Thursday, January 28, 2010

Just your regular kids

Well I would have to say my post from last week was without a doubt the post that generated the most comments! It was entertaining and enjoyable for me to receive emails with your comments and questions. Thank you very much for responding, and thank you very much for contacting me. You have no idea how much I appreciate it.
Though I am no mathematician, I think it is safe to say about 95% of the comments I did receive, included the question, "Who cleaned up the mess?" or "How long did it take to clean up?" Rather than answer each email individually, I figured I would post the answer this week.
We had all the students pitch in and help clean up. They helped us clean up for about 30 minutes, and then they went to their rooms for "study hours." At that point the staff continued to clean up and put everything away. Overall it took about 90 minutes to clean up. Yes, it was a lot of work to clean up, yes, it smelled like meatballs in the dining room for a few days...and absolutely! It was definitely worth all the work and effort.

As I sit and type I am enjoying a peaceful snow flurry up here at Sonne. Lately we have awoken to temperatures around -10 Celsius, which is somewhere in the mid-teens. During the day it hovers around -4 Celsius, which is roughly 25 degrees Fahrenheit. There isn't enough snow on the ground yet, to go sledding, but we are expecting a bit more over the weekend. We have gone sledding once, and the guys are hoping we can do it again.
This weekend, we will host our second straight weekend of home basketball games. Last weekend our girls varsity took care of business both Friday and Saturday! Our boys varsity played well on Friday, but fell short late in the game. Saturday proved to be another tight game, as they ended up losing by three.
I have been investing time with the guys basketball team, which has been enjoyable. Twice now I have gone in to scrimmage against the boys, and just recently started going down for practice on Wednesdays. It has been a LONG time since I have had this much interaction with a basketball, but I am enjoying the change of pace, and the time spent with the guys.

Most Tuesdays I give the guys that live on the first floor with me what I call "RA Homework." I enjoy this exercise as it gives me the opportunity to ask them questions, and find out more about them. However, it also gives me a chance to share with them, as I will answer the question myself. I leave a half sheet of paper on their desk, and promise them a piece of American candy if they return the homework to me by the end of the night. This past Tuesday the question was, "What is one thing you want to do/accomplish before you die?" Some of the responses I received made me laugh and realize, these are just your regular kids. Their imaginations are amazing, their curiosity large, and their hearts big. Below are some of the answers I got (note: most of these came from students whose first language is NOT English, therefore some of the wording sounds a little different)
- I want to play electric guitar
- I want to drive an airplane, because I think that was one of the coolest things you can do!
- Build a gondola that takes us from Sonne down to the bus stop
- Perform a piano song on stage in front of a great big crowd.
- Touch a jellyfish
- Have a kiss

These guys are awesome. I truly love them, and am very blessed to be here with them. Thank you for your support and encouragement.

Tommy

Friday, January 22, 2010

Unforgettable Night

I venture it is safe to say that most people have always dreamed of boldly yelling, "Food fight" at the top of their lungs, right before chaos and mayhem overtakes a dining room. Last night I was provided that glorious opportunity, and it was certainly a night that won't soon be forgotten.
When the guys came home from school, they thought everything was in line for a normal evening, but they were in for a surprise! After we brought dinner into the dining room, we started to do things a little different, but they still didn't catch on. Rather than have the guys come up to the buffet table and grab their food, we started to place some rice and meatballs on plates, and then during our announcements, the RAs passed out the plates. The students just sat with ping-pong ball sized meat balls at their plates, the only instructions we had given them were, "Do NOT start eating. Do NOT touch your food." After all the students had a plate, with utter excitement, I had one of our seniors, Daniel Park, stand up, knowing he was going to be the first casualty.

It took the guys a solid five seconds after I yelled, "Food fight" before they realized they could take their meatballs and throw them. But once they realized they could terrorize the room, and each other, they held nothing back.





There were close to 28 people throwing food around, so you had to keep a close eye out...you never knew who was aiming at you, or who was about to get hit!


After ten minutes, there was A LOT of rice all over the place, and A LOT of meatballs on the floor. While the food fight was going on, the floor got incredibly slippery, which only added to the chaos.
Here is a look at the end result...

And a picture of all the guys...


At the end of it all, I had to give Daniel Park a big hug and a special "thank you" for being willing to be the unfortunate one who got hit first.
Notice my hat, and all the food stains on my hat. I took a few shots to the head!


I think it is safe to say, it was an incredible night. I hope you enjoyed the pictures, and the story!

Tommy

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Back to school!

Thankfully all of the students have finally arrived back to the dorm, safe and sound. Over the weekend, and in the early part of the week Europe was pounded with snow, and poor weather. With our students traveling from all over, many flights/trains were delayed and/or canceled. It made for quite an adventure for the different dorm staffs as we shuttled van after van to three different train stations, and one airport. There were many conversations along the lines, "He didn't make his train, can he come in your van?" "Her flight got stuck in London, do you have anyone landing around 10.30?" In the end they all made it back, and were relatively happy to be back in the dorm. The guys were really excited to see each other, but were not too anxious for the homework, and early mornings.

Amidst all of the excitement from the guys being back, there have been two conversations I have had that have been complete blessings.

This past Tuesday I had the privilege of having coffee with one of the graduates from the BFA class of 2009. The student was not in my dorm, but we got to know each other from the time we spent together in Kenya. It was a great time to sit down and catch up on life. I got to hear many different stories from her first semester at college. High school level courses compared to college level courses. Living in a dorm with many fellow Christians versus being in a freshman class of 400 and no more than ten Christians. She spent four years calling the small town of Holzen home, now she lives in the shadows of the Empire State Building, in New York City. It was a great coffee break, and I was ecstatic we were able to make it work. I wanted to share a few of the things she mentioned to me...
She gave me a few things that have made her cry in the recent months:
- getting locked out of my dorm in a storm in the middle of the night.
-being alone after meeting literally hundreds of people but being somehow unable to build deep relationships.
- walking into a church and hearing "everything" by Tim Hughes after having no contact with Christians for... a long time.
And then she gave me a few things that have made her smile and laugh:
- working at the daycare... teaching Jabari to use scissors, listening to Christian express his feelings about his family through pictures, holding hands with Faith and Laylah as we walk to the playground
- walking into yonkers in the middle of the night with some friends to hunt out ice cream at a local gas station
- poetry. writing it, for once in my life feeling proud of what I've written


Last night, the connecting with former students continued, this time it was a result of technology. I will never claim to be technological savvy, but I can do a few things. Last night I talked on the phone with a guy who was in Sonne last year, but this year is living in Niger, Africa with his parents. Unfortunately we were only able to talk for twenty minutes, and the first ten we spent typing back and forth before he realized there was a microphone near his computer. Being able to hear him laugh made me so happy. Hearing him talk about his new friends, and new school, made me so excited for him. Hearing him talk about how hot it is in Africa, made me mad, as it is cold in Germany!

Having these two conversations gave me so much hope. It gave me the hope that even after I leave Germany, I will stay in contact with students, and our relationships will continue. It gave me energy knowing these kids minister to me, probably more than I minister to them. The conversations gave me excitement knowing there are young adults out there, with amazing hearts, who want to do amazing things.
Germany. New York City. Niger. Not very close geographically. But the blood, and love of Jesus Christ has made us family, and kept us connected.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Ready for another semester

Greetings once again from Germany!
After a long flight, made longer due to snow in New York, and Germany, followed by a lengthy train ride, I am now back at Sonne. I got back to the dorm mid-afternoon and have enjoyed the ability to unpack and move in at my leisure. The students do not start coming back until Monday, so the dorm is quiet...almost an eerie and unsettling quiet.
I feel very refreshed and ready to start the next semester. I feel as though I was able to fully relax and catch my breath over the break. It was much needed, and enjoyed to the fullest extent possible.
Thank you all for your prayers and continued encouragement as I continue to minister here at Sonne, and in Germany.

Tommy

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Getting rest

Family, friends, the warm weather, and great food have all been recently combining in providing me some much needed rest and relaxation. With all of our students leaving the dorm I have been able to come back to America and spend the Christmas season in Florida with my family. It has been a great time, which is sadly coming to an end in the next week. I will fly back to Germany this coming Friday, January 8, arriving back in the dorm on Saturday. I will have a day or two to catch my breath, and then Monday morning following our all staff breakfast, the students will start to trickle back into the dorm, eager and excited to start classes on Tuesday. Okay, that last part is probably a lie, but I will be eager and excited to see them and to hear about their break. It always amazes me where our students travel for break. I know of students traveling as far east as China, and as far west as Oregon, with many students landing somewhere in between.
While being home has been very relaxing it has also been a very eye-opening experience for me. For my first 18 months in Germany I had a false sense of pride in that I felt as though I could keep up on the "happenings" in the United States, while living in Germany. With the internet at our fingertips, the world seems increasingly small and news travels faster than it ever has. However, in the past week I realized how far away I am, and how different my world in Germany is. I love watching the "recap of the year" episodes many tv stations put together at the end of the year. They count down the top moments/stories/plays in the past year. However this year many stations were not only counting down the top moments of the year, but of the decade. One such list was counting down the top ten sports stories of the decade, and the recent Tiger Woods accident/infidelity came in at number two. Now many people probably read the above line and knew exactly what I was talking about. However, for me, I knew absolutely nothing of this ordeal until three weeks after the car accident. I was shocked that it took me that long to find out about the second most important sports moment of the decade! It proved to be one of those priceless moments where I truly realized I am serving in a different country, and a different culture.
I wanted to thank you all for your continued support and love. I apologize I have not been able to catch up with everyone to this point. Honestly, I have not found the strength and energy to pick up a phone and call people.
It is my hope this new year finds you doing well.

Tommy