I stood in the dirt-paved alleyway. Mud-brick homes loomed on all sides, surrounding the half-dozen Roma families gathered for worship.
No translator had been found, and it was deemed that I would preach anyway. For at least an hour.
I am less and less afraid of public speaking, and less and less unsure of my Ukrainian - but this opportunity terrified me. I was a little bit angry at God for bringing me to this situation that I was not comfortable with. Vitya promised to read the Bible passages if I would preach, because of his speech impediment he had never read aloud before - so we were taking big steps together.
I began in Luke 7 and decided that I would just preach story by story until they let me sit down. I preached about faith and worthiness. I mixed up cases and genders and endings at least fifty times. I told the story of how I came to faith, I shared about Rev Cindy Bloise, I used an Henri Nouwen metaphor. I think I only cussed once, and only because I didn't know a nicer way to say whore, and only because I hate the way that they describe her as a sinner and leave it at that, and it didn't seem to phase anyone.
Twenty minutes in, the geese gave me a pleasant distraction to catch my breath, say a prayer of thanks, and check with Vitya to make sure that people could understand me. All was well.
I preached through the entire chapter, said a quick Amen, and sat down. I was still scared - and well I should have been. Pastor Volodymyr then began a twenty minute conversation with me, in front of everyone, to complement the sermon (which had only lasted forty minutes!). So, not only did I have to preach in Ukrainian, but I had to pass an exam about my own sermon, too!
Vitya and I laughed uproariously on the bus home talking through each mistake I had made, and just the shear ridiculousness of being forced to preach.
I sometimes forget about all the privilege I have. Apparently we created quite a ruckus among the Ukrainians by sitting in the gypsy section of the bus instead of the front where white people sit. It reminded me of one of my favorite moments with my mom. We went to Hoss's in Dubois and I parked against the fence where employees park and my mom said, "Michael, park where the people park."
Even with Vitya, I am reminded of my own privilege. In my childhood, I had a terribly strong speech impediment, but at school we worked to correct it. I can learn these languages and speak publicly because people invested in me. Vitya was thought an idiot and shoved to the margins of his classes until he dropped out of school.
At twenty, he starts his final year of school on Monday. I'm thankful that there is an alternative school here in Lviv where he can study. He's reading Pushkin for fun and proclaiming the Gospel in Gypsy villages.
I think that God uses our fear and our weaknesses. God doesn't pick the very best and treat them as the most worthy - instead God chooses the least and the lowest and does a great work. And our fears become part of our faith.