Thursday, August 30, 2012

Blast from the past

Living in a country that is six hours ahead of the east coast continually makes things interesting. I feel as though I recognize the time difference on a daily basis. Most of my family/friends are not out of work until 5:00 or 6:00pm on the east coast, at which time here in Germany, I am usually getting ready for bed, if not already in bed. So the general trend is that I will send emails/text messages while everyone in the States is asleep or at work, and then they will respond once they are out of work, and I am asleep. This means I usually do not see the messages until I wake up the next morning. With this in mind, it is enjoyable and entertaining for me to wake up and check my email and check my text messages, to see what came in while I was asleep. The past few days in particular have been extremely encouraging as I have heard from quite a few BFA alumni.
Some may find this hard to believe, but I am generally pretty good about keeping in touch with people. I find it valuable and important to put forth a concentrated effort to keep in touch with friends. Even though I often feel like I am worlds apart from everyone else, it is important for me to remain active and influential in their lives, and to allow them to be active in my life. Within the past three days, I have heard from over seven different alumni. I love it. I love hearing their stories, hearing about moving into a college dorm for the first time. Getting text messages about going to Boston for the first time excite me. I received a long email that outlined goals for her soccer season, goals for the academic year, and desires for pouring into the lives of teammates and friends. I truly love getting these emails and text messages. I am thrilled, because these emails have come from students who graduated anywhere from 1-3 years ago.
As I was reading through one of the emails I was struck by an interesting thought; I am generally the only one who reads the emails and gets to hear from these friends. I talk about the way I interact with the soccer team I coach, or the way students hang out in our apartment and play Wii. The broad and general things are easy to communicate, yet some of the specific conversations or emails are more difficult to communicate.
After reading an email from a recent grad I wanted to share a portion of it. I in no way am doing this to brag. My whole desire is to use this as an example to say, "thank you." I want to thank YOU for praying for me, supporting me, encouraging me, writing to me, keeping up to date with this blog. Through the way in which you pour into me, I am able to pour into these students. It is because of you, that I am able to be here, and do what I do. I truly wake up every morning excited to go to work.
Thank you for your love and support. Thank you for being a part of what happens here. Because of your prayers, and your love, you are a part of the testimony this student has...

I truly do miss BFA. BFA helped me to grow up from a little boy who didn't know anything to a man who is willing to sacrifice his life for Jesus. If I get a chance I will go back to BFA, and who knows.. if you are still there I will assist you in coaching hahha. 

Enough with my story, tell me about what's going on in your life. 
I miss you Tommy,

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Interview

I came up with a new idea. It may turn out to be terrible, you may really enjoy it. I honestly don't know. But I figured it was worth a shot. Rather than solely write about what is going on here in Germany, I figured it would be entertaining to actually show you what is going on. With that in mind this is my hope; to every few weeks interview someone here in Germany and post the video on my blog. I envision interviewing different staff members so you can get a view of those I serve with, but also so you can get a better understanding of all the different people it takes to make this a functioning school. I also think it would be great to interview different students so you can "meet" them and hear from them as well.
If there are any individuals you would like to see appear in a video, please let me know. If there are specific types of questions you would like to have answered, please send me an email. I want to do the best job I can at giving you a glimpse of my life here, and the ministry that happens here.
I figured the easiest way to test the waters with this new idea was to interview one of my roommates. Hopefully I was able to correctly attach the video to this blog. If I did something wrong and it's not working for you, follow the link below and you will be taken to the vimeo site with the video. If/when it asks for a password enter: interview2012 I'm not the greatest when it comes to technology, so hopefully that works and you are able to view the video.
Thanks for checking the blog today, as always keep an eye on this every Thursday for more updates!

password: interview2012

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Olympic spirit

Who hasn't found themselves glued to the TV in the past couple of weeks watching the Olympics? As a sports nut, I have been loving having such high quality events on TV. Not only do you get to see the best athletes in the world, you get to see sports you don't normally see. It's not every day you can easily find a judo match. I don't know that I had ever watched much water polo until this past week. I never spent any time studying archery. The skill and strength of those doing gymnastics, is nothing short of impressive. I absolutely loved being able to watch all the different events.

As I was watching I couldn't help but think, "I wonder what it is like to be an Olympian?" Let's be honest, I don't ever envision myself becoming a household name (I once wrote a blog about this here) I don't plan on winning an Olympic medal anytime soon. I don't even know if I will be able to ever be in the stands and witness someone win a medal (though it is on my bucket list). I probably won't ever have anyone come up to me and ask me for my autograph (not including the time I was in the players lounge at the French Open and some little kids thought I was a player. Great story.) So even though I won't ever be able to seriously make the statement, "I understand what it is like to be an Olympian" I feel as though I can somehow relate to the Olympians.

While it is obviously entertaining to watch the actual event itself, there is something spectacular about the moment the winner realizes they have won a gold medal. The moment the final judge posts a score. The second the picture of the finish line is flashed on the big screen. That time where the clock shows 3...2...1...0 seconds remaining in the game. That moment where all the work, all the dedication, all the sweat is deemed worth it and the individual (or team) erupts in pure ecstasy. As a mere spectator, I find it hard to not get goosebumps. As the athletes are overcome with emotion, I often find myself tearing up as well. Again, I don't think I can completely relate to the Olympians. The men running the marathon finished in around 2:07 In a few weeks I'm simply hoping to break 3 hours (though a recent injury has me doubting my ability to do that) I am nowhere near an Olympic athlete. So then, how do I feel as though I can somehow relate?

When I see someone win a medal I see them embody; dedication, pride, commitment, joy, passion. When I think about my time in Germany, I hope those same words are used. When I have the opportunity to talk about what I do, and the students I interact with, I can sense excitement and love overtake my voice. Give me a few minutes to talk about the girls I coach, and you may think they were the ones who just won a gold medal. Get me going on the different experiences I've been able to share with these students, and you'll see my face light up as if I just saw my neck leading in the photo-finish. The tears of joy that flow as someone receives their gold medal, are similar to the tears of joy I shed when I see the students receive their diploma.

In just a few days I'll board a plane yet again and head back to Germany for my fifth year. It is always a bit hard going back knowing it will be months/years until I see family/friends again. It is tough knowing that as I board the plane, I am entering another whole world that will not be fully understood by some. But something deep inside me is thrilled. I look forward with great anticipation to the first day of school. I can't wait for the students to pour into my office. And yes, I am already communicating with some of the girls I coach as we brainstorm different ideas we have brewing for our season (even though it doesn't start until March!)

This year is going to be special for me, for many reasons. Yet one stands out among the others. Four years ago I started in Germany and that same year there were three students in my dorm starting their 8th grade year. Two of the three are still at the school, and this year they will be seniors. In June they will graduate high school. There is something incredible about being able to walk through these five years with them. In the dorm I spent countless nights sitting on their floor talking to them about being homesick. Listening to them cry as they went through a tough day. Disciplining them when necessary. Being frustrated with them, and having them be frustrated with me. Laughing with them. Sharing life with them. Knowing I get this final year with them fills me with excitement and joy. I look forward to the many conversations we will have about; college, jobs, life after Germany.

I'm sure it must be pretty neat to see your photo in newspapers all over the country. I imagine it would be fun to have a little kid come up to you asking for an autograph. Certainly the sponsorships and endorsements wouldn't get old. But I'm not envious. I know I am soon boarding a plane headed toward a job I am passionate about, and to students I love. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Summer pictures

I have been doing a fair bit of traveling over the summer, and wanted to post a few pictures. Unfortunately I did not always have my camera with me, but below are some pictures with some of the people I have been able to spend time with...

Family gathering in PA. 
Spending time with two former BFA students.

Some of the greatest friends.

A true TFF.