Last week we were invited to the birthday party of Natasha. She works in the church and is also Tanya and Oksana's mom. The party was amazing. So much wonderful food, and I found a new favorite dish; I am just not sure what it was. I have officially tasted sala now. It was wrapped in beef. I thought it was good.
Right after church we had a little surprise party for Anna. Her birthday was November 14, but since she was gone we all missed it. Last Sunday we invited the church members to join us right after the service for a party. It was totally a surprise for her, but I have decided I don't enjoy being sneaky.
Before people give a gift in Ukraine they say something to the person they are giving the gift to. Roma, who is just 3, gave his grandmother (Natasha) her gift and his mom and dad told him to say something before presenting the gift. There were 12 people at the party and six of us were American. At first Roma was hesitant to speak and then he said, "Who is going to translate for me?" I guess he was trying to decide what language he should speak in.
I am having all sorts of silly language victories. I am so excited when I understand something or when I am able to say something to someone and be understood. It is very fun in class to be able to ask the kids questions in Russian. I am doing really well with shopping. The other day I was able to buy soda and ask for cups and complete my whole transaction being understood and understanding everything. This is amazing and huge!
I was helping with games at youth group this afternoon. I arrived early, so I got out my homework and asked a little girl named Tanya to help me read. I really just need to work on pronunciation, so we read my assignment together about four times. She is pretty shy, so this is the most she and I have ever talked. I think she enjoyed playing the teacher. I was so excited about my practice and was telling Tanya on the way to her mom's party how much I had practiced and that I would have "perfect pronunciation" for my lesson tomorrow. Well, that is what I was trying to say, unfortunately, I had to try three times before I could say "perfect pronunciation" in English. Ernie teased that after I learn Russian, Tanya can help me learn English.
I am confident God is using me. In some ways I think I am viewed as a novelty. I am different and so, maybe a little interesting. Most of the kids learn some English in school, so often when we play together they will try to use a little English. Many times I have been playing a game and struggling to speak in broken Russian to make a new friend and halfway through the game my opponent will start counting in English. When pressed a little, they will usually share other words they know. It is fun for me and I think they like the attention and praise.
The other day I approached a group of younger kids who were trying to play Monopoly. I thought they were having trouble reading the cards so I went over to help. The game was actually in Russian, so I wasn't able to help read but I was able to help with the rules. Mostly, they just wanted to play with the money, so the game didn't last very long. As the game broke up a little girl asked me to play Trouble with her. We played two games and then a boy about 12 started trying to talk to me in English. As we struggled, we grabbed a piece of paper (he can write English better than he can speak it), and I, well, I write just about as well as I speak.
It was a bit of a scary conversation and before I knew it I was talking to four other boys also in their early teens. They were telling me about a British black metal band that honestly sounds evil. I just kept thinking, "Lord, this isn't good. What am I supposed to do?" Then Sasha, who had been playing ping pong in the next room, came in. I called him over and explained what we were talking about and he talked to the boys for a while about the music and other things. Then, the boys and I continued to talk for a little while about other things. As I was walking home today that same group of boys was sitting at a picnic table. When I walked past they said, "Hi!" to me in English and I said "Hi!" back.
Please continue to pray for the kids who come to the youth center. Pray that this special place will be a light to the lost and the kids that come will see an alternative to the world around them.