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.