Thursday, January 20, 2011

Careful what you wish for...

Sometime last fall, I had an idea. 

Each month, as you may know, I teach English at one of our churches in Obolon and have a Ukrainian lady named Svetlana helping me.  Last spring when I began helping with these lessons, I planned and prepared the lessons on my own, with Svetlana unaware of what my plan was. 

While riding in the van with Bob and Colleen (some of our Nazarene missionaries here) after a soccer game in October, I mentioned to Colleen an idea/thought I'd had.  "I want to get together with Svetlana at least once between our English lessons, not necessarily to plan, but to get to know her.  She's interested in improving her English, and I want to practice Russian, so we can work on those together."

A few moments later, Bob was on his phone with a Natasha, speaking Russian.  I had no idea which Natasha he had called, so I didn't pay attention--then I heard my name mentioned.  Turns out he had called the pastor's wife from Obolon to get Svetlana's phone number for me!

Because he had made this phone call and spoken my idea to others, this idea came closer to reality--and now Svetlana and I meet together to plan our lessons and talk with each other.  One of my quotes on my other blog says the following:  "Once things and thoughts are expressed and described they acquire a new reality, as though by giving them words we give them part of ourselves. After that, they will not allow us to leave them behind" (Under a Cruel Star, page 42).  

On the Sunday after Ukrainian Christmas, I had another idea.

At this point in my Russian language learning, I can sound out and read most words.  Comprehension is another matter, and also sounding close to fluent, especially with the sounds /kh/ and /sh/ and /ch/ and /shch/ in one word.  I've memorized the fruits of the Spirit in Russian--I haven't even done that in my second language (Spanish).  I can follow along with the 4 lectionary readings every Sunday at church, since I know generally what the passage says in English.  Last spring, I introduced myself and my dad and stepmom in front of the church in Vapnyarka (half the group were Americans).

During one of the basketball games last weekend, I turned to Bob and reminded him of what he had done last fall.  "I've had another idea, Bob, but I know when I mention it to you, you will talk to the necessary people and make it happen."  He asked me what it was, and I told him. 

"I can sound out Russian words.  Even if I don't sound fluent or somewhat fluent at the first try, I can practice until I sound better.  Perhaps one Sunday I could read Scripture in front of the church, if I had 6 days' head start to practice reading the passage and pronouncing the words correctly."

Last night when I arrived at church for a meeting to discuss Children's Quizzing, Pastor Vova asked, "Do you want to read at church on Sunday?"  Hmm....I wonder who talked to him?!  He showed me the four passages, and I considered reading 1 Corinthians 1:1-9, but there were way too many ridiculously long words that I didn't understand.  That was the shortest passage.  I chose John 1:29-42 because it had more dialogue and action (verbs).

This means that on Sunday morning, I will be reading John 1:29-42 in front of at least 60 people who are native Russian speakers (plus a few Americans who may or may not understand what I'm reading).  

I've printed the passage so I can mark where to split words into syllables and remind myself of pronunciation, and so that I can readily practice with friends over the next 3 days (half as much time as I would've liked).  


So maybe the title of this post should be "Careful what you wish for...and who hears your idea...because they might just make it happen"!


  1. The Americans may not understand what you say, but they know that they are in another country and (should) expect to hear things in other languages. The native speakers know that you are not a native, and (most of them) will give you credit for trying. In other words, the bulk of the "performance pressure" that you feel is coming from within yourself: you want to "do it well". This is good, but don't let it overshadow the personal connection that you will be making with the people, or the message of what you will be reading. Now stop blogging and get back to studying! :-)

  2. You're in Ukraine? That's so fun! I spent the summer in the Middle East, and my summer parents met while they were serving in Ukraine. :)