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


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: 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.