy. I really didn't want to get out of bed this morning. When I did, I looked in my prayer journal and saw that the one prayer request from last Wednesday was: "motivation."

Hmmm. So what is going on here? Is it a midweek thing or a long-term case of lethargy? I decided to investigate a little further. On several Saturdays in a row I had written "diligence" or "discipline."…

Russia and The Rock

Some missionaries are criticized for giving up and leaving. Others are asked, “Why are you still here?” Both are legitimate causes for concern. In some ways I am glad that Russia is getting stricter about foreigners; it makes it clearer who should stay and who should go. But the Lord helps me overcome obstacles to living here. When I pray for guidance, I pray, “I need a sign bigger than finances. And I need a sign bigger than visa laws.” Because God is bigger and if it's His will He can make any problem melt away. I don’t have a family to care for, I don’t have a house, and I don’t have a specific “program” that I’m tied to, so my decisions are not dependent on those factors. As for health problems or family emergencies, I would rather not think about those. I have committed them to the Lord.

When I first visited Russia, it was 1996. A time of turmoil. But even now, a lot of Russians live in a state of instability. That is not meant to be a criticism, it is just something the Lord …

Hymn #11

In the apartment where I’m currently staying, there is an old upright piano. I've missed my piano! Sometimes I sit down and play for an hour or two. The girl who lives here has a Russian language hymnal, and I discovered that many of the songs that are translated include the original title and text. So I have been rediscovering some old favorites. I had to laugh though because they had translated “America the Beautiful” into Russian.

I found one hymn that I don’t actually remember singing much in childhood, but for some reason it sticks with me. I remember hearing it on tv while watching President Reagan’s funeral. But I don’t really associate it with death; even if it is a glimpse of future glory, I associate it with Jesus daily calling us to Himself.

Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling by Will L. Thompson
1) Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling,
Calling for you and for me;
See, on the portals He’s waiting and watching,
Watching for you and for me.Come home, come home,
You who are wear…

In search of taboos

My beginner students requested conversation etiquette, so I decided to teach a class on appropriate/inappropriate conversation topics. We had done this in Russian class, but I don’t know where my textbook is that had that lesson, so I had to make my own.

Of course I was speaking from an American point of view, but if they have to speak with British partners, they will certainly need to be mindful of conversation topics. I’m not sure about Italians, who visit the company often.

There are certain topics I listed that are considered too personal in American culture, but that aren’t as rude in Russian culture:

-asking a woman’s age
-commenting on someone’s weight (I’ve been told that I’ve lost weight as well as gained weight. Thanks for telling me, I hadn’t noticed)
-asking someone how much he/she earns or how much he/she pays for rent
-complaining about something/offering your opinion or advice if you haven’t been asked

Unfortunately I only had one student, so the discussion wasn’t quite as li…

Ups and downs

Time for the work update. That is, Business English. About a week ago, my boss sent me a list of paperwork that I had to have ready within a week. I think it’s related to my work permit. Needless to say I was not thrilled about this assignment. I had plans for every minute of the next few days. But I suppose there’s never a convenient time to do paperwork.

Lo and behold, when I finally attacked it a few days ago, the paperwork actually ended up being….easy? First of all, I didn’t have to fill out any forms. That’s a task that normally reduces me to tears. I’m sure a few of you out there have been witnesses. I initially didn’t know where to go for the documents, but once I got the address from someone, I arrived, and there wasn’t even a line. They knew exactly what I needed since they daily process documents for non-Russian citizens who need work permits.

The next day, I returned to pick up the documents and get my photo taken, which was also really quick and painless. The photos came o…

Two readings

Yesterday I opened up Oswald Chambers to see if the day’s reading was anything useful. I had to laugh when I read the title.

The Key to the Missionary’s Work*

That sounds pretty good, right? I don’t have to look for answers any further. Here it comes…

"All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations." Matthew 28:18-20

The basis of missionary appeals is the authority of Jesus Christ, not the needs of the heathen. We are apt to look upon Our Lord as One Who assists us in our enterprises for God. Our Lord puts Himself as the absolute sovereign supreme Lord over His disciples. He does not say the heathen will be lost if we do not go; He simply says - "Go ye therefore and teach all nations..."

Hmmm. That all sounds very nice on paper, but what does it actually mean? Is it wrong if the first (or last) images that cross my mind are of people in need, and not of the cross? What if people don't seem interested in the Gospel? Should…

Holy ground

At Sunday school today we had 15 children ranging from almost 2 to 13. The “Focus on the Family” curriculum we are using goes through different themes like “Jesus paid the price.” And the one we’re in now is something about faith; I forget the exact description. I don’t like the book we’re using very much. It seems to take a theme and try to fit a verse into that theme rather than looking at a larger passage of Scripture. It does have interesting illustrations, though.

This time we had a little trail on the floor sprinkled with potato starch. Each person had to try to walk along the trail and get to the end without getting powder all over their shoes and leaving footprints. All the kids tried, it from the smallest to the biggest. And no one could do it without leaving a footprint. It was humanly impossible.

Next, we had a dramatization of Moses taking his sandals off before the Lord’s presence in the burning bush. I think the kids had a little trouble making the jump from a trail of whi…

Missionary work

When I teach countable and non-countable nouns to my ESL students, I often use “work” and “job” as an example. Work is something you do; a job is something you have. You can do work without having a job. As a missionary, it’s very confusing when people ask me if I’ve “worked” on a particular day. I don’t necessarily differentiate between work, ministry, and the rest of life. In the past, people would be surprised if I was busy and said that I was working. “What, you have a job now?” Would you ask a wife and mother whether or not she works?

Because of this confusion, I am going to talk about missionaries and jobs in this post. That is, I will talk about missionaries holding paid positions other than church-based ministry funded by their home churches.

So should missionaries have jobs or not? What about this model of missionaries doing fund-raising, finding regular sponsors, and then going out into the field, fully supported by people back home? Is it Biblical? Is it effective? To some, i…

Mistaken identity

For those of you who don't know, I have a sister named Emily. We're 6 years apart and don't look that much alike (in our opinion), but people mix up our names sometimes. In school I even had a teacher who gave me a dollar each time she did it, because she felt so guilty!

What I find amusing though is when people who don't know I have a sister call me Emily. Sometimes I respond to Emily even when it's not directed at me (and in Russia I now respond to "Lida" as well as any Russian or English variation of Elizabeth).

Anyway, I applied to an MA program a few years ago and got rejected because I didn't have 1) 2 yrs' "job experience" or 2) a TESOL certificate.

Now I have the certificate, but I don't know if I'm interested in that particular program anymore. However, they apparently remember me. Sort of. Today I received an email with the following introduction:

Hi Emily…

I noticed on your previous application to the MA TESOL, that your en…

Aches and pains

I’m beginning to feel slightly human again. I’m staying in a different apartment for a few weeks, and I moved during the busiest part of the week. I didn’t even turn my computer on for a few days. I think that I’ve been over-stimulated from trying to get to know a new neighborhood and schedule along with everything else.

Last night I went to bed feeling a little depressed, but when that happens, I always have hope that I’ll feel better the next day. No matter what the problem, the passing of the night always seems to take the edge off. I went to bed praying for the Lord’s joy to meet me in the morning.

The “joy” that met me in the morning was a lingering headache that had been with me since the night before. I had tried to just shake it off, but it had turned into the sort of headache that doesn’t go away until I take a pill and/or throw up (sorry to be graphic). After finding some Ibuprofen, I went back to bed and propped myself up with pillows. I didn’t want to fall asleep and get off…

Making investments

Last week one of the teachers from my group was sick, so I substituted for a few of her classes.

The classes were in a different company and the facility was very fancy. I had to pass through several security checkpoints and I got a badge that said I couldn’t walk around without an escort.

The woman leading me to the classroom opened a door and said “here it is.” All I saw was a spiral staircase. I had to go up the staircase to get to the classroom, which was sort of a loft. All the students were already waiting, and I wondered what they thought as my head came bobbing up the stairs, followed by the rest of me.

I suddenly found myself in front of a class of 7 men. That was a bit amusing. I hadn’t had more than 2 yet at my usual work location. Tripping over power cords, I quickly tried to get the lesson underway. The students turned out to be a LOT more talkative than my usual students, and a lot more advanced.

When the classes ended, no one came to get me, but I needed to leave for the or…

Lesson Plans for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner

The teaching isn't so hard, it's the lesson planning that's the hard part!

I can come up with a lesson plan pretty quickly, thanks to my TESOL planning, but then I need another hour for all the copying, printing, formatting, etc. When I was in training, I couldn't wait to be independent so I wouldn't have to fill out that silly planning sheet each time and have the trainer check it. The joke's on me, though; my new employer wants me to email all my lesson plans to her at the end of each month. That means TYPING each one into a special form.

I visited another teaching location, and the teachers there have 3-4 classes a day, all the same level. That's one lesson plan a day. I have 4 classes, all different levels.

Being true to my tendency to make assignments harder than they are supposed to be, I just spent several hours editing all my September lesson plans so that they're in the right font, format, etc. And scanning all the worksheets.

I haven't even se…


I tend to be wary of ideas that are presented as "new." This especially applies in a church setting, where, it seems, History repeats itself.

Perhaps it wouldn't annoy me so much if they didn't call it "new."

Sometimes it seems that new projects and ideas and approaches to ministry simply distract us from the main thing, our relationship with God.

There are so many "movements" that come and go. New forms of "praise and worship." New ways to evangelize. New ways to "do church." New ways to pursue "purity." Do any of them have lasting effects?

In Lewis' The Screwtape Letters, Screwtape instructs Wormwood on how to entice Christians through dissatisfaction with old things and a thirst for constant change.

"The horror of the Same Old Thing is one of the most valuable passions we have produced in the human heart-an endless source of heresies in religion, folly in counsel, infidelity in marriage, and inconstancy in frie…