Saturday, January 31, 2009

Middle School sleepover!



I know I just posted a blog the other day, but I was quite tired when I was writing. I felt like it was poorly written, so I wanted to take another shot at it. Plus, I had an amazing night last night and I wanted to share it.
Last night I had a “middle schooler sleepover.” Essentially the four middle school students pulled their mattresses and blankets into my room –and we hung out for the night. Even though on a normal day they require 95% of my attention, focus, and energy, last night they had 100%, and they knew it. While they were at school I went to the store and picked up their favorite soda, and favorite stash of candy. All day these guys were excited, and around 10.30 (traditionally their lights out time) I told them to make their way to my room and we just hung out. It was hilarious for me to once again be a part of the middle school sleepover scene. For a while they wrestled against each other and had “roommate tag-team royal rumble.” That is until I decided to join in and take care of business. The 2v2 soon turned in to 4v1. It was quite entertaining watching these little guys climb on my desk in order to jump off and act as if they were flying off the ropes on to their opponent. After this royal rumble they chugged the sodas and enjoyed the “sugar rush.” I may not know a lot of German, but I know how to buy caffeine free soda. So despite what they thought – they were not wide awake and hyper because of the caffeine in the soda. I hung out with them and enjoyed hearing the ‘boy talk’ about cute girls in school, ‘cool’ movies, and all the wonderful things middle school boys talk about. We concluded the night by watching “The Italian Job.” Naturally (like every kid does) they all made bets as to who would stay up the latest, who could watch the whole movie, and who was going to stay awake to put who’s hand in a glass of warm water. They tried to borrow cans of shaving cream from the older guys in the dorm, just in case somebody fell asleep too early. And like most boys– they are all talk and no action. Believe it or not, but I was the last one to fall asleep. Not even ten minutes in to the movie the first guy was snoring, and all the others were laughing at him, and complaining that he was being too loud.
Even though these guys live in a dorm, see each other every day, and at every meal, having this ‘sleepover’ was definitely a highlight for them. They have already begun asking when we can do it again. Why wouldn’t they? They weren’t bugged or distracted by other guys in the dorm. They each had their favorite soda and favorite candy. They got to stay up til at least 1.00 am, when they normally have to be asleep by 11.00. and for that very reason, it will be a little while until we do it again. 

Hopefully this story makes up for a poorly written post the other day.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Another week has come and gone here at Sonne. We had quite the eventful weekend last weekend - as we once again ventured down on Friday and Saturday for home basketball games. On both days all of our teams were competitive, and on Saturday we had three of four teams win! The basketball teams are away this weekend which is unfortunate but it does mean there are a lot less van runs to be made.
The highlight of this upcoming weekend will definitely be the Super Bowl. I know many of you will enjoy the game, and rest assured that we too will enjoy the game. However kick-off will start around 12.30 am on Monday, and the game probably will not finish until 5.00 or 5.30. The plan is to watch the game at Blauen, the dorm across the street. At this point we only have five guys planning on watching the game, and nine of the Blauen students plan on joining us. Perhaps the most depressing part about watching the Super Bowl here in Europe is that we will not be able to watch any of the commercials! We will be watching the game via satellite and the Armed Forces Network. Therefore we have the joy of watching AFN commercials, instead of the Super Bowl commercials. To make up for this travesty we will be spending our Sunday night dorm fellowship watching old Super Bowl commercials. What would we do without youtube!

As I have mentioned previously, and as I commonly talk about in conversations/e-mails, so far I have deemed this the "semester of opportunities." I have been amazed and blessed by the way in which God continually opens up doors for me to connect with the students and really go in depth. I spent about an hour and a half tonight writing notes to all the students going on the Kenya mission trip. Then around lights out time, I spent close to 90 minutes in a few different rooms talking with different guys. I have been able to take a real mentoring role with some of the students and it has been such a blessing. Within an average week I am meeting with six students regularly. This semester truly has been full of opportunities - and I am thrilled knowing I still have Kenya and soccer ahead of me.
One of the things I was unaware of prior to working at BFA was the amount of emotional energy that is required. Though these opportunities amazing - they can leave me emotionally, mentally and physically drained. My job, my purpose, my desire is to pour out as much love on these guys as I can. As I continually pour out - I ask that you pray for me to be restored, and re-energized.
Thank you for all you do and for enabling me to be here. I love it here. I honestly go to bed excited knowing I get to wake up and do it all over again the next day.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Facing your Giants.

Just a warning, this may be a long blog, but please stick with it as I have some wonderful news to share.

"I am nothing without Your love
I'm unworthy but Your death has been enough
I'm completed by Your touch,
But I feel like I've been given so much so I thank You,
I thank You"

The above are lyrics from the song I AM NOTHING by my favorite artist, Jeremy Camp. They really have nothing to do with anything else I want to say, but I love the song and have been listening to it a lot lately. It has been such a great reminder that I cannot do anything, but Christ has done it all for me. It is such an encouragement when I recognize it is Christ loving these guys through me. My love is imperfect, my love is weak, but through the power of Christ in me, I am strong and these guys are loved.

Let me take you back a few months. Upon arriving at BFA in August each new staff member was asked to stand before the rest of the staff and share their God story (aka testimony) with everyone. I love sharing my testimony (if you haven't checked out the videos on my blog, you still can!). I love having the ability to publicly proclaim what Christ has done in my heart, and in my life. To praise God in this way gives me joy, strength, and encouragement. It makes my blood flow and my heart race.

As I shared, and then sat down I received a tap on the shoulder from a dorm parent of a different dorm sitting behind me. She quickly slipped me a note with my name on it, and told me to read later. Her letter has remained in my journal and has been read, and re-read on hard days where I am searching for a bit of encouragement. Towards the end of her letter this is what she wrote, "After hearing you today, I can say that I'm glad you are at Sonne - so glad for those guys, one in particular.... I will pray that God uses you to change his life. He is so motivated to change his life and I know almost for certain that He will use you to do so."
Within her letter she referred to a specific student and circled his name. The first time I read the letter I was pumped up. I was thrilled.
As the semester began, and rolled along I tried to be intentional about meeting with this guy. I tried to lay some seeds, and generate some type of relationship. Honestly, nothing happened. He lives two floors above me. Wakes up a lot later than I do. He goofs around while I am monitoring middle schoolers doing their homework. He does his homework when I am goofing around with the other guys. For weeks we seemed to be on different pages. For months we continually seemed to be near each other, but never together.
I know the dorm mom has been praying faithfully. I know, because she is diligent in asking me how our relationship is going. Yet the first semester ended and I felt as though I had yet to have any type of significant conversation with the student.
Frustration. Disappointment. Failure. Insignificant. These feelings and more started to overwhelm me whenever I would pray about our relationship. Every time I would see him I could hear the whispers of the devil, "You can't help him. He doesn't really want to change. Stop fighting for him, and try to help someone else. You're too busy. You're too tired." Oh how easy it is to believe those little lies. Sure, at first the lies can be turned away. They can go in one ear, out the other. But after a while the lies seem more believable. What once seemed far from the truth, soon seems appetizing. What was once shrugged off, now appears to be lived out.
But oh how wonderful the promises of God! How beautiful his Word! The devil is referred to as the great deceiver, but Jesus is the light and the truth. Ask and you shall receive. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. Come to me and I will give you rest. I have come that they may have life, life to the full.

Recently I just finished the book, "Facing Your Giants" by Max Lucado (my favorite author). A phenomenal book following the life of David. David, the giant slayer, the great warrior. David the king, David the adulterer and murderer. David the Psalmist, David the, "man after God's own heart." I finished the book about a week ago and kept it on my desk, to remind myself of some of the truths that had been revealed to me. Yesterday I looked at the book, and had the overwhelming conviction that I needed to give the book to this one guy. So while he was at school I placed the book on his desk and a note that simply read, "Read the first chapter, and when you do come and find me." Did I have anything planned to say when he came to me? No, but God did.
He found me after dinner and we met in his room. He looked at me and I told him about this desire I had seen in him. His heart is craving to know God more intimately. His heart is desperately seeking to know more truth. He wants to be serious about his faith. No more messing around. No more searching for joy and peace in earthly possessions and momentary things. No more desiring to please teachers, peers, coaches, but a heart that is striving to please and worship God.
It was the type of conversation that leaves you with the Holy Spirit goosebumps. A face caked with tears of joy. A heart that is trying to burst through your chest and magnificently scream, "YES!"
We are going to meet every Tuesday night at 10.45 (4.45 EST) to pray, and hang out. He has asked for me to mentor him, and help him. I welcomed the invitation gladly, and promised to do all I can.
I ask that you rejoice with me in this time of excitement. I ask you praise God for his faithfulness. If you think of it, know I will be meeting at 4.45 (or whatever time zone you are in) every Tuesday, your prayers are greatly appreciated.

Ask and you shall receive.
Come to me, and you will find rest.
Remain in me, and I will remain in you.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Back and loving it!

This past Monday was a phenomenal day as the guys slowly trickled back to the dorm. As soon as a van of guys arrived hugs were exchanged, laughter was shared and stories of break were told with joy. About an hour or two later the guys would finish unpacking. getting situated in their room, and just as they started to doze off for a "post travel nap" the next van of guys would appear and the process started all over again! It was awesome.
I found myself following the guys to their room (more realistically it was them following me as I carried their massive suitcases) and plopping on their bed as I listened to them talk about their break. I got to hear stories about many different countries and cultures, but most importantly I got to hear stories about their families. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing about family traditions, siblings wrestling, and New Years Eve celebrations. I loved watching every guy reveal the "treasure" from their country they brought back with them. I think every guy returned with at least 20 packages of Rammon, each insisting that their country makes the best Rammon. I'm not a fan of the food myself, but have to admit that you most commonly hear praise for Korean Rammon. Whether it was Rammon, a candy bar, or even a jar of pickles, these guys all brought a little bit of home back with them to the dorm.
Overall most of the guys are excited to be back at the dorm. They enjoyed being home with family, but after three weeks many start getting pretty bored and restless. The common phrase is, "glad to be back at Sonne, hate to be back at school." I guess I can't really blame them for not wanting to be back at school.
Tuesday officially began the first day of the second semester, and with that my routine is back to normal. I love it.
I don't fully understand it - but even though the guys have only been back for a few days I still have eight loads of laundry to do! It's less than normal, but I am still a little confused as to how so much laundry piled up so quickly.

I am very excited for two activities going on this weekend. First of all, we have home basketball games this weekend! Friday and Saturday will be spent in the gym watching all four teams compete (boys/girls jv/varsity). The games will start around 4.30 on Friday afternoon, and we will leave the school around 11.00. Then on Saturday games start at 10.30am and will go until about 3.00pm. The entire school community will come out and cheer to support the teams. It is an amazing thing to watch all the students and teachers cheer the entire game, even when we are getting blown out (the boys varsity lost by 38 in their last game). Regardless of the score everyone plays hard, everyone cheers for every basket, and everyone has fun.
On Sunday we will be having our second meeting for the Kenya mission trip. We will start crossing the T's and dotting the I's and putting things in place. I am really excited to get plugged into the students and to begin bonding with them.
It is going to be a busy, exciting, and energetic weekend here in Kandern. I love it.

On a side-note, if you want to receive these posts via e-mail let me know and I can make sure you get an e-mail every time I make a post.

With love,
Tommy

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Second Semester!

I arrived back in Germany Saturday night, unfortunately one of my backpacks missed a connecting flight, so I am without quite a bit of my stuff. My computer is in the backpack that is currently lost, which has left me quite frustrated and annoyed. I've spent more time than I'd like listeing to Air France "on hold" music.
Without my computer, and with a slow and unreliabale internet I will keep this short.
The guys came back yesterday, it was a great day. It was exciting and enjoyable to see all the guys again - to get some big hugs, and hear all about their breaks. Many of them are dealing with jet-leg as they have been traveling from as far east as Korea, and as far west as Oregon. As I tried to fall asleep last night (I'm still dealing with jet-leg!) I laid down and said to myself, "This is where I want to be. I love this job."
More to come and more pictures when I get my computer...

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Family

Being home has been amazing. Funny thing is, throughout the entirity of my break I will never make it to New Hampshire which is technecially the place I would call 'home.' My break will be spent in Florida, Pittsburgh and Cleveland.
I was so blessed and encouraged to be in Florida with my family for the first 10 days or so of my break. I was able to play a lot of golf with my dad and brother, which is always a highlihgt. The game of golf provides me with a great opportunity to spend time with these two, and the cart rides are always entertaining, and sometimes a little scary when my dad starts driving over a hill and fails to recognize there is a large sand trap at the bottom of the hill. Believe it or not, but I actually beat my brother one round. Essentially I have to be playing my best, and Philip is playing his worst, for this to happen... but it did! Being in the warm sun allowed me the chance to go on walks with my mom where we could talk and catch up on life. I love the simplicity to a lot of our conversations, but she always inspires me with the depth of some of her questions, and I am blown away every time I see her passion and purpose for her job. She appreciates the walks, but I know she doesn't appreciate me coming back from a run and giving her my traditional sweaty, nasty hug. :-) Over break I was able to spend some time with Whitney, who always leaves me with cheeks hurting from smiling so much, and a stomach in pain from bursts of laughter. Her stories and jokes can make me laugh like nobody else can. Plus, as my little sister she has the power of persuasion that can result in many adventures to Starbucks and beyond. :-)
This Christmas was a very special time for me, and my family. We carried on our tradition of a Christmas Eve "cultural dinner." We took to the seas and went fishing, bringing home two fish for dinner. We sat around a campfire and made s'mores as we listened to the legendary tales of Fisherman Bill.
For me personally it was a phenomenal Christmas. It was a chance for me to step away from my ministry at BFA and be refreshed, encouraged and recharged. I cannot begin to explain how drained I had become with all the happenings of the semester. Being with family completely rejuvinated me and has mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually prepared me to return for the second semester.
As a family we were not together for more than five days, but it was still wonderful. It is difficult because we will most likely not all be together again until next Christmas, at the earliest.
This post is for my family. I am extremely blessed by you. I am in awe of the love, support and encouragement you provide. I thank you for all you have done, and will continue to do.
Mom. Dad. Philip. Whitney.
I love you.

Tommy

Ps.
I guess I should give a shout out to Duncan, because he is a pretty sweet dog.
I do not have access to my computer, but when I do, I will post some pictures of my family and me.