Another week has gone by and we are in full gear! This past week Hilary, Allie, and I have readjusted to a busy schedule here in Tomsk. We started our English classes on Tuesday and Thursday nights. We have learned that instead of formally teaching English, it is better to play games and have discussion. In this way, the Russian people still learn English, and we can become friends as well. In Russia, there is usually a strong distance between the teacher and the student. We have been making some new friends since being back. We met a couple last weekend at English club on Saturday nights. We invited them to dinner and had Taco soup. We ended up having a GREAT time! They agreed to come over on Monday nights to teach us Russian for a couple hours. We are excited for our first Russian lesson with our new friends Kate and Ivan tomorrow. It has been somewhat difficult getting back into speaking Russian, after traveling to England. I so enjoyed the English accents!! But we are still having our weekly Russian lessons, and hope to get back on track with our Russian speaking skills.
This Friday we had discussion group at our apartment with Emil. We help Emil and Jenny, a Christian couple, with English Club on Saturday nights. Last Saturday we spoke about culture shock, our trip to England, and we played games. At the end of club, we handed out “question slips”. Everyone was asked to right a question they would be interested in having a discussion about. From those questions, we have now formed a discussion group in our apartment on Friday nights. This past Friday we discussed how English has become the international language and how it helps mankind answer universal questions. We also discussed differences between Russian culture and American culture. It was funny, because many of the Russians wanted to know what we would bring from America to Russia if we could. Hilary, Allie, and I all agreed that one thing we would love to bring is SMILES. All the Russians thought it was really funny. Russians smile if they have a reason to smile and our dear friends at English club are the nicest people. But out and about on the streets people do not smile at you. The store clerks barely acknowledge you, which has taken some time to get use to. But we have been told that in many places up in Northern Tomsk, if you smile and laugh on the streets, you run the chance of getting beat up. In the poorer communities you will be heavily questioned for why you are happy. You might be asked “Why are you happy? What is there to be happy about?”. The discussion was very vibrant and I enjoyed the laughter. This next Friday we will be discussing the meaning of life and some very heavy topics. I was really encouraged by the people that showed up to discussion group. There were fourteen Russians in total. Most of them were from Kazakhstan. I am praying that these discussion groups will help us build meaningful friendships and that it will open people's hearts to Christ.
Today, we celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving at Evangel Church! It was a big harvest celebration. The whole church was decorated with autumn colors and everyone had brought a TON of food for a HUGE FEAST! There was singing, poetry, games, and a sermon from our dear friend, Peter. He talked about sharing our harvest with other people. God has given us many things, but we need to share it with others. There was also a couple who did the most precious skit ever!! She was a happy tree and he was a sad tree that hated everything. She kept saying, “Ya le-blue 'this'”! Which means I love...! She had green leaves and his leaves were brown. She encouraged him to try and love the sun, rain, and life. She shared her happiness with him and he ended up becoming a green tree also, full of joy and thankfulness!!
We also gave a presentation on the history of Thanksgiving and how it is celebrated in America. We ended up spending almost the whole day at church! God has been showing me how much I truly have to be thankful for! I am encouraged by the hearts of God's people around me. I'm grateful for God's pleasure in Christ and how I can truly rest in His promises. I do what is right and obey the Lord, not to seek favor with Him, but because He is worthy and has declared me righteous through Christ. No matter what situation I am in, no matter how lonely I feel in Siberia, God is still good! He never changes and He is always with me. His love for me astounds me and all I can say is THANK YOU!
We will be starting our full week tomorrow of classes and social activities. We are having a movie night this Friday at church (Watching “The Ultimate Gift”) and we are holding a discussion group that same night in our apartment. Please pray for Hilary, Allie, and I to have strength and for the young Russian people to see Christ in us. I'm praying for an open heart for what God can do. Thank you all for your prayers and love. (: Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!
P.S. It has been snowing! A lot here! SNOW! (: I'm excited for ice skating, sledding, snowball fighting, Snowman making, and Christmas movies with our Russian friends! Do you wanna build a snowman!? YESSSS!!! Lets go!