Thursday, December 30, 2010

Just like yesterday

My brief break from the dorm has been busy. It has been phenomenal and I am thankful for the many opportunities that have come my way. The list of people I desire to spend time with always seems to be longer than the hours in a day. But despite the limited amount of time I am always blessed. I always walk away encouraged and refreshed. More than anything, I love walking away with the thought, "it felt like just yesterday was the time in which we were interacting on a daily basis." Whether it is friends from high school or friends from college I have been encouraged by the way in which the friendships seem to pick up in an almost effortless style. Whether we are talking on the phone or interacting face to face, we pick up right where we left off. Words, phrases, jokes that were once a daily occurrence seem to resurface after having been on vacation for years.
Perhaps one of my favorite things has been the way in which we hit the more important topics - without much fluff in between. With some people (myself included) you have to ask multiple questions before you can get to the heart of the issue. But when you know you only have a limited amount of time, you desire to talk about what is most important. The reality of this hit home to me when I was in Portsmouth walking around with a great friend of mine. We only had about an hour - but rather than sit down and talk we did what we have done consistently for the past 10 years or so...just aimlessly wander downtown. As we were walking and talking we did not have to ask each other certain questions to prompt conversation. Rather, we offered up the information we knew the other desired to know about.
I have also been extremely encouraged by the fact that friendships have lasted despite the distance, time zone difference, and obvious changes in life. I had dinner with a friend one of my first nights back and the fact was pointed out that we met and started our friendship when we were 14 years old. The fact that we are still hanging out and staying in touch 11 years later is pretty encouraging.
With one friend, I have not physically seen him for over two years. We have kept in touch via email and skype, but have not physically been in the presence of one another for two years. Yet we hop on the phone and you would have thought we saw each other a few hours ago.

To all my friends out there - thank you for your continued presence in my life, regardless of what it may look like, or how minimal our interaction may be like. You are a blessing in my life, and I am thankful for the opportunity to be closer to you and pick up right where we left off.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Gone

In the blink of an eye they are gone. Well, only if that blink is covered with a mere sleepless night, inches of snow, and long flights.
Many students will declare the Thursday night before break as the most entertaining and exciting day of the year. Why? Because they have absolutely no academics, no bedtime and no reason not to celebrate and have fun. So after the guys are packed, they are free to watch movies, play cards, play video games, hang out and just relax. While it may appear to be chaotic in the dorm, the night was actually relatively calm and pretty low key. Many students were exhausted from a full semester, and fighting the flu, so there were not too many all-night parties. Plus, we were showing movies in our basement (called "the web") and the price of admission was to bring down a blanket and a pillow. This sly trick helped the guys fall asleep during the movie.
The students came home from school on Thursday knowing they would soon be leaving the dorm. Apparently mother nature wanted to throw a little twist our way as we got close to 26 inches of snow in an 18 hour window! By 8.30 in the morning we had shoveled the driveway three separate times and the casual observer would have thought we were lazy and forgotten to bring out our shovels! I signed up for the first airport run Friday morning, which left Sonne at 2.45am. By the time Chris, my fellow-RA came out to make an airport run at 5.30 he couldn't see my footprints! At first he thought that I had slept through my alarm because he saw no clear indication that I actually left. Thankfully all the drivers were extremely careful and there were no problems on the road. Granted, everything took longer but everyone made it to the airport safely.
Getting on the planes was a different story. If you have paid any attention to the world news lately you probably saw that London Heathrow was having major issues. Any staff and students trying to transfer through London got delayed, canceled or rerouted. Unfortunately a few students were unable to make their initial flight, and came back to town for a few days, but by Monday all students were on their way out.

I am currently in New Hampshire - though anxiously awaiting going down to Florida in a few days. My brother flew up last night, so the five of us are together for the first time all year. It is wonderful and refreshing to be in the presence of my family.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Recent happenings...

After Jessica gave me a 'week off' from posting, I am back at it today. A while ago I talked to Jess about writing a post, but didn't give her any direction or prodding. I was extremely touched, appreciative and thankful for her words. If you have been reading my post throughout my time here you may remember me posting last spring on several occasions about coaching the girls team, and how great of an opportunity it was. Jessica was a huge reason why I walked away from that experience having had one of the greatest soccer seasons in my life. I consider myself lucky for having been given the opportunity to rub shoulders with her.

Things here continue to move along as we are now staring down the end of the semester. The students will finish their regular classes on Monday, with end of the semester exams occurring on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, with Friday being the main day for departures.

I don't feel as though I have given an update regarding some of the events that have happened over here recently, so I will look back a little, before I highlight some of what is happening in the next week.

In the last weekend of November we held our annual Christmas Banquet. It was extremely well put together, and a great evening for all the staff and students. I always enjoy the night as it is one of the few occasions where the guys dress up and actually care what they look like. While the girls dorms are apparently crazy all day, the guys dorm stays relatively calm until about 30 minutes prior to departure. At this point you hear shouts of, "I need a silver tie!" or "Does anyone have a spare pair of dress socks!" Below are some pictures from the night...

Apparently he isn't as graceful at putting on the corsage as she would prefer. Although he did score major brownie points, because he made it by hand!


Just making sure the flower is in good condition before it is delivered to his date.



A pause in the night for some fun pictures. These two are seniors, and are amongst my closest friends here. I love them dearly, and really enjoy hanging out with them.


This past weekend our basketball season officially kicked off as we hosted the first games of the season. I am helping coach the guys team at least one day a week, so I feel a bit more connected, and watch the games with a more vested interest. Our varsity guys won both Friday and Saturday, with our varsity girls winning on Friday and losing on Saturday. All in all it was a very successful weekend.




This coming Saturday the entire high school will be traveling to a larger city about 45 minutes away by train. The staff/students will meet at the train station in the morning, bombard the train, and then walk around the city for the afternoon. It has always been a fun time for students, as it gives them the chance to get out of Kandern, walk around with friends, and enjoy the culture. They are encouraged to use this day as a time to buy Christmas presents for family, but realistically speaking the money will probably end up in a cash register in Starbucks or McDonalds.

Following church on Sunday we will return to the dorm for a few hours, before returning for the Christmas concert. There will be a few Sonne guys performing, so I am highly anticipating this event.
Sunday night we are having our Sonne Christmas party. We have purchased items for a white elephant gift exchange, and the students will purchase gifts for a secret santa party as well.

As you can probably see, this is a busy, but wonderful time of the year. The students are anxiously awaiting the day they can leave. I on the other hand, am not really looking forward to it. In all honesty, I don't want the students to leave. While the students have been using advent calendars to count down to break, or Christmas, I decided to use mine to count down the days until the students come back.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog today. I hope you are enjoying your holiday season.

Tommy

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Jessic's blog




Dear Readers,
Today you get a special blog! You get to hear from someone other then Tommy :). I am here to momentarily relieve you from his thoughts but not from him.

So who am I? My name is Jessica Krause, I am 18 years old, and a graduate from BFA. I spent 5 years there, this past year being my last. Today, I attend a small Christian university where I am playing soccer and trying to figure out what I would like to do with the rest of my life. I've known Tommy since he first arrived at BFA two and a half years ago. Granted, I didn't really know him until about a year and a half ago. He was a fellow student in my French class for a semester and my soccer coach for a year. He is a brother in Christ and a faithful friend.

Now why am I writing on his blog? For several reasons,
1. As we were discussing his blog (which I am a reader of) a couple weeks ago he threw out the idea of me writing in it sometime. My first thought was, heck no. I don't really enjoy writing. And I definitely don't think I am very eloquent in expressing my thoughts. But as I kept thinking about it, I kept being persuaded. So I told him I would consider it, but not to have any expectations. And now here I am today.
2. As it is Thanksgiving week, I have decided to take this opportunity to do something I've neglected to do. I want to express my thankfulness for who Tommy is and who he has been to me and so many others.
3. I hope that you, as the readers, perhaps as his family or friends will realize that Tommy has been impacting lives for God's Kingdom.

Dear Tommy.
Thank you for investing in my life.
Thank you for writing me a note before every soccer game.
Thank you for encouraging me to play to glorify God.
Thank you for reminding me to see the bigger picture.
Thank you for looking past the surface and going deeper.
Thank you for listening when I was struggling.
Thank you for taking the extra time to help me get better at soccer.
Thank you for investing in me even though we are oceans apart, I know it's not easy to keep in touch.
Thank you for being a Christ-like example to me.
Thank you for sharing what's going on in your life with me.
Thank you for not looking down on me because I am young.
Thank you for realizing I am more than someone seeking to be a better soccer player.
Thank you for helping me learn to be a better player on and off the field.
Thank you for respecting who I am.
Thank you for encouraging me when we've lost a game or I played bad.
Thank you for taking me to the soccer game last year, because you really didn't have to.
Thank you for showing me that you care.
Thank you for going the extra mile to be sure I know you're there if I'm struggling.
Thank you for always responding to my emails and questions, whether they are easy or hard.
Thank you for joking, laughing, and always lightening the mood.
Thank you for trusting me.
Thank you for continually seeking God.
Thank you for being the girls soccer coach, you know you love it more then being the guys coach :).
Thank you for being optimistic.

It has truly been a blessing getting to know you and having you be a part of my life. You have been like an older brother to me. I am amazed at how you not only continue to invest in me but in so many others you care deeply about. You are always giving of yourself and taking the time to make sure everyone feels loved. You really are a great example of a follower of Christ. I hope to some day impact the lives of others as you have impacted me. Thank you.

Now back to whoever may be reading this blog, thank you for supporting him, through prayer, through money, through emailing him, calling him, whatever it may be, because your commitment and encouragement enables Tommy to allow God to work through him to impact our lives.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Dorm Thanksgiving

To many, that title will cause some scratching of the head seeing as how the American holiday of Thanksgiving is still one week away. However, here at Sonne we celebrated Thanksgiving tonight. With our student body being composed of individuals from so many different backgrounds and cultures, it is difficult to appease everyone. Therefore each year we choose one particular day that hopefully suits everyone, and that wonderful day was today.
What does a dorm thanksgiving look like? A lot of planning, a lot of preparation, a lot of work, a lot of food, and A LOT of happy and content stomachs. This evening we entertained 32 people, which is actually a bit low for dorm standards on a day such as this. Some of the other dorms were nearing 50 people. Regardless, we had quite a group to cook for.
We began planning our menu a few weeks ago in order to make sure we had all the ingredients we needed. As I have mentioned before we are not in the States, and we are unable to simply go to a local grocery store and pick up everything we need. It is necessary to visit multiple grocery stores for specific ingredients. In fact, yesterday we sent a van into France in order to pick up supplies you cannot find in this part of Germany.
The five Sonne staff members began some of the prep work last night, but the majority of it was done today. We all met in the kitchen at 9.00 and worked for the next three and a half hours before taking a little siesta - only to start back up around 4.00. Each of us had a certain part of the meal we were in charge of. My tasks included; mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, cherry fluff and biscuits. When you are cooking for over 30+ people you need to mash a lot of potatoes! My forearms got quite the workout. We ended up creating two full dorm pans of mashed potatoes, and one full dorm pan of sweet potatoes. I am not entirely sure of the exact measurements, but I would venture to say that a dorm pan is roughly 1.5x the size of a 9x13 pan…that’s a lot of potatoes!
It was definitely a lot of work, but it was absolutely worth it. As we sat down the guys were telling me how they had been strategic about their eating throughout the day. Some believed eating nothing all day would allow for them to have more room for dinner. Some were under the impression a normal breakfast, but no lunch would put their stomach in the best possible situation to consume a mountain of food. After hearing of their “pre-meal” strategy, it was then all about the strategy of the actual meal. What to eat first, how much to grab of each dish the first time around, what kind of biscuit goes best with the sweet potatoes, water or milk, all these decisions on a normal day may be small, but not today! It was a blessing and joy to sit at the table for a while (dinners here usually last no more than 12 minutes) talk, and enjoy the atmosphere.

As I sit here and type, I am in the living room being entertained by the guys as they allow their food to digest. How do they do that? Computer games. Not the most social, or healthy thing to do - but this is their Thanksgiving night and they deserve a night where they can relax and veg out. Besides, after all the food we ate tonight, we really are not going to be moving around much at all.
It is sad to have a Thanksgiving and not have a good NFL game to watch - for some reason it doesn’t quite seem right, but that is a reality of life here in Germany…and I love it. This is my third year in a row being here for Thanksgiving, and this is slowly becoming a tradition and something of familiarity. I am very happy about that.

On a very different note, I cannot write a note about Thanksgiving and not be reminded of the time during my junior year of college, I traveled to Florida with a group of friends. That was one of the finest memories of Thanksgiving I have. But I know if any of those individuals read this blog they will be wondering if I made pierogies tonight. I am saddened to tell them I did not, the tradition didn’t make it across the ocean this year!

Lastly, transitioning back to BFA real quick. I wanted to share this story from our dinner table that left me speechless, encouraged, and with tears in my eyes. Prior to eating, the dorm dad asked if a few would state something they are thankful for. Somewhat stereotypical, but a good activity nonetheless. After a few of the ‘normal’ answers were given one of the students boldly said, “I am thankful Tommy came back for this year.” I was not anticipating this, and was left speechless, with a very grateful and thankful heart. Happy Thanksgiving!

Tommy

Here I am making my mountain of mashed potatoes...


Some of the guys getting ready to eat


A quick picture of the sweet potatoes before dinner started...


A few minutes later an empty dish proves in the words of my dad, "They were deee lish."


Time to relax and let the food digest.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Courage

"Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities... because it is the quality which guarantees all others."
- Winston Churchill.

Over the weekend I had a few moments to myself where I was able to think, reflect, and process. Every now and then that can prove to be a dangerous thing, but in this case it was very enjoyable and helpful. I have recognized a slow growth of dissatisfaction with my approach to my ministry in the dorm. It definitely has not had a presence on a daily basis, but has shown its ugly face from time to time. I am content when difficulties come my way, but I often struggle when I cannot place my finger on what the difficulty is, the reasons why it is present, or how to fix it. It is impossible to fix a problem you cannot identify.
But this weekend enabled me to pinpoint the heart of my frustration...I had yet to settle on a purpose for the year. I remembered back to August and being on a run, and praying over what my focus for the year would be. I asked God and myself, "when the students finish the year in June, what characteristics will define the way in which they lived the year?" I had different words, different ideas, but nothing solid really stuck.

I am a nerd at times, and love to know the meaning of words. Sometimes I use words without fully understanding their true intention. When you look up the word purpose you will find this as part of the definition: the reason for one's existence. I simply love that definition and love that word. I desire to find the purpose, the reason, for the things I do. My frustration rested in the realization that I did not have a defined purpose for this school year.

Therefore I walked away from the weekend determined to sit down and create a goal, and a purpose for each guy in my dorm. Not only this, but I want each guy to be aware of the goal I have come up with. I want them to know my purpose. So I have been writing each guy a hand-written note detailing all of this.

As I have started writing these notes I have found myself using the word courage in just about every note.
- Courage to step up as a leader in the dorm
- Courage to seek out a mentor who will take you under his wings
- Courage to be yourself and not worry what others will think
- Courage to find your identity and value in what God sees, not what others say.

The dictionary uses these words to define courage:
-The quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery.
-To act in accordance with one's beliefs, esp. in spite of criticism.

I have decided that this is going to be a year of courage, a year where young boys are raised up into young courageous men. Men who are relentless, determined, firm, persevering. I desire to see them achieve this academically, socially, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, physically.


Tommy

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Fear

Sometimes the title of a post will peak interest and draw in a few extra readers. The title above has very little to do with this post, other than a quote I will share in just a moment.
I will admit that sometimes writing blog updates can be a difficult task. Some weeks are extremely busy and it is difficult to pick one thing that I feel gives an accurate description of what is happening here. Other weeks are so busy (such as this past week) they leave me tired and without much energy. Although with the response I received from my post, "homesick" I have been inclined to on occasion share more in depth what is going on here, but also what is going on inside me.

That being said I wanted to share a recent email exchange I have had with a former BFA student. I hope it is helpful to show you some of my recent thoughts, as well as give a glimpse of some of the types of interaction I have with my students.
This student graduated my first year here, so there was not a whole lot of time for us to interact. I knew OF her for most of the year, but I got to spend more time with her as we traveled to Kenya together for a mission trip. From our time shared in Kenya a friendship was formed, that has continued some 18 months later.

Her thoughts and writing always intrigue me, and I will start with a quote she shared with me in an email a few weeks back:
"Fear is foolishness if it lasts for more than a moment."
Allow yourself to ponder that quote for a few minutes, it will keep you thinking.

Lastly, I want to share a piece of an email I sent to her, and then her response... (My email to her)
Here is an interesting thought... I love history. Over the summer I read a bit about Winston Churchill. Never knew much about him, but wanted to find out more. In one of the books they kept saying that as a child Winston had an aura about him that he was born to do great things. He had a sense that he was going to be remembered. I feel the same way. I have this sense that I am going to accomplish amazing things. I honestly feel as though I am destined for greatness, but I don't know precisely in what way. I know it most likely will not be in the way many Americans and non-Christians view greatness (mainly...wealth, sex, fame, worldly pleasures). But I fully believe I am destined for greatness for God's kingdom.
Perhaps a bit of an arrogant thought, but I do believe that I am here for more than what this world has to offer. I believe in purpose.
Purpose. That's one of my favorite words.

Then this is part of her response to my statement from above:

it's true what you said, that some people are destined for greatness in god's kingdom. i know that you are. i know that i am. although it sounds arrogant, it isn't arrogance in the slightest, because by definition, greatness in the kingdom means the opposite of greatness on the earth. we are great only when we surrender our own wills and let god use us as his instruments of love and grace. to be great means to be less; our heavenly crowns grow larger the more we slave and labor in love. sometimes this knowledge tortures me- i feel as if i'm waiting for something massive, shouting out to god 'send me somewhere! command me to do something terrible and wonderful! ask me to sell all my possessions! tell me to start a giant community house of believers to minister to the neighborhood! send me back to kenya to live in a hut!' i am waiting for a vision, i'm simply starving for a vision, and i have so many but for the present i am called only to small things. living as myself in a big city, listening to my housemates talk about things that matter to them, loving Addie and caring for her, saying hello to my neighbors who hate me for my color, spending a year truly resting for the first time since i was five. i can feel it growing though, a calling, a revelation, a task. and i am more than ready



I hope you enjoyed reading this - even if this post didn't really give much of an update about life here at BFA.

Tommy.

Ps. Winston Churchill is a really interesting individual to study. If you are looking for a good biography, find one about Winston.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Herbstemesse

Typically I put up a post every Thursday, but this week I knew if I blogged on Thursday I would be giving a preview of Herbstemesse, but if I waited a day or two, I could write a review of the night. The latter seemed much more appealing to me.

What is Herbstmesse? Herbst is the German word loosely translated to, "fall or autumn" and messe in this instances is translated to the word, "party." Put it together and you get the Fall Party. On Friday night we shuttled down virtually our entire student body, as well as all Res Life staff, and many teachers to invade the city of Basel, Switzerland for the evening. I do not know how many people ended up going, but I think I can safely say it was over 200.
We rode down on buses, getting dropped off a little before 5pm, and got picked back up at 9pm. In those fours hours we were free to wander the streets and sights of Herbstemesse.
Honestly, this is one of my favorite nights of the entire semester. I don't know exactly what it is - but there is something about it that always gets my blood flowing. It is a night that is unique, we go into a larger city, there are lights, rides, food, and everywhere you look people are having fun.
Last night I latched onto a group of 5 seniors and spent the majority of the night with them. Shortly after grabbing some food we stumbled upon this unique "ride." It wasn't lit up, or drawing many crowds, because it was essentially a merry-go-round. Although instead of propelling yourself from the outside, there was a table in the middle that you spun around to get speed and momentum. I doubt that gave you an accurate picture of the 'ride' one person last night described it as, "being similar to the tea cups at disney." I couldn't relate, so I am not sure if that helps at all or not. Anyway, the six of us spent a solid 25 minutes riding this thing, going around and around. Honestly, it was hilarious and so much fun. After a little while we were trying to think of crazy things we could do in order to make it more entertaining, so we pulled out a deck of cards and started playing cards while spinning in circles. This definitely provided even more entertainment - until we unanimously decided for the well being of our dinner, it was time to step off.
Random. Free. Pointless. Entertaining. Hilarious. Wonderful memory.

Of course, a blog about Herbstemesse would not be complete without mentioning the bumper cars (though this merry-go-round contraption proved to be the highlight of my night.) At 7.30 everyone from BFA who was in Basel congregated at the bumper cars for an hour of mayhem, whiplash, and frenzy. Bumper cars are definitely fun for everyone (people of all ages were out there) but it was just as entertaining to watch the "race" for a car. Imagine 100 people scrambling for 30 spots. CHAOS.
I found myself anxiously awaiting the end of the turn, simply to see the mad dash of people flood the floor hoping to get a car for the next ride. I won't lie, I let my students drive me around a few times, and my back is hurting a little today.

All in all, it was a wonderful night, and a great memory.

Enjoy some of the pictures from the night...

This is a giant corn booth. I have seen it before, and it always made me laugh, so this time I took a picture of it.


Here you see one of my guys on the "merry-go-round" His face is simply priceless.


The picture doesn't do this justice. Only in Germany will you see an inflatable sausage with "fire" under it.


Enjoying the ride...


Playing cards as we spin...


Bumper cars...


Curiously watching the action and anxiously waiting to try and grab the next ride



Thursday, October 21, 2010

Homesick

Here is my second post of the day. If you have the time keep scrolling down to see the first post I put up prior to this.

This has been on my heart for the past day or so and I wanted to put it up. I realized a lot of the time I post about things that are going on here, or things that have been going on in my head, but I don’t really ever post something that would in any way shape or form answer the question, “How are you doing?” I think my main hesitation in that is because I am never fully aware of who is reading this (insert plug for you to email or leave a comment!) and therefore don’t always feel comfortable spilling my emotions. Secondly I know I would much rather prefer to answer that question face to face, through a phone call, or even email. With a combination of those two factors, and I assume a few others, there aren’t too many blogs revealing that.
So today I will answer that question with the hope of giving you a taste of reality thrown into an entertaining story.
Right now I am homesick. I have recently received a few emails from one of my closest friends in college, getting caught up on our individual lives. He told me he is hoping to find a job by December, and then buy a plane ticket and visit me in the spring. The reality hit that I haven’t seen him in quite some time, and that won’t change in the near future. I have also been emailing back and forth with another close friend from college, as I seek advice with a certain situation. She has been extremely helpful and encouraging, but I am getting tired of communicating through email. With these as two examples of many, I have found myself saying, “I wish they were involved in my daily life again, and we could do this face to face.” These two are amongst a handful of people I desperately wish I could interact with in, “the way it used to be.” It gets tiring and discouraging when I don’t understand what their life is like, or they don’t understand what mine is like. While I love being here, and I absolutely do, there are moments where it is extremely difficult to be away from your closest friends.
In a more entertaining way, but just as seriously, it is also difficult at times to be in a place that is very different than what you are used to. You can use the technical term, ’culture shock’ if you want. It is not a myth, but a reality. Knowing I have been discouraged by feeling homesick lately I looked at my meal-planning for this coming weekend as an ideal opportunity to cook something that will remind me of home, and bring to mind amazing family and friends. So this Saturday morning I am making bubble bread for the guys. Growing up bubble bread was a staple for any major holiday. To this day, bubble bread is served on Christmas morning, and it is always deee lish. I remember being in high school and having my friends sleep over, and my mom would make our taste buds throw a party when she announced the bubble bread was warm, gooey, and ready to be devoured.
But here is the entertaining thing, German grocery stores do not carry everything that a normal American grocery store would carry. As I mapped out the ingredients I will need, it looked as if I was building a family tree - where everything kept splitting off and getting larger and larger. As I found the bubble bread recipe I knew I needed Jello Butterscotch pudding. Simply put, you can’t find that anywhere near here. But that’s okay, there are options! So I did a google search and found a recipe to make homemade butterscotch pudding. However, in order to make homemade butterscotch pudding, you need dry milk pudding (what exactly is that stuff?!). Alas, google saves me again, and I get what I need for that. Now I continue to scroll down the recipe and notice I need rolls. After consuming as much bubble bread as I have in my life, I know that the bread is a very important ingredient. Germans love bread, they have some of the best bread in the world, but they don’t have the specific kind I need! Therefore I plan on making some homemade dough, in order to make my own bread rolls - making my list of ingredients expand once again.

I chuckled as I looked over my ever-growing list of ingredients. I thought for a second if it was really worth all that effort for the bubble bread. Homemade butterscotch pudding to cover the homemade bread. Whew.
But two thoughts came to my mind, the first was this: as bizarre as it sounds, bubble bread carries a lot of great memories for me. Memories of sleep-overs, memories of mornings in Tomahawk, memories of Christmas mornings and being with family. I hope that in ten years my guys will find a girl who makes them bubble bread, and he thinks back to his memories at Sonne. Perhaps a bit of a stretch (more the part about them finding a girl!) but I still find excitement and hope in that vision.
Secondly, I know I am missing home right now. I know my heart longs to be with family and friends. To be with those who know me well. I know that I can’t be with you right now, but as I eat my bubble bread Saturday morning, I will think of you, smile, laugh, perhaps shed a tear, and cherish all the memories that flood my heart.

It will be a good amount of work, but it will be worth it, and of course, it will taste amazing.

Tommy

Thank You

It is my intention here to actually put up two different blog posts today. Over the weekend I had one train of thought and knew I wanted to blog about it - but in the past 48 hours or so have felt something else stirring my heart, that I thought would be good to blog about. But here is number one…

Over this past weekend I spent some time with RAs from different dorms, which was a profound blessing. At one point the conversation turned to financial support, and more specifically supporting churches. A few of the RAs I was with are planning on going back to the States during our Christmas break, and were talking about trying to set up an appointment so they can speak at one of their supporting churches. It was interesting to me to hear them talk about speaking in front of their churches, or to hear them talk about all the different friends and family from a specific church that support them. Being the “veteran” amongst the group they asked me what I had done with my supporting churches, how I communicate to them, how often I had spoken in front of a supporting church congregation, etc. To the amazement of everyone (including myself) I simply said to them, “I actually don’t have a single church body that supports me. 100% of my support is from family and friends. I don’t have a home sending church.”
I made that statement, and conversation seemed to move right along. However, I kept replaying the statement I had made, over and over in my head. As I continued to process, ponder, and realize that I am here as a missionary, and have been for two full years - moving into my third - without a sending church, my eyes filled with tears of gratitude, and I genuinely want to say THANK YOU to all of you. I am blessed, encouraged, and excited (to name a few) by the way in which you have financially supported me, and been faithful to my ministry here.
As I listened to the RAs talk about being able to meet face to face with the majority of their supporters it got me a little discouraged, yet also excited. My supporters (you) are scattered all over the place. It is discouraging because I cannot go to one central location and have the opportunity to meet everyone face to face. My parents are in New Hampshire, so that is what I would technically consider “home-base” yet my supporters are scattered across the country. Going off my post from last week a little, it is exciting to recognize where my support comes from. Wisconsin, Arizona, Texas, Oregon, California, Pennsylvania, Florida, New Hampshire, Indiana, Tennessee are states that are home to some of my supporters.

Thank you for continuing to support me in my ministry here. Thank you for all you do. I am encouraged and thankful for what you do for me, and these students. Even though I may not have the opportunity to see you face to face and allow you to see my tears of gratitude, please take this blog and know that I am extremely thankful.

Tommy

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Numbers

For those who know me a little bit probably realize that I am not the biggest fan of facebook. For a long time I didn't even have an account, but after a little while finally gave in. I don't go on facebook often, and seldom write on walls, or put up a status. However this past week I was thankful for facebook...
Last week was my birthday, and it seemed as though every time I checked my email I was getting another notification that somebody had posted on my wall. I was extremely blessed and encouraged throughout the day to receive little comments from all sorts of people. As I was watching the emails come in I tended to see a pattern which became quite entertaining to me.
The first comments came from people I know in Korea, who are seven hours ahead of me here in Germany. So by the time I was going to bed on Friday night in Germany, it was Saturday morning in Korea, therefore technically my birthday there. I received emails throughout the morning from people here in Germany, then as it became the afternoon in Germany, people were starting to wake up in the USA on EST. Then I started to receive emails and comments from friends and family in that part of the world. Finally, as I was starting to eat dinner, I was getting notes from friends on the west coast, as they were starting to wake up.
It was an amazing experience to walk through. It was so unique to witness as different time zones were waking up.

The ability to see the time zones come into play was fascinating, but it was also encouraging and inspiring to see the countries/regions/states represented by those sending me comments. Over the summer I had a friend say to me, "I look at your facebook wall, and it looks like the United Nations" my response was a chuckle, knowing that she was spot on. I went back this afternoon and counted the different countries represented by those who left me birthday wishes and came up with 17. That includes countries as far east as China and Mongolia, as far west as California (I know California is not a state, I put it as an example of a place in the western most time zone I got a message from) in the USA - and so many in between; Russia, Korea, Israel, Turkey, Austria, The Netherlands, Ireland, Italy...17 countries is quite a bit.

I don't mention that with any hope of being arrogant, I mention it with the hope of spreading the encouragement I received. I know people in all of those countries who are working to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There are brothers and sisters around the world with the same purpose of living, as you. There are people all over the world impacting their community with the love of Jesus, in the same way you are. It is a big world, and there is a grand distance from California to Mongolia. Yet we serve a BIGGER God.
I was really encouraged to recognize how God is doing work in and through people not only in these 17 countries, but in a number too big for my comprehension.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Learning the language

One of the questions I hear most often regarding working at BFA, and living in Germany is this, "How much German do you know by now? Would you say you are fluent?" Sadly the answer is always embarrassing as I admit I still know very little German. I always raise a few eyebrows when I respond by saying that my French speaking abilities continue to improve almost to the comfort level of being conversational. But that is a different story for a different day.
Some people may question why I haven't been able to pick up the German language after living here for over two years - while I don't always pick up on new German words, I have picked up some words from my students. Below I will introduce you to some words commonly heard around the dorm, and the way in which they are used.

Ole {Oh-lay} - an interjection, verb (used without an object)
Used as an exclamation of joy, success, victory. Typically followed by laughter as well as other shouts of "ole" by surrounding students. Most commonly heard, though not limited, in the context of a sporting event.
Examples of the use of ole:
-PJ is on the soccer field and pulls a move that makes his opponent look silly, so PJ joyfully exclaims, "Ole!"
- Josh is drying the dishes and finds he has a wet towel in his hand, and a close-by freshmen is pestering him. From the other room you hear a loud snap of the towel, a cry of pain, and Josh victoriously shouting, "Ole!"

Jokes {johks} - noun
something said to cause laughter and/or amusement for those in your vicinity. Stated to assure everyone no ill intentions were at the heart of the statement. Commonly covered with a lot of sarcasm.
Example of the use of jokes:
- Jonny sits down with Paul and says, "I think that girl really likes you." David sitting at the same table interjects and says, "Jokes" cluing in everyone that she in fact does NOT like Paul, and that he is silly for even flirting with the idea.

I will be honest and say I am still struggling to fully understand how and when to appropriately use the word, jokes. It pops up randomly in conversation and is followed by enormous fits of laughter, I am left confused.

Here is the last vocabulary lesson for the day, but when used correctly, perhaps my favorite...

Epic: {ep-ik} -adjective
impressive, great, majestic, of unusually great size or extent

The word epic is thrown around here extremely often. Not a day passes where there fails to be some event that is simply "epic."
Though probably not recognized by dictionary.com, this word can take on many different forms such as, "epicness" or the "epicistcy"
Here are a few direct quotes using this word:
Trevor, "That meal was so good, it was epic."
Henry, "I epicly failed that test today."
And the quote I heard yesterday and couldn't help but add it...
Caleb, "I tried to talk to a girl today, but it was an epic failure."




Tommy

Friday, September 24, 2010

Friday, September 17, 2010

Running the race



Hebrews 12:1-2 states, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."

About 18 months ago I had the privilege and joy of being one of the leaders on a BFA sponsored mission trip to Nairobi, Kenya. This verse from Hebrews served as our theme verse, and the verse in which we dove into on a nightly basis. I remember choosing this verse as our theme because I knew we were going to Kenya, a country that continually produces phenomenal marathon runners. I know my rational isn't very deep or profound, but this verse mentions running a race, and Kenyans run, so it all seemed to fit in my mind. Throughout our time in Kenya this verse pounded hearts and was used to transform lives. I am amazed at how God used my bizarre rational, to do amazing things.
The verse in Hebrews is special to me because it reminds me of our time in Kenya, but it also gives me such encouragement and passion. The verse seemed to be on my mind and heart constantly over the past week, as I recently ran a marathon.

The author begins by painting a picture of us being surrounded by witnesses. The witnesses are not there to mock us, ridicule us, demean us, rather they are there to encourage, uplift, cheer, comfort, and energize us.
This verse was made real to me during my recent race. My dorm brought down three vans of guys, Palmgarten (a female dorm at BFA) also brought down students, and other individuals from the community lined the street during the race.
Prior to the race I knew the Sonne guys were going to meet me at KM 32, and then at the finish line. Honestly, around KM 28 I started to feel a little tired, and wanted to slow down. Yet in my mind I knew I would soon see my guys, and I couldn't give up before I saw them. I couldn't stop running, I needed to keep going. So for 4 KM's I was driven by the excitement and anticipation of seeing the guys. I saw them at KM 32, and knew there was a chance I would see another group at Km 35. So for that whole stretch I was energized, excited, and encouraged by those that were cheering me on. I was lifted up by seeing a group of people who knew be my name, and had made an adventure to come and cheer me on. In my mind I said, "They came to meet me, and be there for me." This was extremely uplifting and provided much needed energy. By the time I reached the end of my "cheering section" I had a mere 5 KM left in the race. From KM 28-35 I was carried by the love and encouragement from these people.

When I came to the 40 KM marker I knew I only had 2 KM left, and could start to hear the crowd at the finish line. My legs were tired, my body was hurting, but I could hear people cheering, so I kept going. As I came into the final stretch I saw my guys lining up. They were in a long line stretching out their hands for high-fives. They refreshed me, they encouraged me, they spurred me on.

Having just run a race I know the difference a crowd of witnesses can make.
I hope that you will take some time to consider those around you who are also running races. Whether it be a coworker, a spouse, a family member. Take a moment and figure out how you can encourage them, refresh them, strengthen them in their race.
You see, it is a great thing knowing that I am running a race and I have a cloud of witnesses surrounding me who are there to cheer me on. But the greatest part of all this, is that I get to be that witness and that encourager for other people while they are running their race.

My cloud of witnesses for the race...

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Student's perspective

It is hard to believe I am here on another Thursday, posting a blog. It seems as though the days are going by too fast.
As promised, I had a student sit down at my computer for a little and write down some thoughts regarding his experience here at BFA, and Sonne. It was entertaining trying to give him a direction to head in, because I really didn't have any specifics I wanted him to cover. Yet I think he did a great job, and I hope you are blessed and encouraged by what he has to say.
Just so you can create an image of who Paul is, here is a goofy picture I took of him one day while he was out playing soccer...


Hi my name is Paul Park. I am a Korean and my parents currently serve in China. I am a junior in High school and this is my second year at BFA and the Sonne dorm. Living in the dorm with 20 other guys is pretty bizarre. We do the craziest and the stupidest things. It is fun to get hyper and do some wild things, but it is also fun to get to know the other guys in the dorm more in depths. A few of the guys in our dorm and I come together almost every evening and share with each other how things are going and what God is doing in our lives.

I remember being really shy and keeping a lot to myself when I first came to the dorm. I remember being scared to show others my true self. I also remember the first impression I had on the guys. I’ve lived in the states for 4 years, so seeing or living with non-Asians wasn’t a very big deal. But because there were so many different people from different cultures, I remember being slightly confused in how to act in front of them. Fortunately, all the guys in the dorm were welcoming and it was really cool because they were not mocking my culture but rather trying to understand it. Throughout the year, I began to show more of myself little by little. By the end of last year, I was a totally different person.

When I returned this year, I heard many people tell me “you’ve changed a lot.” It’s crazy because I saw myself doing things that I would have never done before, and unbelievably, I have the privilege of serving in Chapel Band this year, which I would have never dared to do before. In my opinion, I believe it was the dorm that really got me out of my bubble. The welcoming attitude, the willingness to understand, and the fellowship I’ve experienced in the dorm has made in to a new person. I am hoping that I will display the same characteristics this dorm has shown me to the new kids that recently joined our dorm. I am looking forward to a great year with them in our dorm, and I hope that they will come out of their bubble and change (in a good way) like I did.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Little Moments

I have a few brief "advertisements" before I post what is on my heart.
- Next week one of my students is going to put up a post. I asked him to do one for today, but didn't give him enough time. I hope you look forward to hearing from him, and if you have any specific topics/questions for him, please feel free to email me.
- Starting September 13, our school will begin our, 'Spiritual Emphasis Week.' Please keep this time in your thoughts and prayers, as the chaplain's department lays the spiritual foundation for the school year.
- I am running a marathon on September 12 in Basel, Switzerland. I have been training for close to three and a half months now, and am excited to run, but also excited to get it over with and be done with the training. It is difficult trying to train with all the craziness that being in the dorm brings, but I have set a goal of 3 hours and 30 minutes (10 minutes faster than my first marathon). There are going to be a lot of hills, so we'll see how I do!

Yesterday the RAs from all eight dorms got together for a meeting, and we concluded by breaking into smaller groups to pray together. As my group was praying I was really challenged, and my heart was hit hard. I felt as though I have been spending too much time focusing on the worries of the day, the small things that get me down, the stresses that tire me out. My mind far too quickly ventures to think of those things, while I neglect to enjoy the blessings, the laughter, the joys that come my way.
I prayed that God would enable me to have the heart and eyes to see the many blessings He pours out on a daily basis. My prayer was that I would focus on the little moments that melt the stress away, the moments that leave my stomach hurting from laughter, the moments that captivate my heart and make me feel purposeful.
This was my prayer in the afternoon, and by evening these are the little moments where I saw that prayer answered...

- Shortly after dinner a bunch of guys were finishing their gratis (chore) and somehow gathered in the kitchen. It is not uncommon to hear loud music playing, and last night it was none other than Taylor Swift. As I walked in, six or seven guys were huddled around the stove singing at the top of their lungs, complete with motions and dancing. I stood and watched, then joined in. I couldn't help but enjoy the moment of singing and dancing with the guys.
- This morning I made french toast for the guys, so last night I made homemade syrup (side note: Here in Germany syrup is not easy to buy, and is probably around $5-7 a bottle...not cheap!) and as I was transporting the syrup from the stove pot to the pitcher, I splattered a bunch of syrup on the white shirt I was wearing. Not a pretty sight.
A senior was in the kitchen with me and witnessed the blunder. After the initial moments of pure laughter, he came to the sink and started to sprinkle water on me attempting to help clean everything off. After a few minutes I had a lot more water on my shirt, and about the same amount of syrup. However, the annoyance of the spill was gone, and the enjoyment of an amusing scene took its place.
- Shortly before rounding up my guys for bedtime, one of the juniors came to me and invited me into his room. In the room were six or seven other guys, and the purpose of the gathering was to sing some praise and worship songs, and read encouraging scriptures to one another. It brought peace and comfort, and great excitement to see these guys willingly seek to enrich their relationship with Jesus.

Singing. Dancing. Splattering. Worshiping. Little moments. Blessings.

Love,
Tommy


Here is a scene from the dance party


Sonne dorm dad (Marty) is in the middle of this shot chasing students after being creeked in celebration of his birthday.


This has nothing to do with the dorm, simply one of my favorite pictures I took over the summer.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Back and loving it!

It is with great joy and excitement that I can say, THEY ARE BACK! As of late Wednesday night we have all of our students back in the dorm. This year we have a few less students than last year, but we also have less staff, so it somewhat evens out. We have six seniors, five juniors, four sophomores and five freshmen. I am once again on the first floor, which is home to eight of the nine underclassmen. This year will prove to be different than last year as eight of our twenty students are new to the dorm. I am excited to start building relationships with the new guys, and am eager to see the many ways in which they will influence the dorm.

It was phenomenal to welcome in all the returning students, and to witness them embracing each other after only a few months apart. The first week back is always enjoyable as students (and staff) swap stories from summer adventures. I felt as though I had some pretty decent stories to come back and tell, but I soon realized my stories did not compare to others that started with the line; “in the forests of Mongolia…” or “Do you know what I ate in downtown Dubai?” or perhaps my favorite, “I got so used to speaking Chinese, that my Korean is rusty…” That last comment makes me chuckle, realizing that Korean is the native language, Chinese is second, and English is third.

The first day of school was this past Tuesday, which begins with the tradition of opening ceremonies. Honestly, it is one of the most exhilarating events, and will always leave you with goosebumps regardless of how many times you have seen it. The seniors march in carrying flags of all the countries represented by the student body, place them on stage, and celebrate the beginning of their final year of high school. Towards the end of the ceremony we have what is called, “The call of nations” in which a staff member announces every country represented by BFA staff/students. The representation may come in the form of current residency, birth country, or country where passport was issued. At this point in time there are 54 different countries represented. Stop and think about that for a second. 54 different countries. Our community here is so diverse, so unique and so amazing. It brings me chills thinking about the work that is done for The Kingdom in all these different areas of the world.

Tomorrow is our annual “Chillin N Grillin” event where the whole school gathers in the evening for food, games, and as the name depicts, grilled food. This year my fellow RAs have put together a video for the students entertainment. We worked on it while living together during orientation, and definitely included some moments that will prove to be embarrassing. However, we all admit that if the students enjoy it, it is well worth it. The name of the movie is, “RA World Cup” and it tracks the RAs throughout our own soccer tournament. I am hoping it goes over well, and that the students enjoy it.
Saturday we will take all our students into France to go to a store called Carrefour. Essentially it is the closest store similar to Wal-Mart. It gives students the opportunity to stock up on school supplies, and any other goodies they may need.
Sunday after church we will have the traditional Sonne floor soccer tournament. Each floor will dress up and compete against each other. The soccer will prove to be less entertaining than the costumes the students come out wearing. I will have my camera ready to capture photos essential for blackmail!

They’re back, there is a lot going on, and I love it.
Thank you for everything!

Enjoy some of the pictures below…

Tommy




Friday, August 20, 2010

Culture night

After posting the previous blog I was informed there was going to be a "special concert" a stone throw away from Sonne tonight. So at 8.30 I went out and was greeted by these two men playing the Alp Horn.

It was definitely a cultural experience and something I will not soon forget. It was surreal to be able to walk down our driveway and see these guys playing. Seeing as how I had put up pictures a few hours ago, I figured I would add a few more.



Almost here

After being here in Germany for a few weeks, the moment where the students arrive is right around the corner. This coming Sunday any student who is new to BFA will arrive on campus, and in their respective dorm. Then on Monday the returning students will invade the area, with school officially starting on Tuesday morning.
It will no doubt be a very emotional weekend. From the standpoint of an RA such as myself, this is one of the most exciting days of the year. It is the time that kicks off a new year. There is joy in being reunited with students I haven't seen all summer, and there is excitement in meeting the new students.
From the viewpoint of a parent, it is perhaps one of the most difficult days of the year. Saying those final good-byes is never easy knowing it will be months between visits. Surely the length of separation is difficult, but also the realization that they will miss out on sporting events, periods of growth (physically, mentally and spiritually), and other activities.
For the students, it is a time of joy, fear, nervousness, and uncertainty. The returning students have not seen their classmates for a few months and will enjoy swapping stories of the past, present, and future. New students may be filled with nerves and uncertainty of what the year holds, and this new environment they are stepping in to.

Please be praying with me, and for me, as the new school year gets underway. Please pray for the many families that will be traveling to our community, and the multitude of emotions that will be hovering over everyone.

Tommy

On a side note, over the past few months I have really enjoyed picking up the hobby of photography. Below are a few pictures I have taken since being back in Germany, that I thought turned out well.



Thursday, August 12, 2010

Surrounded

During my first year here at BFA I was fortunate to be able to help lead a mission trip. One of my roles was to prepare devotionals to share with the group while we were in Kenya. I used Hebrews 12:1-3 as my theme verse, and found it to be extremely rich and challenging. In recent days I have found myself referring back to verse 1, as everyone here prepares for the students return.

The first half of the verse states, “Therefore since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses…”
From where I am right now I feel as though I have the honor and privilege of being surrounded by great people who are witnessing for the cause of Jesus Christ. As our newest members of the residence life program settle in, their presence is encouraging, challenging, and inspiring.
It is encouraging to hear the stories of the “newbies.” They share stories of individuals who played significant roles in their own lives when they were teenagers. They have been sharing ways in which they feel passionate about serving youth and ministering to the students. It is also encouraging to hear how each person was specifically brought to BFA. It is amazing hearing how they heard about the school, or what their connection was.
Additionally rubbing shoulders with the new staff has been inspiring. It is awesome to see and feel their enthusiasm for the upcoming year. It is great to be in company of those who share the same passion and mindset. It is inspiring to see how God has been faithful as they have all raised support, and faced the ups and downs that come along with raising support.
I have nothing but good things to say about all the new staff who have arrived. It has been a joy to walk alongside them for the past few weeks, and I have a great sense that amazing things will happen this year in and through us. I sincerely do feel as though I am surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses who are here to do some work for the Kingdom of God.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Down, but not out

As the previous post mentioned, this is an adventure. Getting here was certainly an adventure and this past week has shown that getting internet access has been an adventure as well! I apologize for any lack of communication you may have felt within the past week. I have not had consistent internet virtually since landing in Germany. The other day I was sitting in a dorm van parked outside a dorm in order to connect to their wireless internet. The dorm was in use, so there were people consistently walking by. This made for a few awkward moments, but that's what I had to do.

Despite this issue, it has been very good to be back and it has been an exciting and entertaining week. All of the RAs have been staying in Storch, one of the female dorms throughout the year. So the eight returning RAs welcomed the six new RAs, and we have been living together and getting to know each other better. I am very impressed and very excited about the group of RAs we have this year (both returning and new). They are full of purpose, vision, hope, love and compassion, to name a few. It is a joy to work beside them and to minister with them.

At my dorm, Sonne, we will have a staff of four this year which includes Marty and Debby Shilling as the dorm parents, and Chris as my fellow RA. Chris was here last year, and he and I get along really well and thoroughly enjoy working together. Marty and Debby were at Sonne for seven weeks at the start of the year last year, as they were our 'sub dorm parents.' It is great as we already know each other, get along really well, and have a lot of fun together.

Thank you for all of your prayers and your support. It is a great feeling to be back in Germany. It feels quiet and weird without the students, but I am enjoying all the preparation that must occur before they arrive.

Blessings from Germany.
Tommy

Friday, July 30, 2010

Back In Germany

Everything is an adventure, right? I had great thoughts about being able to quickly hop onto my blog Thursday evening and type a simple and encouraging note that read, "Made it back to Germany with no problems" then head off to bed and wake up without feeling the jetleg. Well...that didn't happen, but that is certainly okay by me.
I am in Germany now. I, and all of my luggage did make it here. It just took close to seven hours longer than it was supposed to. A normal travel time from doorstep to doorstep of 15 hours eventually took just over 22 hours.
My flight from Boston to New York City was quick, easy, smooth and comfortable. Howewver once I landed in NYC things started going downhill. My flight from NYC to Zurich was supposed to depart at 10.05pm, giving me a two hour layover in the JFK airport. However as that 10.05 time approached the aircraft we were scheduled to take was slow in getting to JFK, so 10.05 soon became 10.30, then 11.00 and eventually 12.15. A short two hour layover soon became a four hour layover. I knew we were going to get "dinner" on the plane so being the cheap guy that I am, I didn't initially buy any food in the airport because I knew I was going to eat on the plane. However when we continually got delayed I realized I would need something sooner than when the airline was going to offer food. Just my luck, at that time all of the restaurants and shops were starting to close, leaving my stomach empty.
I think it was finally around 12.30 when we started boarding the plane, and everyone (the airline included) was hoping to make a speedy take off and make up for lost time. Somewhere between 45 minutes and an hour into our flight I started watching an episode of NCIS on my computer to help pass the time. As I am watching I heard some screams that sounded awfully real, but poorly timed with my show. After another scream, and some turned heads around me, and I realized the screams were on the plane, not on the show. A few rows back a woman was screaming as her husband was suffering a heart attack. The captains decided to turn the plane around and make an emergency landing in Bangor, Maine. As we touched down an emergency crew met us, and ushered the man off the plane. It appeared as though the man was in good condition, with all things considered.
While on the runway in Bangor, the captain realized there were some mechanical problems with the plane. I took a look at my watch, close to 3.00am. I had been traveling for twelve hours and had gotten as far as Maine, maybe a few hours from where I started!!

Finally around 5.00am we were able to take off, and begin (again) our flight to Zurich. From here on out everything went according to plan, and I made it safely back to BFA...allbeit between six and seven hours later than expected.

A side note, and an entertaining part of the story. To pass time while in the airport I was texting back and forth with different people. Yet as my flight got delayed I saw my friends on the east coast start to text something along the lines of, "going to bed have a good flight. let me know when you are there." So then I flipped through my phone looking for people on the west coast, knowing they would be up a few more hours! Unfortunately, even some of them were going to bed as I was still sitting on the runway in Bangor, Maine.

Made it back to Germany safe and sound. A few glitches along the way, but this is an adventure.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Family

Many times I put up posts bragging about my students at BFA. I thoroughly enjoy doing that and love being able to spend time with the students. However for today I want to stop and brag about my family. I head back to Germany in less than a week, after having spent about a month in the States. For the majority of that time I have been in New Hampshire with my family. It has been a time of laughter, fun, good conversations, and relaxation.

My mom and I have spent a lot of time together so far, which is awesome. With her spending so many years as a teacher, I feel as though we are peers and co-workers in ministry. Obviously different settings, but we do what we do for the same reasons. This summer has provided us with the unique opportunity to travel together, which was quite the adventure. Together our unique sense of humor, and ability to make ourselves laugh made some rather unfavorable situations, entertaining and memorable.


The most precious girl in the world. This summer, perhaps more than ever, Whitney has made me laugh. Her stories about work, Duncan, or who knows what, are more often than not pointless, yet they leave you laughing and stunned with entertainment. I have thoroughly enjoyed going out to breakfast with Whit from time to time, and always feel like a celebrity when I visit her at work. Every co-worker of Whitney's as well as every customer is told, "that's my brother, isn't he so cute?"


Speaking of cute, I had to put up this picture of my dad and his "little buddy." Summers with dad would not be complete without a few rounds of golf. Being on the course gets us outside, provides exercise, headaches, frustration, but most of all fellowship and time together. I like to consider myself his good luck charm while we are on the golf course, as he always seems to play better when I am around. Perhaps it is my fluid, smooth swing that provides him something to imitate, but most likely it is my nack for looking the other way when a foot wedge is used to provide the perfect lie.


Unfortunately I was unable to see Philip over the summer. So this picture is actually a few years old, but is probably my favorite picture of the two of us. Despite our geographical distance Philip has continued to be my older brother and provide me with advice (finances, technology, running) and a slap in the head (when I chose to cheer for England over the USA) when I needed it. It is never fun when you realize twelve months (or more) will pass between visits. But it is the reality of life.

With my summer coming to a rapid end I want to thank my family for the love, support and encouragement they constantly and consistently provide me with.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Culture Shock

As was the case last summer, traveling back to the States after spending significant time in Germany has left me feeling a bit out of my element. Culture shock seems to be a term that is thrown around, but never fully understood. At least that is my impression of it. For me, I have been in and out of different cultures periodically for the past two years, and have found a unique way to seemingly adapt without giving it much thought. However, returning to the place I grew up has brought new challenges. In so many ways I know that the American culture has not changed, but I have. There have been too many instances and occasions where I find myself whispering to myself, “I don’t feel like I fit in here anymore.” That has been a weird and daunting conclusion to come to.
Honestly it can be quite comical, as I hope to show you. It can also be quite stressful, and unnerving. But for better or for worse the multi-cultural life has left an imprint on me. Below I have highlighted some of the differences I personally have noticed between my German culture, and my American culture.
With this post it is my hope you can share in a laugh with me, and also gain some insight and education into my world.

Transportation
I know I shared this story at some point last summer, but it is priceless. I remember being in the States over the summer and legitimately being confused and in a bit of a tizzy when I was driving to the grocery store, when all of a sudden another car started driving next to me, going the same direction. I was baffled and thought I was doing something wrong. In Germany I am immersed in a community made up of small villages composed of one lane roads. Stop signs and street lights are few and far between In fact, I can only think of two working stop lights in my “normal“ driving radius. Roads are not simply for automobiles all shapes, sizes, and speeds are welcome on the roads. Cyclists, tractors, mopeds, trucks, smart cars, all travel the same road.
Above all, one of the most bizarre things to get accustomed to has been the size of cars in Europe. For example: when you see a Smart Car on the road in the States it catches your attention because of its size. SUVs blaze by almost making it appear to be a remote control car. Oddly enough, Smart Cars do not stand out in Germany, simply because most of the cars are relatively the same size, or slightly bigger.
I thoroughly enjoy driving, and driving in Germany has definitely been quite the experience. When all is said and done, I know the driving culture is in fact a bit different.

Language
Yes, this is an obvious one I know. But just the other week I found myself surprised in an American grocery store and realized how shocked I was. While in the grocery store I think I finally realized that I am indeed accustomed to living in a country of foreign language.
Even while in Germany, I predominantly speak English. Everything associated with the school is in English. So you might be thinking, “how does this differ from the Sates?“ However, take one step into the community and everything changes. While walking in the Germany grocery stores, in the airports, or in a foreign city it is common to walk around having no concept of what others are saying. Street signs, newspapers, radio stations, etc. are all in German. Therefore, when I vaguely hear English my ears perk up, I get excited, and I start to listen to what is being said.
When I was in the local grocery store and heard English being spoken behind me, without a second of hesitation I found myself getting excited as I turned around and asked myself, “I wonder who is here that speaks English?” Only to later remind myself that I am in an English speaking country, leaving me feel as if I don’t necessarily fit in anymore.

Fashion
Perhaps this is my favorite one to comment about. It is hard to describe but there is something very unique and very distinct about the European style of dress. In all honesty, I have found myself thoroughly enjoying the European fashion and probably hold as many “European clothes” as I do “American clothes” (having the fire in my room last year and needing to replace clothes helped speed this process along.)
One of the more entertaining things to do while in Europe is to attempt to dress “euro” and go out into the community with the mindset of trying to blend in. I have told a few people, “I can make people believe I am European by the way I dress, but as soon as they ask me a question in German and they hear my pathetically spoken reply, they are no longer fooled.”

Observing and learning about the different cultures I have found myself in has been fascinating, interesting, stressful, frustrating and unforgettable all at the same time. It is interesting how I feel as though I now have a better understanding and perception of the American culture after having been so far removed for a few years. Yet, despite how discouraging and difficult it may be, one must always remember to laugh along the way. Which is something I have tried to do while trying to fit into a foreign culture, whether that be the German culture, or the American culture.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

To Pennsylvania and Back

This past weekend I was blessed to have had the ability and time to drive out to Pennsylvania to see some close friends. It was wonderful. The entire trip took five days, two of which for the most part were spent driving. But it was well worth it in order to see friends I had not seen in a while. At least 12 months had passed since I last saw everyone, and for some the time apart spanned over 24 months. Yet I was highly encouraged as the time, distance, and differences did not seem to hinder the fellowship we shared.
I joked to one friend on Sunday that the night before I showed up at a house around 6pm, went to bed around 12pm, and there proved to be no more than 15 seconds of silence in those six hours. With a different friend I couldn't help but laugh as I tried to hide his phone and he chirped at me, "I haven't seen you for two years, but you are still playing the same jokes on me!" Unfortunately due to our schedules I was not able to spend a ton of time with everyone. For some, all I was able to manage was a brief lunch, or an afternoon siesta. One friend and I were headed in two different directions but managed to find a 90 minute block of time where we could meet in Grove City prior to going our separate ways. We ended up spending the majority of that time running, but a comment he made in some ways summed up my trip...
He was verbalizing a conversation he anticipated where someone asked him, "So how was your time with Tommy?" His response would be, "It was great. We connected. We shared. We got caught up." The first person then stated, "well, didn't you go for a run, how was that possible? What did you talk about while running?" To which he responded, "We didn't say much at all actually. Just running together again, being side-by-side, was enough to bring our worlds together and connect us once again."

My time with my friends was short, but no matter how little time we had, we were together. I was grateful for the opportunity to see my friends at work, see their living arrangements and even their pets! We reminisced about the past, shared about the present, and discussed visions of the future.
I am thankful for the friends that have played a significant role in my life. It is extremely difficult for me to go long periods of time without seeing them, without talking with them, and without being with them. But I am thankful for the moments we shared together.
For those I was able to see, THANK YOU. For those friends I was unable to see, I guess you'll just have to come over to Germany now!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Back and relaxing

I made it back to the United States about a week ago and have been relaxing in New Hampshire since my return. It took me a little while to get over the jet leg and to get readjusted to the States, but I think I have finally made it over that hurdle. It was a little entertaining as I came back and felt normal the first day, but the next couple of days proved to be a little more tiring and challenging.
As I boarded my plane in Zurich, Switzerland I knew I had 40 days until I would be on a plane again headed back to BFA. In the big picture that 40 days seems short, and will no doubt go by quick. While in one sense that is a disappointing thing, at the same time it is really exciting. I will in no way deny that a period of relaxation is going to be amazing. It is needed and something I am going to take advantage of to the Nth degree. Meanwhile in my heart I know I am already counting down the days until I can get back to BFA, and get going with another year.
As mentioned in previous posts, it was very difficult to part ways with the graduating seniors. There are many students that have become near and dear to me, and it has been difficult to be away from them. In many ways it did not 'hit' me even after graduation. But the morning of my flight home I put a status update on facebook (which I rarely do) regarding my trip home. It was almost as if at that precise moment I felt the realization that the seniors were gone. Even though they graduated and were out of Germany, I was still in the country. For some reason even though I was still in the country it felt as though the year had not officially ended. However, when I knew I was leaving my heart fully realized the year was over. I knew I would be back next year, which brings great excitement, but it also brings the realization that when I go back in the Fall, those seniors won't be there.

As for the next few weeks, I will be relaxing and spending as much time with family and friends as I can. I am about to take off on a mini road trip out to Pennsylvania. I will be gone for 5 days/4 nights and will meet up with a lot of friends from college. I am really looking forward to this trip as it has been at least a year since I have seen these friends, and some it has been over two years.
After that I will do a little traveling with my mom, and former high school french teacher, which will be phenomenal.
In addition to these trips, I have decided to run another marathon. There is a marathon in Basel, Switzerland (about 25 minutes away from BFA) in September that I will run with a co-worker. So I have started training for this and will thoroughly enjoy the training process and the challenge of running. My running of course has to be strategically planned so I don't miss too many World Cup games.

Please feel free to contact me throughout the summer, and if there is any chance we can meet up, I would be blessed to do so.

Thanks.
Tommy