Friday, August 29, 2008

The First Week of School

THEY showed up last weekend. The ones we've been waiting for so long for. Meeting the students as they came in and helping them with their luggage, I was able to talk with them and some of their parents if they came and check them into their room, which will be their new home for the coming school year. It seems like we have a really good group of guys here at HBR. The majority of the students came on Sunday (about ten new students and ten returning students) and then the rest on Monday and one on Tuesday.

Tuesday was the opening ceremony for the school year, which was very cool. Charges were given to the senior class, to the faculty, and to the residence staff (that's me). Then every country represented at BFA was read one by one, and if students were from there or if their parents served there, they stood up. This took a while but was very cool to see. The new student body president spoke, and then, following a tradition of the school, the director of BFA introduced and interviewed the class of 2020 (this year's first graders). This consisted of just one student, a little boy. Some more messages followed this cute little conversation, and then students checked out their classes and eventually made their way home in the afternoon. Since then, they have had three full days of classes and are getting used to life at BFA.

Some more noteworthy items:

#1) Calvin and Joan are the dorm parents I'm working with here at HBR. They are from Washington, and this is their fourth year in the dorm. Andrew is the other male RA working with me here. He grew up in Cyprus where his parents were missionaries, and he attended BFA for all of high school. He then attended Wheaton college not too far from me and came back to work as an RA last year. Rachel is the female RA working here. She is from Pennsylvania and was working here last year as well. I have been getting along great with all four of them - we make a good team. They were all here last year so I'm the only new addition to the dorm staff. Next year will be the opposite as BFA doesn't let dorm parents stay more than four years, and Andrew and Rachel aren't planning on staying for a third year. So next year, I'll be given four new people to work with. But pray for all five of us as we work together this year, that we would be forgiving and understanding with the students and with each other and that our purpose through everything is to glorify God. And that we don't go crazy. If you know me, then you know that the four of them need your prayer!

#2) I have played more soccer in the last two weeks than the rest of my life combined times ten. That is not an exaggeration. I hadn't played but once before, and I have played many times since being in Germany. In the area outside next to the house, there is a large fenced in area with two basketball hoops and a stone floor. It's the kind of basketball court in which you can stand at half-court and shoot a three-pointer on either basket. But the students play a lot (a lot) of a game called "pole soccer" which is just soccer on this court but instead of goals, you are shooting at the pole of the basketball hoop. If it sounds difficult, that's because it is. But there is plenty of scoring, and most of the kids are better than me, but I've been working on it.

#3) Also, bad news. Last night we had our first visit to the hospital of the year. And of course, it wasn't a student. It was me. I won't put pictures up, but remember that basketball pole? Well, long story short, we were playing basketball, and I caught a pass and it seems I was closer than I thought because I sort of turned right into the pole. I think it would have been a lot more embarrassing if not for the blood that immediately started flowing from my forehead. So eventually Rachel and I headed to the hospital where the first woman who dealt with us didn't know any English at all, and it didn't help that I forgot to bring any ID of any kind (hey, I had just been given a head wound). Eventually though, I received two stitches and we headed back home. This could be good or bad news, but some of you may be interested to know that the cut on my forehead is somewhat in the shape of a lightning bolt. Accordingly, somebody soon after cleverly dubbed me The RA That Lived. If you don't understand the last two sentences, just move on. Calvin was musing about why it was God's plan for me to visit the hospital instead of spending time working at the dorm last night. The only answer I could come up with so far was that I was meant to be allowed to stop afterwards for a cheeseburger from McDonald's, which I bought from the euro menu. Yes, it's true - there is a euro menu.

Anyway, that is enough stories for the time being. Thank you for your continued prayers. God is working here!


Friday, August 22, 2008

More Pix

Hey! I thought I'd take the chance to put up some of the pictures I've taken since I've been here in Germany during the weeks of orientation. They are on Facebook as well.
A little over a week ago, we drove up this mountain to take advantage of the beautiful view from the top. We could see into France and Switzerland. This is Germany behind me, but I don't remember which village that is.
This is another picture I took of the dorm I'm serving in (HBR).
Some of us took a trip into Basel, Switzerland the other day, and this is part of the city along the Rhine River.
On one of the streets in Basel with a bunch of shops on either side.
This is a picture of part of my room and furniture on the 4th floor of HBR.
Desk. Already getting a little messy.
A view back to the second half of the room where my bed is.

The time is drawing near for the students to finally start showing up. Today (Friday) I met two of the students from our dorm who came early because they are a part of Student Council. The new students will start coming on Sunday, and the rest of the students will be here by Monday. The first day of school is Tuesday! We have still been getting ready for them to come each day. We have been arranging furniture, buying groceries, making name tags to put on the doors, furnishing the still bare living room, and cleaning EVERYTHING. The entire staff has met together a few times this week to go over some things, and all of the new staff has given their testimonies. I told mine on Monday morning. One of my favorite things is hearing people's testimonies and how God has faithfully worked in their lives. There are so many experiences and trials that people have been brought through and have come out stronger on the other side. At the end of today's session, the director had all of us stand in a huge circle around the edge of the room. He told us to look around at all of the people working at the school and to imagine all of the hundreds, even thousands, of people who we represented who are supporting us here. I imagined all of my friends and family who are supporting me and praying for me standing behind me and the same for each person in the room. If everyone were to actually be there, we would fill the entire town to bursting. Instead of the 150 or so of us who were actually in the room, there are thousands who are a part of this ministry. And you are one of them. That was a very powerful picture for me, and I hope it is for you, too. I will probably post again soon after the weekend after all of the students are here. Pray for my initial interaction with all of our guys as they start showing up the next few days. Then think about dropping your kids off hundreds of miles from home, not for college but for high school. Or else think about leaving your parents for a different country for months as a high schooler. And pray for the students and their families. Thank you for reading, and thank you for praying! God bless!

In His Service,

Friday, August 15, 2008

Haus Bad Riedlingen

Hallo! About a week of orientation has gone by so I suppose I should explain what's been going on. Sunday all of the new RA's found out what dorm they will be serving in during this school year. I was placed in HBR, which stands for Haus Bad Riedlingen. Most of the dorms are not in the town of Kandern itself where the school is but in small villages spread around the area. HBR is near the villages of Holzen and Riedlingen. Before we found out where we were going, I didn't have a preference about where I ended up. But now? I'm an HBR man all the way. It's the best dorm at the school. Here's a picture of it that I stole from the BFA website.

Monday through Wednesday this week involved orientation sessions in the morning (counseling services, financial matters, a tour of BFA's campus, discussions on the culture) and found us all working on our dorms in the afternoon. HBR has had some construction on it during the summer, and everything seems to have a thick layer of dust on it. So things need to be cleaned, and all of the rooms need to be ready to be lived in again soon. I've also spent time in the afternoons driving around in the BFA vans practicing the manual transmission, and I'm doing well on that front. All of us pretty much have the hang of it now. Thursday we visited IKEA so all of the new RA's could find everything they need to furnish their room the way they like it. This admittedly made the girls a little more excited than the guys, but I'm happy with what I could get, too. I got a nice, comfortable chair, a computer chair, a dresser, and a bookshelf. As soon as my room is set up, I will try to upload some pictures on here. Friday we did a lot more work on our dorm and Saturday we will all be doing work on one dorm which needs more of a group effort with a lot of furniture being built and moved around to different floors.

The students come on the 24th so we have about a week left to prepare. Frankly, I think we're all ready for them to show up. We love hanging out with each other, but really it's all about the kids. All of the RA's are all still living in one dorm (Storch), but I'll be moving into HBR this weekend on Sunday. This has been a vital time for all of the res life staff to get to know each other and build friendships before the school year starts. If you have prayed for the unity of the staff during the orientation weeks, that prayer is being answered! Continue to pray for us as we take care of all the last-minute preparations before the students arrive. Thank you!

In His Service,

Friday, August 8, 2008

Brandon in Kandern!

Hallo from Germany! I arrived here safely on Thursday around 7 o'clock at night. I had no trouble with my flights, my layover in Frankfurt, my luggage, or finding the two RA's who were waiting at the airport to pick me up.

Like I mentioned in the last post, I received a call at 8 in the morning on Wednesday, the day of my flight, letting me know I could leave that night. That meant I only had a few hours before I needed to leave the house. So I finished packing things up like a madman. I woke my little brother up after an hour or two and told him we were leaving for Chicago in a few hours. That was met with, "Are you serious?" We finally got out on the road around two (my mom, Blake, and I) and picked up my dad at work around 2:30. We headed straight from there towards Chicago and met my sister at Moody a little after 5. We dropped over by Portillo's for one last American burger and one last chocolate cake shake (yum). Then we stopped by the public library so I could print off a couple important documents that I may or may not have remembered to print off earlier in the day during my mad rush. I didn't end up needing them. Got to the airport between 7:30 and 8. Before long, some tears were shed, goodbyes were said, and I don't know when the next time will be when I see friends and family from the States. But I miss you all!

Headed from the Mulhouse/Basel airport (it's on the border of France and Switzerland) to Storch, one of the dorms around the school where all of the RA's, new and returning, are staying together for the first couple weeks. At this point in my journey, I had almost doubled the amount of countries I've visited in my life if you count the two at the airport... which I guess you don't... but that's cool. Got to the dorm around dinnertime, ate some dinner, played some cards, watched a movie, and went to bed, ending my first day in Germany. Through the first two days jet lag hasn't been a problem. So I'm thankful for that.

Today we visited the school to wrap up our class on the German language and culture (which I missed the first four days of). This trip successfully fulfilled the name of my blog because Brandon was finally actually in Kandern. Tonight some of us took a trip into Switzerland to visit the city of Basel. This was awesome and actually counts as visiting Switzerland (not like the airport). We walked around the streets and took some pictures, and I got to see some buildings over three times as old as the United States itself. Pretty sweet.

There's nothing new to report because we're just hitting the weekend so it won't be until next week when things start getting busy again. Pray for unity and the fellowship among the staff because these next few days and weeks are vital as we get to know each other and prepare for this ministry with one another. So far I have enjoyed hanging out with everyone here. Next week we will have a lot of sessions on the Germany culture, life at BFA, and all of that. So continue to pray also that I would take in and apply all of this new knowledge and wouldn't be afraid to be open and ask dumb questions. That's all for now! Thank you for reading and God bless!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

14-Hour Notice

I have a plane ticket! I will be leaving tonight Wednesday, August 6th, at 10:00 pm from Chicago heading east. Yesterday, I was given the green light to go, and Mike started looking for a ticket for me. The offices were already closed yesterday, but he let me know that he would try in the morning and explore possibilities. So I stayed up all night packing, not knowing when I would really be leaving, if it would be Wednesday, Thursday, or even later. I know most of you don't want to read this, but nothing was in a suitcase yet as of midnight last night. So I got in bed at 5 and was awakened by a phone call at 8. It was Mike letting me know a ticket was available. So I found out at 8 am that I was leaving the country at 10 pm. Hence, the title of this post.

I feel like I still have a lot to do before I leave this afternoon for Chicago with my family. There's no time to delve into my emotional state as it stands right now. There's not even any time for this to really hit me yet. But it's finally here! All this time of anticipation and now I'm ready to leave. Thank you all again for supporting me and praying for me. My next post will be from within the borders of Germany! Auf Wiedersehen!

In His Service,

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Target Date... Yesterday?

I'm not in Germany! If anybody was wondering, I apologize. I am indeed up past 80% now as of this weekend, but my missions organizations want to make sure that I am well established before I take off. There was a big convention this weekend so after everything settles down on Tuesday we will be able to sit down and evaluate where I'm at. Lord willing, I should be able to leave on my plane sometime mid-week, at least by the weekend. Thank you for your continued prayers, and especially those of you who were praying on Friday and Saturday as you thought I might be up in the air. God hears your prayers and will save them until hopefully this week sometime, when they will be answered one way or another. I will get back on here and let you know as soon as I have a plane ticket. Thanks for reading! God bless!