Have a peek at these fresh-faced 12-year-old girls from the Pension School #84 in Samara, Russia. Any visitor to a school here is an object of curiosity, to be sure. But not every student will have the “guts” to step up and try out her beginning English on a native speaker. A few of these girls, however, took the plunge. The others smiled and giggled along side. They were happy to pose for this picture with me.
A while later, I enjoyed a lively hour of questions and answers with a class of 7th graders in this same school. Alla teaches the CrossRoads curriculum in the class once a week. Their regular teacher, Elena Nicolaievna, was voted the best teacher in all of Samara last year (no pressure, eh?). But I was able to entice the kids to speak by awarding them with pencils (thanks to my brother Jim and State Farm Ins!) When they had become comfortable with me, one student asked, “Are these really from America?” Ha! The skepticism of youth! Like in the USA…so much of what appears in stores in Russia says “Made in China.”
I had a moment to pitch the benefits of the CrossRoads curriculum before the questioning began…citing several true stories of successful, intelligent young people who, not understanding the addictive power of drugs, lost everything when they turned down that destructive path. I think kids such as these tend to think “it can’t happen to me”…but, without a foundation of knowing how to say no (not just to drugs), and a REASON to make choices toward a lifestyle of good character, they are just as vulnerable the “average” kid on the street.
So then, why did I title this post “Mission Accomplished?” Well, at the end of my time, the teacher spoke some extremely kind and affirming words–citing my “young heart” despite the age difference between the kids and me, their shining eyes as they interacted with enthusiasm, and the joy of having “such an interesting person” in their class. She invited me back…encouraged me to continue fellowship with them…and said that “of course we will continue with the CrossRoads lessons, especially when we can have such delightful guests as part of it.”
I held back my tears until we got outside. This very thing is one of the reasons I keep returning to Samara. To encourage, validate, and promote this ministry in any way I possibly can. Yes, my presence here makes a difference. It seems crazy, I know. But it’s true.
Your presence can make a difference somewhere too. Where will God send you?