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