Thursday, June 14, 2012

Another Day as a Russian Missionary

I haven't done this in a while so I thought you'd be interested. This is actually what a more "typical" day looks like for me.

11:45am: Arrive at the church building and get ready for my first English student.

12:00pm: Study with my first English student, a 14 year old girl who is here because her mother wants her to practice English while she's off school. Yeah, that makes for interesting times. It's a lot easier to study with people when they want to be here.

1:00pm: Alternately make noodles for lunch/eat them while calling my mom because I had news to share with her.

2:00pm: Another English student arrives. An older retired woman. She's very excited about English and though we are reading Luke, she enjoys talking about her life, travels and asking me questions. While she likes to talk, I'm not sure how interested in the Bible she is other than culturally.

3:00pm: My last student for the day arrives. A young businessman who has really good comprehension. This is my second meeting with him and we've started studying John. He tells me that it's interesting so far and he thinks everyone should read the Bible. I tell him that Christianity isn't just about going to church but about having a relationship with God.

4:00pm: I lay out clothes that people have donated to the church's "Second Hand" so that people can come look through them and take what they want.

5:00pm: I take care of some secretarial things. Writing blog entries, emails, Facebook communications

7:00pm: Choir rehearsal. This is the last rehearsal before our recording session on Saturday. We're making a CD to use for evangelism purposes. Once we're done with the recording, our summer break starts!

9:00pm: Head to McDonald's because I only had a quick lunch, no dinner and I'm starving!

10:00pm: Arrive home where I read, hang out, talk to friends in the states and relax.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Those Random Spiritual Gifts

You know which ones I'm talking about. Or that moment when you're like "That's my spiritual gift?!" Let me just say, God definitely does have a sense of humor.

If you told me a year or a year and a half ago that I had a spiritual gift for children I would've laughed at you. A lot. Because honestly, I couldn't see it. I'm still not sure I can. Maybe it's not exactly a spiritual gift, but it's something.

The reason I laugh about it is because children hate strongly dislike me. The feeling is sometimes mutual. I've never been one of those young women who children just flock to. Let me tell you, those are the women with the true spiritual gift for children. The ones who are just born to be motherly and have like six kids. The ones who know exactly what a child needs the minute it opens its mouth to cry. You know what I mean. There's at least one in every congregation. So if you know me, you know it's not me. Children and I avoid share an aloofness of each other. This partly stems from several experiences during my teenage years when I tried to be one of those girls who played with kids. It went something like this:

Me: Hey! Come give me a hug!
Kid: NO! *runs screaming in the other direction*

So I decided it was best for all involved if I just stopped trying. In addition, because I do not seem to possess this innate automatic sense of motherliness that so many women my age instinctively have, children terrify me cause me anxiety. The words "Will you hold the baby?" or "Will you watch him for a second?" strike fear into the depths of my heart. Because I just know I'm going to do something terrible to little Johnny or Susie somehow in the five minutes that mommy is gone. Okay, so I haven't dropped anyone on their head yet, but it's still an anxiety.

This is the relationship children and I have: They do not know I exist and I tend to watch them from afar. It works pretty well. And back home that was all I needed. Yeah, I helped Mom in the nursery class but outside of that there were plenty of other girls ready and willing to step in and partake of the childcare. Then I came to Russia. Suddenly, here I am, the one with free time and I become a baby sitter. "Can you watch Varya while I'm at driving school?" "Will you hold Ilya while I put this food in the oven?" And suddenly it's like my superpowers manifest themselves. I must've had a radioactive pacifier as a kid or something...

Because here we have the girl who doesn't do kids suddenly doing kids. And it's really strange. A crying baby put into my arms will stop. Like it's uncanny. Once children who pay no attention to me realize I exist, I'm like the coolest thing ever. I actually don't understand it. Both Sasha and Zhenya tell me that their children love "Totya Abigail" and after playing with Joel and Yana's kids during the marriage group after church yesterday I think I've become their daughter's new best friend.

I guess what puzzles me the most about this curse gift is that I don't understand why it happens. It's not like the more time I spend with kids the less anxiety they give me. I mean, it gets easier and I'm more comfortable once I get to know a kid or baby, but then every time I have to interact with kids who I've never interacted with before, the anxiety starts up all over again. It's almost like being back in school. "I don't know how to act. What if they don't like me? What if I can't connect with them? What if I do a terrible job?" I mean, I understand that kids are pretty flexible but still, it all comes out.

I'm still trying to get used to this gift, or whatever it is. Honestly, I'm not sure what exactly I'm supposed to do with it. I thought about getting myself some tights, a cape and a utility belt filled with bottles and pacifiers, but I'm not sure how well that would go over in reality...