After a very restful Christmas vacation, I am now back in Kyiv and caught up in the mechanics of another semester’s beginning. I have been back for over a week now, and though many things on the agenda for this semester have begun, it will be another couple of weeks before they settle into routine.
One exciting thing for me is that I’ve begun teaching the first university class of which I am sole instructor. The class is called University Study Skills and is the same course with which I assisted Chris last semester, but this time I got to design the syllabus. I spent hours poring over anthologies and composition textbooks deciding what the class should read and write about. Rather than having one text to read as the class did last semester, this class will read short stories, essays, and magazine and newspaper articles designed to help them become better critical readers and effective writers in English. I’ve found that I really enjoy teaching, and I look forward to this opportunity to fine-tune the things I have learned about it so far.
Readers from the two LST follow-up projects that ended in December have been incorporated into two other groups that are now considered outreaches of Nivki Church.
One group is a weekly class studying the gospel of John. I have been blessed already in this endeavor by the fact that three of the small group leaders from the Lewis discussion—Lena, Anya, and Oleg—have agreed to help with this class, also. These second-year ICU students are quite a blessing to the readers as well with their compassion, gentle spirits, and outstanding interpreting skills. Seven readers were present at the class, including two middle-aged professionals whom I would consider skeptical of Christianity, yet interested in spite of themselves. It was very pleasant to begin a class in an informal setting with people who already know each other, at least casually, from their associations with other follow-up projects; I even tested a banana cake recipe on them. I realized once again how much I enjoy teaching and found that all my Lipscomb Bible classes had come in handy for explaining background, and even for developing a methodology of how to teach the book. I plan to meet individually with as many of the readers as possible to find out what questions they have that they may not feel comfortable sharing in a group. Please pray for this class, specifically for the relationships that continue to develop and for my lesson preparation.
Though they have not met for the first time yet, I am anxious to see the smiling faces of the Nivki Church group composed mostly of LST readers that Grady Bryan will lead. Grady is planning to follow a study plan introduced by John 4, the story of the Samaritan woman, and examine the successive ways of understanding Jesus’s identity: as man, as prophet, and finally as Messiah. I plan to be present at most of the meetings, but my primary function in the group will be as food coordinator, since we want to begin by giving group members the chance to serve each other by preparing parts of the weekly meal. The first meeting is scheduled for next week. Please continue to pray for this group and pray that, through relationships formed here, people will find their places in the community body of Christ.
Incidentally, I had an adventure at another of Grady’s outreaches that began this week. Grady has begun a Bible study on Friday nights, to which the entire church is invited. I assumed, apparently fallaciously, that since Grady preaches in English with an interpreter, he would conduct the class the same way. I was rather shocked when he began the class by announcing in Russian: “I’m going to speak Russian, but if anyone doesn’t understand it, let me know and I’ll speak English.” Unfortunately for me but fortunately for all the native Russian speakers present, Grady’s language skills were good enough that he went through the entire meeting with only occasional help with vocabulary. I grimaced when he made the announcement and prepared myself for an hour of dark incomprehension, but I was pleased—and a little surprised—to realize that I understood most of what he was saying.
Yet another outreach project, this one with ICU students, will begin from scratch this semester. During free times in the university schedule, Chris and I will each lead a “Chat Room” group of 10-12 students to read together Lewis’s Mere Christianity and perhaps selections from his other writings. We will also give students the opportunity to ask questions about issues that arise in their Bible classes and whatever else may be on their minds. The goal of these groups is to nourish developing faith and to provide a pathway that will usher students who are already nominal believers in Jesus Christ into the faith community of Nivki Church. Please pray for Chris and me as we develop topics for the group, and also pray that God will lead students who will be served by this outreach to participate.
Please also begin praying that God will call another person to the internship position that I will be leaving in May.
I regret that I did not have the opportunity to see all of you over Christmas, but I am very grateful for the time I spent with those of you I did see. May God bless all of you with joy and peace this month!