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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Amazing Belarus – 2013 (Part 2)

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

After taking a riding tour of Minsk, Belarus, we arrived at the seminary, unloaded our suitcases, and began to “settle” in our rooms.  I shared a room with three other ladies.  Since I have trouble sleeping with ANY light in the room, I picked a bottom bunk away from the windows.  Little did I know how God was already working to insure that I would be totally dependent upon Him to supply all my needs.  I’m a “planner” and I tried to plan for everything on this trip.  However, the good Lord knew my needs better than I did.

I know some of these things will seem minor and so “picky,”  however, these things can some times develop into real problems for me.  I cannot sleep where there is any light or noise in the room.  There were no curtains on the windows, and light definitely came in at night.  However, the area where my bunk was seemed to be quite dark.  My roommates did not snore, or at least I didn’t hear them if they did.  I have a lot of allergies and have to sleep propped up every night.  I wasn’t able to bring my usual collection of pillows to prop myself up, so I was somewhat concerned.  All of these things concerned me because without adequate sleep and rest I knew I wouldn’t be able to function well and remain healthy throughout the week’s hectic schedule.  As I enlisted family and friends to be prayer warriors and pray for me as I made this journey, one of my main requests was for my allergies and to be able to sleep well each night (along with remaining healthy throughout the week).  There is no doubt that God provided for adequate darkness and a quiet atmosphere to help me sleep.  I did bring one pillow with me and used it with the pillow provided by the seminary along with a special roll pillow to prop myself up.  God provided for that need in a most unique way, too.  There was a strategically placed board on the end of the bed that I was able to use with my pillows to help prop me up!  I was adequately propped up and slept quite well each night.

We spent all day Saturday interviewing students in order to place them in the correct level class.  It was an exhausting day but quite rewarding.  It was very interesting to meet so many people from this country in such a short time.

Sunday we attended a local Christian church and had translators behind us translating everything the preacher said.  We also spent a few hours shopping.  This would be our only opportunity to purchase any souvenirs.  I bought a beautiful linen table runner for my dining room table.  Our missionary contacts knew a local craftsman who carved traditional wooden boxes.  I bought several of these amazing boxes to give as gifts to family and friends.  We also ate lunch at a cafeteria-type restaurant which had SO many different and new (at least to us!) foods, and it was absolutely delicious.

Here is the table runner on my dining room table.

Here is the table runner on my dining room table.

The ends of the runner are beautiful.

The ends of the runner are beautiful.

Look at the fine details!

Look at the fine details!

I purchased these wooden boxes from a local craftsman.

I purchased these wooden boxes from a local craftsman.

I think the large one will be mine.  :)

I think the large one will be mine. 🙂

Look at the intricate details!

Look at the intricate details!

The small ones are quite pretty, too.

The small ones are quite pretty, too.

Sunday evening we worked on grouping the students and setting up our classrooms.  Students’ ages ranged from 16 and 17 year olds to a few in their 50’s, 60’s, and 70‘s.  I’d say the average age of the students was between 22 – 35 years old.  I was to teach one of the Advanced classes.  I was excited about that!  After getting my classroom ready, looking over the curriculum, and studying my lesson plans for the first day, it was very late, but we were all excited about meeting our students the next day for the first time!

Here are some pictures of the church, seminary and surrounding area.  All classes and group meetings, along with all our meals Monday through Friday, took place in this one location.

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Here I am with Susan Hill standing out in the freezing cold just outside of the seminary.

Here I am with Susan Hill standing out in the freezing cold just outside of the seminary.

View outside my classroom window.

View outside my classroom window.

This is a picture of the seminary's/church's business card.  If you are in Minsk and are interested in the free English courses, you can contact them.

This is a picture of the seminary’s/church’s business card. If you are in Minsk and are interested in the free English courses, you can contact them.

COMING SOON:  Part 3 of my Belarus trip!  I hope you’ll join me.

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