If you’ve ever made alphabet soup, you know how the letters get all mixed up and topsy-turvy as they float in the bowl. That’s how the language appears to the newcomer to Russia. Every sign is a code to be deciphered and the spoken word sounds as confusing as you imagine it would!
Here we were, just a couple of country folks living in a city of six million people, facing crowds, and waiting in lines that would lead to China if stretched out. We had been in the city one week and needed to face our first subway expedition to find some stores for food. We lived at the end of one line, so getting downtown was simple; just hop on the down escalator and get on the train. We carried a little cheat sheet that would help us recognize the subway stop to get back home. Things were going great on our maiden voyage of food gathering. Our bags bulged with the “catch of the day,” and it was time to go home. We headed for our subway station to reverse our course. To our dismay, the down escalators had been reversed. Everyone was coming up!
We returned to the street. Logic told us that the doors for the down escalators must be around the corner, but we found that logic failed us. There were no doorways into the station around the corner. So, we engaged the plan all lost people follow; we stopped, then asked ourselves question number one, “What do we do now?” The sun dropped a degree lower in the darkening sky. Surely the buildings were larger now than when we arrived this morning. Were people staring or was it my imagination? I stepped a half step closer to Tom — perhaps he wrote some brilliant clue down on his cheat sheet that would help us out of the situation. Our little brains worked hard and our eyes scanned the street signs, but it was of no use. We were clueless as to how to get home.
Our hearts turned upwards, the only option when you’re treading water in a bowl of alphabet soup. We asked our Father which way to go, what was His plan for two lost souls. It was while we were praying that I remembered the verse that says, “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” Our Lord was at that very moment sitting, unruffled, and at peace at the right hand of the Father. My little heart was fluttering and my mind was grasping for an idea like a gold fish in the air. He has overcome the world! My heart became brave. The buildings shrunk to normal size. My spirit calmed and Tom said, “Let’s go across the street to the other subway line — it’s not on my cheat sheet, but maybe we can figure things out if we get underground.”
Since I am writing about this, you know that we did get back home that day. Your situation, your relationship, your job, your debts, your whole life may seem like a bowl of alphabet soup. You may feel like a lost soul, as I did that day. Perhaps logic has failed you too and the problems seem to grow larger each day. You might be clueless as to how you’re going to get out of your troubles.
If your heart is fluttering, and your eyes are searching for the right way, remember the “lost person survival plan:” stop, then lift up your heart and ask the Father the way. That’s when you too will remember that He has overcome the world. Your problems are not over His head. Allow His courage to come into your heart and notice how He guides you through to a place of safety and sense.
“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
Janet and her husband were serving in St. Petersburg, Russia when she wrote this article for Peter’s Wife in 1994.
Now for another language learning story from Margaret in Penang, Malaysia
When I had been in Penang, Malaysia for about three months and I was working very hard trying to learn the Hokkien Chinese dialect. I understood well enough, but I was still struggling with pronunciation. One day my husband’s mischievous nephew was jumping up and down on our bed. I had just placed a pile of neatly ironed clothes there and they started to topple onto the floor.
I looked at five year old Jualian very sternly and told him, in no uncertain terms, “Tau kor.” He looked pretty amazed. I repeated my order “tau kor,” which to me was simply, “get on the floor.” As he continued to jump on the bed, I continued to give my order. Then he started to cry and call very loudly for his maid to come quickly as he shouted back at me “No, no, I will not.”
The maid arrived and asked him what was the matter. He went into a long, agitated report to her of the problem he was facing. She looked at me quite peculiarly and asked me, “Why do you want him to take off his pants?” I explained that I had asked him to get on the floor as he was spoiling my ironing. She smiled sweetly and explained to me that I had my pronunciation mixed up. The word for floor that I SHOULD have used was “tau kar”, with an “a”, what I had in fact said to him was “tau kor.” This simply and starkly means, “Take off your pants.” Just as well it was a child involved!