So classes resumed January 8th here at Black Forest Academy. Students were buzzing with stories from the Christmas break, and dorms were again full of screaming highschoolers pining for more sleep. But this school year is different for two reasons. One, the first semester exams were three weeks into the new calendar year. Two, that means that the second semester didn’t start until the week after. You can imagine the horror of realizing you have to remember geometry theorems from over a month ago for an upcoming final exam.
A School Schedule to Rule Them All
As a sidenote, many students had seen “The Hobbit” over break. So I thought it fitting to find a correlation with the movie and our school schedule.
Our new school schedule places our semester’s ending and beginnings around the same time that all the German schools in the area have their breaks and starts. The reasons behind are many, but one of the main reasons is so that our bilingual elementary school doesn’t start or end 3-4 weeks before or after our high school campus does. Many of the families have students on both campuses, and I think that the parents appreciate the move, much more so than the students.
Spring Break Service Projects
Another reason was so that our Easter/Spring Break weeks would coincide or overlap. This means that we can partner with the local groups and schools to do service projects as a team. Over the past two years, BFA has been pushing to better relate to and connect with the community where we live. Last year, we partnered with the local school to do just that by building a house in Romania through Habitat for Humanity.. There was such a positive response by the community, that there are two combined BFA-German service projects planned for this Spring Break. I think that’s pretty cool. You can read about where all of our spring break service projects are going on the BFA webpage. These combined trips are projects one and two.
I don’t talk about this much on our blog, but it seems to be coming up more and more in the lives of the students around Dani and I. You might not know this, but our region of Germany has a strong Wiccan presence. They usually have the party booths at festivals and the loudest floats in the parades. I mention this because, during this time of year, there is a festival called Fastnacht or Fasching. It’s the German Mardi Gras celebration. (You can read more about it on this wikipedia page and this page.) But what these celebrations represent is greatly felt by many of our students. Some students and staff report increased demonic oppression during this time. Others deal with greater fear, and nearly all of the BFA community is faced with sadness and lethargy during the dark month of February.
A Little Bit About Us
Some New Websites
I have been working recently with the organization that started the school, JanzTeam. It has been great working alongside the Germans who are working there. I have helped do a quick redesign of janzteam.de within their current CMS. It’s not perfect, but I think it’s a great change from what they had as their template. This has also created an opportunity for me to do some changes on their other websites this coming week, specifically their music academy schallwerkstadt.de. Their menu will have dropdowns soon. This also gives me a great opportunity to practice my German, which I am really excited about!
A New Video With Parent Interviews
This is a video we produced. We interviewed parents of last year’s Seniors about the impact BFA has had on their families. I’m really excited about this format, and about being able to share these stories with you! Two of these families daughters were in Dani’s small group last year!
Dani has seen God do some amazing things in girls recently. Some students have had major spiritual breakthroughs and others seems to be on the verge. As girls continue to share their emotions and stories, Dani is profoundly moved and humbled, both by their pain and by the knowledge that she is one who gets to receive these precious stories. While there is much pain and many lies in these students’ lives, we both are praying that they will see God’s love, grace and care for them.
Some Things Needing Prayer
That the student’s going on service projects over break are aware of the impact and responsibility that they are able to have for the kingdom.
That the teachers and staff leading the trips are able to have peace about their plans and trust the God has everything under control.
For the new teachers and staff who just entered the BFA community this month, that they are able to quickly adapt to the German and BFA culture.
That Jesus would be real to these students. Many battle daily with trusting that he has their best interests, or that he even cares.
Pray for increased protection and a greater awareness of God’s presence during the Fastnacht (Mardi-Gras/Carnival) season. I want to pray Romans 8:15 over students who are strongly affect during this time; there is no need to fear.
Our High School Retreat is from March 1-3. Pray for the preparations that need to be done, as well as the hearts of the students, that they would be open to hearing from God during this time.
So I’ve been creating, producing, brainstorming all with a focus towards combining high school education, a boarding program and Christian missions into the social media world. There’s been a steep learning curve. Everything from, “I never went to a public high school” to, “I now have management type responsibilities, and a budget.” Both have been strange for me to look back upon, and to see how I’ve failed and succeeded. So, if you will let me, I feel the need to share some of my thoughts from the past year.
Failures, and the One the Got Away
So I’ve been put in charge of the Communications at Black Forest Academy (BFA), which most of you likely already know. 😉 My role involves protecting and pursuing the “brand” of the school. But what I didn’t know this would mean is overseeing people as part of that.
A large part of my daily/weekly job is communicating between Communications and everyone else, as to how best we can encourage that what Communications has created is going to support the work they are doing. One of the greatest hurdles I have is that I’ve only been there at the school for two years, and everyone else I’m interacting with has been there for 5, 10, 20+ years. We are going to think differently, period. I’ve had to learn how to work alongside people in a different way then I ever have before. It’s a real blessing though that these people want to be working at BFA. Our ultimate goals are the same. To educate, bring up, encourage and love on every single student who comes through this school.
I’ve had to learn balance, and I’ve not always done a good job at that. I’ve been too harsh, or at times too critical. I forget to listen to others, and forget that we are working with the same goal in mind. This job has brought my faults to the front and lain them out for all to see. But I like to think that I am constantly refining my faults into something helpful not harmful. Self-assessment can be so self-serving, so that’s hard for me to measure.
Activities, Like Volleyball
So I coached junior varsity Volleyball this last school year. It was awesome. Yep. I got to go to many of the US military bases in the area for tournaments. It was like stepping into America; SUVs, Taco Bell, and all inclusive stores (like a Sears). But the girls I taught were so inspiring. They might not know it, but it’s true; I learned so much from them as well.
I learned that playing an iPad, having an extra blanket when the bus A/C won’t turn off, and bringing food are key to getting along in a bus full of high school girls. And that patience runs thin on the bus ride there, but goes really well on the way home, once everyone is asleep.
What Does This Have To Do With Social Media?
Everything. Internally, the two audiences of a school are staff and students. They must co-exist. Externally, my realm, the audience is parents and staff. Students don’t play a huge role. So I’ve been learning how these two realms of a school can co-exist. Some new questions I’ve been asking myself are:
How can I help the school communicate and work alongside parents?
How can Communications show the impact staff have on their students?
What does Jesus look like in Communications?
How can I work alongside staff members and enable them?
What is it that people need, not want people want?
This gives parents, staff and students access to pictures and videos created of the ceremony. There’s also two videos on there that are specific to what happens during graduation week: Graduation Preparation and Faces of the Year.
Well right now we are staying warm inside on a very snowy white Christmas! Dani is trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube (starting from the solved position) and I built a two-seater car. We are really glad to have some time to ourselves and to have a short break.
My dad and Raina just left from being here for about 10 days. We went to France, Switzerland, and of course Germany. They wanted to see all of Europe, but that wasn’t going to happen. 🙂 We both miss having family here for the holiday seasons. Christmas is amazing here, but it isn’t the the same without family.
Dani solving the Rubix Cube, from the end.
Israel making a two-seater car.
The Past Months
So I’m going to try and recap our last two or so months here in Kandern, Germany. We’ve had some really great experiences and some not so good ones, from working in the dorms during Thanksgiving, to having the car break down on our way back to Germany.
This is the fall festival/fair that happens at various places around the area. Pretty much everything is closed except food and rides. The school takes a day trip to Basel for all the students to be able to take part in the festivities. It was pretty crazy seeing all the rides. It was like a little carnival. But the big hit at Herbstmesse every year are the bumper cars. I guess those are always popular no matter where you are. You can see the pictures here → Herbstmesse Gallery.
Thanksgiving in Germany
So, of course, there is no Thanksgiving celebration in Germany. (I wonder why?) But the school and the individual dorms celebrate the event during the month of November. At the dorm we substitute at, Blauen, we helped prepare the food and get ready for the meal. It was a great evening with the girls at the dorm, and with the other couples who help, at the dorm, as well. You can see the pictures here → Blauen Thanskgiving Gallery.
So Dani and I also go visit a few of the other dorms. One of those is Storchenblick, or Storch for short. I had to get our car worked on after the first freeze. The driver’s side door decided to not unlock anymore, and we also hadn’t put our snow tires on the car. So, one of the girls at Storch, who speaks German, helped me translate at the local auto-shop, Auto Brehm. We got our car back a few days ago, with new locks/keys and tires. Yeah! I also took a mid-semester group picture for them. You can see the pictures here → Storch Group Gallery.
The school has a few banquets during the fall semester, and one of the biggest is the Christmas Banquet. This years theme was a Masquerade Ball, and the Student Council decide to just do desserts instead of a full meal. It was alot of fun, and there were some great skits that happened. The school grants wishes every year that the students submit, and one of those was for all the Korean guys to go up and sing on stage. Needless to say it was hilarious, and not all the guys knew what they were getting into. You can see the pictures here → Christmas Banquet Gallery.
Last But Not Least, The Visit
So my dad and my youngest sister, Raina, came to visit us for about 10 days. They wanted to see everything in Europe. We are not that adventurous, or capable. 🙂 So we ended up visiting just a few places. We went to a castle, Haut-Kœnigsbourg, and a cute little village called Riquewihr in France. They walked around Lörrach (without us). And had a few days to walk around in Kandern Germany. We then went to Adelboden, Switzerland and skied the Alps. And then on the next to last day took a train and visited a few towns on the way to the Christmas Market in Freiburg, Germany.
So, Coming Back From Switzerland
We were driving along, minding our own business, when all of a sudden the engine light comes on, and the car starts overheating! Seconds wizzed by, and moments later…Okay, ignore the melodrama. We did end up getting stranded in Heimburg-Bern, Switzerland for about 5 hours more than we had planned. The radiator had overheated. It was too late in the evening to find help, and we had no cell-phones. So after looking for possible solutions Dani and Raina found a wireless signal without a password, which is illegal in Germany. (I’m not sure about Switzerland.) And we used the wireless internet, the laptops we had, and cell phones to find help.
We were eventually able to Facebook, make Google calls and email our way into finding someone to pick us up and call for help for the car. We found our way to a McDonalds, had some food, and our ride picked us up and took us back home. It was a crazy unexpected twist that taught me that I will have to look into getting a cell phone plan here if I’m’ going to be doing some more driving. We all went home exhausted and overwhelmed since this was two days before they went back home.
‘Tis the Season
So overall we’ve had a good first semester. It’s been much more difficult then we expected. And there have been plenty of unexpected challenges along the way. We’ve learned alot about the trials of marriage, living in another culture/language, and developing a new life in a new world. We love it here. But are learning that it’s not always easy: like getting stuck in Switzerland.
We hope you all have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Drive safe, and always wear your seat belts. We love you all, and are very thankful for the gifts and prayers that have been sent our way.
In case I haven’t told you lately, I love living in Germany.
It’s beautiful. I’ve never lived in a cleaner place. Every building has delightful flowers and gardens. I believe that over 25% of Germany is set aside as green space.
It’s simple. Every few days I walk three minutes to the grocery store to buy a couple (reusable) bags of groceries. We walk to school almost every day. I can buy a big bottle of mineral water for 19 cents. Doing official things (like bank transfers, car registrations, and even surgery) is so much less complicated than it is in the States.
It’s nostalgic. Every time I drive past a swath of forest, I’m reminded of looking at the same forest as a child. Today, I saw a booth of puppets and stared for several minutes while I remembered the puppets of my childhood. Last week, I played on a fantastic wood and rope play ground. It was so much more fun and imaginative than the plastic and metal contraptions that fill the States.
I’m not saying that I don’t love America. I’m just really glad to be living in Germany, even when I’m frustrated or scared or uncertain. This is most certainly where we are supposed to be.
Today was a wonderful affirmation of how much I love living in here.
Holzen is a town just a few kilometers from Kandern. This weekend was their annual craft market. We spent a few hours there today with our friend Alyssa, an art teacher at Black Forest Academy. We wandered among dozens of booths filled with pottery, artwork, handmade clothes, soap, and beautiful floral arrangements.
We also ate lots of yummy food, which is always my favorite part. As a late lunch, we enjoyed Flammkuchen, a thin-crusted onion and bacon pizza, which is baked in a wood-burning oven. We tried some pumpkin soup and shared a glass of fresh apple juice. And when I say fresh what I mean is that I took a drink and thought I was biting into an apple. Just outside the food stand was a long wagon filled with fresh apples. The apples were put into a press sort of thing, which trickled beautiful, cloudy juice into a trough. The Juice People (I can’t think of anything else to call them) would walk over to the trough, dip in a big pitcher, and then walk back to the table to fill individual glasses. I mean really, how wonderful is that? On our way out, we bought a loaf of bread (which I caught unintended, yummy whiffs of all the way home), three slices of pie, and a gorgeous bouquet of flowers.
What a fabulous way to spend a Saturday. Enjoy the photos of our lovely Germany.
As far as the miscarriage goes, we’ve both been learning a lot. God’s doing a much work in us. He’s bringing good from our pain. He’s teaching me to trust him and teaching me to believe his love for me. I want to share in more detail, but I haven’t yet determined how to express what’s happening in my heart. There have been some really wonderful days and some really awful ones. I know that God is working through both. Last week, Israel’s dad wrote this song for us regarding the miscarriage. I may have listened to it a hundred times already. It helps my heart.
A Gasthaus of Holzen
Oh to be a child in Germany.
Walking into the market. The big building in the back is a girl's dorm.
Most of the houses are this beautiful.
Germans actually use pumpkin in their cooking. What a novel thought.
Hello there folks. Well, according to my little desktop widget, we’ve been in Germany for 17 days. I can’t believe that. It doesn’t seem possible.
Thus far, our time in Kandern has been wonderful. We arrived two weeks before anything started, so we’ve had plenty of time to get over jetlag and settle in. We are incredibly blessed to be living in the home of a woman who’s in The States for a year. This means that from the moment we stepped into our little apartment, we had internet, phone, furniture and food. Many staff members arrive to completely empty apartments. I’m so, so, so glad that wasn’t our experience.
This is our building. The top two windows are ours. Our windows open all the way and there are no screens; it’s fabulous. Also, that’s our car in the driveway. We have purchased and registered the car, but have yet to drive it. All in good time, my friends.
So far, we’ve learned our way around Kandern, learned how to shop, officially registered in the town, registered for a trash can (which we have yet to receive), and figured out the basics of life.
Our new friend Anne, who we met at Orientation, came a few days earlier than she needed to and stayed with us. It was fabulous having her here. We had many a long talk on many a long walk. I think we went for a three hour walk each of the three days she was here. On our first walk, we were caught in a ridiculous thunderstorm. It was a complete downpour for about half an hour. We had no umbrellas or raincoats. It was marvelous, if a bit chilly.
Today we started the first of our three weeks of Orientation—Survival German. Every morning from 9:00 – 12:00, we meet at Black Forest Academy in order to learn a few German language basics, you know, so we can buy food at the grocery store and such.
All of these photos were taken on the walk to school this morning. It’s wonderful to finally begin the “real” BFA stuff. Next week, all of the new staff will learn about the school. The final week of Orientation is for all of the staff.
Israel has been able to do some preliminary work for his job. He’s had several meetings about the media needs of the school and has a better idea of what his job will entail. He even made a trip to Ikea to purchase some new office furniture for the office, which he’ll share with the school’s graphic designer. Israel, Anne and I spent Saturday putting together all of his new office furniture. He’s pretty excited.
Here’s a funny story. We had a few over-ripe bananas. So I thought I’d make banana bread. Fortunately, the home we’re living in is stocked with all of the baking supplies I needed. All went quite well, I thought. I’d even said, “I think my first German baking experience was a success.” And then Israel tried the bread. “Dani,” he said. “What did you put on top of this?”
“Brown sugar, and cinnamon and sugar.” What else would you put on banana bread?
“Are you sure it wasn’t brown sugar, and cinnamon and salt?”
Yep. It was salt. All over the banana bread. So here’s a tip, if you ever move to a foreign country, or just into someone else’s home, always taste any unlabeled containers that you assume are sugar.
We are absolutely thrilled to finally be here. Over the past six months, it’s become more and more clear why this is God’s perfect timing for our arrival at BFA. More on that later. Here are a few photos of the school where we’ll spend at least the next two years (hopefully more) loving missionary kids. Yay!!
Both of these books talk about people who are radical about what they believe and how they live their lives. It’s inspiring, motivational, convicting, and scary. In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day talks about how some of the most inspiring people in history are the most daring, the ones who take risks. This book embodies the idea that without risk there is no gain. I think the book takes it one step further and says that if you don’t take risks there are negative repercussions. No Compromise talks about Keith Green’s journey to find truth and meaning. It’s a passionate life story of a passionate man. The book talks about ideas that are radical even to today’s standards of what being a Christian means. If you read this book looking for answers, you won’t come away the same. You might even leave with more questions than answers.
So Why am I Talking About These Books?
So what does being In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day have to do with being a Christian? And why should you listen to me talk about No Compromise? One reason. Am I, as a Christian, really living a lifestyle that embodies who Christ is and what Christ taught? I look at my past and where I am at, and I have to say No. When was the last time I did something for the glory of God that didn’t involve serving my own well-being, or pleasing myself, or making myself look Christ-like in the eyes of others? I feel like my faith is based off of concepts and ideas that are Christian, but they don’t go far enough. It’s been making me not want to call myself “Christian” because I want to think of myself in a new light as being one who lives like Jesus lived. Not one who just does the normal Christian stuff: Sundays, Wednesdays, small group.
Have you ever read First John or James? Those guys talk about radical, non-conservative ways of living, not just believing in something. I wonder if maybe this is a better idea of faith and risk, “Without risk, faith is an impossibility,” Søren Kierkegaard. I don’t know. But I do know that my view of Jesus is minimized and compartmentalized because of my Western view of the Bible. I guess I’m just frustrated with myself, the church, religion. I feel like there should be more to my view of the world. I should be a person willing to take chances. Someone willing to be controversial, and not ashamed of what I believe. To me it’s coming down to this: Do I really believe what the Bible says?
Do I really believe what the Bible says?
If the answer is yes, than my current lifestyle must change. Everything from how I view things to how I interact with people will need to be altered. I cannot be a nominal Christian or an average Christian. There’s no such thing. Jesus calls us to be fishers of men. When was the last time I shared my faith with a non-believer? I don’t think I could tell you. Jesus also calls us to a lifestyle of total abandon. “And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” – Matthew 10:38. This God-man—Jesus—is not playing around. He demands life-altering, complete sacrifice to live differently than the rest of the people around you. I can’t think of my life as my own anymore, no compromise.
God be my peace. Be grace in my life. I know not what the future holds, or if what I am thinking is right, but I know you are leading me. I want to follow. So please let me see you like I see my hands in front of me. Let me see as you see. Let my desires be yours, and let my heart follow after truth. Your name is holy. May my limited knowledge of your word and who you are lead me to you and nothing else. May I not lead others astray. You are perfect love. Help me bring that love to those around me. Unashamed, I proclaim you Lord and pray you hold me tight and safe in your will for my life.
I think that part of what Dani and I are called to do is to help others understand why we are doing what we are doing. I want others, both Christians and non-Christians, to come to share our passion and desire to see people believe in the One who is greater than themselves.
One of the things that Dani and I have been learning about is the idea that, as Christians, our involvement and relationships with other people go beyond pleasing ourselves. They go beyond staying in the city where our parents live. They go beyond the college where we graduated. They go beyond a two-week mission trip. We are not to be self-pleasing, self-aggrandizing, self-fulfilling. Our love for Jesus should be reflected in how we love our neighbor, not ourselves. (matthew 25:40-46, 1 john 2:3-6)
We are called
We are called to be fishers of men, people who seek out those who are hurting. Jesus pursued both the Jews and the Gentiles. There was no regret, no apathetic plea; it was whole-hearted. It was pure, and full of love. He wanted people who loved Him and loved others. One of the hardest things to learn in church culture today is this message, “If we say we love God yet hate a brother or sister, we are liars. For if we do not love a fellow believer, whom we have seen, we cannot love God, whom we have not seen.” 1 John 4:20
I’m including a talk by Todd Ahrend (The Traveling Team/On Facebook) that our home church had this last Sunday. It is about who God is, and about His passion for people. The title of the talk is “God is Missional.” In this sermon, you’ll hear God’s heart for all people throughout history. There is no easy way to put it, Jesus is missions minded, and, if you believe in His teachings, you are called to live a life that makes His name known. There is no easy path, no earthly resolution, no self-help solution. (1 john 2:15-17)