After Easter, we embarked on a new venture: running a weekly hour-long English club for Ukrainian children and young people on Zoom, in partnership with our friends in Open Bible. A small Scottish team was recruited. We had no idea what to expect, but we were ready to offer our services to help Open Bible reach children through this club with a difference!

Oksana (Open Bible) produced a programme – 10 weeks of stories from the Jesus Storybook Bible, with a related theme that we can talk about in English. This works well. She was keen that we share about life in Scotland relating to the theme (family, food, travel etc) and listen to a native speaker. As the children come onto the call they are welcomed in Ukrainian, then we take the reins. I have fun making up a Scottish PowerPoint each week that one of our team talks through, then someone else on the Scottish team leads a game. It is making us think about our own country. For instance, we didn’t know there were no double-decker buses in Ukraine – or that they don’t go out doing stuff in the rain like we do!

We then split into three breakout rooms according to ability, with two Scots in each group. We are in small groups for half an hour. We muddled through the first week, unsure of what was expected, learning as we went along. We quickly discovered that reading a Bible story in English might work better if there were pictures and English text for the children to follow. Oksana provides us with a picture PowerPoint now each week, plus the story text broken down into short phrases with the Ukrainian translation alongside. We read slowly, pausing as for translation. I provide a ‘Speaking Practice’ slide that gives suggested sentences, again around the theme. Our aim is to try and get each child talking at least once. Back together at the end, we finish with a Bible song.

Children are children, wherever they live. Some are shy, needing a little bit of encouragement to speak in English. Others are more confident, and already good English speakers. Despite Zoom, we are getting to know them. There are funny moments and sometimes things do seem to get lost in translation. When asked what they had learned today, one girl said she learned a haggis was an animal, and another time a boy said he learned that in the UK we call football soccer! Does it matter? The children seem to be having fun. We can see them becoming more confident at speaking week by week. One week a girl hung back and asked Oksana to tell the children to come on the next day as she would teach them English! We are also talking about God. On the theme “What I want to do when I grow up”, it was moving to hear one boy say, “I want to be a pastor.” Asked “Why?” the answer came back, “Because I love Jesus.”

With travel to Ukraine impossible (part of the gap year programme in ‘normal’ times) the club is giving Laura and Steven a valuable opportunity to work with Open Bible staff and volunteers. It is giving all of us a chance to serve the Lord and share Jesus with children in a very different way. Plans are afoot to run a 5-day club from 31 May to 4 June straight afterwards. Please pray that the children will not just deepen their knowledge of English, but their love for God too.

Elizabeth McDowall

On behalf of the English Cub team (Laura, Steven, Malcolm, Andrew, Calum, Jackie)

Elizabeth McDowall

My role in SU Scotland is to encourage, excite, support and resource prayer both for the young people of Scotland, and among the young people of Scotland. What a fantastic task! I also support and encourage our SU Scotland church ambassadors, so that as many churches as possible are able to hear of our resources and discover opportunities to get involved.