Thursday, December 17, 2009

End of the semester

It is hard to believe but we have reached the end of the semester. This afternoon the students finished all their finals, and have been celebrating ever since. It really is bizarre how fast the time has gone.
Now that the exams have been finished, the guys must work on their rooms! Tonight they will pack a lot and sleep a little. Within the next 10 hours we will watch 21 guys leave from the dorm, going to all different parts of the world. The earliest van run leaves the dorm at 3.15am, and the last one leaves at noon.
Needless to say there is a bit of work to be done, and a lot of fun to be had. It will be a good night, but busy and exhausting.

Next week I hope to be able to blog, after I have had a little time to rest.
thanks for checking up on me!

Tommy

Thursday, December 3, 2009

That time of year

The cliche phrase is that pictures are worth a thousand words. Therefore, since my time is limited, and my energy depleted, I will post a few different pictures from recent happenings here at BFA in hopes of sharing with you what is going on here.



Above, some of the Sonne guys diving in for a wonderful Thanksgiving meal!
Below...the result of eating all that food!




I don't know that I ever posted a picture of my amazing 3v3 team from a few weeks ago. We took second in the entire tournament, and had a blast playing together. The team is made up of students from Blauen and Sonne. We called ourselves, "Team Zimties." Zimties is a German brand of cereal very similar to Cinnamon Toast Crunch.




Three male RA's enjoying doing some stupid touristy things on a weekend off. Holland is famous for the wooden shoes...so we had to capture the moment.




Above: getting ready for banquet meant tying a lot of ties, and getting the collars looking crisp and clean.

Below you will see most of the Sonne guys, at our recent Christmas Banquet. They clean up pretty well.




DP is a stud! He had one of the best performances at Christmas Banquet, and was named "King" of the senior class.




Last and certainly not least! I was very blessed and excited to have Stephanie come and visit me for a few days. She helped a lot around the dorm, and made the guys pancakes on Saturday morning while they watched some cartoons!



Thank you for keeping up with the blog! Please don't hesitate to send me an email (Bressontw1@gmail.com). We are near the end of our semester, which has left me exhausted, homesick, and tired.

Tommy

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Checkers and Tic-Tac-Toe

Today was quite an entertaining day. We did not have a lot of guys come home on "early bus" so I thought it was a great opportunity to get some one-on-one time with some of the guys. I found one wandering around the dorm looking bored, so I grabbed him (quite literally) and sat him down to play some cards. After going through a few different card games, I quickly found out we did not know any of the same card games. So, seeing our checkers board close by, I snagged it and said, "we're going to play checkers." The look of complete and utter confusion I received was priceless. To my amazement, he had never heard of checkers, let alone had no clue how to play. So we sat down and I taught him how to play checkers. I really wanted him to do well, and wanted him to have fun playing, but he didn't fully pick up on the strategy and fell prey to a few of my traps. There was one moment where I was teaching him a rule, and in order to adhere to the rule, I ended up jumping five of his guys in a row! I felt pretty bad, but thankfully he started laughing and enjoyed playing nonetheless.
After beating him twice in checkers, I thought I would try to boost his ego a little by playing some tic-tac-toe. That game is harmless, and takes little to no thought. Therefore I figured it would be a good game to play. After my suggestion to switch to tic-tac-toe, I once again received the same look of complete and utter confusion.
I was baffled. I couldn't believe he did not know how to play checkers OR tic-tac-toe!
After going through the rules we played a few games of tic-tac-toe, and I may have made a few 'mistakes' that allowed for me to be on the losing end.

I walked away smiling for having been part of a very unique experience for our student. I am honored and feel special for having been able to teach him how to play these two games. I am still a little baffled that the games of checkers and tic-tac-toe were foreign to him. But when you grow up in three different countries, in three different continents, all by the time you are 15, I guess it is understandable.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Flu prevention week

I apologize it has been a while since I have put up an update on my blog. My last blog highlighted the many events that have taken place, keeping us all very busy. Since my last blog I have also been on more planes/trains than I have fingers, so it was difficult to sit down and type something up. Hopefully this will get you caught up to speed.

Here at BFA we are finishing our period of isolation. What exactly does that mean? Well...last week for a few days we had many kids absent from school with the flu. When I say "many" I mean we had at least one-third of our dorm students and more home-students out of school. There were a few dorms that had over 50% of their students home sick. Therefore the administration felt it best for us to initiate Flu Prevention Week. The biggest act taken was to cancel school yesterday (Monday) and today (Tuesday). Thus all the dorm students have been in the dorm unable to go anywhere for the past four days. If a student recorded a temperature of 37.5 or higher (roughly equivalent to 100 degrees F.) they were sent to their room for at least 24 hours and were to have minimal contact with any other students.
Honestly, looking at a four-day weekend, with students around 24 hours a day, at first seemed exhausting and painful. It was definitely exhausting, but it turned out to be quite a bit of fun as well. I must say a generic "thank you" to all of the dorm subs who came up throughout the weekend to offer our dorm staff a little break. People came up to help cook/bake, they entertained the guys, and some came up and gave me the opportunity to go for a run, which I greatly appreciated. So a special thank you to all those who came up and served in the dorms this weekend.
The weekend enabled the students to relax, sleep in, and hang out. We tried to have enough things going on in the dorm to prevent them from going crazy, but also give them enough breathing room and enough time to relax.
Friday and Saturday was the night for the high school play, which also happened to be the start of our Flu Prevention Week. There were rumors the play would be canceled as a result of the illnesses. However, everyone involved came to a compromise, and the show went on...but everyone in the audience had to wear a mask!


It turned out to be quite an entertaining twist to the play, and something that will not be forgotten for a lot of these students. I cannot imagine what it was like for the actors to look out an audience of people wearing masks. Despite the added distraction the high school play was a huge hit, and very well done.
Tomorrow the students will go back to school, hopefully rested, and definitely feeling better physically. They will find excitement knowing basketball tryouts start tomorrow, and Thursday we are celebrating Thanksgiving in the dorm!
I know...I know... the American Thanksgiving is still a week away. But here at BFA we do things on a different schedule. Because we have so many students from so many different countries, we try to compromise and make everyone happy. I am sure it will be a long day in the kitchen cooking a Thanksgiving meal for 30+ people, but it will be well worth it when we sit down for some delicious food. We had somebody tape some NFL games from this past Sunday and we will watch those Thursday night (We have the Packers game, and the Colts game. Both were brilliant games, with phenomenal results!)

Thank you for all you do.

Tommy

Friday, October 30, 2009

Update

Sunday is the first of November, where did October go? I guess the saying is correct, time flies when you are having fun. It also helps when there are multiple things going on every day, and every weekend. Here is a little update on some of the things that have been going on in the BFA world.
Last weekend I had the opportunity to visit one of our families in Venice. It was an amazing weekend in which I was able to catch up on sleep, reading, and just enjoy a new city. I had a great time walking around the city by myself, getting lost on the curvy roads that make no sense, and taking pictures of the city. I would have loved to put up a few pictures with this blog, but have not gotten around to putting them on my computer yet.
Last night (Thursday) the entire school went down to Basel, Switzerland for Herbstmesse. We packed 5 buses full of staff and students, and took over the city. Herbstmesse is a fall party, that is bigger than your county fair, but smaller than a state fair. You can find cotton candy, corn on the cob, just like in the States...but there are also wonderful treats like Swiss Chocolate, German pretzels, and of course plenty of stands selling wurst.
Every year BFA takes over the bumper cars from 7.30-8.30. It is hilarious watching staff and students alike rushing to get a car, and then destroy as many people as possible. I was pretty successful out there, and didn't get hit too many times, but delivered a few good shots.
Herbstmesse is also known as the "official" time at which guys can start asking girls to Christmas Banquet. Unfortunately I did hear about some guys getting turned down, but there were plenty of guys beaming with excitement as they now have a date to the Banquet, which is in the end of November. I must admit, the girls here are lucky, because the guys get extremely creative and do a really good job at putting together a way to ask a girl. Rarely is it done face-to-face, rather it is a process that may lead a girl on a rabbit trail, with the usage of notes, flowers, other students, and even two-year old kids! It is pretty impressive. One of the best I heard from last night... a guy wrote a poem, and every period had a different student give a section of the poem to the girl. At the end of the day he gave her the final piece of the poem, along with some flowers, and asked then.
Today (Friday) there is no school because of a German holiday, therefore we have our first annual 3v3 basketball tournament. I am on a team called, "Zimties." Zimt is the German word for cinnamon. Zimties is a type of cereal over here, very similar to Cinnamon Toast Crunch. A bizarre name, I know, but we are proud of it. I will play with three guys from Sonne, and two girls from Blauen. I have no idea as to whether or not we will be competitive, but I am sure it will be fun. The tournament will take all day, and most of the students will be there watching and enjoying the tournament.
Tomorrow (Saturday) we have home volleyball games! This year we only have girls volleyball, but there will still be plenty to watch. Because of the nature of the league our sports teams are in - this is the only home game of the year. Needless to say, the girls are excited to play in front of their fans, and the students are excited to get out there and support their friends.
Saturday dinner, I am 'on' for cooking Saturday dinner this week. I am planning on making some fajitas for the guys. So after volleyball I will need to grill enough chicken for 20 high school boys, chop onions, peppers, tomatoes, and put it all together!
Saturday night, two of our dorms are having an 'open house.' Essentially they will pick a theme, and decorate the entire dorm, and all of the rooms according to that theme. Then the entire BFA community walks through the dorm, enjoys some delicious treats, and hangs out.
Finally, we come to Sunday! A day where we don't have a lot planned, because...every other day has enough going on. After Church on Sunday we encourage the guys to get caught up on homework, take a nap, or lay low. They need it, and staff does as well.

There is a 'brief' update on this weekend at BFA.

Tommy

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Journal

The weather has quickly turned here in Germany. A few days ago I was wearing shorts and feeling comfortable, and now they are predicting snow over the weekend!
Lately I have been venturing into my old journals for pleasure reading. It is quite interesting and educational to read what I wrote a few weeks, months, even years ago. It helps me better understand where I have come from, and it sheds light into situations I am currently going through. You would be amazed how many times the same emotions and struggles throw you for a loop.
Yesterday I found this entry and thought it would be cool to put on my blog. It was written in August 2008, as I was on the plane coming to Germany for the first time.
Enjoy.

36 F. This is where it all starts. The man next to me is crowding me as his head continually bobs up and down. 36 F is the start, and the end is not in sight. The next stop is the Black Forest Academy located in Kandern, Germany. That is the next stop but I will call it home for at least the next twelve months. This is where my next journey begins.
The word journey to me implies there is a goal or a purpose. Journey carries the weight that something is being searched for. I am on a journey for students lives I can change. My purpose is to obey my Heavenly Father and my goal is to pour out the love of Jesus Christ into their lives.
Change. Having the power to make someone or something different as a result of my actions.
Different. Having no like or equal. Set apart and unique. Having a distinguishable characteristic separate from their surroundings.
My goal and purpose is to make the students at BFA different than their culture in that they have an ever-increasing love and devotion to our maker and savior, Jesus Christ.

It is amazing to look back and see the ways in which God has prepared me for this. It is as if every trip had been building towards this, all of which I was completely unaware of six months ago.
My first mission trip was in the spring of 2005 when I flew over to Rome for a week. Even now I can recall moments when I was shy, ashamed and scared. Yet that entire experience was only a stepping stone for my next summer when I spent 32 days traveling down the east coast. Many of the fears I had experiences a year earlier had made their way out of me, yet I was still learning and finding ways in which I needed to improve. The following summer (2007) I once again went into the refiners’ fire to be molded and shaped more into the image of Christ. The growing continued as did the length of my experience. That summer I spent eight weeks away from home and traveled to two foreign countries, and many states within the USA. Then, finally here I am in 36 F. I have seen the length of my journey grow from one week, to 32 days, to eight weeks, and now a full year. I have been through many different experiences and have gone through many different emotions. Yet through it all God has proven himself faithful. That is all I can lean on and all I can hope for. So as I begin my time in Germany I will continue to walk by faith. Every move along the way, every bend in the road has brought me to where I am. I have no doubt that in a few years I will look back at my experience in Germany and will recognize how this too was another step in my journey.
So as I continue, I will walk by faith. I will not always be able to see the next step but I believe God will prove himself faithful. God will prove himself once again and whisper in my ear, “Keep walking towards me my child. You are mine and I am yours. Be ready to fight. I will be ready to pick you up when you fall, but fear not for I have already gone ahead of you and secured the victory. Follow me my son. Follow me.”

August 2, 2008.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Rainy Day

Today in Germany we have been pummeled by rain since the early morning. It is difficult to describe the way in which the students and staff are affected by the weather. A rainy day has the power to leave many in a somber and discouraged state of mind. Waking up to darkness, and the constant deliverance of rain all day can leave many without the desire to smile, laugh, or be motivated to carry on daily routines. Therefore, tonight for our snack after study hours, I decided to make a special treat of, "smiley face pancakes." Hopefully it gave the guys a reason to smile on a rather gloomy day.




Also... I was having fun with Seeun and trying to get him to smile... this is the best I could do...

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A chance to breathe

I really want to give an update about what is going on here in Germany, but I honestly don't know what to sit down and write about. It has been increasingly difficult to paint an accurate picture of life in Germany.
Part of me has the desire to express the joys of dorm wrestling, rugby, pumpkin carving competitions. While I could easily fill a page about those aspects, part of me would feel as though you are cheated because you do not receive the whole picture. While the above mentioned activities are awesome, I would be neglecting the ones that are not always as enjoyable. Doing massive loads of laundry, going to bed after midnight and waking up at 6.30 for breakfast preparations. But nobody wants to hear from a grumpy shrimp.

So I debate blogging about the in-depth and encouraging conversations I have been able to have lately. Who wouldn't want to hear about the student who thanked me for revoking his computer privileges, because he was playing games when he shouldn't have. What? A teenager being thankful about discipline? He recognized it was a temptation and needed help, so my confiscating his computer was releasing him from any temptation, to which he was grateful! I walked away scratching my head, yet having a joy filled heart. What a picture, but is it accurate? Don't forget those students who simply cannot grasp why they cannot always do whatever they want, however they want, when they want. Those who think rules are put in place simply to give the staff something to do. No matter how many times you ask, they will not comply. I walk away grabbing my head, looking for some Tylenol, with a heart fighting anger, frustration and lack of patience.

Then I contemplate blogging about the joy of being in a dorm and walking through life with 21 students. I get to eat breakfast with them, help with their homework (any subject but chemistry!), talk to them about the struggles they are facing. But then I wonder if this paints an inaccurate picture, because I neglect the pressure and responsibility that is ever present. Knowing your every move is meticulously watched by 21 students who are eager to learn, and imitate. Every moment of impatience seen, every ounce of frustration noted. The weight knowing few will remember my words, but all will remember my actions. Trying to fall asleep at night wondering if my actions pointed my students towards God.

All of the above mainly deal with my being here in Germany, what if I were to blog about myself? The lessons I am learning from my current book of pleasure. My plans and visions for the future. Can I paint a picture of the pleasant, without mentioning the heartache, loneliness, and insecurities?

So here I sit debating about what to blog about. How to update those who have joined with me in this adventure, about my life here in Germany. Then it hits me. All the brainstorming and penning of words, and I find one simple sentence that sums it all up.

... I am here in Germany, living life, hoping to do so in such a way that brings honor, glory, and praise to my Lord and Savior.

Live a life worthy of The calling.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

New Pictures

Just wanted to draw your attention to the pictures I just added. This is a conglomeration of many different activities here at BFA this fall. Hopefully it gives you insight to life at Sonne, and some of the things going on here. The pictures were taken from; Chillin N Grillin, Fall Party (theme: opposites), Rugby, Sonne Creekings, and other random shots.

Enjoy!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Bed time story




Hey my name’s Ben Martin and this year I’m a senior at Sonne. One thing that I think is really cool about being a senior is how you are given the responsibility of caring for and looking after the underclassmen. A great example of how this works and how much fun it can be was the other night. Me and Tommy had just finished working out and he left to go put the middle schoolers in bed. They have an earlier bedtime than everyone else so they need to be “coaxed” into actually crawling under the covers and trying to get some sleep. Tommy usually tucks them into bed and stuff but this night I decided to go read my favorite book did I ever tell you how lucky you are by Dr. Seuss to them. So I went down there and found them getting ready for bed with Tommy waiting outside and I went ahead and read most of the book to them and finished by giving them both a hug and tucking them in. It was a really cool fun thing to do and I actually really liked it and I think they did too, but this is just an example of some of the cool fun stuff that we do here. It’s almost like because we’re seniors we are being held to a higher standard than we were before which is a good thing because I can see improvement in everyone one of us just because we are seniors and people especially underclassmen look up to us the way they do.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

It is hard to believe but we are just about finished with the third week of school already! Time has a bizarre way of speeding by here at BFA. The days have been filled to the max, and there has been plenty to keep everyone busy.

This past weekend all three guy dorms brought at least two vans of students to a field in a nearby village, for two hours of intense rugby! It was a blast. Despite the fact many of the students did not have a clue as to what the rules are, and the way to play, overall it was a great success. Sonne was down a few guys, so I was able to run around and tackle a few guys here and there. All of the female dorms brought vans to the field as well, and the girls cheered on their favorite guy dorms. We had close to, if not more than 100 students at the field for a few hours. During one of the games I was standing on the sideline looking at all the students sitting/cheering on the little hill. I grabbed one of the dorm dads of a different dorm and repeatedly said, "this is such an amazing place." Being there was such a blessing. The unity of the dorms, the fans that came with painted faces, dorm chants, and a good number of staff were all there enjoying the day. It was one of those moments where the students' joy was evident, and being in the midst of their joy, filled my heart with joy.
One of the most entertaining things about rugby, was the Sunday after at Church. I pulled in with a van full of guys, and we met up with some guys from a different dorm, in the foyer area. The conversation quickly turned to sharing all the 'aches and pains' from the day before. Each person took a turn to enlighten everyone else as to where they were sore, and who it was that delivered the hit. In a twisted way, it was quite entertaining.

Tomorrow night is "Fall Party" for the high school. All the students will pile into the auditorium for games and performances. This year's theme is, 'opposites' so the students are encouraged to dress up according to the theme. I have heard murmurs of what our Sonne Seniors are doing, but they are trying to keep it a secret. I have yet to figure out my costume, so if anyone has any ideas, feel free to let me know.

Starting next Monday the high school has their Spiritual Emphasis Week. An outside speaker, and band will come in for chapel daily throughout the week. I am excited for this week as it will bring a solid focus and purpose as we start the year. You can be praying for the hearts of our students throughout the week. I am sure many will be challenged and pushed outside their comfort zone. While others will completely check out and carry a chip on their shoulder because they are once again, "being preached at all the time."

As you can see, we are moving at full speed here in Germany.
Please do not hesitate to send me an email (Bressontw1@gmail.com). I always enjoy hearing from you.

Tommy

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Back to school!

They are here!! There are few words that accurately describe the joy and enthusiasm as the students came to Sonne this past Sunday and Monday. Sunday saw the eight new students arrive at Sonne, all a little scared and timid. Thankfully it has been quite obvious that the new students have been able to fit in and quickly adapt to life here at Sonne. Monday had a very different feel than Sunday, as the dorm was filled with excitement and anticipation all day long. Every time a returning student would arrive, an announcement was made over the intercom system, and the guys who were in the dorm came pouring out yelling with joy, offering up massive hugs. The final student arrived shortly after 11.45pm, and was welcomed with a roaring applause.
Tuesday brought opening ceremonies, and the first day of school, which didn't please the students but it gave me two very specific reasons to be thankful.
1. There were many BFA students I saw Tuesday at school who came up and give me big hugs and told me about their summers. They were students who DO NOT live at Sonne, but I had the chance to know the through the trip to Kenya, and soccer. I found great joy in knowing those two opportunities created friendships that would last. I am thrilled to see relationships that started last year, continuing on to this year. I don't see these students as often as I do the Sonne guys, but it is always an encouraging encounter.
2. Every year during the opening ceremonies the school does a 'roll call' of countries. If the students hold a passport in that country, if their parents serve in that country, if they were born in that country, when it is called...they stand up and cheer. I got goosebumps as I heard the impact BFA families are having around the world. Literally, around the world. Australia, Malawi, Israel, Ethiopia, Slovenia, Russia, Italy, India, China, Mongolia, Germany, England, Latvia, Sweden, and the list goes on. Being able to sit in the auditorium and see all the students stand up when 'their' country was called, was incredible. This is a very special place. The work that goes on here is very special, and has an impact far greater than I will ever comprehend.

This weekend will be exciting, as tomorrow (Friday) is the event, Chillin' N Grillin'
The RAs have put together a little piece of entertainment, which will hopefully bring a few laughs. Saturday is our big day for back-to-school shopping, and Sunday we will do the traditional, Sonne Floor Soccer. Busy weekend.

Here are a few pictures from opening ceremonies...
I don't know what is going on here...

The 10 Sonne seniors...

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Moments away

After being here in Germany for almost five weeks, I am excited because the students will start arriving tomorrow! The past five weeks have been full of varied activities. For the first two weeks I was putting in my 'work weeks' which included; mowing, pulling weeds, moving furniture, waxing a floor, etc. The past few weeks we have been going through our Residence Life orientation. These weeks were filled with meetings, discussions, and planning for the year. Knowing the students are arriving this weekend, we have been busting our tails the past couple of days to get the dorm in order. The past three days I have put in 12+ hours every day. Vacuuming the halls, wiping down the students' desk, assigning gratis' (aka chores), are just a few of the tasks we tackled. As noted in a previous post, our new dorm parents are still in the States raising support. We have a couple who are currently serving as missionaries in Florida, coming to serve as dorm subs until Darren and Kristina are able to come to Germany. As a result of the lack of dorm parents at Sonne for the past three weeks, the workload has been heavier than normal. However we have been blessed by the BFA community and the ways in which they have stepped in and helped. People came up to help us cook, vacuum, and pull weeds. Our neighbors across the street, Blauen, a BFA dorm for females, invited us over to dinner a few times which was not only delicious, but a load off our shoulders.

The new students will come to the dorm tomorrow (Sunday) afternoon. We will have 8 new guys overall, ranging from 7th grade, to 12th. I am very excited to meet them and get the year started. Our returning students (13) will come in on Monday. Then, the school year begins bright and early on Tuesday morning! I am excited for the new students, but am also excited for the returners. I know I will be able to build on the relationships that were formed last year. The students are why I am here in Germany, and am excited for them to once again be in the dorm. I have been getting a lot of emails in the past days and weeks from students excited about the year.

But for now... I have a few hours to rest. I want to take a deep breath and relax. After putting in a lot of hours this week, I have the afternoon off. So I made it down to town, and am at the Powell's house. They have been a blessing as they have allowed me to make their house a place where I can come and go as I please. It feels like a home away from home for me. I invited myself over, so I could take a nap on 'my couch' and enjoy a few hours away from the dorm. They have "ESPN America" which is showing an NFL preseason game, so we are going to enjoy the game and some typical "American food." Burgers, chips, and buffalo wings. Dee lish (that's for you dad).

Blessings from Germany.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Family

Lately there has been a lot of work done in preparation for the arrival of the students. On occasion the tasks have piled up and created stress and left us feeling overwhelmed. However over the past three and a half days, I was able to escape all this, as my entire family came to Germany to see BFA, and the work I do here. Words cannot fully define the joy that came from their visit. I had not seen my brother, Philip, since Christmas, so it was very refreshing and enjoyable to see him again. Unfortunately he came down with a nasty cold and stayed in bed for the last 36 hours of the visit. Even with this, it was enjoyable and refreshing to simply be around him.
Most of the time I was in the States over the summer, I was with my parents, and sister, but it was great to see them here in my new home. We took time to get the 'official' tour of Sonne Dorm, as well as the school and Kandern area. The first day we did not do anything terribly exciting, but I took them to a restaurant for dinner and was able to say, "This is where we bring the students to watch Champions League (soccer) games." It means so much for me to be able to share my experience with them. It is awesome they are now able to have a mental image of my room, the kitchen, and even the staff office where I am currently sitting typing this post. They were able to meet many of the people I work with, which was really encouraging because I know my friends here have prayed for my family throughout the year.

There are many things I love about my family, but this most recent trip highlighted one aspect that I absolutely cherish, laughter. Every 'field trip' every meal, every walk resulted in us laughing until our stomachs hurt. Whether it is us attempting to communicate with the chirping birds, listening to Whitney's stomach talk to anyone who will listen, or hearing my mom try and retell a story, we all end up laughing. As a result of the deep love we have for each other, we are completely and utterly comfortable being goofy and making fools of ourselves. I love hearing Whitney's stories that have no beginning, middle, end, or point. I love watching my mom tell a story, and seeing my dad constantly shaking his head, because my mom has ruined the punchline. There were so many instances where I had the realization, "This is MY family, and I love every second of this."
The five of us will not be together again for another four months, which is sad. However I know I have so much; laughter, joy, love, and encouragement to look forward to.
Dad, Mom, Philip, Whitney. Thank you so much for coming out to Germany and visiting me. You guys were a blessing and a joy to spend time with. You mean more to me than you will ever know. Thank you.

Tommy

Enjoy some of the pictures from the past few days...










Thursday, August 6, 2009

Orientation

Greetings from Germany! I am sitting in the living room of Storch dorm at the moment, home to 12 RAs as we go through our 10 day long orientation. Our new staff (three RAs and one set of dorm parents) have been busy during the mornings at their German language class. The returners have been busy putting together the food for the week, and getting our dorms in order. During the afternoon we all spend a few hours in meetings/discussion to prepare us for the dorm. I have really enjoyed being back with the Res. Life staff. I don't have many opportunities to spend a lot of quality time with the other RAs and DPs throughout the school year, therefore it is nice to have that time now. Even though I have been back in Germany for three weeks now, I have only been up to Sonne twice. This afternoon I was able to get up the hill, and it felt so good to be at Sonne, even if for a brief 15 minutes. Honestly, I felt as though I was home, and filled with energy, passion and joy. Soon I will move back into my room, and live up there while we go through the remainder of our staff and school orientation.
Within the past week I have received an increasing amount of emails and notes from students, which gets me excited for the school year. I am eagerly anticipating the arrival of the guys. We have 12 guys returning and will have 10-12 new students.

I thank you for your continued support and prayers.
Nothing buy joy from Germany...

Tommy

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Willkommen!

I am back in Germany! I left the States Monday night and touched down in Basel around 11.00am Tuesday morning. I have been enjoying my first few days back in the BFA community. It is a bit weird to be here without any students, and honestly I do not like it as much. However I have been very thankful of the opportunities I have had to meet up with other BFA staff that I rarely get to see during the school year. It is my hope to connect and be involved with fellow BFA staff throughout the year. Though I wish the students were here, I am enjoying it so far. I have been blessed by a local family who has opened their house and encouraged me to use it as my own. Yesterday I showed up after work and watched their two boys play Wii for a little while, then enjoyed a nice nap. I swear they have the most comfortable couches in all of Germany!

For the next ten days I will go to school in the morning to put in my 'work-days.' Yesterday I was out mowing and weed-whacking (until I broke the thing!) and today I was putting furniture together and pulling weeds. Yesterday at the start of the day I had an encounter that quickly reminded me I was in a foreign country. I was standing by the mower while my partner was checking something out behind the house. A local German walked up to me and started saying something, I caught enough to know he was talking about the mower, so I simply nodded and said, "ya ya" When he continued talking and asked a question... I stared at him, with absolutely no idea what he just said.
I had to laugh while pulling weeds, because I was pulling for over three hours, right outside the school. I felt as though I had gotten in trouble and was out there as a form of detention. I am glad to help around the school, but pulling weeds is not a personal favorite. I pulled for three hours today, and have about an hour and a half left ahead of me tomorrow.

Saturday August 1st, will kick off our Res. Life orientation! I am excited to reunite with the returning RAs, and meet the new RAs and Dorm Parents we have coming in! At this point many of them have not purchased their tickets per lack of financial support. Your prayers in this regard would be greatly appreciated.
It was difficult being home for such a short period of time over the summer, but I am confident I am where I am supposed to be. There is peace and joy in that.
Blessings from Germany.

Tommy

Friday, July 17, 2009

Packing up!

Well the time has come to start packing up! My summer in the States went by real quick, but was filled with moments of relaxation, adventure, and quality time with family and friends. I will be flying out Monday evening at 6.05, and arriving Tuesday morning at 11.00 (5.00am est). Though my total travel time will be slightly over 11 hours, I am pleased that I fly directly from Boston to London and then London to Basel. It will be a lot of time in the air, but fewer flights and fewer airports, which is always a plus.
I have started to pack up and get everything in order. But if you would like to give me a call before I leave, please do so. 603.988.3179.
If you are reading this, and have not received a DVD in the mail from me, and would like one, let me know and I will get one in the mail to you before I leave. Putting together a DVD was one of my main projects over the summer. It is my hope that the DVD shows you where I live, the students I am with, and a bit of the passion and love I have for serving in Germany.
I hope to hear from you before I leave, but if not I will post upon my arrival in Germany.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Seasons

Though I have lived in many different places, all carrying their unique characteristics, one of the aspects they all hold in common is that every place I have lived, goes through four different seasons in a calendar year. Within these seasons one can find things to be excited about, and things to complain about. Additionally each season carries its’ own set of unique qualities that distinguish it from the others.
Each year starts with the ringing in of a new year with a joyous celebration. In many places this celebration occurs where the ground is covered with snow. There are few things more beautiful than the sun reflecting off a tree’s iced-over limb, onto a ground sprinkled with a fresh powdery snowfall. Few things are more unbearable than shoveling your driveway at 5.30 am, or walking to class in weather below zero, before the wind chill. Yet, as quickly as a snow storm can blow in, the snow can melt and spring has sprung! Think of the creativity and promise that is held in each and every budding flower. Which, of course will not grow without the never-ending days of rain. But, don’t hold onto your umbrella too tightly, as summer is lurking around the corner and with it, warmth and freedom from school. Vacations, beaches, barbeques with watermelon and lemonade, baseball games, all signal the joys of summer. Naturally everyone attempts to take advantage of the sun and beaches become overcrowded, traffic jams move slower than your metabolism and the ice cream truck won’t leave your neighborhood alone! Saving the best for last, fall comes, and with it an abundance of apple cider, apple sauce and homemade apple pie – for others fall is represented by the changing of leaves, but it is primarily all about the apple cider.

In the same way our weather patterns go through seasons, so do our lives. Seasons of joy where everything seems to fall in place, the sun seems to always shine and life is pleasant. Then come seasons of confusion and pain, where the rain simply will not stop falling. Times where, despite the beauty of fresh snow, there remains a chill in the air that leaves your heart cold and miserable.
Though the seasons in themselves carry unique characteristics, one of the aspects they all hold in common is; at the end of the day God is still God. Jesus is still real.

It is very interesting to watch the way in which the seasons changed for our friend Joshua. Joshua pops in and out of the Pentateuch like a pair of jeans pops in and out of fashion. We first see him during his season as a warrior on the battlefield against the Amalekites (Exodus 17:8-16). After playing a brief game of ‘hide and go seek’ with us, the reader, Joshua appears in the scriptures standing by Moses’ side as his “aide” (see Exodus 24:13, Exodus 33:11, Numbers 11:28, to name a few). Following his stint as a protégé to Moses, he is used as a spy (Numbers 13) to check out the promised land. As a result of his belief and trust in God’s provision he was not among the many who died in the wilderness, and eventually rose to become the man to lead the Israelites into the promised land (Numbers 26+27).
Even though it is a land flowing with milk and honey, the Israelites did not cross the Jordan and enter a life of pleasure and extended vacation. In fact, it was anything but! They spent the first five years (math done according to reference in Joshua 14:10) battling all surrounding nations. Once again we see Joshua as a warrior, marching around city walls, commanding troops and defeating the enemy. Warrior. Aide. Wanderer. Spy. Warrior.
So what’s the point? Through the life of Joshua we hear the whisper of God saying, “I’m still God. I’m still in control.” Despite all the seasons of life, God is still God. Joshua experienced the joy of seeing Moses’ radiant face after being in the presence of God, he persevered through forty years of wandering in the desert listening to the complaints of the Israelites. Yet he also witnessed the beauty of freshly fallen quail for food. He saw the creativity of water bursting forth from a rock. He saw the protection as king after king was defeated in battle. We can relate to all the seasons Joshua went through. Though we live in a different time period and geographic boundaries, Joshua’s seasons parallel our own. How often do we find ourselves in a battle that steals our attention, joy, and peace? We battle cancer, we fight aids. God is still God. Like Joshua, have you ever taken on a new role and been a protégé to someone? God is still God. Ever found yourself waiting and wondering where to move, what job to take? God is still God.
God is still God during Joshua’s seasons, and God is still God during our seasons. Find hope in that. Find peace in that. Find strength and courage knowing that God is still God.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Use your imagination...

One of the things I love most about kids is their imagination. The things they think of and the things they say are often priceless. I remember as a kid sitting out in the yard looking at the sky and making shapes out of the clouds. At times it took quite the imagination to make something out of nothing, but you could always find something! Who can forget making forts as kids? If a parent walked in they would see a big pile of blankets they would eventually have to clean up. Yet in the eyes of the kids, it was a fort far grander than the Swiss Family Robinson could ever piece together. Kids have amazing imaginations. While putting a young child to bed, there remains the necessity to check under the bed, and the closet in case any monsters are lurking around. There have never been any monsters in either place, but kids, with their imagination, can be fooled into thinking they not only exist, but the monsters would love a little child as a mid-night snack. Perhaps the greatest example of kids using their imagination, are kids and their imaginary friends! These ‘friends’ have names, personalities, needs, and wants

What is it that causes us to lose our imagination as we grow older? What is it that prevents adults from sitting in the front yard looking at the clouds? Why is it that when a kid has an imaginary friend it is seen as adorable, yet if an adult is found singing to themselves, or talking out loud with nobody else in the room, they are instantly embarrassed and fend off the bizarre look pierced their way with whatever justification they can quickly offer? Using your imagination is not only fun and relaxing, but at times I believe it can help you get a different understanding of some of the stories found in the Bible.

Moses, the main leader of guiding the Israelites out of Egypt, received help from Aaron, and a young man named Joshua. While a lot of the focus in the early portion of this story of the Israelites is on Moses and his leadership, his ‘young aid’ as Joshua is referred to on more than one account, is a dynamic character working behind the scenes. I like to use my imagination in an attempt to better understand what life was like for Moses and his protégé Joshua.

Moses and Joshua were leading a large crowd wandering in circles in the desert. Not for a few weeks, not for a season, but for forty years! Stop. Slow down. Stop to let your mind and heart comprehend forty years of wandering in the desert. Use your imagination to get a clear picture. How many pairs of shoes did they go through? How many times did they feel like stopping, ready to give in? How many times did they wish they were back in Egypt in stead of wandering in the desert? We read that they wandered for forty years, these men lived through these forty years. Imagine what it was like.

Not only were they wandering for forty years, to put it nicely, the Israelites were not always the best travel companions. It is one thing to have a long trip ahead of you, it is a completely different scenario if you are traveling with a herd of “Debby downers” “Grumpy shrimps” “Party-poopers” whatever term fits your fancy. The story is littered with complaints from the Israelites! They complained about anything and everything. They complained about having to eat manna day after day, completing disregarding the miracle that occurred every morning just for them to have food. When God changed things up and delivered quail, they soon grew weary of this and rather than offering a ‘pre-mail prayer’ they offered a ‘pre-meal complaining session.’ They complained of thirst, so God caused water to pour from the rocks. Again this was not enough, so they complained some more. They complained about the promise of a future land, and the time it would take for them to inherit the land. Discontent, grumbling, fickle whiners. This is the group Moses, Aaron and Joshua traveled with…for forty years!

Again, stop. This complaining lasted for forty years. Imagine the wear and tear this took on the leaders. We see glimpses of Moses venting to God about the toll it took on him. Imagine how many times Moses and Joshua heard the question, “are we there yet?” I grew up asking that question on car rides and received the response, “about three more episodes of Full House and we will be there.” You hear it once, and it might be cute. By the second time cute has transcended into annoying. The third time? Let’s just hope there were other people in the car to offer protection. I imagine Moses heard that same question more than a few times. “Moses, we’ve been walking for 30 days straight, are we there yet?” “Hey Joshua, what’s the deal with Moses, we’ve been walking for 3 months now, are we there yet?” “Aaron, I don’t want to be rude, but how much more desert can there be, we’ve been walking for ten years, are we there yet?” I think of those questions being posed, and I imagine a response could have been, “remember how long it took you to graduate from high school (assuming back then they went through a four year curriculum)? Go through high school eight more times, then and we’ll be there.” Forty years is no bit of time.

Use your imagination a little and the reality of the scene starts to take shape. Forty years of sand in your shoes. Forty years of the same food. Forty years of complaining. Yet look closer and you will see, forty years of God’s provision. 350,400 hours of God’s protection. 14,600 mornings of not knowing where you will sleep that evening, but 14,600 nights where God provided a place to sleep.

Imagine daily finding the strength and courage to trust in God’s provision, protection, guidance, and control. Imagine the decrease in worry this would result in. Think of the peace that is available. Using your imagination is not a bad thing. Imagine shifting your focus from the complaints, to the blessings. Find some clouds and let your imagination take over. Read a story and allow your imagination to offer you a richer context. Don’t see a pile of blankets, imagine the potential for the greatest for ever created. Even though the Israelites were wandering for forty years, God was leading them to a land flowing with milk and honey. A place that was far greater than they could have ever imagined.

Friday, June 19, 2009

That is different!

I am not claiming to be an expert on American culture. There are many things that happen, on a daily basis, I am completely in the dark about. However, having been in a different culture for a little while and promptly jumping back into the American culture, there were quite a few things that jumped out at me. I would not say I went through, 'culture shock' coming back to the States, but I did have to chuckle every now and then as I found myself shaking my head and exclaiming, "Wow! That is different." This is in no way an attempt to bash American culture, rather it is simply me recognizing the differences. It is my hope you find the following differences entertaining...
- Grocery stores are...MASSIVE. Honestly, how many variations of peanut butter can there be?
- Not only are the grocery stores big, vehicles are quite large over here as well.
- While speaking of vehicles...the other day I was driving and while on the road something seemed so bizarre, and so unnatural, but I couldn't immediately put my finger on it. Then I realized, there was a car traveling next to me, going in the same direction! In Germany, besides the autobahn, I don't think I ever drove on a single four lane road.
- Germans park their cars in the middle of the street, and think it is no big deal. Try parking slightly over the white line in America, and be prepared for plenty of scowls.
- In America, cell phones are no longer a handy device, or even an accessory, they are a vital part of your body.
- BMWs and Mercedes Benz are NOT used as taxis.
- Germans walk or bike everywhere,.
- Americans drive everywhere.
- In Germany, unlike America, a bottle of beer is significantly cheaper than a bottle of water.
- People in America always seem to be in such a rush.
- Fashion. Words cannot describe this one - tight pants, crazy hair, cartilage piercings on guys, men wearing 'kapris', big sunglasses... I won't say which fashion style I prefer.
- Just a side note on the fashion... I NEVER saw a German wear a baseball hat.
- A sad difference... a lot of Americans are overweight. You would be hard pressed to find an overweight German.

And perhaps the biggest difference I have noticed...
- When walking through town, I AM FLUENT IN THE LANGUAGE EVERYONE IS SPEAKING!

Thank you for continuing to read my blog.

Tommy

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Travel galore




The past week I have done a lot of traveling... a lot. Over a four day span I was on five different planes, touching down in four different countries. Thankfully everything was on time, and there were very little travel difficulties.
Over the course of my traveling, there was a 48 hour time period where I was only able to get seven hours of sleep. I admit part of that is my own fault as I failed to begin packing up my room in a timely fashion, but it also stemmed from the crazy and hectic conclusion to the school year.
It was extremely difficult to part ways with the students. At Sonne, we had nine seniors graduate, and four other students who will not return in the fall for various reasons. I am extremely proud of our seniors and will deeply miss them. They are some incredible young men, who have a lot in front of them.
It was also very hard to say good-bye to my fellow staff members who will not be returning. At Sonne, two of our six staff are returning (CB and me). All three of the individuals working in our Res. Life office will be leaving, which not only leaves a big hole in our boarding program (Though I have full confidence in our new supervisors).
I walked away very encouraged by my first year at BFA, and very encouraged about what next year holds. I know it will be different and full of challenges, but I am excited.

Following the sadness of leaving BFA for six weeks, I jumped right into the celebration of Caleb and Melissa's wedding. Caleb was my roommate for two years in college, and has been a close friend since our freshmen year. Caleb was always a close friend who challenged me, encouraged me, and definitely kept me laughing. I was honored to be the best man in the wedding, and got a little help from my BFA guys in writing the speech! Their wedding was absolutely beautiful. Those two are very special to me, and I was glad to be a part of their wedding day.
The wedding also gave me the opportunity to see many friends from Grove City I have not seen since graduating. It is amazing how fast a year can go, but equally amazing, how a year of separation doesn't really mean much between close friends.

After the sadness of leaving BFA, the joy of the wedding, the hours of travel, I came back to New Hampshire late Sunday night, and crashed. I will travel to two more weddings throughout the summer, but will spend a lot of time resting and preparing for my second year at BFA.
I have an active cell phone while at home, so please feel free to call me at any point. 603-988-3179. I am looking forward to catching up with you over the summer. Please call if you have a free minute. I would love to hear from you.

Love,
Tommy

Sunday, May 31, 2009

End of the year

There has been so much activity here recently it is hard to pick a place to begin. The end of school is upon us, and there will hardly be a free moment to catch a breath. I want to keep you updated on as many things as I can, so I will write a few sentences on each topic.
Tournament -
The guys team came in second place! Our tournament was full of thrills, last second goals, and fun. We played five games in three days, and came away very proud of what we accomplished and the way we carried ourselves. I was amazed at the respect our team received from everyone we came in contact with. Our teams went in being a witness on and off the field. Tournament was awesome. I had to sleep on a gym floor for three nights straight, but had a great time.
Our girls team won the championship! Their first place, was the first in quite some time, and very much deserved. I had a blast watching their games and joining in their success. It was a joy to watch our boys and girls support each other and cheer for each other throughout the weekend. Though our boys were disappointed they didn't win, it was great watching them celebrate with the girls.
Europa Park -
The day after we got back from tournament, Sonne, as well as two other dorms went to Europa Park, which is a theme park about 70 minutes away. Roller-coasters, cotton candy and water rides provided entertainment (all with the European twist) all day long. Walking around the park with different students and forcing them to go on roller coasters was enjoyable. Of course, I had to be very enthusiastic on some rides and scream my head off, to get a rise out of the guys I was with.
Spring Party -
The entire school made a journey "up the hill" to Sonne this past Friday. We grilled steaks, burgers, and had ourselves a wonderful evening. The student council chose the theme of, "Vikings" so there were people walking around with viking helmets all night. They had competitions throughout the night that included; a pie eating contest (a guy from our dorm won!) a log toss, sac race, and even a truck pull! We had the perfect evening weather wise and thoroughly enjoyed the night.
Packing Day, Dorm Cleaning, Laundry-
You thought this was all fun and games? Saturday we spent all day packing up rooms. ALL day. We only have so much storage space available so the guys have to pack up their stuff in boxes and suitcases and be ready to ship out. You thought pulling teeth was painful? Try motivating 26 guys to clean their rooms.
Tomorrow we will do our final day of laundry for the year. Typically I do 12 loads of laundry for the nine guys on the first floor. When I go down to wash/fold the laundry for 26 guys... I am scared as to how many loads it will take, and the amount of time I will spend in the laundry room.
Next Wednesday we have our official, "dorm cleaning" which will be even more fun! We will spend three to four hours washing, cleaning, mopping, scrubbing.

Flying home -
This year I will unfortunately miss graduation (Friday June 5), as I will fly home early Thursday morning. I am in the wedding party for my college roommate, Caleb and his wife-to-be, Melissa. They are getting married on Saturday June 6 and I will be involved in all the pre-wedding festivities. Though it is very hard and difficult to know I will not be here for graduation, I am ecstatic about being there for Caleb and Melissa.
Following the wedding, I will fly back to New Hampshire on Sunday night.

As you can tell, it has been very busy here, and will only get more crazy within the next few days. I have not even begun to think about packing, and will most likely start Wednesday night around midnight.
I have tried to communicate this in prior posts, but I hope you recognize how much I love being here. BFA has been a great place for me and I absolutely love what I am able to do here. Though for now I am tired, busy, stressed, I know I will fall asleep tonight smiling as I look at what I have been able to do throughout the day. I will continue to post throughout the summer, as I will have time to reflect and process everything that has happened throughout the year. I also plan on compiling all the pictures I have taken throughout the year, so if you are interested in seeing those let me know.
Thank you for your love and support. Thank you for reading my blog, and enabling me to do what I love.

Tommy

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Tournament!

In just a few minutes I am leaving the dorm for the year end soccer tournament! The team is traveling by bus today, and will play two games tomorrow (Thursday) one on Friday, and then hopefully the semi-finals and finals on Saturday. It is going to be an amazing weekend, and the guys have been looking forward to this all year. I know it will be busy and tiring, but well worth it.

I encourage you to take a look at the new documents I have put up on my blog, specifically the "year two letter" and the new "support pledge form." As I finish up my first year at BFA I am needing to raise my support in order to return in the fall. I hope you been able to see my love for being here, and the amazing opportunities that are here to disciple and engage these students. A hard copy of the letter was sent out in the mail a few days ago, if you do not receive a letter in the mail, but would like to, please contact me and I will be sure to get you one. It is your prayer support and financial donations that enable me to remain on the mission field, and serve God in this way. I am extremely thankful for all you have done, and will continue to do. Thank you.

Tommy

Thursday, May 14, 2009

My Chance to brag


This morning I am going to take a moment and brag a bit. Within the next 48 hours (taking into account the time difference) my older brother, Philip, will graduate from the University of Florida Law School. For the past three years he has been working diligently on obtaining his law degree and in a few hours he will receive it. Studying law is not my forte so I cannot even begin to describe what exactly he is studying, or what he spent hours upon hours reading. All I know is he spent a lot of time in the library reading and doing research. Throughout the past three years I know he wrote a multitude of lengthy papers that took weeks to research and finalize. Of course there were moments of fun and games scattered in there, as he was at Florida while their men's team won a multitude of national championships for both football and basketball. All of that will momentarily come to a close this weekend as he graduates. Shortly after the graduation festivities have ended he will begin studying for the bar exam, which he will take over the summer. He may not feel as relieved knowing for the next month he will be studying all day, everyday. However, I am extremely proud of him for not simply making it through law school, but excelling in the past three years.
Last summer Whitney and I had the opportunity to go out to Milwaukee and visit Philip while he was doing his clerkship. It was awesome to see him at work, and clearly enjoying his position. I remember meeting up with him one afternoon after he finished work for the day, he was just strolling down the sidewalk in a sleek summer suit, with fancy sunglasses, gelled hair, and that goofy grin of his that says, "Yeah... I'm the man." There is an unexplainable joy I am filled with when I see those I love fulfilling their goals and living out their dreams. Watching Philip complete law school, and line up a position with a firm in the coming months has filled me with such great feelings of being proud and joyous.
It is at times like this where it is really hard to be away from home. I have not seen Philip since Christmas, and it could be anywhere from three to seven months until I get to see him again. Missing out on these experiences is not emotionally easy.
Philip, congratulations on graduating from law school. I wish I could be there to celebrate with you. I am so impressed with the way in which you have grown over the past three years. It has been a joy to watch you excel and use the gifts you have been given. Thank you for always being there for me, and for all the love and support you have shown me. Well done.

Tommy

The picture above is from Philip's freshmen year at Law School. I had the opportunity to drive down from college and hang out with him for a bit.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Sonne Update

Life never ceases to be interesting here at Sonne. I see that as a blessing and a curse, but more often than not, it is a blessing.
During our Spring Break (about 4 weeks ago) our dorm mom, Sharon, returned to the States to receive more intense physical therapy on her wrist. Her wrist had been giving her trouble since her bike accident (last October) and the therapy she was progressing through here had reached a stalemate. The German doctors concluded she would not regain any more strength or mobility at her current rate. Therefore she went back to the States to seek a wrist specialist. At the time she left we were unaware of how long she would be away from the dorm. The hope was just a few weeks, but we were aware it could be longer. When news broke she would not be able to come back to the dorm until June at the earliest, our dorm dad, Rick, decided it would be best for him to fly back to the States and assist his wife. Yesterday morning Rick flew back to Detroit and will remain there until Sharon is finished with her therapy. It is their hope to return in time for graduation, but the current outlook on that is not too optimistic.
Therefore for the remaining four weeks of the semester we as a staff will be going through yet another transition. The only consistency we have had throughout the year, is that everything is inconsistent. Our Resident Life supervisors, Glenn and his wife Sheila will be coming up to Sonne and serve as our dorm parents for the last four weeks. There is a lot of excitement about Glenn and Sheila coming to the dorm. They will bring a lot of energy, enthusiasm and passion.
As I mentioned, this is yet another transition for our dorm staff. Throughout the year we have had more weeks without Rick and Sharon, than we have had with them. With Rick's departure the stress rose a bit, the weight seemed heavier and with exhausted minds and bodies us RA's looked at each other and said, "Here we go again!"
I do not anticipate these four weeks to be easy, but I know we will make the best of them. I know we face yet another difficult challenge, but I am confident we will come together as a staff, as well as a community and provide for the guys in a manner in which they deserve.

Completely switching topics, I want to give a 'heads up' as far as what the weekend looks like here at the dorm...because it is quite busy and exciting.
This morning CB and I spent about two hours ironing pants and shirts for our Junior Senior Banquet (JSB) tonight. The closest parallel of JSB is the American high school Prom. You would not believe the creative ways guys ask girls to JSB. We had one guy jump out of a trash can, holding a basket of fruit. One had a few guys "kidnap" the girl, and then he came over and rescued her, and as her "Knight in shining armor" asked her to JSB. My personal favorite would be the guy who asked a member of the girls soccer team. He woke her up outside her window, but not by throwing pebbles at her window as they do in the movies...he threw soccer balls at her window and had a note attached to the ball!
JSB includes a fancy dinner, followed by many 'performances' by students. The Juniors give their farewells to the seniors and prepare to take on the responsibilities and privileges of being a senior. When all is said and done we will have the students back in the dorm shortly after 1.30 am.
Tomorrow we have our second to last regular season soccer game. Our guys team have yet to lose, as we are looking to clinch a top seed in our season ending tournament. Our varsity girls continue to impress and are in position to be one of the top five seeds, which would be the highest ever by a BFA girls team. It is a joy to coach and be involved with the team. My relationships with the guys have definitely deepened and stretched as a result of being their coach.
Sunday we are taking our guys out for a "dorm outing" event. We will travel into Switzerland to the mountains for the alpine slides. What happens is we take a ski lift to the top of the mountain, and then hop on a 'car' similar to a go-kart. Then, you get on the slide and drive the five/six mile track down the mountain. I have never done this before, but have heard it is awesome. The guys will definitely enjoy the adventure and thrill of going down the mountain. It will hopefully provide our dorm with some laughter, fun, and good bonding time.

As you can see it will be a busy but awesome weekend here at Sonne. I hope to post some pictures of the weekend on Monday or Tuesday.
Thanks for keeping up with my blog!

Tommy

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Earth shattering

You know when something major happens and everyone is talking about it the next day, offering their viewpoint and opinion of how it all transpired? Everyone wants to share where they were, what they witnessed, what it sounded like.
Well... I'm going to do that, but not in a lot of detail. Last night around 3.40am there was a pretty big earthquake that rattled our area. I heard it reached a level of 4.5 on the scale, which is more than just a little rumbling.
I have never experienced an earthquake before, so even though my beauty sleep was interrupted, I thought it was pretty cool. Thankfully nobody at BFA was injured, and to my knowledge no major damage was done.
This just goes to prove once again, you never know what's going to happen here in Germany.

Friday, April 24, 2009

C'est la vie

Just a quick update on what is going on here at BFA this week.
I have been feeling a little under the weather the past couple of days, last night around 10.20 I was talking to a few students outside my room and as there was a pause in the conversation I went into my room and sat down on my bed. Within a few minutes I was out for the night. I have had a fairly consistent headache and fever for the past couple of days. I am trying to get as much rest as possible to get rid of this little bug.

Tonight most of our students will go to school for the honors music recital. All week our students have been preforming for an outside audience and tonight a select few will preform for everyone. Sonne will be represented by Daniel Park. He is a junior, who is a phenomenal pianist and violinist. One of my favorite things to do is venture down to our basement and listen to Daniel practice. I have told him on many occasions, that if he can never find a job, to give me a call and I will hire him to play in my house. He is a joy to listen to.

Tomorrow (Saturday) our soccer team will take on Hiedelburg. This is the most anticipated game of the year, as they are the defending D-1 Champions, and we are the defending D-2 champions. Last year they beat us 1-0, so we feel as though we have a score to settle! I hope it will be an entertaining and competitive game. Our guys have played extremely well all season, and we had a couple of great practices this week. I love soccer Saturdays. All four teams will travel together, and compete. Last week we had some crazy weather, so I am crossing my fingers tomorrow will be warm and sunny. Even though I have to wake up at 4:45, I know it will be a great day.

It is hard to believe, but we are winding down the school year. Many of the seniors have begun to 'check out.' Many have been at BFA for multiple years so it will be extremely difficult for them to leave. Though sad, it is exciting to hear them talk about their future plans.

As always, I appreciate your emails, phone calls, and encouragement.

With nothing but joy here in Germany,
Tommy

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A student's perspective


As I have mentioned in my blog, and in conversations since coming back from Kenya, one of the best parts about partaking in the trip was the interaction I had with the BFA students. I truly enjoyed laughing with them, sharing stories with them, and even picking fights. The students returned on Tuesday, and I have loved seeing them again. I was deeply moved, and encouraged when I went to school on Wednesday for soccer practice, and had multiple students from the Kenya trip come up to me and give me big hugs. Prior to the trip I was excited about the way in which it would open up many opportunities for relationships. I am blessed and encouraged to see that this not only happened while in Kenya, but has continued upon our return to BFA.

I wanted to provide you with a student's perspective on the trip. You can hear a lot from me, but I thought it would be helpful and encouraging to you - to hear what happened in one of the lives of our students. Lizzy is a junior (in the picture, wearing a black sweatshirt) and a phenomenal individual. She and I had a lot of fun together in Kenya, and we commonly picked fights with one another. She kept me laughing, and encouraged me throughout the trip. I hope you enjoy hearing about her trip to Kenya.

Tommy

Two weeks ago on our missions trip to Kenya, I was really changed. We had the privilege of going to work at a school for young children and physically disabled children in Naivasha. Everyone keeps asking me how the trip was and I keep answering awesome! However the trip was not only awesome because we got to be around gorgeous African children, meet incredible missionaries who have given up their life to serve God, and get to know the group so much better but I also made a huge decision. I decided that I was going to completely give up my plans for the future to God and if he decided to change them, then I will follow where he leads me. I think that this decision was one that I was not ready to make before I went to Kenya but I learned a lot which helped my make this decision. In the evening when our group came together to discuss how the day went, at the end we would have a small talk and the whole week we focused on the passage Hebrews 12:1. In the beginning it talked about throwing off everything that hinders. I realized very clearly that I was being hindered by my own will and I needed to surrender it to God. Over all the trip to Kenya is a time in my life that I will remember as the time when I gave God complete control of my life.

~Lizzy

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Kenya Pictures

Kenya




This is going to be extremely difficult. I am unsure of how to accurately begin to describe our trip to Kenya. Phenomenal. Amazing. Exciting. Refreshing. Moving. Are a few words that vaguely scratch the surface. It was an awesome trip. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. I tried to find a few pictures to post highlighting the trip and I found just under 90 pictures.

Here is a little recap of what we did on a daily basis.
Every morning we were in the dining room eating breakfast at 7.45. However most mornings the day started earlier than this for me. I woke up on a few different occasions to see the sunrise, and the other mornings I woke up early to get in a run. There is something magical about an African sunrise. Though it was not what you would picture after watching 'Lion King' it was definitely beautiful. I never thought I would pass a few monkeys on my way to seeing the sunrise!
Running, which has always been a passion and joy of mine, allowed me to have a solid chunk of time to myself, where I could just find peace, rest, and quietness.
Following breakfast we had a small devotional time, then our two groups split up for the day. We traveled down with 20 students and four leaders, so during the day ten students and two leaders stayed at Helping Hands, while Sandee and I took the other ten students to House of Hope.
Helping Hands is a school established and run by a missionary couple from England. The school provides an education for 45 youngsters, but it also provides jobs for the local community. One of the unique things about Helping Hands is the fact that they openly welcome children with physical and mental disabilities. In Kenyan culture a family is shamed if they have a child with a disability. The child is often neglected, kept hidden inside the house, and treated poorly. Yet Helping Hands reaches out to these students and encourages their families to embrace and love these children.
House of Hope is an orphanage run by Joel, a local Kenyan, who himself was an orphan. Over lunch one day he told me the story of how his father would come home drunk and physically, and mentally abuse him and his mother. At an early age Joel recognized his need to escape, so he went to the streets. House of Hope is home to twenty orphans, the youngest being no more than 18 months, and the oldest is 14. Ian and Lucy were two individuals from the orphanage that I quickly grew attached to. Ian made me laugh and smile everyday. Lucy, a beautiful 12 year old girl, has a precious smile. At random times throughout the day she and I would make eye contact, then she would smile, it was awesome.
While at House of Hope our group would do a variety of things. Changing diapers, folding laundry, feeding the toddlers, building a school room are just a small part of our daily activities. Every day there was plenty of work to do, and plenty of kids to pour love on.

Following our day working at our respective place, we would gather back at Helping Hands around 4.00 for an afternoon project, and free time prior to dinner. Following dinner we would have a debriefing session, then a time of worship through music, and then I had the opportunity to present the devotionals I had prepared. By this time it was close to 9.00 and some students started making their way to bed, while the others star gazed and talked.

I was so impressed with the way in which our students were so active and engaged throughout the week. They jumped in with everything we did. Pushing wheelchairs, digging ditches, sanding wood. Whatever needed to be done, they did it. They not only did it, but they did it with such servant hearts, and with such compassion and love.
I saw God work in and through our students. I know some went down to Kenya unsure of their faith. Unsure of whether or not they wanted to fully embrace it. Some were unsure of where God was leading them, where they were supposed to go following life at BFA. God was there. God was working in the hearts of the students. I know one student in particular was ecstatic because he walked away from the trip convinced of his passion to go to med. school and become a missionary using his knowledge of the medical world. To see his excitement and confidence in this was phenomenal, as he and I had previously talked about his apprehensions as far as what God wants from him, and whether or not he is willing to give back to God.

Through the trip I was refreshed. Mentally, emotionally, spiritually. I would say physically, but I never got more than six hours of sleep the whole trip. And to be perfectly honest, I would not change that for anything. The trip was full of laughter, sharing, and growth. To see the students interact with each other, to see them engage in the tasks set before them was extremely refreshing. To see God working in their lives was refreshing.
For me, I went to Kenya carrying some worries, frustrations, and emotional baggage. I came back refreshed and reenergized. The moment I will always look back at to recognize the refreshment I gathered from the trip occurred on one of our last days there. Friday we had the opportunity to go for a long hike through a park that is home to some wildlife. We saw a lot of gazelles, buffalo and even some zebra! We saw a herd of maybe 15 zebra from a distance, and I asked our host if I could chase after them. So I slowly took off chasing the zebras, and as I got closer went into a dead sprint! I tried two different times, but soon realized Zebras are fast, strong, acclimated to the African weather, and have pretty good endurance. Needless to say I did not catch a Zebra, but I did get within 15 feet. Though a bizarre thing to do, it was extremely refreshing and was something I will not soon forget.

The trip to Kenya was a great experience. I believe the God was at work in and through our students. I believe that looking at the trip from an eternal standpoint, it can be seen as nothing but a success.
Thank you for all your prayers throughout the trip. I listed many of the requests I had been asking people to pray for, and the ways in which I saw God answer these prayers. Thank you! Thank you for your encouragement and love.

Though it was difficult for me to find the words to describe the trip, I hope after reading this you have a better idea of what we did, and what God did through the trip.

Tommy

Friday, March 27, 2009

Time to go!

The tail end of this week has been quite busy and hectic, but so far this morning (Friday) it has been quite peaceful and calm. I have been relaxing all morning, which is definitely needed, and very nice. There are a few things I wanted to get you caught up on before I take off.
Our soccer team had a phenomenal weekend of first games. The guys varsity won 3-1, and the JV won 4-0. Varsity and JV girls also started their season with victories. I had a lot of fun on the sideline, and was a very vocal coach. I will admit it was difficult being on the sideline, and not on the field, but I had so much joy watching our players play. One of the highlights of the weekend for me was the bus ride. I know it doesn't sound that exciting - especially when you hear we spent 15 hours on a bus in a 30 hour span, with 60+ students. But...hanging out with the guys on the bus, getting involved in conversations, and laughing to the point of tears, was great. There were some students who I was "familiar" with, but after the bus ride got to know a lot better. There were some students who I barely knew, who will now say 'hi' to me in the school hallway, and will sit down and have a conversation with me. This past Tuesday I was waiting around school to pick up dinner, and a player came and sat next to me and we talked for a good twenty minutes. As was always my hope and intention, coaching soccer is more about the opportunities it creates off the field, and I am blessed to see this starting to happen.

This week has been busy getting all the guys ready to travel for spring break. I feel as though I am in geography class when I talk about where all our students are going. We have students going to; Mongolia, India, Burkina Faso, Macedonia, Russia and that is just the start. I have been in charge of organizing the airport runs, and gathering all the passports and plain/train tickets. It is an enjoyable task for me, but definitely takes a bit of time.
Lastly... in less than 24 hours I will be on a plane headed to Kenya. We are leaving the school this afternoon at 5.00pm, and will sleep at a church in Zurich for the night. Our first flight leaves Zurich at 7.00am, and from there we are on our way! We had a team meeting on Monday to go over our last details, and to distribute the slew of pills we will take throughout the trip. The excitement on the students' faces was evident, and there has been a buzz in the air all week. Thursday I went in for our last drama/skit practice, and was only intending on staying for about 30 minutes, but our students were so determined and excited to really learn the skit, we all stayed for over an hour!
As we are in Kenya, and you want to pray for us, here are a few specific requests I have.
- Our health. We have a few leaders, and students who are not feeling 100%
- Pray the students would be open and vulnerable with one another. This is something we have heavily encouraged them to do.
- Opportunities. I want to challenge and push our students to go deeper in their faith, and to really connect with them. Pray I will have opportunities to do this, and that I will take advantage of them.
- Energy. We are traveling with twenty students, and will work with over 60 more down in Kenya. I think that says enough.
- My devotionals. I hope they communicate God's truth, and challenge the students.

Well, it is time for me to go finish packing. I need to make sure I have a deck of cards, and plenty of little snacks for the trip!

Thank you for your support, and for your encouragement. You are a blessing to me.

With love,
Tommy

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Blessing of a little sister


My little sister, Whitney is amazing. She is one of the most important people in my life. The picture posted is from this past Christmas. She is absolutely beautiful. She constantly fills me with energy, excitement, happiness and laughter.
There is nobody who can make me laugh as hard as Whitney, and the amazing part is most of the time she isn't even trying, she is simply being herself. Her sense of humor is unique and very special. There are times where she has a story to tell you, and she starts bopping up and down, filled with excitement to share a story. Only, she will finish the story and leave you asking, "Where's the rest of the story? What was the point of that story?" Then she just bursts out laughing, and I can't help but laugh with her (everyone in my family knows exactly what I'm talking about with these stories).
Whitney has perhaps the greatest imagination I have ever seen. Her creativity is out of this world. Many times she and I will have conversations about the most absurd things, that make absolutely no sense, yet somehow the two of us know exactly what we are talking about.
Whitney makes me happy. Plain and simple. Hearing her voice and reading her e-mails, instantly brightens my day. Seeing a picture of her makes me smile. God has given me a phenomenal little sister (okay, she's not 'little' anymore, but to me she will always be my little sister).

Whitney, thank you for being who you are. You have been given an amazing personality, with a lot of amazing traits - and you embrace them all. I love you.
You have seen your share of troubles and difficulties, but you face each one head on. I love you. The way in which you fight and continue to battle fills me with encouragement and strength. I love you. Your ability to make me laugh and smile is something I treasure. I love you. Even with all you have been through, today, you will choose to fight. I love you.
Today, more than any other day of the year, we choose to not be bitter about the past, rather we choose to be happy because of the present. We choose to continue to fight and press forward.
Whitney. I love you. You are so beautiful and precious to me. Thank you for all you do for me. Thank you for who you are. Thank you for showing me how to fight.

God, thank you for the amazing little sister you have given me. She is so precious to me.