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.