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