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January 5th, 2014

Thoughts on Turning 30

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Yesterday, was my birthday. I turned 30.

30. That’s a big one for me. Once, it felt like a curse. Now, it feels like a new beginning.

My 20s were full of struggle. I was often dissatisfied, fighting against the things that were, always longing for something else. But I also learned who I am, who God is, and what life is about. I discovered how deeply I feel things, and that such strong emotion can be good for myself and others. I discovered how strongly I love, and how important it is that I be in intentional relationships. I discovered the darkness of my own heart, but also the great light of God’s grace. I know now that my life isn’t about me, that my job is to love God and love others, not myself.

I’ve realized that I am responsible for myself. I often have no control over my circumstances, I’m not meant to; the only thing I have some control over is myself. I am responsible for the state of my heart. I can choose to believe the truth or live from a lie. I can choose to rejoice with others or curse their blessings. I can choose to blame others for what I lack, for the way I am, or I can release the hurts and mistakes, and trust God to redeem, complete and heal the places that are empty and broken.

I would never have planned for my life to look like it does today, but now that I’m here, I wouldn’t trade it. It is all too good, too valuable. As I’ve let go of what I thought my life should be, I’ve been able to glimpse the goodness of what is, the hope of what could be because of what is. The past year has been about recognizing the many gifts I’ve been given, and choosing to be grateful and satisfied, instead of demanding different gifts. I’ve realized that my life is not empty and barren; it if full of love and life. I have an amazing husband, a loving family, heart-friends, and so many beloved students that it overwhelms me. Over the past year, I learned to rejoice in the things I have, rather than gazing at the things I don’t have. In all the things I lost, I gained Christ, who is more valuable than any thing or person I could ever have.

30 feels like a brand new chapter. Not a new book, but the continuation of a beautiful journey. Who knows what the next decade holds? I am the least afraid I have ever been. I am the most excited, the most expectant. I am excited to live in what I know to be true, no longer content with half-truths and false comforts. I am excited to know myself better, and to make myself, faults and all, available to God. 30 once looked tarnished by all of the things I didn’t have, but it now looks bright with promise. God is with me. He is very near. He will never leave me, no matter where I go. He is the most valuable thing. I see that now.

“The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. […] You make me know the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
Pslam 16:5-6; 16

I’m glad to be entering my 30s from this place.

August 27th, 2013

Hello Senior Year

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We’re about to begin our Senior year in Germany. This is not to say that it’s our final year, but our fourth year. When we came to Black Forest Academy, this year’s Seniors were freshman. We’re also Senior Sponsors, so we get to join the Seniors in all of their final year festivities. My how we’ve grown.

In mid-June, we said tearful goodbyes to the Seniors and a few other beloved students who won’t be returning. Dani graduated six girls she met with on a regular basis. Goodbyes are hard here. There are many more than we’d prefer, and some are unexpected.

A few days after Grad, we flew to Oklahoma for the Inner Healing and Freedom Conference. Dani spoke twice, about shame and the value of suffering. We were delighted to have two BFA students attend the conference. It was a small gathering of about 50 people, but God moved powerfully. We spent two more weeks with our family before flying back to Germany. The past few months have provided some much-needed rest.

From Dani

School starts in a week, and for the first time, I don’t know if I’m ready. Last week, I cried over the events of the past school year. I cried for my students’ pain, suffering and sin. I cried for the brokenness of the world. In some ways, I think it’s taken me these two summer months to relax enough to be able to cry.

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May 26th, 2013

Job Changes and a Difficult Month

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TB World

Job Changes for Israel

Since 2009, when we joined our sending organization TeachBeyond, Israel’s vision has reached beyond one country. At Black Forest Academy, Israel was able to help one school accomplish their mission through media, but his desire has always been to help not just one school, but many. In light of this vision, Israel will join the Communications Team of TeachBeyond this July.

TeachBeyond is our sending organization. Their vision is, “to be an instrument of redemptive change through transformational education – an education grounded in Judeo-Christian values that equips students to reach their full potential as human beings. It is a vision for global impact, building bridges between peoples and cultures.” TeachBeyond currently has about 330 members serving in 32 countries. These numbers increase every year as TeachBeyond partners with, founds and equips new schools around the globe. With 30 partner schools, TeachBeyond serves a combined enrollment of over 26,000 national and international students. If you’d like to learn more about TeachBeyond, please view their website or the annual report.

Israel’s change in position means that he will no longer be an employee of BFA, though he will continue to partner with BFA’s Communications Team. Many things are still being discussed regarding the specifics of TeachBeyond’s Communications Team, but Israel’s hope is to make TeachBeyond and it’s partner schools successful in using transformational education to reach the world for Christ. Logistically, very little will change for us. Israel will work from the TeachBeyond offices in Kandern, the same town where BFA is located. Dani will continue to serve BFA as an Assistant Chaplain. We will live in the same house and work less than a kilometer away from each other. Israel will still be involved at BFA through coaching and being a class sponsor and dorm sub.

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March 17th, 2013

The End of Winter: February and March at BFA

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Sometimes, it is most exciting to have nothing to do. For the first time in a month, Israel and I are spending a weekend at home. We don’t look forward to the empty weekends because we dread our work and ministry, but because our lives are filled with so much good that it’s easy to do too much.

It’s been a full six-weeks since we last wrote: two weekends of dorm subbing, speaking on a panel about identity, high school retreat, helping host an open house at a dorm, illness, doctor’s appointments, an international church service, Service Project prep, attending counseling, participating in a Murder Mystery Night, a new women’s bible study, time with friends, working on new web projects, planning for the future of our ministry, meeting with students, and the list could go on, but that would make this update even longer, so I’ll stop.

Highlights

Of the many things we’ve done over the past weeks, here are two that most stood out.

Time at the Dorm

We got to spend two of the past three weekends subbing at the wonderful Palmgarten dorm. We love being at the dorm! From cooking meals, to helping with homework, to playing games, to just laughing with the girls, it’s always a joy and privilege. On one of these weeks, Palm and the boys dorm upstairs, Maugenhard, hosted an open house. We helped the girls clean, cook and decorate, to host over 100 guests from our community. The theme of the evening was the Evolution of Music. Each floor and room was assigned a different era and genre of music ranging from the 50s to today; students were encouraged to dress up as a musician. We brought our Wii Just Dance game, which was quite hilarious to watch.

We also had the opportunity to join Palm on their Valentine’s Day event, a casino-themed Murder Mystery Night. Israel got to play an Elvis impersonator, while I was Security Sam, the head of casino security. Don’t worry, neither of us were the murderer.

The Murder Mystery Night Cast

The Murder Mystery Night Cast

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February 3rd, 2013

The Semester Begins; Twice.

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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.

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January 4th, 2013

Welcome to the New Year 2013

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Welcome new year. The Mayans were wrong. The soothsayers were all mistaken. The world didn’t end. Photobombing made it to the online Oxford dictionary. A university decided YOLO should be banned. And 3D printing is a real thing; insert Yoda.

Anyways…

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November 27th, 2012

From a Grateful Heart

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This is the American month for thankfulness, and tonight I am abundantly thankful. God has poured innumerable gifts into our lives. The past weeks have been filled with many wonderful things—conferences to hone our counseling and media skills, treasured time with old friends, moments of holy brokenness in ourself and our students, times of rejoicing with those in the BFA community. Our life here is rich and vibrant, but tonight, I am struck not with the events, but with the people, the themes, the underlying and overarching goodness of our God.

I wish I could squeeze my heart into these words, so you could feel the deep pleasure and gratitude that lives there. Through ever-present pain, longing, and hurt, runs a bright fuchsia cord of earnest satisfaction. Even in the moments of acute ache, my soul still whispers to the great God above, “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”

Thank you for my husband.

He is the most patient man I know. He is the stability of my turbulent heart. He is the greatest picture of you I’ve seen on this earth. I have no fear that he will ever walk away from me. Thank you for giving me such an undeserved love.

Thank you for this place.

It is a rare gem, to which I fear all others will seem flawed in comparison. These students amaze me with their vibrant creativity, fierce sense of justice, abundant compassion, and beyond-their-years wisdom. These families are flawed, but I’ve never had more opportunity to stand in awe at the sacrifice, patience and wisdom of parental love. This staff is composed of fallen humans, but they genuinely want to please you, they genuinely love those they’ve sacrificed so much to serve. Thank you for creating such a beautiful community.

Thank you for your body.

We do not deserve their love, prayers, and financial support, but you have lavished it upon us. Our families believe in the call you placed upon our lives, a gift that not all receive. Our friends delight in the work you have called us to, so much so that they happily provide for our needs. Our brothers and sisters remember us before you, lifting us up with heartfelt petitions for fruit, for growth, for blessing. Thank you for these people we are honored to know.

Thank you for your redemption.

I cannot believe that you take my shame and make it beautiful. I cannot believe that you take what has meant only death to me, and bring forth life. I cannot believe that you bless even my tarnished desires to serve you, for your glory and your kingdom. You overwhelm me with your goodness. My heart aches at the holy glory you display through my brokenness. Thank you for being my Redeemer.

Thank you for making me a mother.

Though I have not touched a child of our flesh and blood, you have given us children on this earth. You have filled our days with beautiful souls to protect, to delight in, and to love. Some days, my heart nearly bursts from this beautiful sorrow, this abundance that you have poured upon us through our brokenness. You have taken our barrenness, and given us children. A students once said to me, “Even if you don’t have kids, you have kids,” and it is this that makes me stand in awe of you, a God who would give us children of the heart. Thank you for being a giver of good gifts.

Thank you for promises like these.

Can a woman forget her nursing child,

that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?

Even these may forget,

yet I will not forget you.

Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands…

Sing, O barren one, who did not bear;

break forth into singing and cry aloud,

you who have not been in labor!

For the children of the desolate one will be more

than the children of her who is married,” says the Lord.

Fear not, for you will not be ashamed;

be not confounded, for you will not be disgraced;

for you will forget the shame of your youth,

and the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more.

For the mountains may depart

and the hills be removed,

but my steadfast love shall not depart from you,

and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,”

says the Lord, who has compassion on you.

October 14th, 2012

Newsletter: The Whirlwind of September and October

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Wow. It’s mid October. It seems ages ago that we were in America, but it’s only been two months. The first six weeks of school are perhaps the busiest time of year for us. We’re pretty exhausted, but despite the need for a mini-vacation, we’re so very grateful to be here.

We Thank You

Thank you. Thank you, once again, for all you have done to allow us to be loving these students at Black Forest Academy. Your generosity, prayers and friendship are what allow us to be here. God worked a financial miracle this summer through all of you. It was no small thing, your generosity and prayers. God used you to do the seemingly impossible. We have already seen evidences of why God worked so unbelievably—in relationships with students, in new opportunities to serve, in renewed excitement, in our own growth.

Sometimes, I get anxious about this life we lead, about living on support. What if the money goes away? What if people forget to give? What if someone loses their job? I was worrying about these things the other day, but then I remembered you all, your love for us, our love for you, and the great God we serve. I want to always chose gratitude, because we have been abundantly blessed, because for this time we get to be at BFA, because we get to partner with you in the work God is doing at Black Forest Academy.

So thank you. Though we may not be the most frequent communicators, we are always grateful for your partnership with us and for your love for these students.

Highlights and Blessings from September and October

  • Small Groups  – I oversee BFA’s High School Small Group program. This year, I tried to provide more leader training than we’ve done in recent years, and am planning to offer continued support to small group leaders throughout the year. I also have more enthusiasm for the small group program than I’ve had before! Already, God’s hand has been evident in the way small groups were set up. Some of the more challenging groups have been shuffled around and seem to be connecting very well already!
  • Volleyball – Israel coaches the JV girls volleyball team. Volleyball season is grueling, with practices everyday and overnight trips almost every weekend, but it’s rewarding. Israel loves coaching the girls and is trying new techniques this season. I’ve heard from several students and parents that they greatly appreciate having Israel as a coach. The teams are doing much better this year, winning most of their games!
  • Relationships – I already have about 10 girls that I’m meeting with on a regular basis. I didn’t expect so many so soon!  God has allowed me to quickly connect with girls, new and old. This year has already been full of serious, heart-level conversations about girls’ pain and brokenness. I’m trying to be more intentional in praying with and for students; it’s the most valuable thing I can do for them.
  • God Is at Work – During Spiritual Emphasis Week, in Small Groups, in relationships, it’s evident that God is moving among our students. I have a great sense of expectation about what he will do at BFA this year.
  • Junior Trip to Normandy and Paris – We are Junior Class Sponsors this year, which means that we attended the Junior Class trip to Normandy and Paris last weekend. It was a wet, exhausting, cramped, educational, meaningful, fun, and unifying trip with the 75 Juniors. Israel connected with a lot of the guys, and I was able to support some girls through difficult moments. We also helped prepare meals, led small discussion groups, handed out money, and successfully navigated the Metro with all 86 Juniors and Sponsors. We greatly enjoyed seeing the WWII sites in Normandy and, of course, the wonders of Paris, but it was particularly lovely to share these things with our beloved students. You can see photos from the trip here.

Upcoming Events and Needs

  • CCEF Conference – I will be traveling from October 24th to 31st to attend a conference in Chattanooga, TN. The conference is on guilt and shame and is hosted by the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation. I am very excited about the subject matter, as these topics come up almost daily with students, not to mention in my own life. I’ll also get to see some of my lovely college friends on the way back! Pray for safe travels, no jetlag and that I’m able to absorb everything!
  • Dorm Subbing – This weekend, we’re subbing at the fabulous Palmgarten Dorm. We always love the opportunity to hang out with girls, help out the dorm staff and just do whatever needs doing.
  • Day Retreat Planning – In November, I’ll be hosting the first Day Retreat at BFA. This will be a Saturday retreat for students who are interested in taking some intentional time to process their lives and encounter God in new ways. I’m meeting with a few staff this week to work out the details of this trip. I’m very excited about this event, but am feeling a little overwhelmed with all the possibilities of what this time could be. Pray for guidance and for God to work during this retreat.
  • Time Management and Rest – We’re tired, and it’s only been six weeks. We need wisdom to know how to use our time wisely. Israel has two more weeks of volleyball; we’re hoping things will slow down a bit after that.
  • Students – Please pray for God to work in the lives of these students. So many girls have been on my heart. I want them to know God’s great love and care for them. They have so many hurts. Please intercede on their behalf.

Here’s a smattering of photos from the semester so far. If you’d like to see more, you can check out this album or the Junior Trip album on Facebook.

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