Friday, April 20, 2012

Two Sundays ago, my phone rang in the middle of Bible class. I quickly grabbed my purse and dashed out of the zal, trying to figure out who would be calling me since pretty much everyone I speak to on the phone on a regular basis were sitting in the zal I had just vacated.

When I looked at the caller ID I discovered it was a woman I met when I was doing presentations at the American Corners. I had walked with her a bit and even had a semi-spiritual conversation with her so I was quite pleased to see her name come up.

"Allo?" I answered.
"Abigail? I'm calling to find out where exactly on the 6th line your church building is."
"Ah! It is yellow building. There is written "Church of Christ on Neva." Door at back."
"Do you enter from the courtyard?"
This confused me because we don't have a courtyard like some buildings do.
"Entrance at back."
"So you enter from the courtyard?"
"Yes. Third floor"

A few minutes later I saw her coming and was waiting for her when she came up the stairs. We greeted each other.

"I'm sorry, we change time of starting. Now is 11 not 12."

That didn't seem to bother her. In fact as we began to chat, I became infinitely disappointed that she had not actually come for church, but instead to track me down. She told me that she wanted to work on her English more and asked about an English group. I explained about the group we have on Thursdays at noon.
"That's no good" she said. "I work on Thursdays."
"I do individual study"
"When is convenient for you?"

I then invited her to come to Bible class. She agreed but "only for a few minutes."

We went into the zal and sat in the back where she proceeded with a deluge of questions. I did my best to answer them. They included things about what kind of church this was, who these people were, why were they gathered. She wanted to know if there were other Americans and I pointed out Joel. She then wanted to know if he had Russian citizenship. My favorite question by far though was
"Why bother coming together when you can just read the chapters at home?"
"Well, that is point. We read chapter at home then discuss here because many peoples have ideas and it help to discuss them."

After maybe ten or fifteen minutes in Bible class, she said she needed to go and we made an exit from the zal. She then asked a few more questions about the building and so I took her on a tour, explained about the institute, the kitchen and so on. Even though I knew she was big into English I still was hoping she would come for some of the events we have here.

"We have study of Bible on Monday" I told her.
"Is it in English?"
"No, Russian. We also have discussion group Fridays"
"Is it in English?"
"Why is everything here in Russian."
Mentally I was like "Seriously?" However, I handled myself well.
"Because most peoples in church are Russian. So we are speaking Russian Language."

We chatted for another couple of minutes and then she headed out.

Monday night, Oleg and I were talking about people being interested in English before Bible study. I told him this story and expressed my thoughts on her questions. He then explained to me that some people associate missionaries at churches only with English. He then told me a story about how he was preaching at a church in the 90s and a man stopped him and asked who he was. Oleg repeated his name. The man said "No, I mean are you the interpreter or what?" When Oleg explained that no, he was the preacher the man was astonished. I guess the church had been around for five or six years and in that time, the man had never heard a sermon that wasn't being translated from English.

He also told me about a man who preaches at a Baptist church. His sermons are translated into English for the foreigners in the audience. Yet there are still people who think the translation is going the other way.

It's just kind of interesting. It's an issue you don't see in American churches. I think it also says something about how important it is that there are training programs and such for the leaders of Russian churches. 

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