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Showing posts from April, 2009

Classroom management and teaching abroad

There are times when I have to realize my limitations as a foreigner. Part of me wants to just blend in like a normal person, but the fact is that I will always be different in certain ways.

As a foreign teacher, I do have limitations. One of the challenges is in the area of disciplining students. Although I try to take on the Russian culture as much as I can, classroom behavior is one mentality that is very ingrained and difficult to alter! Even though they behave badly, it’s certainly not the children’s fault that I’m an oddball.

It’s funny, because a lot of Americans teach abroad, namely children. Do any of you other teachers have trouble trying to get your pupils to remain in their seats?

Teaching is a big responsibility. We are called to strive for excellence. However, I don’t think this means that we are not allowed to show our humanness. When I teach Sunday school, I sometimes have misunderstandings with the children. But in general we are teaching about God, so if there is a seri…

His coming

Heaven. Now there is one thing it's okay to daydream about.

One of my favorite worship CD's is "Hymns 4 Worship." It's a two-CD set that contains a lot of traditional hymns by contemporary artists. Some of them are redone with a slightly different melody, but they are still tasteful and uplifting.

On the second CD, one of the tracks is "It is Well with my Soul" (by 4Him). They've changed the rhythm a bit, but the message is still there.

My favorite part is how they create a climax. As the group sings "the trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend," a sudden burst of applause can be heard in the background.

Have you ever been in a situation where the guest of honor entered after much anticipation, and the room exploded in applause? That's what it felt like to me, although when Christ comes we will likely fall on our knees at the glory of His presence.

Still, it's nice to imagine.

My lumpy friend

This episode could also be titled "Spring cleaning guilt meets pack-rat tendencies."

I am not sure what prompted me, but I decided to put a book my mom gave me to use. Instead of getting rid of some old socks, they became a part of my new project.

I'm sure one day soon it will sink in that sock animals take up more room and are harder to throw away than the little bag of odd or damaged socks in the bottom of the closet. But the message hasn't gotten through to me yet.

Did I mention that I don't know how to sew? Actually, I technically know how, but it's not, shall we say, my "gift." I like the designing and constructing part, but I'm lacking a little on the execution. That's why I thought a sock animal might be a good project for me. After all, you can say that a stuffed animal "has character," instead of a "sloppy stitching job."

The book I was using is Japanese. Origami is Japanese. When I do origami, I sometimes get stuck …

A sermon for single Christians/missionaries

My friend Melissa recently posted a link to a John Piper talk directed towards singles. There is an audio here, but no transcript.

From that website:
Questions include: How is singleness better than marriage?How can singles help foster a relational culture at church?How do I deal with the intense longing to be married?What are the trials unique to singleness, and how do you recommend combating them? What would you say to someone who thinks their sexual sin has disqualified them from ministry? What do you think about masturbation?Is it OK for a single woman to pursue a career?"
Early on, Piper makes a good point that singles should seek out mixed company (varying in age, gender, marital status, life experience...) as far as friends, Bible study, etc. I agree with this.

Nevertheless, he goes on to grant some good advice for singles specifically, as well as to answer questions from the audience.

I wa…


I had taken one too many sets of flashcards with me to the orphanage, and my hips were giving out by the end. I boarded the tram and quickly grabbed the last seat.

I was almost at the end of the ride when an elderly woman got on. I always hesitate for a moment because I don't want some middle-aged woman to think I mistook her for elderly.

Anyway, this woman was elderly, and I stood up. "Don't stand up," she said. I didn't argue. "I'm not tired, and you are," she said, putting her bag down. I smiled at her appreciatively. She continued talking. "I know how women get tired. You probably work, study, and have kids?" "Well, not my own, but I was just in the orphanage," I said. "And what do you do there? Work? Teach? Are you a believer?" "I'm a believer," I said. "I thought so. Where do you go?" I explained where my church met, and she said she attended a Baptist church nearby.

"I can always recogni…

Resources for lazy ESL teachers

One of the catch-phrases in my TESOL training program was "lazy teacher." The idea lies not in the teacher's inactivity but in the delegation of responsibilities to students so that they become more competent. For example, they help with generating visual aids for class; they help write things on the board; they explain the homework to each other or fill in someone who is late.

Besides, it's the students who need the chance to talk, not the teachers. When the teacher leaves the room while they are talking in pairs, s/he not only gets the chance to take a break and assess how the class is going, but the students can feel more at ease conversing without someone hanging over their shoulder.

The other "lazy teacher" time happens during lesson planning. At first I was against this idea because I find that lesson planning fulfills a need for creative expression that I don't always have time for outside of teaching. I love making visual aids.

It is certainly wort…

Pre-missions life

This isn't really part of the series, but I ran across an old journal entry from when I was in my second year of college. I hadn't decided on a concentration yet, but I was thinking about the future.

One evening, a missionary couple serving in the Middle East (under aliases) visited our girls' Bible study. It prompted some reflection on my part.

Oct. 29, 2001

David and Joy gave me clarity on a few reservations I've had. In terms of missions, David mentioned being interested but not yet feeling a specific "calling." He said that one of the criteria is that it be your heart's desire. Joy is introverted, like me. She seemed so much like me! And she had a baby over there and said it was fine.

...David talked about getting to know people other than Christians. I need to think about my major and how it would serve God in the future.

Missions #2-culture and ethnocentrism

Just a few thoughts on culture prompted by some missions discussion!


I learned about ethnocentrism in an Ethics class in college. I suppose at that point I had already noticed that we had made some mistakes in Russia in terms of culture. Take, for example, this simple contrast: Americans belong to a group of cultures who do business first, while Russians socialize first. Imagine how much confusion that can cause! Or how many problems could be smoothed over by a simple cup of tea.

But it is still a bit of a shock when you learn that some of the kind gestures you viewed as part of evangelism were simply your own cultural traditions; that your primary associations with "church" are something invented by man and not found in the Bible. And, perhaps, that your view of other traditions as unbiblical do in fact have a scriptural basis upon closer examination.

I like this quote, found in the Perspectives reader. "To require people to embrace anything beyond what is fo…

The homework

Okay, I promised to share how Min Joon's happiness assignment turned out. When I asked him about it, he asked, "I have to write about kind people or happy people?" I said "happy," and he quickly changed a word in his paper. Apparently I am not very good at checking for comprehension.

Translation: "I think happy people is all Christians. I don't know why, but I think so. And I think skinheads (in Russia) are very unhappy people because skinheads hit or kill black people in Hitler's birthday. I think this is very strange."

I'm not sure what to make of this assignment considering he mixed up "kind" and "happy." I wonder if they are similar words in Korean?

Back to the orphanage

It was snowy and freezing this weekend, but I did catch a glimpse of some buds. Spring is here, somewhere.

My father and I took the train to the orphanage on Saturday...the orphanage that I was exasperated with just a few days ago. He couldn't go with me on Wednesday, so we made a special trip.

I had never been on a Saturday. It was a little more relaxed with no school the next day, although the kids are preparing for some exams next week.

My dad has been to this orphanage many times, but enough years have passed that there isn't much overlap, and the youngest kids he might have met are now graduating.

I took him to the group where I have English lessons most often. This is the group where I was robbed. Since it was a different day of the week, the counselor that was working was not the one from Wednesday, but the one that I saw weekly in the fall. She started explaining what the different kids were up to, and I said that we were just there to visit, not necessarily to have a les…

No filter

My Korean students don't have a filter. I'm not saying it's anything to do with their being Korean (although, maybe it is). They are more fluent than any of my Russian students their age, so maybe it's simply the difference of being able to express themselves freely in English.

During each session I receive some very interesting information as well as field unusual questions.

Emily (13), for example, told me that her mother doesn't let her sleep over at anyone's house because it is being greedy.

Min Joon (11) told me that when I wear glasses I look more like a teacher.

Emily said that her friends think she's rich for having been to China, although to Koreans it's a short trip.

Min Joon said that Koreans are the best at Math, that Americans "very well" live, and that more Russian women smoke than men.

We were in the middle of beginning a new topic when Min Joon said, "I just thought of something disgusting. I can tell you?"

Me: "Does it…

Good Friday

Today in Russia, we remember the day when Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins.

And we await His resurrection!

Lightening up

I have a few blog posts in mind, but they continue to be rather heavy, introspective commentaries. It is not my intention to bring everyone down. Although I enjoy wrestling with life's questions and getting input from others, I also want to be an encouragement.

I believe it's important to record struggles because it is a blessing to read about God's provision later on. Nevertheless, life is full of good news to share.

Today in Proverbs I read this:

A happy heart makes the face cheerful,
but heartache crushes the spirit. 15:13

and this: A cheerful look brings joy to the heart,
and good news gives health to the bones. 15:30

For all of you who believe, my prayer today is:

May all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation always say, 'Let God be exalted!' Ps. 70:4

God is good.


I have had a very difficult time with the kids in one of the orphanages lately. They behave quite badly. When I speak to them in English, they answer in Russian. If I offer them something, they always want a different color or flavor.

This time, I managed to have a good lesson with one girl individually. Then another two came in and it was difficult to keep all of them busy since they had missed the presentation of new vocabulary. I let them try the worksheet, but they copied the other girl's. They kept saying "da" instead of repeating the words. I was tired by the end.

I went out to the bus stop, and one of my former students was there. He was in an older group of boys who are now graduating from high school and moving on to college. He groaned when I told him which group I was working with. I remembered his group being better. They were probably my best group, despite all their practical jokes. I think they learned the most because we had our lessons in an actual classro…

Not sleeping

I don't know about big cities in other countries, but St. Petersburg is definitely a sleepy city. Sleepy in that no one ever sleeps. That's the way it seems, at least.

In the past, I associated all-nighters with the student life. Days were busy, and many assignments could only be done at night. We also used the night for socializing. I remember some great conversations that took place at 5 am. That was the way we lived. I also remember traveling home for spring break, in a plane or bus full of sleeping students who had not slept the previous week because of exams. During vacation I would sleep about 12 hours each night.

By the end of the student years, I was having problems with my health, particularly digestion. If I stayed up all night, I would throw up the next day, or simply have no appetite, or have bad stomach cramps. Not to mention, I slept during Sunday sermons, university lectures, and yes, even in the midst of drawing a portrait in art class. As graduation approached, …

Passion Week (by the Orthodox Calendar)

On Holy Tuesday, Jesus continued to teach using parables.

The Parable of the Tenants

"Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and went away on a journey. When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit.

"The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. Last of all, he sent his son to them. 'They will respect my son,' he said. "But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, 'This is the heir. Come, let's kill him and take his inheritance.' So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. "Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?" "He will brin…

Missions #1: Why go overseas?

When I recorded some insights about missions here, I mentioned that I do not like to set specific rules for missionaries. However, I can share more specifically about some of the factors that affect decisions and about my personal experience. A reader brought up some questions that I will comment on over several posts. Tentative topics are: Reasons for going overseas, Cross-cultural missions and ethnocentrism, Allocation of resources, and Overseas adoption vs. domestic.

I asked the Missions Committee at my U.S. church to comment, and my mom sent me a copy of the Perspectives textbook, which will give me some additional insight. But I’m looking for comments from you readers as well.

So today I will start out with the question...Why go overseas when there are unsaved/needy people all around you?

God's plan

In the case of individuals, I can say “I don’t know.” The Lord works mysteriously, and He certainly could have planned it another way. Starting with Abraham, God's people were al…

Back to life

Resurrection greetings to those of you celebrating today!

Maybe it's a good sign that I wasn't eager to turn my computer on after being away for the weekend. Life seemed fine without it. And now that I've turned it on, it seems that I'm glued to the screen (although my dad said he wished for me to nod off while sitting here and sleep for 10 hours so that I can get caught up).

On the other hand, I missed writing. And life has continued in my absence. So I'm ready to be back.

I want to write a few missionary posts over the next week, as time allows.


I have felt uneasy lately about using the word "plan," especially while reading Proverbs. Who knows what will happen tomorrow?

Nevertheless, here's what I expect to be doing over the next few days, in case I don't have time for a longer post:

Thursday: my dad arrives in St. Petersburg
Friday: lunch with Dad; English lessons
Friday evening through Sunday evening: church retreat intermingled with spending time with Dad in the city

For our church retreat we are once again visiting a small conference center outside of the city. It has become a tradition with us. We'll enjoy being together for a few days, having some lessons about Biblical foundations, discussing church business, and relaxing.

Blessed are the peacemakers

When I'm discouraged from preaching in the orphanages, I think, "that's okay, there has to be some other way to influence the children." I pray for them to be placed in Christian families. I spend time with the orphanage staff, dreaming that the director and eventually the whole orphanage will come to know Jesus.

But maybe it will start with the children.

When I was visiting last week, a fight broke out between two boys after playing a game led by some university psychology students. I was there during the aftermath.

One was in tears, the other indignant. Having witnessed the conflict, Danya looked at me and said, "don't worry." And proceeded to try to make peace between his two groupmates, urging the offender to apologize and the offended to forgive.

I was touched by his example.

The face in the mirror

Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.
–James 1:23, 24 (NIV)
This verse came to shouted at me one morning recently as I finished up my Bible reading. The cares of the world were already infiltrating my thoughts, and I felt as though I had been studying the Word in vain. I had to approach the Lord all over again and ask for forgiveness.

What does it mean to forget what one looks like?

It's absurd. The only time I didn't recognize myself was after I got contacts and looked at myself in the mirror the first time. I had only seen myself in glasses for most of my life. I think one would have to be literally blind to not know oneself.

It's sad. Being uncertain about one's identity can be heart-wrenching.

It's careless. I am not promoting vanity here, but not being familiar with one's appearance may say something about ch…

Marriage (a book review)

I whisked away my roommate's copy of "25 Surprising Marriages"* before she had a chance to read it herself.

It's not a study in "happily ever after," although the couples involved are bound for eternity with Christ. It's a collection of stories about the family lives of 25 famous Christians.

As a woman, I often wonder about the perspective of the wives of famous Christians. As I mentioned when writing about missions, I wonder about the practical details. I don't see any problem with the wife being behind the scenes, yet I wish that someone would shed a little light on the situation. Just how do you "run a school"? It seems like missionaries' wives were always doing it, yet it seems like quite a daunting task. How do you keep house in the jungle? How do you deal with your husband rarely being home because he is out "furthering the Kingdom"? How do you feed and clothe your family when there is no steady salary to depend on?

And t…

Fun with tongue-twisters

Some of them are harder than others, but all of them are fun!

A few samples:

• Tiny Timmy trims the tall tree with tinsel.
• Chilly chipper children cheerfully chant.
• Two trains travel together to Toy land.
• Double bubble gum bubbles double.
• A cup of proper coffee in a copper coffee cup.

How old are you for real?

I forgot a piece of the story. When Emily saw something her brother had written, she noticed that he had put his age as 13, which was older than I expected.

It turns out he is actually 11 (or 12?). In Korea, they count ages differently. Emily said she's 15 in Korea but 13 everywhere else.

It might be easier to remember that they're in 6th and 8th grade, but the problem is that the grades in Russia are different from in the U.S. Kids are generally older when they enter elementary school.

I think someone should invent a calculator to translate ages between different cultures...

More adventures in tutoring

I went to the Korean family again. This time I managed to get through the gate myself, by pressing a silver button. I wondered what the point of the gate was if they let everyone in. Did someone see me on a security camera and decide that I looked trustworthy?

The boy (Min Joon) greeted me again, along with his mother. They were both smiling and showed me down a hallway instead of into the kitchen. I tried not to gape as I saw more of the apartment. Most of the doors were closed, but I caught sight of a big hot-tub as we passed the bathroom.

We entered a newly modeled bedroom, which Min Joon said belonged to his sister. We sat down to have our lesson.

"I write in my diary," Min Joon informed me. I didn't know what to say. "Is it for me or for school?" "You," he said. "Can I read it?" "Yeah." "Did you write it yourself?" "Yeah."

He had written an essay about his new tutor. "I have a new tutor her name is Elizabe…

Adventures in tutoring

The company I had been teaching through has lost most of its corporate clients for now. But tutorials are still in demand, and some group lessons may begin soon.

I told the director that I was fairly busy in the evenings, but that if she had something in the morning or afternoon, I would be interested.

I'm not overly excited about tutorials after being trained to teach in a classroom situation, but it's always a good opportunity to build relationships. So when I was offered a tutoring position 3 days a week that didn't interfere with orphanage visits or church activities, I accepted.

Then the director called to give me a little more information. She informed me that it was two people, who would be studying individually. And she gave me the address.

As the first lesson approached, she called me again. "I just wanted to talk to you a little about the students," she said. "Do you know anything about Korean culture?" Ummmm...what? "My roommate's Russia…