We have heard a few questions repeatedly when we speak to people about what we are planning to do.
- What about the language barrier? Will you be teaching in English? In Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, it is common to find college students and recent college graduates who have some English language proficiency, at least conversationally. They study it in school and are often motivated to improve. When we teach, we will always teach in English (it is, sadly, our only option) and with a translator, except for small groups of staff or in multi-national contexts. (Sometimes I have been in a room of 15-20 staff people all speaking English, but I am the only native speaker. It is the language these international teams of staff have in common.)
- Why Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union? Eastern Europe and Eurasia is one of the places on the planet where we can go and be welcome and teach. Young people tend to like Americans (they may not like US policies, but often they like Americans) and they don't mind hearing teaching twice, once in English and then in translation. We could not have this kind of ministry in Western Europe or Latin America, where to be accepted we'd need to speak the local languages (French, German, Spanish, etc.) and in fact would be less welcome as American teachers anyway. And because I have been teaching in this part of the world for the past ten years, I have some dear friends there and we are eager to return and deepen those friendships. So there is both a strategic and very personal logic to our going to be in ministry in this part of the world.
- What is happening to your house? and to your dog? UPDATE: We have found renters, a very nice couple with a young boy who are moving to the area, love our house, and will probably buy a home after the year, so it works out very well for them, and the timing is perfect. Praise God for answered prayer! And our dog Luna is in the care of some dear local friends, and they have a big dog already and already loved Luna.
- What about your parents and Lisa's sister? If you know our situation, you know that my dad and Lisa's mom are still alive (and kickin'!), and of course at their ages we must trust their situation to God and, humanly speaking, to the other supports they have in their lives. Lisa's sister is handicapped and we have had a supportive role in her care for the past few years. We will be in regular communication with all of them, of course, throughout the year, but are taking Jesus' words seriously that we will have other family members in Europe fill in the gaps for us, and other family members fill in what we cannot offer to our loved ones.
- When do you get back and what will you do? At present our plan is to return to San Gabriel, to our home there, at the end of August, 2015, having probably begun job searches some months previously. We do not have a bountiful safety net--we cannot afford a protracted period of unemployment, but are trusting God to be our supply while we continue to seek his guidance. My boss at Tanner Research has expressed a desire to see me return, but that is certainly not a binding offer, and as the year progresses that may become more or less certain on either part. We simply will allow God to speak, and he may do that by revealing that we are not to return to San Gabriel, or even to the US, because he has other plans.