Thursday, September 27, 2012

Senior Trip

In just a few hours we will board the bus and the ultimate adventure will begin! Each school year, toward the beginning of the first semester the senior class goes on the senior class trip. This year, I consider myself absolutely blessed and privileged to be able to go along with the seniors. As you may remember, I went with this class last year on their junior class trip to Normandy, France (see my post about that trip here). I also have half of the senior class in my case load, and have coached many of these students. So I have had a lot of interaction with this class, and am thrilled to be going on this adventure with them.

So where exactly are we going? Well... on Thursday night we will drive through the night and Friday morning arrive in Florence, Italy around 6am and spend the majority of the day there. Later in the afternoon we will drive a few more hours and then be in Rome. We will stay there for 6 days, and then on our way back to Germany, we will stop in Venice for a day. That is a pretty incredible senior class trip.

But here is the truth, and for those that know me well, I hope you have no problem believing this: I am more excited about spending time with the students than the prospect of going to Italy. With all my heart I know I would be just as excited about this trip if we were going to be spending a week out in a corn field. Certainly I can't complain about seeing the Forum and the Pantheon, and getting some gelato. But the idea that gets me excited is being able to spend this time with the students. I want to hang out with the students and engage them where they are, and share this memory with them. Over the course of the week we will spend over 24 hours on the bus. I'm looking forward to sitting with the students and engaging them in conversation. We will give the students free time to wander the cities we are in and see the different sights. I'm looking forward to walking with them and throwing out random historical facts. We have time at night designed for unity/fellowship, and I am looking forward to rubbing shoulders with the students then and interacting with them. This trip is going to offer a lot of different opportunities to spend time with the students, and that is what I am truly looking forward to. Italy is simply the icing on the cake, not the cake itself.

One of the things I have been working on A LOT has been our nightly time of fellowship. The other day I was crunching a few numbers and realized I was trying to plan over 12 hours of entertainment throughout the week. I became a bit stressed in trying to think of how to entertain such a big number of high school students all with a different definition of 'fun', for such a significant period of time. But, after a lot of processing I believe we came up with a great idea that will be entertaining, eventful and memorable. I spilled the idea to a few students who thought it would go over real well, so I am going to blame them if it crashes and burns!

As we take off there are a few things that would be great to keep in prayer; safety, unity, and health. With two different days of 10+ hours of bus travel, we will be on the road quite a bit. So prayer regarding our safety on the road, but also in the cities would be appreciated. One of the main goals of the trip is class unity - presenting the students with the opportunity to get to know each other better and bond as a class. And lastly, health. Within the past few days at least 3 of our adult sponsors have become borderline sick - not exactly what you want to have happen right before a trip.

Lastly, about a month ago I got the idea that it would be great to be able to play Cornhole while on the trip. Unfortunately that game hasn't made it to Germany yet. What do you do when you have something from home you can't find in Germany? You make it yourself. So over the past weeks Henry, a senior, has been working on building a Cornhole set. A few times a week he would come into my office asking for advice, asking for design tips and making sure everything was just right. He asked if he could spray paint the boards and decorate the boards in his own style, so today he dropped off the finished product. I'm pretty impressed.

I am not anticipating having any internet access while I am away, so if I don't respond to any emails for a little while don't be offended. we come! 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Interviewing Sam

A couple weeks ago I posted a video of me "interviewing" one of my roommates. Going off that idea I have decided to post a video every now and then... today being one of those days.
I sat down with Sam, the Chaplain at our school and asked him a few questions. He is an incredible man with a huge heart for students. It is a joy to see him at work with the students, and to rub shoulders with him. I've not only been able to see him at work, but I've been blessed to work alongside him as we have spent numerous seasons coaching soccer together. To be perfectly honest, I don't think there is anyone in our community here who I have more respect for.
Please visit the link below and insert the password. My hope is that this video gives you a little more insight to what goes on here, and the people I am blessed to serve alongside. Be sure to watch all the way to the end as I was able to input a short video that has been shown to the students highlighting this year's theme.

Password: sam2012

Thanks for reading today, and for all you do!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Are you ready for some football?

One of the greatest times of the year is upon us...the start of the NFL season! I have to admit I am always looking forward to the start of the NFL, but this year my anticipation seemed to be greater than it has been in past years. In fact, when I was with friends over the summer I remember declaring on more than one occasion, "I'm really looking forward to the NFL." Seeing as how I was saying these things at the start of July, and we were still weeks away from the beginning, it seemed a bit odd. But what really struck me was not simply the fact that I was excited about the NFL months before kick-off, it was the fact that I was talking about the NFL to a lot of different people. It simply seemed to be coming up in multiple conversations and I soon realized, it was always me that brought it up.
I'm not sure when I fully realized this, or what exactly made me come to this realization but here is why I believe I have had such excitement about the NFL season: watching football games on Sunday makes me feel like I am no longer thousands of miles away, and I know exactly what my family/friends are doing, and they know what I am doing.
One of the more difficult things to explain, is the feeling I commonly get of living in a completely different world. I realize that sounds like a stupid comment, because I do live halfway across the world from a lot of my family/friends. But the things I do on a daily basis are difficult to explain. Daily living in a culture where the language is foreign takes a toll that cannot be put into words. When I go back to the States and walk into a grocery store and feel overwhelmed by the size and choice, makes a lot of people laugh and think of me as weird and overreacting. My community is one of transition that makes it difficult to feel settled and at home. Things are constantly changing, moving, different. It is often difficult to explain my world here, and I often feel misunderstood. But as lame as it sounds, and as superficial as it is, for the next 16+ weeks, every Sunday night there will be football to watch. And as I watch, I know that many of you will be watching as well. Even though thousands of miles separate us, knowing we are doing the same thing, is comforting. Even though the games start at 1:00pm on the east coast, and 7:00pm here in Germany, we are sharing the same experience. There is nothing difficult to explain about watching an NFL game.
The NFL games have also been a great time for me to hang out with friends here. Last year I watched pretty much every single game with my great friends Brandon and Lizzy. I would make my way to their place and we would have snacks and apfleschorle (think carbonated apple juice) and hang out. This past Sunday I went over to my friend Sam's house, and watched the games with him and his family. Gameday brings along with it opportunities to socialize.
I really don't care for the NBA, MLB, or NHL. And nobody in the States really cares for soccer. But the NFL... you can find football fans anywhere and everywhere. Last week as I was watching the Packers game, I was able to text back and forth with a good friend living in Colorado. We were both watching the game and offering each other our "expert" opinions, and of course trash talking the other's favorite team. So if you are ever looking to catch me on skype, or text back and forth with me, you know where I'll be each and every Sunday evening!
Speaking of favorite teams...I make it abundantly clear who I cheer for. Below is a picture of my desk in my office at school.

It is a pretty well known fact around campus that I am a huge Green Bay Packers fan. The massive flag in my room makes that pretty clear, as does my trash-talking about every other team! I have a little Packers football that I keep on my desk as well - which I have been known to throw at students if they come in bragging about the Vikings or Bears (given the season they had last year, didn't happen very often!!) Unfortunately I've gotten a bit of trash from others now that both the Vikings and Bears are 1-0 compared to the Pack at 0-1. Tonight's game should take care of that though. 
Perhaps one of the downsides is the time difference which makes the games start much later over here. The Packers play the Bears at 8:30est Thursday night...which is 2:30am Friday morning. Despite the game starting at 2.30am, I plan on waking up to watch it, and then catch a little nap before I head into work. It will make for a long Friday, especially if the Packers lose. But to have those little moments where I know we're doing the same thing, and I feel like everyone understands what I'm's worth it.

Go Pack Go!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Opening Ceremonies

The students have returned and the school year is underway! This past Sunday most of the new students began flying/training/driving into the area, and then proceeded to have their first day of school on Monday. While the new students were getting oriented at school, the returners were flying/training/driving into the area and getting settled in. Tuesday morning began with our opening ceremonies, which officially opened the 2012-2013 school year.
The morning program consists of; the Director giving an opening address, the seniors parading in carrying a flag of countries represented by our student body, charges to the staff/faculty, a charge to the senior class, the senior class president address, and the role call of nations. There is a lot packed in to a short amount of time...quite reflective of every day here at BFA.
The opening ceremonies are always filled with many varying emotions. Fear of being in a new school, sadness over saying goodbye to parents, excitement for the idea of a new school year, worry surrounding the concept of living in a dorm with 20 other strangers, etc. I openly admit I had a whirlwind of emotions flowing through my heart; excitement for the new year, sadness of not seeing seniors who graduated last year, fear of what is to come after this year, worry over decisions that have to be made and the reaction students may have, peace from feeling like I am truly where I belong. Even with all these different thoughts and emotions, one dominated above all others; God is big and God is in control.
For me, this thought began before the ceremonies even started, and came full circle during the role call of nations. This year I am serving as a senior class sponsor, which means I was given a "back stage pass" on Tuesday morning, this translates to organizing all the seniors, explaining to them what they're supposed to do, where they are supposed to sit, etc. While the senior sponsors were doing all of that, the seniors were searching the student center for the flag they wanted to carry into the auditorium. It was exciting and quite comical watching them pick and choose. It was also enlightening as students knew exactly what the Uzbekistan flag looked like, or the Chile flag, or the Mongolian flag. The students truly do come from all corners of the globe. But what struck me most was that a few students brought in their own flag in case their country's flag was not among the ones already available. Holland, South Africa, and Brazil were among the flags brought from home. If you were to pull out a world map, or look at a globe, take a second and realize how far apart Brazil is from Holland. Without the aid of the internet, see how long it takes you to find Uzbekistan. Take a moment to think about how vastly different life is in South Africa compared to Mongolia. This world is a pretty big place, and there are some insane levels of differences between the billions of people on the earth. Yet God is in control of it all. He is the creator of the universe. He spoke the tallest mountain in Uzbekistan into existence, and knows the precise depth of the lowest valley in Brazil.
For many, the greatest part of the opening ceremonies is the role call of nations. One individual calls off all the countries represented by our student body - either a country in which their parents are working, or their passport country. As their country is called the students are encouraged to stand up and cheer. It's virtually impossible to watch this without getting goosebumps and getting excited. I find it impossible to witness this without getting emotional and being in awe. These students are so unique, yet they come together and create significant and lasting friendships. What is even greater, is envisioning the work that is being done in those countries. God is big.
As I sat there and listened to the countries and the students' cheers, I felt so small. While there is definitely a lot going on here, and I truly feel purposeful in being here, I felt like a small ripple in a vast ocean. And honestly, it was such a freeing and great feeling. I pour everything I have into this ministry. I am not sitting back, taking the role of a mere spectator to what happens here - I am fully involved. Yet, I am a small part of what God's kingdom is doing all over the world. God is big, and He is at work in so many different countries, in so many different languages, in so many different cultures. I am here running my race and doing the work I was called to do, and there are people that I am connected to through these students in 52 other countries doing the same exact thing.

That. Is. Exciting.