The Next Chapter of My Story

Last week was Spiritual Emphasis Week at The Black Forest Academy. This year, our speaker was a man by the name of Bill Stevenson. Although Bill joined us from John Brown University, in Arkansas, he spoke with an Irish accent. Bill grew up in Ireland and in Korea. He moved to the States later in life. His multicultural background was very relatable for most of the students of BFA. Therefore, it only seemed fitting that he share his own story and that he encourage the students to know and share their stories as well. _1060446

This got me thinking about my story. You can find the story about how I felt called to become a missionary as a teenager and the road I traveled to BFA on my About Me page. Let’s call that history of my life the preface. It’s an important preface though. Feel free to abandon this post right this moment to read it. When you come back, you can learn more about the story God is writing for me right now. Enjoy!

As expected, the pages of my story are turning quickly and I am faced with the possibility of beginning a new chapter entirely. I was fortunate enough to return to Germany, this year, to continue in the chapter that was started two years ago, at The Black Forest Academy. However, my lack of financial stability and my future in missions are directing me down different pathways.

At this time, I have to figure out what my next step is and I’m not sure which way to go. I’m living in a “choose your own adventure” situation. It’s not that easy though. The choose your own adventure books tend to work like a maze. Most of the books I read ended happily if you went one direction, but disastrous if you went the other way. It was important for the reader to think about the possible consequences of the path they would choose. (You may have guessed that I was the kind of child that would sneak a peak in the back, to see which story had a happy ending, rather than contemplating the pros and cons of each decision). The difference between this experience and my life is that God could have something great at the end of each path that I choose. They are simply different paths. God doesn’t always “call” us to something specific. I know that He wants me to serve Him fully. I just can’t figure out WHERE I should be doing that. cyoa_mysterybanner__index

I would love to remain at BFA another 2 years. Yet, in order to stay, I would have to become a career missionary. Making this transition would mean paperwork, phone calls, meetings (at TEAM’s base in Chicago), and a LOT more support money. It seems impossible for this to be accomplished while I am here, in Germany. 

The more likely possibility is that I will need to take 1 or 2 years off from a job that requires me to raise my own pay check. This would mean that I could not return to the Black Forest Academy. I am having a hard time deciding if I am ready to be entirely done with this chapter. Yet, when I think and pray about my situation, I feel led to look into ministry that is more involved with evangelism. (As a footnote, I will offer that I am unsure if this urge comes from God or from guilt. I often feel guilty for being involved in ministry that enhances the relationship students have with God, rather than a ministry that helps initiate that relationship).

While I have been praying about what God wants me to do, I have found a paid position at a school similar to BFA. The school is located in Istanbul, Turkey. This school also caters to third culture kids. It seems to be filled with more students from expatriate families, rather than missionary students though. Choosing this adventure could enable me to have summers off to raise support for a future chapter, provide a paycheck to live off of, and give me the opportunity to be more involved in the lives of teenagers who need to know who Jesus is more desperately. 

In these last three years, God has given me a desire to be a part of education. My transition into the teaching world wasn’t easy, but the experience has been incredibly rewarding. I’m not ready to step away from the school system. So, I am finding the possibility that I could teach classes in Istanbul, which are similar to my current classes, very exciting. 

You may now be wondering what is stopping me. I will tell you honestly that Black Forest Academy is what is stopping me. I cannot imagine leaving this place right now. I’m so close to the community that I live in. I have a deep love for the staff, students, and missionary families of BFA. Like my departure from East Lake, I keep looking for the perfect time to leave. I keep waiting for the feeling of being disconnected to help me turn the page. These last two years, I have started the year thinking: “It will be easy for me to leave this year, because I don’t feel close to the underclassmen.” As you can probably predict, I grow a fondness for the younger students by the end of the year each year. I know this will happen again. There is no need to read ahead. I already see it happening. _MG_5944

My yearbook class alone pulls on my heart strings and causes me to want to stay. I have many new students in my class that are incredible. I can confidently say that I love them already. I care about who they are and not just about what they learn. It is with a heavy heart that I begin to peak into future chapters of the book, to see if I should stay on this path or choose a different adventure. 

(Pictures of new students, taken by yearbook students)

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I have more options that I have not even begun to think about yet. They will all lead to a happy ending, whether the path is rough or smooth. I just need the Lord’s wisdom to know which adventure will bring me closer to Him and teach me the humility that I so badly need to learn. 

Please pray about the important decisions that I have to make. I would also love to receive your wise counsel, if you would like to send me a message. You cannot know the ending of my story, but you can certainly offer me advice for the journey. 

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All The Cool Kids Were Doing It

One of the characteristics of BFA that I value the most is the acceptance of all people. Our school is filled with students of all shapes, sizes, and colors. They have incredibly different interests. Yet, they have a lot of common ground as teenagers. If nothing else, they are unified in one thing. They are more accepting of each other than a typical group of students.

I went to a public high school in Florida, where all of the stereotypes that you see in movies existed. There was certainly a social ladder. While I chilled in the middle of that ladder, I watched the popular kids mistreat and disrespect the dorkier teenagers at the bottom. Even when they weren’t specifically victimizing people who weren’t as cool as themselves, they seemed to have a disrespect for them. Most likely, they just didn’t even know that the “lesser” group of students even existed.

It never came as a surprise, then, that most school events were packed full of students from the middle of the ladder and up. Dorkier or Nerdier students didn’t seem to feel included. On the other side of the spectrum, there were nerdier events that were scarcely attended by the other half. It was a waste of their time.

At Black Forest Academy, all students participate in most events. To be fair, their attendance is sort of required. Dorm students have to attend. Even when that is the case, they all seem enjoy it though. Tonight was a perfect example of this point.

Tonight was the Fall Party at BFA. The theme had to do with decades. Students showed up wearing an incredible array of costumes. I might add that these costumes are usually home made. We don’t have Party City, Walmart, or Goodwill to shop at. Yet, they had incredibly well put together costumes from flappers, to Newsies, to hippies, to Teletubbies. No costume was boring and no person came without a costume. Even the guys who were too cool for school came as the mafia. Everybody participated.

5-8 5-2-2 5-3-2After a diverse fashion show, in which students from different decades walked the red carpet, everyone was released to enjoy several different stations. Students had to decide how to split their time between karaoke, Just Dance, an old school soda fountain, and the photo booth (my personal favorite ;-)). When all of the students were called back together again, the winners of the fashion show were announced. Prizes were awarded to all second place winners, per decade. And the winners were awarded a very special prize. They were given the opportunity to pick a number out of a hat that corresponded with the numbers that a handful of teachers were holding. When the teacher’s number was called, they were to allow the student to throw a pie in their face.

During the award ceremony, the decades just flew by, as I waited my turn. Everybody was being called up to take their pie, except me. Some staff members were called several times. Instead of participating, I looked on with laughter. I felt sneaky, like I was getting away with something. I survived the raffle all of the way up until the last decade. While I stood on stage and grinned, the MCs of our program pointed and plotted. Sure enough, my number was the last number to be called. They confirmed with me later that they had indeed rigged that last drawing. Regardless, I took my pie like a man. Here is the proof:

PieInFaceDespite the disgusting smell of cheap whipped cream that I walked away with, I couldn’t help but feel happy about the fun community that I live in. I know for a fact that there are students at BFA that don’t feel like they fit in. Not every student is a “popular” student. Yet, on this night, we all had fun!

Home

I returned to Germany on Wednesday night, with no time for jet lag recovery. Thursday morning, I woke with a jump and an excitement to see the students and staff I had missed all summer. My energy held out through lunch, but my body began to remind me that my battery life was insufficient. I needed rest.
I still have yet to recover from travel, but I am so happy to report that I made my journey to Germany without any stressful event. Everything went smoothly.

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Since I have returned, I have come to realize that I live in the land where my legs are my main mode of transportation. I have not arrived at any destination without having to give myself time to cool down and wipe the sweat from my face (attractive, I know). Yes, Florida is hotter than Germany. One would think that moving back to Europe would be an opportunity to escape from the heat. This is not the case though. In fact, we are all far too accustomed to our air conditioning in Florida.

Right now, I am writing from the inside of my apartment. I won’t be ready to brave the outside world until at least 5pm. Meanwhile, I have found myself listening to the conversation of my German neighbors, who have a table set up outside of my bedroom window. Not only have they braved the heat, but they like it! They set up a nice overhang and sat outside for several hours today. After hearing them eat their breakfast, I could not help but sigh and think: “It feels good to be home.”

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While I walked through town last night, to get to a dinner party, I saw and heard at least 10 groups of people having their meal outside. I love Europeans! This walk just built the excitement within me for the party I was to attend. I was on my way to a special dinner that included one of my favorite Swiss/German traditions, raclette.

Raclette is similar to fondue. Everyone brings an ingredient to share, which will be added to hot cheese that is melted in small dishes under a burner. The burner sits in the middle of the table and has a grill top. We all take turns cooking bacon and vegetables on top, which will then be added to cheese melted over potatoes. It’s not typically a summer meal, because of the continuous heat, but it was the perfect way to bring us together again for a night of laughter.

From the party, I walked home in the rain. It was more like a heavy sprinkle, but it made me happy. I just soaked up all of the familiar sights of our small town. It felt like I was drawing in a large breath with all of my favorite smells, or receiving a big bear hug. Each German that I passed had the familiar smell of cologne and cigarettes. Each boutique that I passed still displayed expensive priced items with the sales tags that have been there since I arrived in Germany two years ago. Yet, the site that excited me the most was the construction of the small town festival that we call Budenfest.

Germans like to celebrate just about everything with a bratwurst and a beer. This event goes on at the same time every year, for the purpose of raising money for the local athletics and clubs. The clubs that sell food and drinks range from the tennis club, the (real) witches club, to the ladies church choir. Not only do they sell brats and beers, but they have other tasty traditions as well. I’m looking forward to the flammekueche and the spätzle. Flammekueche is a thin, flame cooked, pizza with: white sauce, a mix of white cheeses, and bacon/ham. It’s a traditional treat from the Alsace region. Spätzle is like a type of noodle. At the fest they mix it with sauerkraut. It’s quite tasty.
I will join my friends for this occasion shortly and add a picture of Budenfest to my Facebook page.

For now, I will conclude my rave review of my return with a few fun facts. I have been in Germany for 70 hours and have already taken 3 showers. I’m about to go take my fourth. Did I mention that its hot and that I sweat a lot? I’ve also seen how out of shape I am. I think I’ve gotten more exercise these past three days than I had in a month, in Florida. I guess that’s what happens when you don’t drive.

I have much more to say about my amazement of God’s provision, but I will save that for another time. I feel that the very existence of this blog post proves God’s provision. I also have much more to say about how excited I am for this school year. I miss my former yearbook classes and my small group girls very much. Yet, I am incredibly excited about the relationship I have with my current students and the new relationships I will form. God has big plans and I know it. Stay tuned for more exciting stories from the Black Forest!