Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas Break


Well, this is going to be my last post from Germany for the semester. The students have already started to leave the dorm as they finish their finals. It has been quite the event trying to coordinate all the student's flights and train schedules. The majority of the students will leave Friday/Saturday (I have to make an airport run at 5.30 in the morning, should be fun!). Seeing as how I have been extremely busy over here the past week, I thought it would work out great to introduce you to another one of the guys here at Sonne.
Mitchell is a phenomenal kid, and a guy I have loved getting to know and spend time with. He is incredibly mature for his age, and has a great sense of humor. He enjoys studying so I often find myself in his room sitting at the end of his bed while I just enjoy the peace and quiet. Mitchell and I have had some amazing conversations and I am very excited to spend a lot of quality time with him next semester. I hope you enjoy the picture of Mitchell and me at the Christmas banquet, and hopefully you will enjoy what Mitchell wrote...


A while ago Tommy confronted me asking me if I could do him a favor. He wanted me to write about myself, where I was from, what I had grown up in etc. I agreed, but told him I could not do it immediately since I was burdened down with homework. He was very understanding and said to let it slide, but please still get it done. That was Tuesday, Tuesday became Wednesday, Wednesday became Thursday a week, and still I had not written this paper about myself. Now it is a number of days later and remembering this project I have decided to write this.

One day, when I came back from school I didn’t really have anything pressing to do. So I entertained myself by talking to Uncle Rick (the dorm dad), and my floor RA Tommy (I sure hope you know who I am talking about). The topic soon came around to me, and my life. I spent about 2 hours trying to tell the story of my life to those two. Sadly most of what I said must not have been gripping at all, because I was repeatedly asked to repeat stuff. So I hope this doesn’t bore you too much.
I was born in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. So I like to call myself Canadian. In reality I am not sure what I am. But I don’t think it really matters. My dad has duel citizenship; he spent half of his childhood in U.S. and the other in Canada. My mom is full blooded Canadian. Therefore, I and my sister have duel citizenship as well. I have one set of grandparents in Nebraska and the other in Saskatchewan. Since I have spent my life across seas I never have grown deep attachments to North America. In reality, when asked where is home I will respond Madaoua, Niger (don’t feel bad if you have never heard of Niger). Back to Quebec. I have only been in Quebec twice and feel no connection to it what so ever. My parents had agreed to be missionaries with SIM (Serving In Missions). They were heading to Niger, West Africa and decided to have some French study. Thus they went to Quebec, where I was born. Now the question that always follows, and is on the tip of your tongue, “So you speak French.” Regretfully, I do not. I was in Quebec less than a month and thus remember nothing of my time there. Upon leaving Quebec I went to Niger. It was really quite a change for my parents, especially for my mom. My mom will always tell you she was not born the missionary; she had a Master’s degree in music and hated camping. Heading to Niger in the middle of the Sahara was not her plans for life. My dad was the son of a missionary and had gone to Grace University and Dallas Seminar in preparations for coming to Niger. In the end God had to really push my mom to the missions’ field. I thus grew up in Niger. I do speak some of the language in the area, though far from fluent. I knew enough to go buy stuff, and play games with my friends. Sadly, the more I am away from Niger the more I am continually forgetting. In Niger there are many languages and nobody in SIM can speak them all. The main language is suppose to be French, but only the educated speak it. Contrary to the thought, I do not speak “African”. There is not a language, they each have names. Some of the languages include, Hausa, Tamaqua, Zarma, Fufolde ,some Arabic, and others. I learned some Hausa. Also, some other things you should know. When ever I am back in North America for whatever reason I am confronted with peoples lack of understanding of the world. Many kids think there is only one language, or the entire place is full of wild tribes. Others think, it is a jungle, others a savannah. They ask me have I seen lions, or the pyramids. In reality, they don’t realize that Africa is HUGE. There are places that are grasslands, some desert, mountain, rainforest, beaches, and others. I live in the desert, where there are scarcely any animals. There are some, but not the kind you see in Kenya.
Growing up in Niger has been hardly the typical thing someone goes through. Growing up in a foreign country defines who you are. I am the missionary kid, the boy from Africa, that name follows me wherever I go, it is what defines me. In some ways I am not really American. True I am white speak English and have an American background, but that doesn’t make me American. Something that I know about myself is that I don’t know much about American culture. Frankly I don’t listen to a lot of music; I didn’t grow up with it. I don’t know who 2pac is, or the whole thing about is he dead. What are the names of bands? I didn’t know the difference between techno, punk, hip hop and all those others. Many movies I haven’t seen. We don’t have cable or any stations where we are. I don’t know the names of actors, or actresses. Street knowledge, the average thing I don’t always know. Jokes like “your mama” are new to me, and frankly seem rather stupid. I don’t have the same things to bring to a conversation. It is harder for me to sometimes connect. In some ways I am in between nationalities. I am not Nigerian, nor am I truly American I am some where in between. For some that may bother them, but it doesn’t me. I don’t need a country that is 100% my own. I am happy; I would not trade in my MK status for anything. It has made me who I am. I have learned so many lessons from this life. It teaches you patience, kindness endurance, and more. I have learned that money does not bring happiness. Our family was not very wealthy but I have seen the joy we have had together. I have learned I don’t need lots of stuff to enjoy life. I don’t have Xbox 360’s or Playstation III. I don’t have a cell phone, nor do I need an I-pod. [P.S. I hope I don’t sound like I am condemning such items, I merely want to point out I have lived happy without them] But I have learned that is okay. God has blessed our family with great love for each other. I have many memories from them. In many ways being an MK and homeschooled has allowed so much one on one time with my parents. They have been such an example and have modeled me into a better person. Like I said, being an MK has made me different from others. It has been hard at times, and I have wished for a normal life, but I still would not give it up for anything because of what it has made me become.

I hope this letter satisfies Tommy’s desire. However, if I did it badly enough I might not get asked to do it again (just kidding). I hope this paper, letter, whatever, is interesting to you. I merely wrote what came to my head; I didn’t have a plan to it. So I hope my first thoughts about this will satisfy you, and bring you into the life of an MK from Niger.

Mitchell Schmidt

Friday, December 12, 2008

Opportunities

We are nearing the end of the semester here at BFA. The students are anxiously awaiting the moment where they have completed their last final and can pack up and get ready to go home. Some have already packed up mentally, some are emotionally ready to be home with their families. The fall semester is always long and hard on the students. Many have not seen their families since August, and are growing increasingly sick of the dorm life, and just want to be home.
Honestly, I have tried very hard as of late to not focus too much on the upcoming break. It is very important for me to maintain the mindset that every day I am presented with unique opportunities, and each day has eternal significance. I will not allow myself to view each day as simply the next 24 hour block of time standing between me and break. Each day must continue to be filled with purpose, meaning, and value. Sometimes this is easy, and sometimes it is difficult. I am ready for a bit of a break, I am ecstatic about being back in the States and being able to be with family and friends. For those who are unsure of my Christmas break plans, I will be in Florida with my family starting December 22 through January 1. After that I will be in the Pittsburgh and Cleveland area for a wedding, and visiting with friends from college.
This week I have not gone to bed before 11.30, and have gotten up before 6.45 every morning, so the physical demands, and long days leave me craving the warm Florida sun. Yet I continue to remain here mentally, and emotionally, in order that each day I may fulfill my purpose.

The title of this post is, "opportunities" because within the past ten days I have been presented with two different opportunities that I am thrilled about.
Next March 28-4 I will be traveling to Kenya with 19 students and 3 other staff members, for a school-sponsored Mission Trip. BFA has a two-week spring break, the first week being for mission trips (if they wish), and the second week for students to travel home. We will primarily be working with an orphanage in the rural parts of Kenya, but will also team up with a few missionary families and help them in whatever way we can. We will help cook, clean, build, as well as put together a VBS program. I am thrilled to have this opportunity. I see it as a phenomenal way to get to know the students better, and in a different context. There are 4 guys from Sonne going, which means there are 15 students I know very little about. The opportunity to get to know the Sonne guys better, and the 15 other students is one of the main reasons I wanted to go on the trip. I can't complain about being able to go to Africa, because it has been one of my life dreams, but I am truly excited to be working with the students on this trip.
Also within the past week I have been officially presented with the opportunity to become Assistant Coach for the boys varsity soccer team. As many of you know...I love the sport of soccer. I have been able to play with seniors every Friday morning for the past 6 weeks, and absolutely love it. I have the opportunity to get to know guys from different dorms, and run around in the gym. I see soccer as another vehicle I can use to get to know the guys better, and impact them. It will be a tool to further my relationships with the guys, in a setting outside the dorm.
Honestly...I'm thrilled about this. I cannot explain my excitement about this opportunity. It's going to be awesome. I've already found myself daydreaming about game-days, pasta nights before games, and fun ways to get the guys in shape.
As of now, I am still waiting for the official 'ok' from my dorm dad, Rick. I will be out of the dorm more than usual due to soccer commitments, so I need to make sure I am not hanging my dorm staff out to dry. But from a few different conversations, it seems as though everything is pointing in the right direction.

I thank you for continuing to support me and keep up to date with my progress here in Germany. I am having an amazing time here, and am blessed to be here. I wish I could tell all the stories I have, all the conversations I've had, all the laugh-out-loud moments I've shared. I am working and living with an amazing group of people, and I love it. Don't hesitate to contact me if you have any questions about anything, or if you're just looking for a good story. I can tell you multiple stories about my inability to decipher between male and female bathrooms...after all I am in Germany and I don't know the language.

with love and a grateful heart,
Tommy

Thursday, December 4, 2008

John Armstrong



Sorry it has been a little while since my last post. I am still alive, and still doing extremely well here at BFA. Honestly, I am truly happy and loving my life here. I was in a room last night for "pillow talk" and as I was leaving one of the guys asked, "Tommy, do you like it here at BFA?" I took a second to think about the question, but soon found myself full of joy as I responded, "yes, absolutely." I started to explain that I loved being here with the students, and building relationships with them. Apparently he thought I was being too 'mushy' so he just said, "Yeah yeah yeah" and told me to go to bed.

I wanted to give you the opportunity to meet another one of the guys here at Sonne. John Armstrong has been an amazing guy to get to know. His personality is amazing, and his humor is something I look forward to being a part of on a daily basis. Tonight after dinner he was clearing the tables and snapped a towel on my leg, breaking skin and drawing a little blood. He was done. We wrestled a little while and I pinned him on the ground and tickled him til he couldn't breathe. He and I have shared a lot of good laughs, but he has also been one of the students I have gone deeper with. We have discussed a lot of things that show our relationship has trust, accountability and companionship. I asked him to write a little note for my supporters, but he is also a little lazy at times, so he didn't write a whole lot. Nonetheless I hope you enjoy hearing from one of my guys, and I hope it gives you a better insight as to what I am doing here. Also, the picture with this blog was taken this past weekend at the Christmas Banquet. It was a great time, and John and I were sharing a good laugh as the picture was taken.


My name is John Armstrong, I am a sophomore here at BFA. My room is right next to Tommy’s. This is my second year at BFA. I am sixteen. My parents are serving in the UAE, which is on the Arabian Peninsula. We have been there for a little of 2 years. Before that we lived in Tashkent Uzbekistan for 12 years. And before that we lived in Yemen, which is also on the Arabian Peninsula, and is where I was born. I love sports. I will play just about anything, except baseball and cricket, yeah not so much. I love coke, that’s a big one, definitely a big part of my life, or has been. I am playing on the soccer team here at BFA. And as for Tommy, I could not have asked for a better RA to be on my floor this year. He definitely feels like an older brother to me. It has been amazing getting to know him this year.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Switzerland



My neck hurts.
Honestly, my neck is in a bit of pain, but it is a good pain. My neck is sore from looking up for the past 36 hours or so. This past weekend I had my third and final weekend off of the semester, and traveled to Aldeboden, Switzerland with a few other RA's. Aldeboden is about a two hour drive from Kandern, and is situated right in the middle of the Swiss Alps. It is hard to describe the beauty of the mountains, and the refreshment that came from walking around in the snow. When we arrived Saturday morning we were met with a nice little snow storm that dropped plenty of fresh powder everywhere. Aldeboden is a smaller town, but is home to a ski resort so there were plenty of ski lifts in the area and people just strolling through the streets.
Because of the snow on Saturday the entire day was fairly cloudy and the peaks of the mountains were not clearly visible. I was praying all day and all night I would wake up Sunday and be able to clearly see the mountains. When I awoke Sunday morning I was as excited as a little kid in a candy store. The sky was blue, the sun was shining and it was simply gorgeous. I took off and went on a good 2 hour hike by myself and just enjoyed the peace and quiet.
It has been four full weekends since Sharron's accident, three of which have been three-day weekends, and three of those four weekends I have not had Monday off. I left for Switzerland exhausted and weary. I have come back refreshed and re- energized. It was a great chance for me to get away and simply relax. I had time to process my thoughts and emotions that had been stirring for many weeks. I had the ability to be by myself and take a great hike.
I am coming back from this weekend with the energy, excitement and drive to push through until Christmas. I was able to catch my breath and enjoy the time away from the dorm.

Though the mountains were beautiful, and my hike was relaxing, the best part of a weekend off is when I come back to the dorm. It sounds somewhat contradictory considering everything I have just said. Yet when I walked through the door last night ... scratch that - I did not even have the opportunity to walk through the door before guys poured out of the dorm to welcome me home. A few guys saw the headlights of my van pull into the driveway, and word quickly spread I was back. Five or six guys came pouring out and gave me HUGE hugs, expressing how much they missed me while I was gone. After fighting through the hugs I traveled to my room, only to be followed by one guy who wanted to watch me unpack and just be in the room with me. There are moments, days, throughout a normal week where I feel as though I am not making an impact - or all my work is somewhat useless. Yet coming home and seeing, hearing, feeling that the guys missed me over the weekend...it is special.

I hope you enjoy the pictures I took from the weekend. I know they will not even come close to doing justice to the real thing.
If you have a moment and want to send me an e-mail (Bressontw1@gmail.com), I would love to hear from you. I thank you for your continuing love and support. Your prayers and encouragement never go unnoticed or unappreciated.

with love,
Tommy

Monday, November 17, 2008

Thanksgiving!



Here at BFA we do things a little bit differently. Seeing as how there are students coming from many different countries all with their unique customs holidays are a bit different over here. The students love the different holidays because they usually get off school for all American holidays, but also the German holidays as well. Some holidays are observed more than others, and one that simply could not be missed was Thanksgiving.
You should all be a bit jealous because I have already had my share of turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, dressing and the rest of the thanksgiving essentials.

I think a good motto for our Thanksgiving dinner here at Sonne would be, "go big or go home." The RA's were in the kitchen for close to six hours on Thursday. It was a lot of work, but it was so much fun. The whole atmosphere throughout the day was electric and exciting. We rearranged the dining room, set the table for the guys, and really put a lot of effort into the meal.
When the guys got home from school all the RA's were dressed up, which encouraged the other guys to dress up as well. I laughed out loud when one student came down in a sweatshirt and sweats and said, "I feel under-dressed, but that's ok, these pants are elastic and I need that!"
One of the highlights of the meal for me occurred when everyone was done eating. Rather than rush from the table and disappear the guys stayed at the table and enjoyed each other's company. After this each guy had to stand up and answer a question given to him by an RA. The questions ranged in depth, everything from "who is the funniest guy in the dorm?" to "what will you miss most about Sonne when you graduate?" It was really neat to see each guy have a few seconds in the spotlight, and to express their feelings and thoughts.
Now as we all know, Thanksgiving is not complete without a football game to watch while you fall victim to the tryptophan in the turkey. We were able to obtain a recording of an NFL game from the previous week and let the guys go downstairs and watch it. Unfortunately the only game we had was the Packers v. Vikings. The guys, fully aware of my devotion to the Packers made sure to rub it in my face when Mason Crosby missed the field goal.
Overall our Thanksgiving here at BFA was phenomenal. It took a lot of work and energy to prepare but it was absolutely amazing. The guys loved it, the food was delicious and there was a really unifying and caring feel around the table.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Videos!

Finally!
I know I have mentioned this in my blog a few times and I am excited to say I have figured everything out and the videos are up and running.
Here is some background to the videos, and then some instructions.
Every Sunday night the entire dorm gets together for "Dorm Fellowship." It is a time where we go down to the web and just do something together. In the past we've played cards, watched a movie, had a devotional time etc. A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to lead dorm fellowship and I was itching to be able to talk to the guys. I wanted the opportunity to be in front of all the guys and explain to them who Tommy Bresson is. I wanted them to know what I have been through, my vision for them, and for the dorm. I planned on talking for twenty minutes, but ended up speaking for close to forty. Sometimes I start talking and you just cannot stop me!

I would love for you to check out the videos. I at times have a hard time writing/typing my heart and my passion. I hope you can see the joy I have of being here. I hope you can sense the love I have for these guys. I hope you can better understand the passion I have to serve and lead the guys at Sonne.

So here is what you do...
Because I talked for so long I could not get the video on one youtube clip - I had to chop it into four parts. My suggestion would be to start watching part one, and in a separate window or tab start loading part two. While watching part two start loading part three, etc. This will just make it flow a little better.
Once you click the link for part one, you should be able to easily find parts 2-4 in the side panel, if not I will post the links at the bottom as well.

Part one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AaRoVGHWRwQ
Part two: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sLJct13Yal0
part three: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sN0HKIEqQKo
part four: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JW6EXruNaFQ

I hope you enjoy the videos. I hope it gives you a better picture of my heart and my purpose. I hope it encourages you to continue to fight and to press on.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Busy

I had every intention of putting up a blog on Tuesday, but I got caught up in a conversation with one of my student's parents and all the time I had designated to writing a blog quickly disappeared.
Anyway, I am back to the 'routine' of putting up a blog on Thursday. Last week we had one of our washers malfunction (which led to an inch of water in the laundry room...a wonderful surprise at 11:45 pm! It made for quite an entertaining story) therefore I am unable to get to my laundry duties at the moment.
Things at Sonne have been busy and we are still a bit hectic as the staff is readjusting to life without Sharron. She has been home for about a week now, but still suffers a lot with vertigo from her head injury, and has been to the doctor twice this week to have stitches removed. At the moment there is no idea as to when Sharron will be able to return 100% to her dorm mom responsibilities. As a result we are all shuffling around trying to cover. I have been on breakfast duty three times already this week, so I have been increasing in weariness as I wake up around 6:15 to start preparing breakfast.

I really love it here. I want to pause and make that as clear as I can. I love being here, I love working with the Sonne dorm staff, I love being here for the guys. My days are never really completely relaxing or easy...but I love it. I run around all day making breakfast, snack, doing laundry, helping with homework etc. and at times I get tired, emotionally drained, stressed...but then I have a guy come in my room for 20 minutes before he goes to bed and he opens up, shares his emotions and feelings, and it is all worth it. I feel as though at times it is so easy to talk about the many things I have to do, the many ways I am burdened or stressed, and in so doing I fail to communicate how much I really do enjoy being here. I fail to express the joy I have while being here. So please know and understand your support, your encouragement, your contributions have enabled me to be here and be in a place that I truly love.

On a completely other note I would like to finish with a prayer request that is urgent and very important. November is a really hard month for the guys in the dorm. The 'honeymoon' period of dorm life is over. School work has piled up. The weather is cold and dark. Christmas is too many weeks away to think about. The guys easily get poor attitudes, stress levels increase, homesickness can sweep through like the plague. Depression is not uncommon and we have already seen some guys have a few rough days. So please pray for the guys right now. Pray that their hearts would find peace, rest and joy. Also please pray for the staff as we continue to minister to them. We are striving to help them and guide them. It is not always easy and at times there seems to be little evidence of any fruit from our labor.
I thank you for your patience as it has been a while since I have posted. I am in the process of trying to add a video to this blog - I had the privilege of speaking to the Sonne guys during dorm fellowship, and had one of the guys video tape it. As soon as I figure out how to use a computer - I will post the link.
I thank you for your support and encouragement. Your e-mails and letters are always a joy and blessing.

Monday, November 3, 2008

No internet

I apologize that I have not been able to put up a post recently, or send any e-mails. We have been without internet here at Sonne since last Thursday. I hope to find the time to give an update later in the day - but due to recent happenings over here, though today is Monday, typically my day off, I am going to be working today and will have tomorrow off.
If you are looking for a different perspective and want to read my co-workers blog, I highly urge you to do so. Take a look at the right panel of this website and you will find them. I just read Brandon's most recent post and found it to be very true and I feel as though he accurately described part of the RA life here at BFA. So take a look at those blogs if you get the chance, and I'll put up a new post in a bit.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Not me, but Him.

I awoke this morning to a very startling fact. I crawled out of bed at 6:30 as it was still dark outside and threw on some sweats, making my way down to the kitchen to begin breakfast preparations. As I drug myself through the halls my eye caught sight of a thermometer. I no longer heard the rain I fell asleep to so I wondered if the end of the rain brought some warm weather. I was frightened as I took a look, then a second glance, then a third, making sure I was awake and my half-open eyes were functionally correctly as I noticed the thermometer was peaking at 1 degree. It's not even November and it is 1 degree! What have I gotten myself in to? How long and bitterly cold are the winters going to be? My groaning and complaining must have woken me up as I soon realized it was 1 degree Celsius, translating to roughly 33 degrees Fahrenheit. 33 is not paradise, but it is certainly better than 1.
It must be a trend that the colder it gets the more laundry the guys put down, so I will be down in the laundry room for a while today.
Things have been going really well here at Sonne in the past few days. I have told a few people, and I believe it to be true, but I feel as though I have started to break through and really form solid relationships with a few of the guys. It takes a long time, and it takes a lot of effort but for the first time I sense a bit of progress. It is really encouraging to see and supplies me with the energy needed to continue to dive in to deeper relationships with more of the guys.
One of the more encouraging things as of late occurred while I was talking to a dorm dad from a different dorm. We were on the sidelines watching the middle school students finish their soccer tournament. As we were discussing life and different aspects of BFA he stated, "It is very evident that you are here and you have a purpose to minister to these guys."

As I finish this post I want to leave you with something that was sent to me in an e-mail that greatly touched me and encouraged me.

"God has used you and will use you—not because you’re you, but because He’s Him."

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Bekannt

I am not quite sure why but the last few days have been very difficult. It always seems as if I string a few really good days together and all of a sudden a few bad days creep in and take over. When I wake up I honestly do not know whether or not I will go to sleep convinced it was a good day, or if I will lay in bed knowing there have been better days.
I wake up every day fully aware that the day is going to be a battle. Each day is a fight. Recently I posted a note card on the mirror in my room reading, "Are you willing to fight for the souls of these guys today?" I read it while I brush my teeth in the morning and I do not allow myself to leave the sink until I am prayed up and ready to fight. At night I read it again and pray that my fight accomplished something for the Kingdom of God.
As I look over my recent posts and as I hear myself tell stories about my time here at BFA I realized I far too often tell solely about the good days. I mean, who wants to hear about the bad days? I want to believe I am making a difference and I want to feel successful. Additionally I want you to know and feel as though I am fulfilling my purpose here. If I am to be completely honest, not every day is a success story. There have been moments, times, and days where I know and feel as though I have made progress with the guys and have helped them. Then there are hours, days, weeks where I feel, even though I have been here for over eight weeks, I have not made an inch of progress.
So I publish this post to tell you that I am here in Germany fighting. I am fighting with everything I have, and I am pouring myself out. By the end of the day I am physically, mentally, and emotionally drained. I am fighting for these guys. I am trying to serve them, provide for them, mentor them and provide the means necessary in order that they may develop a deeper relationship with Jesus. I am fighting for these guys, to ensure their parents can continue their ministries with the knowledge their children are being cared for, loved, and protected.

Those on my prayer team at times know more than what I have the time and ability to share in my blog (if you want to join simply e-mail me: Bressontw1@gmail.com). While I am fighting for the guys here at Sonne, I am battling against the devil for myself.
Bekannt: a rough translation of this German word is, "well known" or "to be known." I am in a foreign country, with people I have known for two months or less. I came from a home, from a college where I had people who know me. They really know me.
One of the greatest examples I have of this comes from my time on the Grove City College soccer team. My Junior year a teammate of mine, Jack Adams would commonly stand next to me before practice while the team was stretching. That year I had a lot of pain and difficulty with my knee, and Jack would always ask, "Tommy, on a scale from 1-10 how is your knee today?" To which I would always respond "9, feeling really good today!" Then came Jack's response, "Tommy, I want to know how your knee feels today." "Ok, Jack, I would probably say it is at a 6 or 7." He would look at my face, notice I was not making eye contact, and was trying to dodge any further questions. Then came Jack's final statement, "Tommy, I know you. I was watching you run. How is your knee feeling today?" My response, after a long sigh, "Probably around a 3 or 4."
My family, Stephanie, Caleb, Croce, Ross, Schlebby, AJ, Manny, are all people who knew me well. They know my sense of humor (I'm sure they wish it were different!) they know my goals, my desires, but they also know me. I mean, they really know me. My strengths, weaknesses, fears, hopes, triumphs, failures. They know me.
One of my biggest struggles and battles as far as myself is concerned, has been that I don't really know anyone over here. Sure I know names, where they moved from, but I am still trying to know them, to really know them. I have spent a lot of time with some of the RA's. I am looking forward to another weekend off where I can travel and spend time with the other RA's. I have been blessed to have found the Powell family, who have invited me over to their house countless times. A few weeks ago I had a free Friday night but nowhere to go - so I called up Mark and Susan Powell and pretty much invited myself over to their house to hang out for a few hours (I know, some things never change!). But to be honest, I have yet to form and develop those same type of relationships I have had in the past. I know I must be patient, but there have been many moments of loneliness and homesickness.
I write all of this not in search of sympathy, but to ensure you receive a more accurate picture of my time in Germany. The most accurate description I can think of, it is a battle. I am fighting with all I have, one day at a time.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Pillow Talk

I can remember traveling to my grandparents' house in Indiana as a kid and upon arrival my brother and I would be forced to share a room. Thankfully there were two beds so we simply shared a room, and not a bed. As we would fall asleep we would talk to one another; sports, cars, food, anything and everything. To this day when we share a room I thoroughly enjoy talking as we both fall asleep. The tradition of pillow talk continued for me my freshmen year in college with my roommate, Caleb. When we were both going to bed we would spend anywhere from 5-60 minutes just talking, sharing and laughing. I even tried to have some pillow talk with a fellow RA, Timmy, when we were in Munich last weekend. Unfortunately I was very sick and quickly fell asleep upon getting in bed so we missed out on the full experience.
Pillow talk has been a blessing in my life. It is a wonderful opportunity to just relax and talk. I am very glad to say that pillow talk is a tradition that has followed me here to BFA.
Last night as I ushered (somewhat forcefully!) the middle school students in their rooms, I brought a pillow with me and laid on the floor for over a half hour. It was the second or third time I have done this, and it is quickly becoming a Wednesday night tradition. One of the guys has asked on numerous occasions, "Tommy, are you going to come in our room and talk tonight?" I enjoy the pillow talk because the boys open up and talk to me, the boys enjoy it because they get to stay up later than normal!
Each night of pillow talk I ask the boys what the topic of conversation is going to be, and then they talk. Last night the topic was family. Each guy took time to tell me about their home, their family, their traditions. I asked them who their role models were, who they looked up to in a spiritual sense, what they really enjoyed about their parents. I laid on the floor in the dark, but my face was radiant with joy and my heart was beaming with happiness. I was ecstatic these guys open up and share with me.
Yet as I listened with great joy I began to realize they were not simply telling me about their families, they were telling me what they missed. They were explaining to me what 'home' was to them, and how Sonne has yet to become their home. These boys are 12, and 13 years old, living in a country they had never been to and experiencing a dorm culture that is completely foreign to them.
This new version of pillow talk has left me with great joy as I was able to really and truly be with the guys. This pillow talk has also left me with a great challenge; to make Sonne feel like home to them.
I am grateful for the opportunity I had to share with these guys. I am thankful for the way they opened up and allowed me to listen to them. I look forward to the challenge that has been presented and the opportunity I have to make this dorm their home. Most of all, I am looking forward to next Wednesday when we will do it again.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

What a wrong turn!

One wrong turn, and I ended up in three different countries. This afternoon I was in charge of taking two students to the airport and one student to the train station so they could fly/ride home for the weekend. There is no school tomorrow, as Germany will be celebrating their national "unification day" and all the businesses and shops will be closed. Therefore with a three day weekend a few of the students who live within 2 hours of the school went home. I picked them up from school (remember the days when you got picked up from school early? It was great to see the excitement in these guys as they missed the last period of the day) and started on the adventure. I knew I had to go to Basel, Switzerland to get to the train station, and I knew I had to get to the airport as well. These are not new destinations for me - but I still carry directions and a map with me just in case. Just in case...
I am driving and without thinking I find myself going through the border patrol to get to Switzerland. As I am being waved on it registers in my head what I just did and I realized, I did not want to be in Switzerland. I was going the wrong way. In an effort to not make my mistake visible to the guys, I tried my past to "play it cool" and find a way to turn around and make it back to the correct autobahn. Of course seeing as how we were short on time, turning around was not an easy task. A wrong turn or two and I notice the road signs have changed from German to French, and I am now driving in France!
Thankfully I found my way back to where I needed to go and dropped the guys off at the airport, and then the train station without any of them missing their plane/train.
Today I took a wrong turn and it took me to three different countries. What a wrong turn.

In an attempt to keep some coherency with my last post, I will update on my weekend off. I had the opportunity to reflect, pray, and seek what I have done so far in the dorm and where I would like to go. It was a good weekend where I was able to get a little more direction and purpose while here at Sonne.
As far as relaxation and getting some rest...well I definitely spent a lot of time in bed. Unfortunately it was not because I was lazy and enjoying the time off, as we traveled to Munich I started to feel quite sick and spent the entire weekend with a fever, headache, dizziness and a wretched cough. It was not enjoyable. However despite the miserable experience of being sick, I was blessed to be in a house where I could lay in bed (even if it was an air mattress) and have some privacy. It was also nice having the other RA's help me as I was sick, and Marilyn (host mom) was very gracious and motherly as she also took care of me. Honestly it was very frustrating to be sick on my weekend off, but I was very blessed to be sick while away from the dorm, and to be in a place where people would take care of me.
I am feeling better now, but am still not 100% healthy.
This is just the next method on the devil's list of attempts to disrupt and diminish our ministry here. It isn't working because the kingdom of God is spreading and coming together here at Sonne, and at BFA.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Jooks, the Legend.



In the picture you will see one of Sonne’s finest traditions, the Birthday Creek. I wanted to show this picture along with this blog because my favorite part of the creeking is when Jooks gives a nice raspberry blow on the birthday boy’s stomach.
As I said in my blog from earlier today, I wanted you to have the chance to hear a little bit from the guys at Sonne. Jooks is an amazing man and all around great guy. He is a solid guy and has made me laugh on many occasions. I asked him if he would provide a little bit about himself so you have a better understanding of the guys I am serving…

Hi there,
I’m just your normal 18 year old missionary kid… just kidding I'm not like anyone else. I go by “Jooks” (pronounced like hooks.) Even my teachers call me Jooks. My real name is Josh Crooks. My parents are missionaries in Italy but have only been there for about five years. Before that they served eighteen years in Venezuela. I was born and raised there. I have four siblings, Anna-21 (now going to college at Moody Bible Institute), Beka-15 (at BFA also), Benny-3, and Sammy-2. I know 3 languages, English, Italian, and Spanish all fluently… German has been more difficult.

I am the lead designer of the school’s yearbook this year. I have also been appointed the position of yearbook editor. Graphic design is one of my hobbies and passions, though I am even crazier for music. I’ve been playing the drums since I was in grade three. Since then, I have played for several churches, youth and chapel bands. I am currently a part of the BFA’s chapel band that plays every Friday in chapel. I also do percussion for outreach ministries in the nearby city of Basel, playing on the street and striking up conversation with the locals. I will probably major in Contemporary Christian Music and I really want to be a youth pastor.

Other things I like to do are write in my journal, play guitar and piano, play with fire, spend time with my dearest friends, and read my bible. No, I do not have a girlfriend which I am ok with. My favorite things are hugs, stories, thunderstorms, when girls wear pretty dresses, love notes, climbing trees, good food, being barefoot, singing, pretty girls, snow, autumn, summer, spring, sweatshirts, and treasure maps. My favorite artists are Sufjan Stevens, Architecture in Helsinki, Anathallo, The Cold War Kids, Kimja Dawson, The Raconteurs, The White Stripes, System of a Down, Bright Eyes, Damien Rice, and HEM, just to name a fraction.

Being a senior here at Sonne I couldn’t say there is any place better than this dorm. Sonne has been my home since my sophomore year. There is no other place I would rather be. I’m in love with the dorm and this school and all of my Sonneknight brothers. The staff is dear to me also. I’ve gotten to really enjoy being around them… Staff used to be a distant and overpowering and unapproachable force, but each one of the new staff members this year are really caring and friendly.

Yes my life has definitely been an interesting one so far. I can’t believe I have so much more to live. It seems like I've learned so much already. It’s never boring and for that I thank God. I'm so blessed.

What a week.



It's laundry day!
Things up here at Sonne have been going well so far this week. The weekend here was busy and difficult to say the least. I appreciate all of your thoughts and prayers for me, and the dorm as we persevered through our most recent trial.
On Monday Rick returned from the USA (picking him up was quite the adventure!) and since then things have started to settle down. We are still searching for that 'normal week' and I am starting to believe it does not really exist. However now that we have all 6 staff members at the dorm we are hoping to come together and get into a rhythm.

Tomorrow starting at noon I will officially be "off" for the weekend! I am very, very excited about having the whole weekend off. It will be the first time I will have back-to-back days off since I have been here. Since this past Tuesday I started to feel relieved and a little relaxed already, simply knowing I had the weekend off. So the big question is, what do I do with my first weekend off? I am traveling to Munich with four other RA's for the weekend. We have arranged to stay with a pastor and his wife in their apartment. The plan is to relax, experience a little bit of the German culture, and as of now we are planning on visiting Dachau. Dachau is a city about 10K north of Munich, and is where Himmler, and the SS set up the first Nazi concentration camp. With my love of history I am very excited about visiting the camp. I am certain it will be filled with history, but it will be a very sobering place.
Overall my goal for the weekend is to get away from the dorm and relax, but also reflect. I want to do some personal reflection regarding how I have done in the dorm. I want to take this weekend as a 'retreat' and come back refreshed and energized with more ideas and ways to reach and love the kids. While the weekend will be an adventure full of fun, I want to take the time to focus and reflect.

I hope to put up a new post before I leave in which I can introduce you to another one of the students in the dorm. I know many of you are praying for the students and I would love for you to see pictures, and hear from them. I'm sure I can convince one of them to help me out in place of studying or doing his gratis.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The wisdom of Children

If you spend enough time around kids they will say some pretty amazing things. I was helping Michael with his geography homework tonight and in his typical way, he asked me a question in an attempt to weasel out of doing his work, so he asked, "Do you think David is in Heaven?" I thought his question was a little odd but answered, "Yes I do. David was described as a man after God's heart." Michael then said, "yeah, but he did so many bad things. He murdered, cheated, he did bad things." At this point I was still playing the role of the teacher so I responded, "Well God will forgive you if you believe in who Jesus was and what Jesus did." After this comment I transitioned from being the teacher, to being the student as I heard Michael say, "Man, God has a lot of love for us. He is good."
God is good. The faith and understanding of a child is amazing. There are many times where I say/hear, "God is good" and in the same breath I start to say, "yeah but I've done..." or I say, "God is good how could he love me..." "God might love me if I do..."
The wisdom of children is something we can learn from. All it took was the recognition that God has forgiven our sins and Michael responds, "God is good and he loves me." No ifs, ands, or buts about it.

Things up here at Sonne have been quite hectic this week. Yet it has been a very good week. I have been blessed with many conversations with students that brought joy to my heart. Some of the student's walls are starting to come down which has allowed for me to really connect with them, which has been wonderful.

Just an update as far as some of the activities going on at the dorm, and school. Tomorrow we will bring hot lunch to the students at school. We will cook in the morning and then drive down to the school, serve them some chili and then eat with them. Tomorrow night the student council is putting on the high school fall party. Different groups of students will preform different skits. Also tomorrow, the middle school students leave for their retreat. Saturday, weather permitting we are hoping to take the guys on a long hike through the forest.
It is busy up here, but I am loving what I do.
I want to apologize for not finding the time to respond to e-mails. I admit that I have taken much longer than I would like to get back to you. I really do appreciate your e-mails and your words of encouragement. Honestly, it is difficult to find 30 minutes where I can be by myself and type up some e-mails.

Thank you for all you do. Thank you for checking my blog. I appreciate your support. You provide me with the encouragement and energy needed to be here.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Update

I know that I have talked to a few of you regarding the current situation here at Sonne. Last night around 11:30 pm Rick's (dorm dad of Sonne)father passed away. His father had been fighting for the past few months and last night he went home. Rick was by his father's bed for two months over the summer, but left the USA so he could come to Sonne and start the school year here. Rick left Sonne this morning to fly back to Detroit to be with his mom and family.
I was talking with Rick last night before 11:30, he told me that even though it sounded harsh, he would be relieved when his father passed away. His father has been fighting and in agony for many months and for him to be done fighting is a relief. However Rick's mom is struggling. Rick's parents were married for 57 years.
Please pray for Rick and his family. Over the past few days as conditions worsened it was written all over Rick's face. It has been very emotional here at Sonne for a few days.
In addition to all of this, we are about to enter our second week of having an understaffed dorm. I know I speak for myself, and the others when I say we are drained. Physically and emotionally, we are tired.
Thank you for your prayers.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Laundry Day

The Black Forest area of Germany is absolutely beautiful. The rivers trickle down the valleys as they wind in and out of the hills. The clouds provide occasional shade as they tumble over the mountains. I can see all of this through the window. It is Thursday, I am in the cold basement doing laundry.
Things have been really busy here as of late. There continue to be a lot of different transitions that force adjustments to be made. New staff arriving, dorm parents leaving the country for a week, different schedules for the school, etc. It seems as if there has yet to be a ‘normal’ day. Through all the running around I have become tired. I was not necessarily expecting the busy days and nights. I wasn’t expecting the stress, the necessity of meticulous planning. I was expecting relationships with the guys to flourish from day one. I was expecting to instantly feel at home and feel a purpose and see the impact I was having.
Despite it all, I love it here. I have spent the majority of my time with the four middle school students in the dorm, which is different than what I was initially anticipating – but something I have come to enjoy. They definitely have A LOT of energy and enthusiasm, but it is a lot of fun. On an almost nightly basis, right before their 10:00 bedtime, these four enjoy running around the hall trying to sneak into different rooms attempting to escape from me and their beds. One night I got tired of chasing the guys around so I hid underneath Michael’s bed waiting for him to come back. When he came back to his room to ask his roommate where I was, I reached out from under the bed and grabbed his ankles. He was quite startled, and promptly went to bed! Naturally he was running around the next night, but at least I had one ‘easy’ night.
I really am enjoying myself here, but I will admit it is tough. I continue to believe that my presence here is making a difference in the lives of the students. It was my perception that I would change lives through deep conversations and Bible studies. While I have had quality conversations they have not been in abundance like I originally thought. Honestly, it led to moments and days of frustration. “God, why am I here? How am I supposed to impact these kids?” There were many days where I asked these questions, many days where I did not seem to get an answer. But when the answer came all I could do was say, “God! You know what you are doing, I don’t”
I am sitting on a cold cement floor waiting to fold their laundry. I am helping them study geometry, geography, and physics, I am saying good-night to them in their native language in hopes they feel a little less homesick. I am serving these kids so that their parents can continue to be on the mission field and complete their task.
I have been here for over a month – and I am just starting to learn this. I am still wrestling with God over how I am being used – I tend to think I know better than he does. As I leave my own agenda behind and follow God’s, I am finding more joy and purpose.
The dryer just finished! So excuse me, I am going to pour out more of God’s love on these kids. Time to fold some more laundry. Time to serve and love these kids, in a dark, musty, cold basement full of dirty socks and underwear. I love it here.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Students



Today is Thursday, which means it is my day to do laundry. By the time all is said and done I will have washed and folded about 14 loads of laundry. While the clothes are being washed I wanted to take a second and put up a post. This one is going to be a little different. Up to now most of my posts have been about my work here at BFA, my thoughts and my activities. Today I want to tell you about one of the students in my dorm, Michael. The students are the reason I am here and who I came to serve. Therefore I want you to know who I am working with.
Michael is a 12-year old 7th grader here at BFA. He has lived in the Ivory Coast, Congo and just moved to Germany from France - which has allowed him to become fluent in French. Michale's gratis is to set the table every night, so I go in and help him and while we set the table we talk back and forth in French. He gets a kick out of my French language skills, but is quite impressed with my ability to communicate (Thank you Madame Meade!) The other day we were setting the table and he asked me a question - but I could not understand him so I asked him to repeat. This went on two or three times until I finally asked him to slow down, look at me, and speak as clearly as possible. I eventually understood, and was quite embarrassed because I was thinking he was speaking French, when he was really speaking English. We both burst out laughing.
Michael is fluent in French but English is his second language. Therefore some of his work is a bit difficult for him. The past week he has been spending about 90-120 minutes in my room a night with me working on his homework. We have done everything from; multiplication tables, the scientific method, and geography. It has been a lot of fun helping him - and it made my day yesterday when he came home from school and asked me, full of excitement if we could go to my room to work on some history.
I will continue to work with Michael on his homework, and bond with him while we set the table. You can pray that Michael continues to develop his understanding of the English language, and you can pray that even though he is only 12, I can plant seeds in him.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Pictures




I just wanted to post a few pictures on here for you to look at.
On Friday the school held a cookout called, "Chillin N Grillin" at the start of the BBQ the RA's competed in the "RA Olympics" I was involved in a food eating contest. I had to eat a pretzel covered with chocolate sauce as it dangled from a piece of string.
Saturday a group of the guys from the dorm hiked up to Hocblauen to enjoy the view from the top of the mountain.
Sunday we used our dorm fellowship time to have a soccer tournament. most of the guys from my hall are in the picture - we ended up losing in the championship game.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Here we go!

I am sorry it has been a little while since I have put up a new post. The past few days have been pretty busy and hectic. The new students arrived on Sunday and the returning students returned on Monday. One individual said I was, "like a little kid in a candy store" as the students were arriving. I have had a great time meeting all of the students and have started to build relationships with them.
Sonne is quite a unique dorm this year. We have four middle school students (all on my floor) and on the top floor we have 9 seniors. Therefore we have a student as young as 12, and as old as 18. This is quite a difference and will be a lot of fun, but it will present challenges as well (example: getting the the middle schoolers to bed by 10:00 and everyone else by 11:00).
The guys in my dorm are amazing and a lot of fun. A few of the afternoons have been spent on the soccer field kicking around and having fun. It is amazing because I can use the game of soccer to open up relationships despite age, ethnicity and language spoken.
Two of my middle school students have spent the past few years in France - so I have enjoyed trying to communicate to them in French. I am more fluent in French than German - but am still trying to pick up the German language. They commonly laugh at me when I am speaking French - but that's all part of learning.
The other day I did the grocery shopping and successfully asked a store clerk where to find the milk, how much it cost, and then politely greeted the check out lady as I left.
I want you to know that things here are going great. I am excited, I am enjoying, no the best word is, I am loving what I am doing. I am excited to get to know the guys better and form solid, influential relationships.
Thank you for all of your notes and e-mails. I apologize for the delayed responses. I do not spend much free time at a computer.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Remember Jesus

"When times get hard, remember Jesus. When people don't listen, remember Jesus. When tears come, remember Jesus. When disappointment is yourbed partner, remember Jesus. When fear pitches his tent in your front yard. When death looms, when anger singes, when shame weighs heavily. Remember Jesus."
The above quote is from Max Lucado's book 'Six Hours One Friday.' I have been reading it since being over here and found the quote very helpful and I wanted to share it.
Remember studying for finals in college? Remember staying up late then getting up early to study more? After a while you threw down your notes and exclaim, "Can I just take this test already?" You feel as prepared as you are going to be, you just want to get in the room and spill out all the information you have been cramming into your head.
That is where I am. I am walking around saying "Can the students just be here already?!" I am so excited for the students to be here. I am thrilled to meet them and start building relationships with them. I have had a lot of training and meetings to get prepared for their arrival, and I am ready for them to be here.
Only a few more days of waiting, new students will arrive on Sunday and returning students will come in Monday and Tuesday is the first day of school for them!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Pictures of Sonne



This is a picture of Sonne.



This is the view from my front steps at Sonne.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Sonne!




Over the weekend the Res. Life had the 'dorm draft' and I have been assinged to live in Sonne (pronounced Zone-Ah). Sonne is "up on the hill" located about 10K away from the school building. It is the furthest dorm from the school, but it is the only dorm that accumulates snow during the weather winter because it is at a much higher elevation. The dorm will be home to myself, two other RA's (Matt and C.B.) our two dorm parents, Rick and Sharon, and 27 students. Matt is returning for his third year as an RA here at BFA, CB is similar to me, in that this is her first year at BFA. Rick and Sharon have spent over 14 years serving as dorm parents in Indonesia and Thailand, but will begin their first year here at BFA.
The dorm is beautiful. Stepping outside the front door you look straight up the hill and see the mountains. it is breathtaking. The building itself was built in 1820 - so to put it in perspective, the building was built 40 years before America was engaged in her Civil War. There are many 'nuggets' of history around the house, including a painting in the living room that was started in 1938, but was not completed when the painter was pulled in to Hitler's army for World War II. Sorry - I really enjoy history and here in Germany, and Europe in general I am flooded with all sorts of history.
Things continue to go well here. New Staff orientation in the morning, then Res. Life activities in the afternoon. I will move in to Sonne on Sunday - and then the first batch of students will come in on August 24th. I am very excited for the students to come, but there is a lot of work to take care of prior to their arrival. We have torn down wall paper in our living room, started to paint one room and will move furniture in the next couple of days.
The transition into German culture as well as BFA life is going well - but it does have its difficult moments. There are moments of weakness, loneliness, and exhaustion. I have been flooded with a lot of information (banking, insurance, town registration, students, etc) I have enjoyed being in the dorm with the other RA's but have had a little difficulty really connecting.
I thank you for your continual support. E-mails I have received have been a blessing. Your encouragement and support is amazing.
I cannot wait for the students to get here. I am here to serve and love them.

Tommy

Friday, August 8, 2008

Germany, Switzerland, France



Hard to believe but the first week is just about over. It has been a very good and productive week. My morning German classes were very educational and helpful - but there is a lot of studying and practice that needs to happen in order to be fluent. I know it will not happen overnight, but I am praying that I will become decent in my speaking and understanding of German.
The afternoon driving has been a lot of fun. It is a good time to go out in the car with another male RA and get to know each other. It has also been great practice for driving over here. Yesterday I had to go to the airport and two different train stations, which led me from Germany into Switzerland and then France. It was pretty cool to be in those three countries in one day.
Tonight I drove the van down to Basel, Switzerland where a group of us walked around and toured the city. Naturally all of the old buildings fascinated me - I found one building that was built in 1233.
Through our Res Life meetings we have adopted the theme of "Love, Love, Love" for the year. 1 Peter 4:8 has been the theme verse - and we have discussed practical ways in which we can and should love the students in our dorms.
Next week will be similar to this week although rather than our morning German classes we will have 'all staff orientation' meetings and then Res Life meetings in the afternoon, followed by more driving.
Thank you all for your prayers, and encouragement.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

I have arrived!

Hello from Germany!
I arrived in Kandern Sunday afternoon after a long night/morning of travel, but thankfully had no issues with either of my flights, no problems with my luggage, and no problem meeting up with the RA who came to pick me up.
I have been settling in to life here in Germany, and I have to admit it is a bit overwhelming. This week the New Staff is going through orientation, which includes 2 hours of learning German, and then a 'field trip' into town to put into practice what we just learned. I'm trying hard to pick up on the German language and culture, but it is quite different and difficult.
The afternoons have been spent learning how to drive here in Germany! Wow... this is slightly different. Thankfully they drive on the same side of the road, that is, if the road is big enough to fit two cars on it at the same time. I'm surprised how skinny some of the roads are and how fast some people drive on them. Nevertheless I am adjusting to the road well (that is when I don't stall the car) and starting to learn where everything is. It is a bit difficult because I have to learn all the names of the dorms, and then understand how to get to and from each dorm from any given point. Later in the week we will be taking trips to the Dr. office, orthodontist, hospital etc. By the weekend I will be driving on the autobahn!

The area I am in is absolutely beautiful. There are green rolling hills everywhere you look and on clear days you can see the Swiss Alps in the distance. Absolutely stunning.
I have been able to go for a run the past two days which has been very nice. A great mental break for me, and a chance to collect all my thoughts and emotions.

I am very excited to be here and the transition has been quite easy. I cannot wait for the students to get here, but also want to enjoy the little bit of down time I do have prior to their arrival.

thank you for all of your prayers, letters of encouragement, and support throughout all of this. You have all been phenomenal and I am very thankful for you.

Love
Tommy

Thursday, July 31, 2008

48 Hours

There are less than 48 hours until I take off. It is hard to believe it is so close. This week has been very relaxing but very busy at the same time. It has been nice not working as I have had more time to take care of things. There have been multiple trips to Wal-Mart, trips to the grocery store, but also trips to the beach for an afternoon nap...and plenty of my mom's wonderful oreo dessert!
Today was the first day where I actually started to put things in suitcases. It was a bit stressful and overwhelming. The start of the packing also brought the reality of how little time I have left here before going to Germany. As I have said before - my emotions are all over the place. Excited remains the dominant emotion, and is the best word to describe how I am feeling. I am excited to have the opportunity to pour the love of Jesus into the lives of the BFA students. I am excited to have the opportunity to disciple, impact, challenge, and bond with the students. I am excited.
I am nervous. It is a foreign country, a foreign language, a culture I am not familiar with. There have been moments where I feel inadequate and unsure of my purpose and my own strength. I am sad to leave behind many individuals who I truly love. I am encouraged. I have received many letters in the mail, phone calls, e-mails, text messages offering encouragement. It has been a blessing to hear from many of you - and I thank you for that.

I know this post is a bit scattered - but I hope you appreciate the honesty and the insight into how I am feeling. This will be my last post before I leave, and I may not have the opportunity to get to a computer for a little while - so I do not know when I will post again.
I wanted to close this post with a portion of a letter I got today. It really spoke to me and I thought that it is a great picture to leave you with.

"You are going to Germany to pick fights with all the forces of hell - the same forces of hell that tried with everything they had to keep Jesus in the grave but they couldn't. They won't back down. They are mad. And you are just making it worse. Your light is so bright and your fire so strong, your purpose is so concrete and the forces hate the fact you are coming over. There are going to be some fights, this is a war. Get pumped up. Sharpen your sword. At the same time, sit back and relax in the knowledge that it is impossible for you to lose because of what Christ did 2,000 years ago."

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Counting Down...

August 2nd is getting closer and closer. The emotions regarding my move are fairly scattered but the predominant feeling is excitement. I am so excited to go. It is funny because I have noticed that every day Germany and BFA come up in conversation. I'm not always sure how it does - but out of my excitement and desire to go and serve it comes up.
To be honest I really do not have much to report on this week. Tomorrow is my last day of work for the summer (for those who have heard stories about work...you know how excited I am to be done with work). Next week I will be at home finalizing the last details, packing, relaxing and spending time with friends and family.
I would encourage you, if you have the time to look at a few other blogs that have been created by individuals who will be serving at BFA. You can find these through this website - it has been a lot of fun for me to read their stories and thoughts prior to going to Germany, and I feel as though you may enjoy it as well.
Thanks for checking my blog - feel free to e-mail me (Bressontw1@gmail.com) before I take off if you want.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Challenging Thoughts

I just wanted to pass along a few sentences I read from a Max Lucado book. He is a phenomenal author and I always find myself intrigued and inspired by his work.

"If you know Jesus this world will be the closest you ever come to Hell. If you do not know Jesus this world will be the closest you ever come to Heaven."

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Wisconsin


I had a phenomenal trip to Wisconsin. It was absolutely amazing. Whitney and I flew out on Wednesday evening and left Saturday morning. It was such a joy and blessing to be able to spend a lot of time with Whitney on Thursday, as we walked around the city of Milwaukee. Neither of us really knew which way we needed to go in order to get to Lake Michigan so we walked about 15 blocks in the opposite direction when we only needed to walk 4. Yet neither one of us were upset as we just enjoyed walking around and talking to each other.
The trip was also a blessing because I was able to spend some time with Philip. We got tickets to Summerfest and Philip used his magic and got us tickets in the 7th row to see Tim McGraw. The next day the three of us walked from downtown to Miller Park (close to 6 miles each way) to catch a Brewers game. It was great to be at the stadium as we all talked about the memories we had of watching the Brewers growing up. Plus, you really cannot beat the smell of all those fans tailgaiting before the game. I had to take advantage of being in Wisconsin, and I think I had 5 brauts in four days.
Sadly I came back from a great weekend and have been working all week.
This Friday I get my wisdom teeth taken out! I'm not too nervous about it - but it should be an interesting experience.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Plane Ticket!

I have officially reached the minimum percentage level in order for me to purchase a plane ticket, so earlier in the week I coordinated with Janz Team and we bought a one-way ticket leaving Boston on August 2nd. I will arrive in Germany on Sunday the 3rd and will begin all of my training and orientation seminars on the 4th. This is a huge answer to prayer, and quite an exciting event! It truly has been a blessing to see support of all kinds come in throughout the past month. I really have been blessed and I want to thank you. I have enough funds to purchase my initial ticket, but I am not quite where I need to be. I am still hoping to get more support.
I have been e-mailing a few people about joining my 'prayer team.' I have asked individuals to sign up for one day a week to pray for me. If you would like to sign up for a day and join my prayer team please send me an e-mail, Bressontw1@gmail.com

One of the main things I have been asking people to pray for recently is my energy, and the ability to rest. I am constantly on the go and have not been able to rest at all this summer. Please pray that I would find a few hours, or days to rest and prepare mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically for Germany.
I am leaving for Wisconsin tomorrow night to visit my brother. I am very excited about the trip and the ability to spend time with Philip. It is hard to believe but I have not seen him since Christmas, so it will be a great reunion. In addition to this, Whitney jumped on board and will be traveling with me! So all three siblings will be together for the 4th of July.
Thank you all for checking my blog. Feel free to e-mail me if you have any questions. I would love to hear from you and know you are checking my blog.
Have a great holiday!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Euro 2008

Seeing as how in a little over a month I will call Germany home, I felt it necessary to post and show my excitement that Germany beat Turkey (sorry Shindy!) and is in the Championship game for Euro 2008!! I have been watching Germany with a little more interest as of late and am excited to be in a culture that has such a large passion for soccer.
So if you find yourself wondering who to cheer for this weekend...Germany is not a bad choice.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Winnipeg

What a great week! I have returned from my Janz Team orientation in Winnipeg and the entire week was a true blessing. The week was filled with many informative seminars and helpful tips to be aware of prior to heading to Germany. There was a vast array of topics covered, which produced a wide range of emotions. After some of the seminars I was excited and ready to go! I was daydreaming of what to pack and ready to get on the plane! Then, after a little more discussion I found myself nervous and scared. The week was spent going back and forth with these emotions.
I am excited beyond belief to go to Germany and work at BFA. I cannot wait to be in the position to work with these missionary kids and love them. I am excited to get to know them, to attend their athletic games, to cook them food, to be at BFA with them and walk through this experience with them.
I know that it will not be easy. There will be long and tiring days. There will be difficult days and difficult students. I will be attacked and challenged.

As I went through the orientation week there are two 'conclusions' I arrived at.
#1 - The Body of Christ is amazing. There were 27 individuals who were commissioned by Janz Team in Winnipeg. I was among the 'young' crowd and then there were some as old as 65. There were some who were married for one or two years - and then some who had been married for twenty years and were raising four children. Individuals came from Christian homes, some from broken homes. Prior to joining Janz Team individuals worked as; teachers, engineers, librarians, students, youth ministers, nurses, etc. Individuals of our team came from Georgia, Texas, South Carolina, California, Illinois, Canada etc. As we go serve at BFA we will fulfill the positions of; RA, Dorm Parents, literature teachers, physical education, tech-staff, etc.
As Paul wrote to the church of Corinth in his first letter he expressed to them this image of the body of Christ. In chapter 12 verse 12 he states, "The body is a unit though it is made up of many parts and though all its parts are many, they form one body. so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body..."
I was blessed to see the body of Christ come together while in Winnipeg. We all have our different talents, abilities and personality traits. Though we share many differences we all united together in our love for Christ and our desire to serve as missionaries.
#2 The second 'conclusion' I came to while in Winnipeg comes from Exodus 17:8-15. This passage is an account of the Israelites battle against the Amalekites. Though it is more commonly known for the passage in which Moses' hands were held up - it brought a reality of warfare to me. I am not going out with a physical sword when I go to Germany. But have no illusions, it will be a battle. There is a spiritual battle taking place in Kandern, Germany and I am going on the front lines. I learned that the Black Forest region where BFA is located is not simply labeled "black" Forest as a result of the many trees. It is 'black' because it is a gathering place for cults and pagan rituals and it is a spiritually dark place.

The week in Canada was a blessing and a great time. For those from Grove City College, you will be glad to know that I played a game of ultimate frisbee. I even made a few catches for points - I think you call them 'touchdowns.' But I can now call myself an "international discer."
Thank you for all of your support. I am blessed by your continuing help and encouragement as I prepare to go to Germany.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Oh Canada!

Everything is in place and I will be leaving for Winnipeg Monday morning and returning Saturday night. I am looking forward to taking a week off of work and being able to meet individuals who will be serving with me in Germany over the next year. The week will be busy with different seminars, meetings, and general preparation work to be taken care of.
I recently sent out a letter containing an update...if you did not receive one of these and would like to please let me know via e-mail.
Thank you for checking my blog!

Tommy

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Germany and BFA

I continue to be in contact with Janz Team (my missions agency) and BFA on a fairly regular basis. I get an e-mail at least every other day and sometimes more. They keep me updated on things to consider before moving over, things to expect upon moving and other bits and pieces.
The biggest thing coming up for me is that the week of June 16 I will be in Winnipeg, Canada for a week of orientation and preparation. This week will prove to be very informative and helpful in my final preparations. In addition to this it will be an opportunity for me to meet some of the RA's I will be working with as well as other Janz Team missionaries deployed all over the world.

A question I have been asked on several occassions is, "when will you be going over to Germany?" BFA wants me there by the first week of August (August 4). I have NOT purchased my plane ticket yet, seeing as how Janz Team will do this for me however they will not do so until I have raised 80% of my support.

I am starting to count down the days until I leave. I am extremely excited, and if I am being honest I am a little nervous and scared as well. Yet at the end of the day I cannot wait to be over there and get started.

Friends

I have been thinking about what to write on the blog to keep people updated. I am sure there are a few people who read the blog in order to check up on the things happening in Germany. However, seeing as how I am not in Germany many of these posts are irrelevant and perhaps even boring. Also, considering the fact that I am not used to blogging and at times find it a little awkward and unnatural - I imagine things are not that entertaining and informative. Therefore I will let you know that this particular blog will be used to discuss some of the recent things going on in New Hampshire with myself - while the next blog will be primarily focused on Germany and BFA.

Over the past weekend I drove down to Virginia to see two of my good friends from Grove City College get married - and I had a great time. It was a long drive (11 1/2 hours each way) but it was well worth the trip. While it was a blessing and honor to be at the ceremony and reception on such a monumental day for Andrew and Alix, it reminded me of how blessed I am. Through the years I truly have been blessed with amazing friends. It was a bit sad leaving the wedding knowing that I will not see many of my friends for quite some time. However I left encouraged and knowing that I have been blessed by being able to share many memories and years with great people.

I am continuing to work hard with my landscaping job. Work is not too exciting - I just dig holes and lay mulch for at least eight hours every day.
A quick note about work that was pretty encouraging and will be in my prayers as I continue throughout the summer - Last week I drove to work and was listening to a praise and worship CD - upon coming to work I was informed I would drive my car to the individual's house and was going to take a co-worker with me. Knowing he (Mike) does not display any religious beliefs I turned off my CD player as soon as I got in the car and drove in silence. As I went through the work day I was reminded of a verse in Romans 1:16 where it says, "I am not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes."
I realized that I had been ashamed of my beliefs and dedication to serving Jesus Christ. After lecturing myself throughout the entirety of my work day I was determined to play the CD while driving home. Unfortunately he left the job site before I did and I drove home alone.
This past Thursday however, I rode with Mike once again and this time did NOT turn off my CD player and we drove while listening to "Our God is an awesome God." Upon getting to the site he asked me, "are you religious or something?" To which I responded 'yes' and he said "huh, that's interesting.'
So if you think about it, please pray for my relationship with Mike, and opportunities I may have to get to know him better and to pour Truth into him.
That's all I got on this post - I will now write another post and have it more concentrated on Germany.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Work

Part of me has a hard time believing that I graduated from college. My four years at Grove City College went by extremely fast. While I am excited for the next 'chapter' to begin I will definitely miss certain aspects of college life. It was an amazing four years and the friends I made along the way are very special to me. I will deeply miss many of my friends and the blessing they were to me.
Less than 36 hours after graduating from college I began my summer work. It was a bit of a rough transition. The alarm clock went off at 6.40... a little earlier than I was used to at school! My first day of work was an 11 hour day, and today I put in about 9 hours. Yesterday was a lot of mulching, and today was a lot of weed whacking and mowing lawns. I was a little disappointed because my partner got the riding lawn mower while I was stuck with the push mower! I am a bit tired from all of the work and manual labor but I am hoping that I will get used to it and that work will be a joy this summer. As of now the plan is to work between 40-50 hours a week. Hopefully the weather will cooperate and there will be plenty of yards to take care of!
Again, thank you for checking my blog and keeping up to date with my journey.(Thank you Connor for all the comments, they are always entertaining and appreciated!) I am very excited for Germany and all the possibilities that will come along with it. I will be traveling to Winnipeg Canada in a few weeks in order to go through orientation and a bit of training. At that point just about everything will be all set.

For those who care... Manchester United and Chelsea play in the Champions League tomorrow (May 21st) Though it is hard to cheer for these teams, especially because Chelsea beat Liverpool in the semifinals, you should watch the game because it is sure to be a classic match.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Graduation!

Everything went according to plan and despite a heavy dosage of 'senioritis' I was able to complete all of my finals, pass all of my classes and graduate!
Graduation weekend was a lot of fun as I had family and friends in Grove City to celebrate with and enjoy the weekend with.
Tomorrow morning I will begin my summer work landscaping in the Portsmouth area. I will enjoy being outside and doing manual labor, though the work day begins at 7:30 in the morning, quite a bit earlier than I am accustomed to.
I will write a bit more later in the week and go more in depth regarding graduation, my summer and where I stand with BFA.
Thank you for checking my blog and keeping up to date with me. I appreciate all of your comments, encouragement and support.

Tommy

Monday, May 5, 2008

Soon

I have two more days of classes, before a study day and then following that I will have my last batch of finals. It is hard to believe, and even harder to keep myself motivated and studying. I will graduate in 12 days.

Monday, April 14, 2008

How did I hear about BFA?

A question that I have heard numerous times, and rightfully so has been, "Growing up in Wisconsin and New Hampshire, and going to college in Pennsylvania, how did you hear about a high school in Germany?" A very legitimate question in my opinion. BFA does not necessarily seem to connect with the others so smoothly.
My Junior year at Grove City College I was approached by a friend and asked to room with him and be a "pseudo" RA on his freshmen hall. Basically this means I had all of the perks of being an RA without any of the responsibility! Who doesn't want that?!
Our freshmen hall last year was an absolute blast. The guys were phenomenal and a lot of fun. There was quite a variety of personalities which made it very unique but such a blessing.
One of the guys on the hall last year was Joel Shindeldecher. Joel (aka Shindy) is a graduate from BFA, as his parents are currently serving as missionaries in Turkey. Shindy became a good friend of mine, and remains a close friend and throughout the year he continually told me about BFA, his experience, and why I should try and become an RA over there.
After many conversations BFA became more of a possibility in my mind and through prayer and different conversations with different people I felt as though BFA would be a great fit for me upon graduation.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Why BFA

Finally we have some warm weather and sunshine at Grove City! Naturally it will only last for a day or two and then we will get a solid three or four days of rain. Somethings never change.
I figured I would take a little bit of time and explain exactly why I chose to serve at the Black Forest Academy. I wanted to let you know why I felt called and what exactly I want to do while in Germany. I do not view this as an extended vacation, but a mission and an opportunity.

Last fall after the conclusion of the soccer season I was on a run with a teammate of mine who has been a good friend all four years of college. Throughout the run our conversation turned towards plans after school. At that time I had a few thoughts running through my mind such as; seminary, continuing my education and getting my masters, teaching, missionary work, and possibly working in Chicago. I really did not know where I was supposed to go or where I wanted to go. Yet as we discussed the options I said to him, "my only desire, my only goal is to love people. I do not care how I am able to do that, what title I have, I simply want to love people." That is my goal and that is my desire. I thought about going to seminary in order to pursue a career in youth ministry, or perhaps continuing my education in order to place myself within the classroom. Regardless of where I was, I knew my job and my desire was to love people.
After searching through my options and thinking about the positives and negatives of each - I quickly began to be extremely excited about Black Forest Academy. I see it is an opportunity to be in a dorm situation with 20+ high school kids, where my job is to love them and provide for them. I know that it will be a lot of fun - but it will also be very difficult and quite tiring. I am sure my parents grew tired of chasing after me and my siblings...now imagine having 20 more!
I am very excited to have the opportunity to serve at BFA. I am going over there to serve the students and to love them. That is what I want to do my whole life - and for the next year I will be doing that while in Germany.

Thank you for checking my blog. If you wish to get in contact with me you can e-mail me at Bressontw1@gcc.edu or you can give me a call at 603.988.3179.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Finish Strong

I am back at Grove City College where I have just under two months before graduation. I was able to spend part of my Easter Break at home in New Hampshire with friends and family which was very encouraging and a blessing. It has been a bit weird being back at school for the 'final push.' Only 5 1/2 weeks of academics left before finals. My goal and focus is to finish strong. Not only academically but socially and spiritually as well. I have been blessed with some incredible friendships over my four years and desire to enjoy the time left on campus with those friends.
A few prayer requests I would like to voice: continued prayers for Whitney and her healing, especially with this most recent medical procedure. My search for a summer job. I am trying to contact a few different businesses, but cannot seem to be getting anywhere. I have started praying and would be blessed by your prayers for the men who I am going to be living with. I do not know how many students I will live with, and what ages they will be. However I am certain I want to love them and help them in any and every way possible.

Thank you for your support and your encouragement.

Ps. It may take me a little while to get used to the whole 'blogging' concept. It is quite unnatural and uncomfortable for me.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Preparation

This blog has been established to allow those who are supporting me while I am serving at Black Forest Academy to stay updated on what is happening. I hope that you find this helpful and entertaining. Please come back often as I will attempt to post weekly blogs in the months before I leave, and once I arrive in Germany.