A Russian Winter

The Happenings of a Missionary Teacher

Happy New Year!

Who else is wondering where January went?? I expected December to fly by… But January too?? Craziness.

I was not planning on going home for Christmas, but some friends offered to pay for my plane ticket; extremely grateful to them and for the opportunity. (I mean seriously, how humbling is that??) My connection flights and such were fairly smooth; thank you all for your prayers! It was so nice to be back in the States to see my family for a few short weeks. I always say my family makes me laugh more than anyone else I know, and it's true. Family is my favorite. I also loved seeing friends and being back at my home church. It was definitely a refreshing few weeks! (I also was reunited with my beloved Taco Bell. Baja Blast Freeze, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.)

I didn’t choose the teacher life, the teacher life chose me.

Frankly, “teacher life” has been rather mundane lately. I've been getting back into the rhythm of school. As a first-year teacher, I am feeling quite overwhelmed with lesson planning, grading, language barriers in the classroom, the list goes on. Amidst these factors that have me overwhelmed, stressed, and discouraged, I need to be reminded of Truth and of the real reason I’m here - there is a bigger picture - an eternal perspective - that I need to stay focused on. Please pray for me in this way!

As you are aware, I meet with Nayeon (one of my 7th-grade girls) after school every Wednesday to talk about life and the Bible. Nayeon's best friend, Jina (another one of my 7th-grade girls), recently became a Christian! Jina is joining Nayeon and I on Wednesdays, and I am so excited for how God is working in their lives.

Please pray for both of these girls, as well as for my other students - specifically those who are not Christians; pray that the Spirit would grab ahold of them and that I would know how to be there for them. I have already seen God transform hearts this year, and I am confident that He will continue to do so in this school. I feel so honored to be a small part of what God is doing at International Academy.

I just finished The Giver with my 7th-graders, and we all got super into it. Within the unit, I emphasized how eerily similar our modern world is to the community described in the book. For example, we read nonfiction articles about abortion and child euthanasia; my kids were shocked to realize that the problems in the book are very much threaded into our own communities. In fact, one of my students commented, "I think everybody in the world should have to read this book! People need to know that these things happen in real life, and that they are bad!"

Whenever I finish a novel with a class, we plan a movie day after school, and the kids bring snacks, drinks, pillows, blankets, etc. On our movie day, all my 7th-graders plan to dress in very similar outfits so as to mimic the community described in the book. These are the moments that make my teacher heart melt into mush.

A little while ago, my 8th-graders wrote and illustrated their very own children's books that revolved around the theme of being different. They then read them to the 2nd-graders, which they were very nervous about! I'm so proud of the work they put out, and the little kids loved hearing these stories from students they look up to.

A Russian Winter

Besides teaching, it seems that one of my main focuses is adjusting to winter in the city. (By "adjusting," I mean improving my ability to catch myself when I'm slipping on black ice.) Sometimes I think Bear Grylls should've considered “Winter in St. Petersburg” as a location to shoot an episode of “Man Vs. Wild.” I joke, but at the same time I'm completely serious; city life during the winter months is intense! BUT equally beautiful.

This winter has hit this city hard for other reasons besides the usual snow. Remember H1N1? The flu pandemic from 2009-2010? It's back in Eastern Europe, and many in St. Petersburg alone have already died. It's not uncommon to see people wearing masks in the metro and many schools have shut down in an attempt to prevent the flu from spreading. In fact, International Academy was closed almost all last week because about 35% of our students and teachers were sick. Please pray for this city and its people! Here's an article that does a better job of explaining the recent outbreak.

An urgent prayer request

Our school’s chaplain, Shaye, was denied entrance back into Russia following a brief visit to Finland back in December. His family was allowed in, but Shaye has been stuck in Finland for almost two months. The local media has publicly stated that Shaye is an American spy working for the FBI whose mission is to turn Russia into Ukraine (it sounds silly, but they really think that’s about the worst thing that could possibly happen to Russia). No one anticipated that his situation was so serious! Shaye came to Russia on a religious visa and he formerly served in the military; many think these factors have driven the accusations. Regardless, Shaye and his family need prayer. Besides being the school chaplain, he also pastors a church here; he was not planning on leaving Russia anytime soon, so this is a very stressful time for the whole family.

Due to these circumstances, Shaye is no longer the chaplain of our school. The school, in their discretion, thought it best to distance itself from Shaye; we didn’t want to give the media a reason to target International Academy as well. Please pray for this whole situation and for Shaye and his family; this has already turned out much worse than expected, so nobody really knows what might happen next.