Teaching in a “3rd World Country.”

“It’s like we go to school in a 3rd world country.”

This statement was spoken by one of my yearbook staff members on a day that the Internet was inaccessible on campus. Our Internet had been touch and go at the beginning week, but it had finally refused to cooperate by Thursday.  I admit, I too was frustrated and inconvenienced by the unreliable connection. At that point, I was ready to give up but I could not let technology beat me! I demanded the attention of the students in my classroom and I gave them what I called “verbal-docs,” since they could not use Google Docs.

I currently have 25 yearbook students. They each fulfill a specific task in my crew. While lecture and group activities can affectively help students learn skills that they all need, it is not the best method for getting each student on task. In fact, it is nearly impossible to keep the class on task without giving each editor their own job. I have found that the best way to do this is to provide a detailed document of directions online each day.  The students come in to class and know that the first thing they are to do is to sign on to Google Docs to see what they should be working on for the day.  This is my staff:

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Given the high quality camera that took the pictures above, our new Mac computers, and the school wide wireless internet connection that is usually available…. it is obvious that I do not teach in a 3rd world country. In fact, I am quite blessed to be in Europe and to live in an age of technology that I can have video chats with my family for free. In that way, I’m far from poor.

Believe it or not, these privileges sometimes cause me to doubt what I am doing and why I am here. It seems unfair to live such a good life. After all, isn’t ministry supposed to be really hard?

I can guarantee that life is not easy where I sit, but I recognize how I am rich in many ways. When my student made mention of a third world country, I pictured a schoolhouse in the hot African sun. I recalled the ministry that many of my friends had been a part of, in countries where nutrition was a daily life or death situation. Instantly, I felt burdened and guilt flooded my heart. A question I had been resisting entered my mind again, “Why am I here?”

Do not misunderstand me. I am very glad to be here. I feel particularly called to teach at the Black Forest Academy. If you want to know why I feel that way, you can send me an email. I am happy to share.

This question that I have been avoiding is related to my deep burden for the world. When I allow it, my heart aches for the hurt, the hungry, the oppressed, and (most importantly) the people without Jesus.  Yet, when I look at the needs around the world, I am overwhelmed. I don’t know where to start. That’s when the Lord reminds me that I am where I am supposed to be. I am part of a ministry that cares for teenagers and for their parents, who are spread out among 50+ countries, meeting needs and spreading the Gospel.

I am exactly where I am supposed to be.  I do not know how I am going to raise the support that I need to return next year, whether or not I should switch mission agencies, or when I should return home.  I am confident, however, that God is working in my life and through my life at The Black Forest Academy. For now, I will concentrate on the next task at hand- Spring Semester.

Here is a video that sums up why I am here. I found this to be very encouraging. God provided it at just the right time. Hopefully you aren’t in a “3rd world country,” and your Internet speed allows you to watch it.

Here is a video that I put on YouTube this summer. It expresses my heart for this ministry well. I made the video using the results of some research that I had done and the pictures of BFA students.

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2012

I’m sorry that this blog comes late. I had hoped to have it up before January 1st. Now that it’s the third, I almost skipped putting it up. It seemed as if a couple of days could make this post less interesting. In with the new and out with the old, right? I just had too much to write about. It has taken a lot of time to narrow down pictures to create the slide show below. Narrowing down memories and things I am thankful for has been much harder. So, I will present my year in bullet point style. Trust me, it’s the best way to avoid a novel.

-At the beginning of 2012, I was asked to teach the Art Appreciation class at BFA. I was cautious about taking on more responsibility, but I am so glad that I did! I love teaching this class. Teaching art appreciation in Europe is like teaching surfing in Hawaii!

-By February, TEAM made me aware that I had very low funds. I was going to have to move back to the US before the school year was over. This was my chance for renewed intimacy with the Lord. I spent a lot of time on my face in prayer, begging to stay. He certainly heard my cry. God provided more than enough for me to stay, through a couple of good friends. I cannot thank my supporters and the Lord enough for rescuing me.

-I completed my first yearbook with a terrific yearbook staff! The yearbook staff of 2012 will always be close to my heart. We had many laughs together and worked through many difficulties. These students are like family to me.

-I grew closer to a very special group of girls at BFA… my small group. Our first semester together was a little rocky. It took a while to get to know each other and to figure out what we should study. By the second semester, we realized that we just needed to share our stories with one another. This time together made saying goodbye to one of them, at the end of the year, much harder. I am so glad that two more were added to our number this semester. I love investing in the lives of teenagers. It’s truly one of my most favorite things.

-Through the generosity of staff at BFA and families of BFA students, I was able to take two trips. I went to London with other teachers on a long weekend and Paris with a student during the summer. I live a very simple life in Europe, with only enough means to pay the bills and to buy food. Being so close to such incredible places is an exciting opportunity. I have been very fortunate to have many great adventures.

-Through the generosity of supporters, I was able to return home for the summer. I didn’t get to spend a lot of time with my friends/supporters, but I did get to spend a lot of time with family. I haven’t been in Florida for that long in almost 10 years. It was a great opportunity to catch up with old friends, to make new friends, and to spend time investing in the Christian and Missionary Alliance denomination again.

-My mother turned 50 this year. In celebration of her big birthday, my dad cashed in all of his frequent flyer miles for 2 tickets to Germany. My parents were able to see where I live, to see where I work, and to get to know Europe a little. As much fun as we had, I think their time here made them grateful to return to the US. All of the limitations of living in a small town, a small apartment, with no knowledge of German, in a place that has so many rules and cultural standards made it tricky for them. Nevertheless, I was happy to show them what my life was like and to introduce them to some very good friends that I have made here.

This semester, I have found myself blessed beyond expression. I still don’t know very much German, but I feel so much more confident. I don’t feel so anxious and alone anymore. I’m not stressed to the point of tears about teaching either. I feel comfortable. I love what I do! I still have far to go in the world of teaching and the German language, but I’m doing much better.

As thankful as I am for my adjustment to my surroundings, I have to say that I am most thankful for all of the wonderful people in my life in 2012. I am incredibly blessed to have 3 churches, family, and a ton of friends who support what I’m doing. Knowing that there are people praying for me, who believe in what I’m doing enough to sacrifice their finances, is overwhelming.

Yet, there is nothing better than knowing that you are exactly where God wants you to be, doing what God wants you to do. Serving Him in a community full of amazing people is more than I could ever ask for. I love these students, their families, and the faculty and staff that I serve them with. All of the sacrifices that had to be made for me to get here were worth it. God is good and I feel like I have experienced that in a time of need and in a time of plenty this year. No matter what, He has sustained my joy in 2012.