Monday, November 21, 2011

Here for a reason

I apologize that I did not have the opportunity to post last week. I was out of the country all week for a conference and while away did not have internet access. So after a week of not posting, I am at it again...

"You are here for a reason." Those are the words my pastor spoke as he looked at the four high school students who were about to be baptized. As he spoke those words to the students I could not help but feel as though they held more than one meaning. Our pastor was encouraging them and reminding them of the reason for their existence and their importance to God. He was celebrating with them as they were publicly declaring their faith for all to see.
Without intending to, I felt as though he was speaking to me and reminding me that I am here (in Germany) for a reason. One of the main reasons for me being here is to help the high school students I interact with grow closer in their personal relationship with Jesus.
On November 13 there were four students who were baptized. As part of the way baptisms are conducted here, the individual being baptized has the opportunity to ask a few family/friends/mentors to stand with them on stage, and pray over them. When David decided he wanted to be baptized, I was blown away and honored as he asked me to be a part of his baptism. It truly was one of the greatest moments of my time here at BFA. It was something I will always cherish and something I will never forget.

David, a senior this year, is a phenomenal young man of; faith, integrity, joy, compassion, and character. He grew up on the field in China, but shortly after starting junior-high he lost his father. The tragic loss of his father created a sadness within his heart he did not understand nor could he figure out how to fill. Unbeknown to his mother David turned to alcohol thinking this would fill the void. However the empty bottle was no match for an empty heart. Something inside of him knew he had to change, and he knew he wanted to change. But in order for that to happen he needed a change of scenery.
So David came to Germany in his Sophomore year, and he landed on my hall. He needed a change of scenery. A new school. New friends. A new David. At first he was quiet, reserved, and hesitant. I could tell there was a lot going on inside of him, he was just hiding it. Over time he slowly started to open up and slowly started to break. It took close to 18 months, but I still remember the day he told me his story. He didn't leave out any details. He talked of the pain, talked of his decisions, and where he was now headed with his life, and the role he wanted God to play in his life. He had changed.
Now if I were to describe David as quiet, reserved and hesitant, everyone would laugh. He is lively. Full of energy, laughter, constantly smiling. He has a huge smile, but also has a goofy little grin that is, well, it is absolutely precious and adorable.
Last year David was needing a little education about the NFL. So I took it upon myself to educate him. He wanted to know a good player to follow and to be a fan of. I chose Clay Matthews. Numerous times we would sit down and watch highlights of Clay destroying the opposition. This turned into a "trademark hug" between David and me. If you have ever seen Clay Matthews get a sack, you may have noticed him flexing his biceps afterward. Whenever I see David, I raise my arms and flex my biceps (which are almost as big as Clay's), as does David, sometimes we'll each do a little grunt and then I give him a big hug.
Last year David began dating a girl here. I know her sister, so the sister sent me an email wanting to get information about "this David guy" wanting to know whether or not he was a quality guy for her sister to date. I responded and simply said, "If there is one guy at the school you want your sister to date, it is David. He is such a quality man that will do nothing but treat her well." I fully believe and meant what I said. David is such an incredible guy.
I consider myself to be a better person because I have had the opportunity to rub shoulders with him. His compassion has touched my heart. The comfort he received during his loss has enabled him to pour out comfort on those when they are dealing with loss, myself among the privileged. He walks into a room and you cannot help but smiling and feel a breeze of joy come in with him.
David, thank you for letting me a part of this journey with you. Thank you for what you have taught me. I am proud of you for the proclamation you made. I am grateful to have been there to stand with you and pray over you.
You're a stud. Don't you ever forget that!

Friday, November 11, 2011

College Fair

With a big sigh of relief I can report that our College Fair has come and gone.
This past Wednesday we held a College Fair on our campus with the hope of exposing our students to various post-secondary education opportunities, as well as giving those institutions a chance to meet our students. Throughout the entire day everything seemed to be clicking just right, and everyone involved had a really positive experience.
Over the past two months the College Fair has been a project of mine that I was slowly chipping away at. In the past there has been an organization that contacts interested Colleges and plans a European trip for them. However, shortly after the school year started we were informed the organization had canceled the trip. Our guidance department was left with two options; cancel our college fair, or do what we could and organize it on our own. We chose the latter, which proved to be a lot of work, but well worth it.
One of my primary roles was to contact the colleges/universities and be the liaison that connected them to our school. Daily I was sending out emails to any and every college admission representative I could find hoping they would visit our campus. This past Wednesday we had seven different individuals representing schools, which may not seem like a whole lot to some, yet considering we are located in Europe and to visit would require a Trans-Atlantic flight, we were ecstatic about this number.
Knowing our real college representatives would be smaller than ideal we tapped into the community and offered staff and parents the opportunity to represent their Alma Mater. With these two groups of individuals we had over 30 different schools represented!
After determining the schools that would be represented, we then had to supply them with literature and other materials to display to the students. Thus, more emails and communication with the schools. By the time Wednesday rolled around my office looked like Santa's workshop, as I had boxes all over the place, filled with brochures, T-shirts, pennants, pens, and other college memorabilia.

On the actual day of the fair we had a slightly different schedule than normal. For the first two and a half hours of the day, the students attending different grade appropriate seminars that would help prepare them for college. The seminar speakers ranged from those within our community, as well as the college admission representatives. I had the privilege of speaking to the Freshmen class as well as the Sophomore class. I spoke on the topic, "How to prepare for college while in high school." Considering I started preparing my 40 minute presentation at 10.30pm the night before, I would say it went extremely well. Of course I did a little research and found some GREAT jokes to tell the students. My first session was with half the Sophomore class and apparently it was too early for humor. The next session was for the Freshmen, and they laughed, and laughed at my jokes. My final session was with the other half of Sophomores, and they proved to be a rough audience as well. Oh well. At least I was laughing.
In the afternoon the students had abbreviated classes, but at one point in the day each student came to the gym where the "fair" was being held. We had over 20 tables set up for the schools represented and students walked from table to table gathering information and asking questions. It was great for our students to be exposed to the different schools and to hear about the differences between them. As many of our students do not live in the States, this may prove to be the best way for them to have a "campus visit."

Above all I was thrilled to see the way in which the guidance department took on different responsibilities to make the day go as smoothly as it did. The following day my supervisor said, "I knew I only had to worry about my thing, and not the whole thing." We each had different tasks and roles, and we all came together to put on a terrific fair for the students.
Throughout the fair, a few times I found myself stepping back and looking at all the work of the past two months. I couldn't help but smile and be proud of what we had put together.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A full week

There seem to be some weeks where I come to my computer on Thursday evening and I say, "what should I blog about?" Then there are other days where I come to my computer and I say, "of the multiple events from this past week, which do I want to blog about?" Tonight would definitely be the latter of the two. This past week we had two major events; on Monday our entire student body invaded the city of Basel for the annual fair, "Herbtsmesse" and then on Tuesday we had our third annual 3on3 basketball tournament.
Every fall the Swiss city of Basel puts on a fair (Herbst translates to fall/autumn and messe translates to fair/party.) It isn't quite the size of a state fair, but is larger than your local town fair. Every year our school takes the entire student body down for Herbstemesse and we walk around the city enjoying the rides, food, and atmosphere.
This year as we turned the corner entering Herbstemesse we found a ride called "maximum." A few brave students bought a ticket and immediately hopped on. I was walking with students and we too stopped, and stared. The ride looked insane. Two guys I was with started trying to convince others to go with them. For some unknown reason I gave in and decided to go on with them. So after a few minutes four of us got strapped in and went on one crazy ride! The ride lasted for five minutes, but it felt like thirty. I am glad I went on the ride with the students, but am fairly certain I will pass next year. I came off with shaky hands, light-headed, and an uneasy stomach.
Clearly the best part of the night is when our school takes over the bumper cars. Close to 300 people meet at the bumper cars at 7.30 and for the next hour it is chaos. As I stood on the outside watching I thoroughly enjoyed the community. Looking around everyone was smiling, laughing, having fun and enjoying being together. Teachers were riding with students, dorm parents were crashing into students, coaches were bumping into anyone and everyone. I cannot fully explain it, but it was a magical time.

At the beginning of the year I was delegated the task of organizing and running this year's 3on3 tournament. Always up for an adventure I took on the task. About two weeks ago I started working on the tournament daily; setting up the rules, contacting adults to be refs, getting team rosters out, and collecting them, setting up the bracket, etc. Thankfully all went smooth and there were no major setbacks on Tuesday.
The tournament was specifically planned for the day after Herbstmesse, because it is a German national holiday. Therefore we did not have school. It was a little strange going to school on Monday, and then having Tuesday off. Monday night felt like a Friday night, and now... I just don't even know what day of the week it is. I guess that is part of the journey of being an international school.
Even though I was in charge, I was still able to put together a team. For the third year in a row I was a part of team, "Zimties." We made it to the semi-finals before finally losing and being eliminated. We eventually took 3rd place.
Overall we had 12 teams sign up with close to 50 people playing. Adults were allowed to play, so it was once again another unique opportunity for staff and students to come together and have fun. That is definitely something I have continually enjoyed being a part of here at BFA. While we will inevitably have our differences, we are a big community working together.

Needless to say after a long day on Monday, and a full day of basketball on Tuesday, I was a little tired.

Thanks for checking in on the blog. Next week I will post about the College Fair we are having on November 9.