Before coming to Ukraine people often asked me, “Where will you live?” When I explained that I would live with a host family the next question was always, “Will they speak English?” I confidently assured them that yes, at least one person in my home would speak English.

Good thing Barry told us to be flexible.  As it turns out, my host family does not speak English. Not even a little.

At first the idea of living with strangers who don’t speak English intimidated me. Then I met Pastor Peter and Vera. Now I am an expert in the art of communicating sans speech. In fact, living with my hosts is one of the highlights of my trip. So enjoy a few tips on me.

My host, Pastor Peter, sharing God's love with village children.

1. Relax. After getting over the initial shock of my situation, I reminded myself to relax. Not being able to communicate via words really isn’t as big of a deal as you might think. It probably won’t result in an untimely death or an earth shattering catastrophe (though I have wondered if perhaps I should learn the words for fire, run, and help).

2. Shut up. Next remember that speaking louder and more slowly will not increase the odds of being understood. If they don’t speak English and you don’t speak Ukrainian, no amount of slowing down your speech will change this. It’s better to revert to a silent stare down than to a screaming match.

Even if I can't speak a word, I am always fed delicious food.

3. Point. Pointing is an art form I have begun to master. Often what needs to be said can be demonstrated through pointing at objects in the vicinity. However, sometimes pointing results in confusion. I have accidentally asked for salt not sugar, and indicated I would be home at 7 not 8.

4. Just agree! This has become my new motto. Once I mastered the simple words for no, yes, please, and thank you I realized it’s really just best to say yes. If you agree with whatever is going on, things tend to go much more smoothly. Disagreeing requires an explanation and a revision of plans. This is virtually impossible and proves more frustrating than just saying yes. Use caution though. I once unintentionally agreed that I was dating the guy next to me.

5. Laugh often! I frequently laugh at myself. There are so many moments I have no idea what is going on. Sometimes I even look incredibly foolish because I misunderstand the situation. One time I stayed overnight at a home without a translator. I think I was told to remove my clothes, put on a robe, and wash my feet. Honestly though, I had no idea what was going on. I did my best and laughed at myself as I stood in a tub of water wearing a stranger’s robe.

Hearing God's Word in two languages is a powerful testimony of His universal love.

6. Be creative! I discovered that if you really feel starved for conversation, you can always find someone –or something– to talk to. For example, I named a spider in my bathroom Bob. Whenever I got lonely I found Bob and had a good old chat. Of course eventually I had to kill him, but you get the idea.

7. Witness God’s love. The biggest lesson I have learned living here is that God’s love surpasses all language barriers. Pastor Peter and Vera (my hosts) are quite possibly the sweetest, most hospitable couple I have ever met. Although we don’t speak the same language, every day they communicate God’s love to me. When Vera gives me a big hug goodbye every morning and prays over me, and when Pastor Peter sings me songs on the way to MTU, I feel God’s love.

I hope one day you too find yourself in a situation where no one speaks your language. Remember to relax, be creative, and enjoy a few laughs on yourself.

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About the Author: Krystallin was a summer intern with World Next Door in 2010. She is currently a senior at Moody Bible Institute majoring in Communication Studies. After graduation, she hopes to spend her life pursuing justice for the oppressed. She loves adventure and chases tornadoes on her time off.

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Comments

  1. Barry Rodriguez said... 

    Reply

    July 14th, 2010 at 7:07 am  

    Great post! I’ve got to say, though… A little cruel to poor old Bob, don’t you think? What did he ever do to you? And such a good listener!

  2. Rob Yonan said... 

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    July 14th, 2010 at 9:10 am  

    I laughed out loud at the demise of Bob the spider!
    Great post from all angles.

  3. Christopher N. Cambell said... 

    Reply

    July 14th, 2010 at 9:46 am  

    Yeah, that was one awkward date. The food was well worth it though!

  4. Rachel Swift said... 

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    July 14th, 2010 at 10:32 am  

    HA! K-Lyn, you are great, girly…. I love this post, it totally shines with your love of God, people and adventure!

  5. Jonathan Pomazon said... 

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    July 14th, 2010 at 1:55 pm  

    Krystallin, I found myself literally laughing all the way through your post! You are so right! I think Pastor Peter’s whole English repertoire could be summed up as, “OK”, “AMIN!”, “very good”, and “thank you very much”! Our good friend and fellow MtU volunteer Dave Olges used to say, “In short-term missions you need to be flexible. When that doesn’t work, you need to be vaporous!”. The amazing thing is that when we put ourselves out there and allow God to use us, He always makes things work out in a way best suited to our needs and in a way that maximizes His glory. Thanks for helping us remember the principles spoken by John the Baptist: “He must increase and I must decrease.”

  6. Ken said... 

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    July 14th, 2010 at 2:14 pm  

    jonathon, you forgot “alleluia!”
    hilarious Krystallin-loved it. Thanks for being so flexible and understanding. You will never be the same after this experience.

  7. Jim M said... 

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    July 14th, 2010 at 8:24 pm  

    “I hope one day you too find yourself in a situation where no one speaks your language. Remember to relax, be creative, and enjoy a few laughs on yourself.” This is true metaphorically also…Nice job Krystallin.

  8. Virginia Baldwin said... 

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    July 14th, 2010 at 8:31 pm  

    Good work, Krystallin. I am proud of you. Keep up the good work and your sense of humor. May God continue to bless you.
    I like Pastor Peter and Vera and I haven’t even met them.
    Love ,
    Virginia

  9. Jim.M said... 

    Reply

    July 14th, 2010 at 10:18 pm  

    Krystallin, I wanted to remind your readers that this Sunday at Grace Community Church at 10:20am and roughly 12:20pm (noonish) they will be able to talk live with the WND team in Ukraine via Skype. Stop by the Outreach Kiosk in Town Square and say hi to Barry and the Interns!! Tell others to remember that,

    “LIVE FROM UKRAINE….ITS SUNDAY MORNING”

    Will be our first “Live from…” open video call, where folks can meet you and ask questions. Hope we have a nice turn out for you guys!! If this goes over well we will try to do them on a regular basis to keep up with WND where ever they are in the world.

  10. mary ann gifford said... 

    Reply

    July 25th, 2010 at 4:45 pm  

    I had to laugh out loud when you told about standing in the tub with a robe…. of course I know your host family and they are as nice as you say. You are very spunky and doing a great job, learning as you go and not being afraid of making a mistake. It was good to meet you at Peter’s home. Enjoy the rest of your stay…

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