I have always loved speaking different languages. I learned Spanish in school, and I think that’s where my interest started. I found it fun, and though I couldn’t remember all the words I was always able to keep the accent.
Then when I was in middle school I took Mandarin after classes finished, and I also had to take Spanish for part of the year. There was one time where I was taking English, Spanish and Mandarin classes all from the same teacher, and I accidentally would mix both foreign languages in a sentence and confuse us both. And then I took three more years of Spanish in high school.
And as you may know, I’m a bit of a nerd. As a kid I would watch Lord of the Rings and try to learn the Elvish phrases that Legolas spoke. And when Avatar came out I started trying to figure out the grammar and sentence structure of Na’vi. So I guess you could say language is an interest of mine.
It’s been something I’ve enjoyed while being in Europe. I’ve tried to learn phrases, words, grammar and parts of their language in all of the countries we’ve visited. It’s not always easy, and I tend to forget as I move onto the next country, but I’ve had fun.
The people we’ve been around have been impressed with my ability to learn so quickly and mimic the sounds that are usually difficult for native English speakers. But God has given me a special interest and ability in languages that has helped me throughout my life.
So when we arrived in Ukraine, I was nervous. It would be the first language that I’ve tried to speak that doesn’t share our alphabet. Some of the letters are the same, but others are different. Some letters look like ours but have a different sound! For example, their H is pronounced like an N. It’s kind of confusing when you’re trying to read.
But I was also excited for Ukraine because we were going to be holding little English lessons for kids at local schools in the city of Lviv. We would introduce ourselves, play games, and let them ask questions about us before we invited them to our rock concert on Friday evening. I’d never done something like this before, and I had no idea what to expect.
It was the most fun I’ve had since being on tour. Over the course of three days we had two classes back to back at each school for 45 minutes with 40-80 kids at each lesson. It was hectic and crazy but an absolute blast. I got to introduce our team, and then we learned a phrase in Ukrainian that the kids taught us to see how well we could do. I won’t comment on how everyone did, I’ll let you guess.
Then we had them try to describe an English word to us that we had to guess. We already knew all the words, but we waited until they had described them well enough to give the right answer.
After that we let them ask us whatever they wanted to. Some kids asked about how Garrett and I met, others about our pets, some about our family, and others if we liked Ukraine. I did get asked some weird things though, like what car I have, what I think about Ukrainian boys, and what my attitude is about Ukrainian government.
But the kids were all so kind. They would smile like crazy when they saw I was about to join their group. They laughed when I told jokes and clapped when I said something right in Hungarian. Even though not all of them could speak perfect English they still wanted to listen.
At the end of the three days we held a rock concert in an upper hall for a movie theater. The plan originally was to play on the roof, but it was too cold and we didn’t want the kids to freeze. So we played our music for them. They loved it. Once we invited them forward and asked them to dance or clap their hands, they were all in. I haven’t seen kids get so into our music before, and they were having fun the entire time.
And when I shared the Gospel, they listened. They watched me and I saw some of their expressions changed as I told them about Jesus and how He can help us be a better person. And they still wanted to hear music when we were done. They were waving their hands as we sang worship songs. Even though they didn’t necessarily know the words or believe in Jesus, they were still worshipping our creator in that moment.
After the concert they were going nuts. They asked for hugs, pictures, autographs and more. For the first time ever we signed money, and that was pretty cool! But don’t be worried, the bills we signed were only worth four cents.
The thing that stood out to me the most was one girl. I never heard her name, but she was from one of the schools we visited. She didn’t know English very well so she was nervous to talk to me, but she came up to me anyway. We used our phones to type messages to each other, and she said she wanted to learn English and asked for tips on how to get better. I gave her a couple, and she said that we motivated her to learn English and next time we came we would be speaking to each other without phones.
Partway through our conversation one of the translators came over and asked if she needed help. She quickly shook her head and shooed him away. This teenage girl who couldn’t speak English was determined to communicate with me on her own, even if it was typing messages through google translate. It was important that she talk to me and not someone else.
This girl stuck out to me. She is the reason I travel to Europe, to teach kids who can’t communicate and do my best to relate with them. I am so glad I met her, and I do hope I can speak with her sometime next year. I don’t have a picture or a name, but I know her heart. This girl is stronger that most people, and her confidence to reach me was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen.