Right now, I am in a place I call “home.” It is in Russia. I live here. I know some of the bus routes and a few of the landmarks, and I take this place to be my home area, my environs, for this first stage of life out of university.
Right now, I am a teacher. I never sit in class, I choose the topics and plan the lessons and control all the discussions and give and collect and grade homework and wear a tie and write on the whiteboard and almost forget that I was a student, like, five months ago.
Right now, I am working for God. I’m working through a Christian organization for the ultimate purpose of helping students come nearer not only to mastery of English syntax and idiom but to a greater more universal Truth.
So how did this happen to me? How did I, a confused strange disorganized overtalkative American writing-major tall wandersome boy, find himself here now? How am I a teacher and a liver-abroad and a ‘foreign Christian worker’? (We don’t use ‘the m-word.’) And how am I somehow accidentally doing pretty well?
Some short answers, after the basic information. I’m in Saint Petersburg, in a good-sized apartment just north of the city center. I teach conversational English and American culture at Baltic State Technical University and Infinitive Language Schools. I am part of Teach Overseas, which sends believers to teach English in places where help with the world’s dominant language is more welcome than Gospel truth. I came to Teach Overseas through GoCorps.
My story of ending up across the world after college at Azusa Pacific University goes back as far as my pursuit of a Fulbright grant to teach and live abroad, which end I pursued diligently, in full expectation of that being my next step. When that plan collapsed, I was out of ideas, and waited for God to show what He had in mind. Three weeks later, I found a table for GoCorps. Five weeks later, I was committed. One month ago, I landed here in a plane.
Although it’s been a huge transition, the last month has been surprisingly smooth. Often, I just forget to realize how badly out of place I thought I was supposed to feel, because I didn’t have time. I arrived Sunday afternoon, went to school Monday just to meet administrators and see the place, and Tuesday, I took my first trip alone and taught my first lesson. Within a week, I felt confident about traveling to and from my schools and home – it didn’t take long to start calling it home – and running a lesson from the books we use at Infinitive. Things kept getting added: university classes started the next week, and require a lot more work in planning, preparing, managing, administrating, and executing. Even now, my workload is increasing: my first quizzes are coming up, I’m constructing longer-term plans, and I’m adding teaching hours to my schedule, still. But I haven’t sunk yet. And don’t plan to.
Amid the process of becoming a competent teacher, I find time to remember there is a greater purpose to my being here, primarily through building relationships with students. Although I have met and talked informally to some outside of class, meaningful relationships take time to grow, and not much can be seen now: after three weeks, I still don’t know everyone’s name. Maybe more chances will arise. I would like at some point to form a vehicle for interacting with students outside class – an “English Club” or some sort has been talked about between myself and teammates.
Teammates are good things. I live with one, who has been here for one year already. Three girls live in a small city outside St. Pete, one of whom teaches at the same schools I do, and a Teach Overseas administrator who helps us all with many many things. We’re all in this together, which is great, since I don’t have many others to rely on.
I don’t know what’s next for these two years here. I don’t even know what I’m going to teach Monday. But I do know I am here for a purpose, and that God has plans for me to do work in this city, this half of the world, this person or that one. In teaching students, buying food, navigating public transit, picking up more Russian words, coming alongside teammates, and every part of living here, may God be glorified and His Kingdom furthered through me.