Amazing Belarus – 2013 (Part 3)

[To read about the beginning of my trip to Belarus see Amazing Belarus – 2013 (Part 1) by clicking here.]

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Part 3: Final post about Belarus

It was FINALLY here – Monday – our first day of classes! Each of us would teach four two-hour classes each day. Our schedule was pretty hectic. Breakfast was at 8:00 a.m. followed by a staff meeting at 8:30. We had a short devotional and prayer time at the end of every staff meeting. Last minute class preparations could be made at 9:00 or 9:15 depending on how long staff meetings lasted (I avoided this as much as I could!).

Morning staff meetings at breakfast.

Morning staff meetings at breakfast.

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Our first class session started at 9:30 a.m. and concluded at 11:30. Then we had a short break (to revise lesson plans if things didn’t work out as planned) and lunch. Session 2 started at 1:30 and ended at 3:30 followed by another break which included an early supper. Our last two sessions were back-to-back. Session 3 was from 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. followed by Session 4 from 7:15 – 9:15 p.m. (or was it 7:30 – 9:30? How quickly I forget things now! Lol!). Most evenings the last session was followed by a short staff meeting before bed time.

Each session started in the worship center with a 15 minute time of singing songs and fun activities such as guessing which baby picture was which teacher or trying to guess some little-known fact about one of the teachers. The students guessed very few of the questions correctly, but learning more about each other was a lot of fun for all of us. After the opening we would take our students to our classrooms and teach English for about an hour and a half. We didn’t teach English grammar, sentence structure, or rules. We taught conversational English – how we would say certain words and phrases in the United States. In the Advanced classes I would present a situation or scenario, vocabulary, and American phrases or idioms. Then the students would get in pairs or groups and discuss or role play the situation using the vocabulary, phrases, and idioms. I would listen to them speaking and correct them when they didn’t say something correctly or like we say it in the United States. Watching and listening to my students and how they would work out a problem (or whatever the scenario was) was quite fascinating to me. After the hour and a half class, we would return to the worship center for a 15 minute closing which was similar to the opening. We followed this routine each day, Monday through Friday.

Thursday was the day that we would share our “stories” with the students. In the opening time before each class session, our pastor shared his story (testimony). He told how each of the teachers also had a story, and if students wanted to know their teacher’s story, all they had to do was to ask us when they got to class. We are not allowed to say “Jesus” in Belarus unless we have been “approved” with a special “preacher’s” visa. Therefore, all of us would be using the words “my friend” every time we would normally say “Jesus.” I was very nervous about this part of the trip because I haven’t shared my testimony very many times. I knew God would give me the words when the time came, and He certainly did.

Friday our pastor shared the gospel during the opening 15 minutes and told of Jesus’ love for all people. Friday’s classes were very special. Never, in my wildest imagination, did I ever think I could get so “close” with a group of people in such a short five-day time period. I had planned to give all my students a very small gift on Friday. It wasn’t anything special but God gave me a message to go along with the small gift. I gave each student a heart-shaped SweetTart sucker. I told them that this sucker represented a couple of things. The heart shape represented the love of my “friend” for me and for each of them and the love I had for each of them through my friend. I explained that this kind of candy has a sweet taste but also a tart, or sour, taste. I explained that the sour part of the candy represented the trials and hard times that we all go through during our lifetimes, but the sweet part represents the love, comfort, and peace that my “friend” will give them during those trials and hard times. They all smiled as I explained this, and I think they understood quite well. Friday was also the day that the students received their certificate for completing the class. We took a lot of pictures to remember our time together.

Here are just a few of the pictures.

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Our pastor and leader for the week with some of my students.

Our pastor and leader for the week with some of my students.

The teachers for the week.

The teachers for the week.

Here are some statistics from the week: We interviewed 935 students and placed 789 in classes. On Friday morning we had 641 students in attendance to hear the gospel (some students would have to miss a class occasionally because of work). Of those students attending on Friday, 437 marked on their sheets that they would be interested in more information about Jesus, and 302 marked that they had asked Jesus into their life. PRAISE THE LORD!!

Each of my classes had gotten together without me knowing it and purchased gifts for me. Belarus is known for their chocolates and I received several boxes of chocolates which were very delicious. I ate some before I left Belarus, of course, as well as on the way home! I shared the rest of my chocolates with everybody when I got home. I also received a straw doll in traditional Belarussian dress, a woven straw basket, a beautifully carved wooden box filled with small candies, a traditional Belarussian Domovoi doll (Domovoi is a home’s “guardian” that takes care of your family and home), and a very special book about Belarus. Here are a few pictures of the gifts I received.

Straw doll representing traditional Belarus.

Straw doll representing traditional Belarus.

Domovoi - seen as the home's guardian to take care of your family and home.

Domovoi – seen as the home’s guardian to take care of your family and home.

A beautifully woven straw basket,

A beautifully woven straw basket.

Look at the woven details!

Look at the woven details!

I have these two together on my living room shelf.  Don't they look good together?

I have these two together on my living room shelf. Don’t they look good together?

The book about Belarus.  It has beautiful pictures, but I can't read a word in it. :)  Maybe some day I'll be able to read a few words.

The book about Belarus. It has beautiful pictures, but I can’t read a word in it. 🙂 Maybe some day I’ll be able to read a few words.

This is a gorgeous carved wooden box.  The picture doesn't do it justice.  You can't begin to see all the fine details!

This is a gorgeous carved wooden box. The picture doesn’t do it justice. You can’t begin to see all the fine details!

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The inside of the box.  I am keeping all my little "keepsakes" from Belarus in this box.

The inside of the box. I am keeping all my little “keepsakes” from Belarus in this box.

These gifts from my students in Belarus mean a lot to me, but I will always cherish the new friends I have made the most. I hope to be able to go back to Belarus next year, and maybe I’ll get to see some of my new friends again, as well as make some additional Belarussian friends!

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. thymelesssageandrandomrants
    Mar 06, 2013 @ 00:18:12

    What a great experience and mission. I loved the gift you chose for them.

    Reply

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