Sunday, October 5, 2008

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 orphanage. So I made my way back down to one of the checkpoints. “Where’s Alyona?” I asked. The woman looked at my badge. “Where’s the person that is supposed to escort you?” she asked. “I don’t know, but her name is Alyona,” I said, thinking that they could call her. “And the last name?” “I don’t know, I didn’t know that there was more than one” (this is a HUGE company, so I probably sounded like an idiot). The lady reluctantly let me go out through the turnstile and I handed her badge #1. Downstairs, I handed in badge #2 and left. Later, I got a phone call that I was apparently “missing” and people were looking for me. Oops!

Normally I don’t mind being a “guest” teacher, but I have to admit that I didn’t care that much how the class went. I planned a lesson and did my best, but my heart wasn’t in it. After just one week, I looked forward to seeing my regular students each day, but these others were strangers to me. I didn’t exactly walk out of the room hoping that I had changed their lives.

That got me thinking about the investments that I put into my relationships with different people. Sometimes I put less effort into short-term contact, not wanting to waste energy on something that won’t last. In other circumstances, knowing that the time is short brings about a sense of urgency that allows relationships to deepen quickly. I can think of conferences, missions trips, and even plane rides where I found myself sharing a lot about myself almost immediately.

Long-term relationships can go both ways as well. Maybe I feel content enough in the constancy to share deep feelings. Or maybe I’ve gotten so used to seeing the person that I hardly even say hello. I may think “now I can finally share the gospel” or, the opposite, “It’s too late, if the person wanted to hear the gospel it would have happened by now.”

Some of it depends on the Holy Spirit’s leading. I feel compelled to speak to someone whom I wouldn’t approach in normal circumstances. And some of it depends on my human nature: I’m too shy or tired to speak, or else I’m relaxed and feel talkative.

Certainly it would be a bit strange to calculate the potential investment of each new relationship. But, it doesn’t hurt to always be open to opportunities. A stranger may be in need, or may help you unexpectedly. Or, someone you’ve known for a long time may have a change of heart.

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, (1 Peter 3:15)

I like this one, too: Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. (Hebrews 13:2)


  1. Про ангелов особенно интересно. Приютил человека, а он оказался ангелом...

  2. Did you enjoy working with the more advanced students? I find that I vastly prefer them - though that could partly be because a) when you are on the phone it is more difficult to communicate and b) because I don't know any Korean.

  3. This is very good! Thanks for sharing it on your blog!!

  4. Annie, I like more advanced students because of the communication that happens. I had solid intermediate students this summer as well. It is so different when they get to a level where they can express themselves and make arguments.

    I've given up pretending I don't know Russian, because I hate having a communication barrier! If our communication is limited during class, I like to let them at least explain why they were late (in Russian,or something similar, and I can give them a chance to be understood. A lot of my students are very capable of making themselves understood, they just need to build their confidence.

    I do like all levels, for different reasons. At the more elementary level, you can see daily progress, and it's satisfying that way. You can witness little victories like their first complete sentence.

  5. There is something to be said for desperation, though. When I was in Russia I was able to communicate far better than I thought I could when the chips were down. Our coordinator in Ivanovo was so cute; one day she told the translator not to translate for me. I got into the spirit of this and didn't do too badly at all. But one funny moment, I realized that I was trying to explain something in English to the translator by using Russian.

    Of course I suppose a LOT of Russian is somewhere deep in my subconscious. I knew it once! It is SO frustrating.

    Did you major in Russian in college? Did you go to Russia shortly thereafter? How did you become fluent?

    And - speaking a communication barrier. It is such a weird phenomenon, but when I have a Korean student who is not understanding what I am saying in English - RUSSIAN comes to mind without my even trying! And it is so frustrating that NEITHER language will do!

  6. That didn't come out coherently. I was trying to translate some English writing to the English translator.


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