Hosting Reflection #9–Communication & Understanding

Leave a comment

Communication is one of the biggest concerns families have when thinking about the commitment of hosting an orphan from another country.  Just imagine… caring for a child for a month who has never learned English.  How would you know when they were hungry? If they are sick?  The reason why they are crying?  Explain where you are going in the car?  Calm fears about visiting dentist?  The language barrier can be very intimidating… nevertheless 100s of New Horizons host families have gladly taken on the challenge in the name of Christ’s love for a special child.

The challenge was the same for our family, as many others.  However, we did have a little help with my limited Russian speaking skills.  I was able to talk with Sasha in some situations, but certainly not all.  These situations could be both fun and frustrating.

There was a time when Sasha was trying to tell me something in Russian, he seemed kind of upset and kept pointing to my brother.  I wondered, What in the world could he be so upset about?  After slowly breaking down his 100 wpm sentences with intent listening and hand gestures, he was finally able to explain to me that my brother needed to wash his hands before we cooked lunch.  I worried that there was something seriously wrong, but he just wanted to make sure Brad’s hands got some soap-contact before he touched all our food! Smile  

The fun times would be when it was just Sasha and I out driving or somewhere around town and he would just start telling me stories in Russian… things about their dog in Ukraine, life in the orphanage/boarding school, or his friends.  Of course I rarely knew the definitions every word or phrase he used but we came to an understanding as I took great care and gave attention to the tone of his voice and the look in his eyes.

The more I faced these communication challenges with Sasha, the more I started to realize how similar these challenges were to the way we communicate with God.  There were so many things that wanted to tell Sasha, but could not find a way to explain; there were so many questions he had, but I did not have the words to answer; there were so many times that Sasha did not understand why I would withhold ‘good’ things from him, but I wasn’t able to explain that there was something much better planned for him. 

God’s ways are not our ways.  His way of communicating is so far beyond anything we can comprehend.  His knowledge and wisdom are far to great for our human minds to fathom.  Although the entirety of his wonder is out of our grasp, it doesn’t mean we cannot communicate or seek understanding with him.

What if we tried to understand and communicate with God as much as we would want to with an orphaned child from another country?  What would it take?  Just like I did not insolently insist on only speaking to Sasha in English, in a louder than normal tone and over-annunciating syllables.  I tried to speak to him on his terms, in his language, and he reciprocated and tried to speak in mine.  We used other ways of communicating: writing, translation through others, hand gestures, and thoughtful listening. 

What could you try to do differently to better understand and communicate with God?

And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.
Luke 11:9-10 (NLT)



Hosting Reflection #2–I love speaking Russian!

1 Comment

Ok, ok, I must begin with a disclaimer: I am not a linguist, an professional interpreter, or even close to fluent, but I still love the Russian language.  I knew that my Russian courses from good old CWRU would make a world of difference while Sasha was with us, and man, did they ever! 

It was such a blessing to be able to speak with Sasha, since he knew both Russian and I am lovedUkrainian. Most of our conversations had to be pretty basic, since my speaking and vocab are still very elementary.  I definitely had the basics down, and it didn’t take him too long to realize what I understood and what was beyond my comprehension.  We still used plenty of online translations for more complex sentences – Google Translate is a lifesaver!

My favorite times would be when I interpreted between him and another family member or friend.  There were many times when he tried to tell someone something or he couldn’t understand what someone wanted to tell him, and he would call “Djenelle!!”  And we would work together to break down that pesky language barrier.  

I love interpreting between him and my brother, Brad.  They would always be making some sort of plan or negotiation, whether it was about the Cleveland Cavaliers, who beat who on the Wii, who wanted to watch a “Three Stooges” dvd, what it would take for them to swap rooms for a night, Sasha teaching Brad Russian words, or Sasha teaching Brad to stand up for himself.  Sometimes they would drive each other crazy, but most of the time they made a pretty cute duo. 

And toward the end of our 5 weeks together, my Russian had improved, but Sasha’s English had improved even more.  I got used to speaking to him in English about certain topics,  but sometimes I forgot he couldn’t understand.  I would ramble on and on in English and he would say, “Jenelle, I am Russian!” meaning he wanted me to speak to him in Russian.  (I tried to tell him a million times to say “I am Ukrainian”, but he insisted on Russian, since that was the language we used the most.) Ah, do I miss that voice… hopefully I can get through on a call to his boarding school so we can talk again soon. 

Я скучаю по нему – Ya skuchayu po nemu – I miss him

Catching our chats on video was pretty rare, so this is a special video. While we were making homemade ice cream, Sasha asks me about our return trip to Chicago, which was coming a couple weeks later.

S: …мы будем летать на самолете в Чикаго или ехать машина?
…mi budem letat na samolete v Chikago ili yehat mashina?
(…will we fly in a plane to Chicago or drive in the car?)
J: Машина.
(By car.)
S: Машина? В отеле будем спать?
Mashina? V otele budem spat?
(Car? Will we sleep in a hotel?)
J: Да.
S: Воу! Мне нравится отели.
Vou! Mne nravitsya oteli.
(Wow! I like hotels!)

Open-mouthed smile

%d bloggers like this: