Sunday, December 6, 2009

Christmas Banquet

Last weekend (November 28th) we held our Christmas Banquet here at BFA. I believe 20 out of our 24 gentlemen had dates for this night. The day of the banquet, it was the same old routine. We were outside playing pole soccer on the basketball court roughly an hour before it was time to leave. Then everyone started getting ready and the questions started coming. "Brandon, do you have a black belt I can borrow?" "Does anyone have an extra pair of black socks?" "Can someone help me tie my tie?" "If anyone has a pair of black shoes they're not using, come to my room!" Eventually, everyone looked presentable and we took off in our vans heading towards the school and a successful night.

Here are all seven of our sophomores in the dorm before we left.

A few of the students from student council were already at the school getting ready, but here are most of our juniors dressed up with an undressed Titus wandering around in the foreground.

The senior class looking dapper.

Here are all of the students meeting up with their dates outside the school before heading in to the auditorium. There's Greg snapping a picture of a good lookin' fella.

If you've read much of my blog, you might remember that at Christmas Banquet, there are several activities that take place on stage, such as acts performed by the students, wishes of the students being granted, and emails from parents being read aloud. If you've read much of my blog, you might also know that whenever there are people using their musical gifts on stage, you're probably going to find Phil. Here he is playing and singing a song with Deborah and Hannah.

One of the odd wishes that was granted with hilarious consequences was a wish by one student that Austin, a junior from Maugenhard dorm, would have a rap battle with Mr. Bowen, the junior year English teacher at BFA. Really funny. Austin on the right, Mr. Bowen on the left, entourages behind and on the far right.

And Phil was on stage again at the end of the night with these other students performing a bouncy rendition of "I'll Be Home for Christmas." This song was performed last year by a student, and the song was given new meaning to me because last year was my first year celebrating Christmas away from home. If you haven't heard, this year I have been afforded the huge blessing of being able to come home and spend Christmas with my family! I'm also going to be in the wedding of Andrew Tebbe on January 8th, which was part of the reason why I made the decision to fly back for Christmas break. Andrew was an RA with me at HBR last year. Needless to say, I'm really excited to be coming home this year!

Here is a rushed picture of the Christmas court voted upon by the students. There is a boy and girl from each high school class. Yes, it's blurry - they were barely up there long enough to snap a pic before they all hurried back to their seats. This year HBR's very own Hangil Jung was voted onto the Christmas court for the sophomore class (third from left).

Tony and me.

And this is every student and staff member from HBR this year!

Christmas Banquet was a great event that the school body all enjoyed together this year. I marveled and agonized at some of the awkwardness on display (and I don't mean only from the students), but it all added up to be a fun night.

There is only about a week and a half now before the students start leaving for their own homes for the break. And I will be leaving a few days after them. This Sunday night we all met as a dorm, and we asked the guys to share some things that they think God has been teaching them this year. The answers were varied, but some of the concepts that came through consistently were that God is sovereign and every person who lives in the dorm is there for a reason, the students are blessed to be where they are, and they should take advantage of the situations they are in and the friendships that they have. Pray that the students and the staff both would be taking advantage of the opportunities we have in these last days together before our Christmas break. God bless.

Monday, November 30, 2009

A Swine Flu Thanksgiving

Sorry I haven't written here in a while. I wrote in my last email update about our swine flu experience and our medical problems in general this semester. Basically, we are pretty familiar with a lot of the doctors and hospitals in the area at this point. During the first week that myself and many of our students were getting sick, the dorm just felt dead. Either you were sick or you felt sorry for those who were sick and also felt like you were going to go down any day. Here's a picture of a white board we were keeping by the front door during the week.

At the time this picture was taken, there were nine people in the dorm feeling under the weather, including two staff (Danielle and myself). The piece of paper taped to the board is actually a police report created by a student. He decided to get cute and make a chalk outline of a person out of tape on the junior floor. He got sick not long after.

To follow up on my email: the school was closed Monday and Tuesday, the 16th and 17th to help prevent the spread of swine flu. On Wednesday most of the students went back to school, but there were still some kept home. Now if you happen to remember from last year, BFA celebrates Thanksgiving on the wrong date in the dorms. Why? I guess it's a compromise between the Canadian and U.S. Thanksgiving dates. But really. I don't know. It's weird. So we were all set to celebrate on Thursday the 19th, a week early. We invited all of the people who help sub in our dorms to join us. Here's a blurry picture of some of the folks eating in our dining room.

If all of the students had been healthy, we would have had somewhere around 50 people for dinner that night. But they weren't all healthy so there were a little less. Yes, we had four students with the flu who were not able to celebrate Thanksgiving with the rest of us. It was really sad! Instead we let them celebrate together in one of the extra rooms on the junior floor. They were a sorry sight. I couldn't decide if it was more funny or sad. We brought them platters of all the food from downstairs, I prayed for them, and we just let them dig in. Here's a picture of the Swine Flu Thanksgiving, again blurry. Sorry about that.

The weekend following was my weekend off so I disappeared for a few days. I came back on Monday to the news that Anna, Danielle, and the Storrs' two children were all sick with swine flu and had been sick all weekend. Poor Greg! He must have had an exhausting weekend. The good news is that none of our students were sick any longer. By Wednesday, everyone in the dorm was flu-free and feeling good. It has been several days now, and it seems like this trial of sickness is behind us.

When we celebrated Thanksgiving in the dorm, Greg gave a short devotion before the meal and emphasized that we should be thankful for everything, including the painful circumstances in our lives. This two-week battle with swine flu was not necessarily a barrel of fun, but I can see some positives that came from it. Many of the students were able to use the time off to catch up on some of their homework. They also spent a lot of extra time with each other having fun and strengthening relationships (especially since they weren't really allowed to leave the dorm or go anywhere). All of them, even the ones who were sick, were able to get a lot more rest than normal. I personally was thankful that I was forced to get a lot of rest the week I was sick even though it was frustrating not to be able to help out around the dorm. Also, this time in the semester in November is when the students often get really restless and harder to deal with because they are ready for a break and the end is almost in sight but not quite. With all the focus on the swine flu and sickness in the dorm, it felt like we kind of skipped that period of time. Now there are only a few weeks left, and I think we can make it! Thank you for your prayers!

Monday, September 28, 2009

My Thursday Diary

6:57 am - Alarm goes off.

7:06 am - Alarm goes off again. I get out of bed.

7:32 am - It's time to take the early van in to school. This is for those who want to go in earlier than they would by riding the bus at 8:30. Three have signed up to ride in. We throw the hot box in the back before taking off. The hot box is what we pick up dinner with every evening to bring it back to the dorm and keep it hot. We take it back to school every morning. The three guys ride silently most of the way to school.

7:47 am - I arrive back at HBR.

7:56 am - I depart again, this time on an "ortho run." Different dorms are assigned at different times to provide drivers to take a group of kids to the orthodontist. It's usually on Thursday but not every week. I take Tony, Mark, and Austin with me as we leave HBR.

8:02 am - We pull in at school where four girls from Wittlingen dorm are waiting to jump in the van with us and ride along. "Ready to get our teeth worked on?" I ask. No response.

8:29 am - We pull into the parking lot for the orthodontist in the city of Müllheim.

8:31 am - I give paperwork to the nice lady at the desk, and we all sit in the waiting room and hang out. I always want to grab a book or magazine in the waiting rooms here, but then I remember... I don't know German! So I try reading a little of "A Tale of Two Cities," which I brought with me.

9:03 am - Soyoung, an RA at Blauen dorm, arrives with another vanload of five more students from different dorms.

9:35 am - Falling asleep.

10:04 am - Everyone is finally done so I leave with the seven students I brought to head back to school. After we're in the van for a few minutes, I ask, "Does anyone want to go to McDonald's?"
"YES!!!" from everyone.
"Is anyone opposed to going to McDonald's?"
"YES!!!" from one or two. Frantic whispering in the back: "He said is anyone opposed!" Then "No, no one is opposed!"

10:15 am - They switch from breakfast to lunch at 10:30 so I buy a couple breakfast items. A bunch of the students buy one-euro ice cream sundaes. Nice stop after a visit to the orthodontist, huh? This is almost tradition for any visit out there so don't think I was being an especially cool guy at this point.

10:53 am - We arrive back at the school, and the students sign in at the front desk and start walking to their respective classes. Third period has just started. I go check if I have any mail and then I hunt around for my Bible that I left at church on Sunday. No luck but it turned up later.

11:29 am - I get back to HBR and find Anna downstairs. "Ready to go shopping?" I ask. I wait for the answer, "Actually, they have hired people to deliver our groceries to us now so we never have to shop again!" Instead, all she says is "Yep."

11:38 am - We grab seven large crates to carry groceries in and jump in the van. I would never think to take crates along if I were just shopping for myself, but when you're shopping for a dorm, it's a necessity. We visit two grocery stores on Thursdays. Anna works on the grocery lists and then divides it so that we're looking for different things in the stores. Here is my list:

Brandon's LIST

Ice Tea 12
Milk 5 1.5 cases
Soda 2 Coke 1 Fanta 1 Sprite 1 Apfelschorle
1 case H-milk
1 case Multi-Vitamin
1 case Orange juice
2 cases Apple juice
2 Master Crumble fruit

5 White bread
2 Wheat bread
8 toast bread
1 Bee Pops
1 Fruit Cereals
2 Nougat Bits
4 flats yogurt
12 flour
6 sugar

11:45 am - Our first stop is at a grocery store called Lidl. Lidl is a lot like Aldi - in fact it is Aldi's main competitor worldwide. Look it up! ( I run around and fill my cart with everything on my list. 12 cartons of ice tea. Milk comes in 1.5% fat and 3.5% fat. I pick up five boxes of ten cartons each of the 1.5%. H-milk is a special kind of milk that doesn't need to be refrigerated - the H is an abbreviated German word. We use it mostly for baking although you can drink it as well. It creeps me out. The cases of soda are a six-pack of 1.25 liter bottles. I get 12 cartons of multi-vitamin juice, eight cartons of orange juice, and 16 cartons of apple juice. Master Crumble is a kind of cereal that we get that is actually quite good. After filling my cart with all of these drinks, it's probably almost as high as my shoulders and is probably the heaviest shopping cart I've ever pushed.

12:14 pm - We pay and head out to the van. The driveway down to the parking lot which you drive onto and push your cart down is sloped downward. So when you're pushing the kind of cart that we push, it makes for a really fun experience. When we get down to the van, I think aloud, "I wonder how many liters of liquid are in my cart?" I quickly add up everything in my cart, and the answer is: 161 liters. There are 161 liters of milk, tea, soda, and juice in my cart. And this was only supposed to get us through the weekend. The majority of it would be gone by Monday night. I told Anna, "Have you ever watched those 'World's Strongest Man' competitions on ESPN? I felt like this was one of the events - how fast can you push 160 liters of liquid down a hill and unload it into a van?"

12:20 pm - We arrive at the second grocery store of the day called Penny Markt. I get all of the cereals and breads and decide to get only three flats of yogurt instead of four. Each flat has 20 yogurts on it so that was still 60 yogurts. Again, just to get us through Monday.

1:13 pm - I pull up next to the front door of HBR. Anna and I transfer everything from the van indoors to the pantry. This takes a while.

1:59 pm - Arrange the last item on the shelf and pay a visit to the laundry room. I did laundry on Thursdays last year, and it worked out for me to have Thursday once again. I do the laundry for the seven sophomores in the dorm every Thursday. Because of the busy morning, I hadn't really done much to this point so I just transferred stuff from washers to dryers and put another load in the wash as well.

2:08 pm - I walk upstairs to my room for a brief respite.

2:12 pm - I leave for school again, this time to meet with a friend named Lee. Lee is the middle school chaplain at the school, and he is excellent at asking good questions. His first question to me is, "Are you getting your rest?" Go back to the beginning of this blog post, and start reading all over again, and you'll know what we talked about for the next few minutes.

3:04 pm - I drive over to Palmgarten dorm to hang out with a really special lady named Lizzy.

4:00 pm - I head back to HBR. The bus usually shows up at about ten past four with whoever wanted to come home early that day. It could be four guys or it could be 14.

4:12 pm - Anna made cookies as a snack for the guys who came home. I grab one and head out the door to take Michael to the doctor. Similar to the entry about visiting Palmgarten, there's not a ton you need to know about this trip. Let's move on.

5:57 pm - Normally, I would go pick up dinner at the school at six, but Anna had already left to do so since I was busy at the doctor's office. So I lay down on the couch until she returns and brings turkey stir fry with sesame noodles back with her.

6:15 pm - "It's dinner time! Everybody come downstairs! It's time for dinner!" Made by Anna on our PA system.

6:30 pm - You'd think we starved them by how fast they inhale their dinner. If you've ever eaten with me or seen me eat, then you know I'm not exaggerating when I say I'm the last one sitting and eating at the dinner table every single day.

6:46 pm - Guys are either doing their chores or sitting at a computer or playing outside or are up in their rooms at this point. I find Anna in the kitchen and make sure it's ok that I take a short nap. I climb the stairs to my room and collapse on my couch for a while.

8:03 pm - Study hours start at 8:00 for the juniors and sophomores, and normally I would stay up on their floors to monitor things/help guys study/discourage goofing around. But since I still haven't finished laundry, I walk downstairs to work on that. Thursday is the day off for all dorm parents so Greg and Danielle are not around, but we usually have dorm subs come in on Mondays and Thursdays to help out, and Eric and Viki are here to help preserve the order.

8:05 pm - Doing laundry is a time for quiet reflection in the dorms. Faithful blog readers will bring to mind my laundry blog from the first semester of last year. It takes a while when you're trying to do laundry for seven teenage guys all in one day and end up with it nicely sorted and folded! I pop in a mix cd, and start folding.

8:37 pm - Still folding.

9:14 pm - Still folding.

9:43 pm - I finish folding, and venture back into the world of the living.

9:44 pm - I climb the four flights of stairs up to my room for probably at least the tenth or eleventh time today.

10:00 pm - Toast time! Study hours end at ten, and the guys are allowed to go downstairs and enjoy some toast and milk. When I first heard about the idea of toast time, I wasn't sure what to make of it. Why toast? But now it seems completely and absolutely normal. Toast time!

10:03 pm - Our dorm subs Eric and Viki don't have cars so I leave to drive them home. They both live in Kandern. Good night! Thanks for your help!

10:20 pm - I get back to HBR. Lights out is at 10:30 for the sophomores and juniors so I start hunting around for anyone who looks like they'll want to make trouble tonight and avoid going to bed. This usually isn't a problem, but I like to be ready to practice some Clint Eastwood lines on them anyway. Well, do ya, punk?

10:29 pm - Tonight is a little more frantic than most nights because tomorrow is a spirit day at school. They have these once in a while where there is a random theme to dress up as for the day. Tomorrow students are supposed to dress as their favorite Bible character. This leads to one of my favorite lines of the day.

10:31 pm - On the junior floor, Jay is standing in the hallway and flexing in the mirror. I'm yelling, "Alright, get in your rooms! It's lights out!" Jay is basically ignoring me and eventually proclaims, "I don't know who to go as." He follows that by saying in all seriousness, "I'm thinking of going as Samson." I laugh, and then give him some serious counsel about how he could dress up tomorrow.

10:35 pm - All of the younger guys are in bed. Marco is out in the middle of the senior floor designing a Roman soldier's costume. I stick around and talk to some of the seniors for a while. I'm basically done at this point. It feels especially good tonight because it's my weekend off, and I won't have to be on again until Tuesday morning. Thank you, Lord, for giving me rest! I need it!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Rugby, Fall Party, and a Sad Goodbye

1.) Rugby

Two weekends ago, there was a student-led rugby tournament that pitted each of the three boys' dorms against each other on a field in the nearby town of Holzen. All seven dorms were present with boys playing and girls cheering. Now, rugby is a sport that I haven't thought about for longer than five seconds at a time ever in my life. All I knew is that I should be ready to make a run to the hospital despite Tony's assurances that rugby was safe. Tony is one of our sophomores, and he has lived part of his life in the UK where rugby is quite popular, and he has played on a team before at his former school. This made him one of the very few who knew anything about the rules and gameplay so he attempted to teach rules and strategy to our guys before we left for the game on Saturday afternoon. With BFA being a place of great cultural diversity, students are always ready to embrace a new event or game despite their lack of knowledge about it. To me, having a big group of teenage guys sprinting around playing a game they don't understand and just trying to hit each other is a little scary. They were pressuring me to play, but since we had enough to form a team already, I labeled myself an "emergency reserve." After we played a few games, and my fears that the game would be a war of attrition were realized, I was forced into service for a few minutes at the end of our last game. Yes, we did have a couple injuries. Greg left early on to take Will to the hospital, and after the games were all over, I took Ross to the hospital. Don't worry - they are both ok now. Here are a couple pictures from the afternoon.

Here is everyone before the games getting ready to leave.

And here is a picture from one of the games. Greg titled this picture "sweet shoestring tackle" while I titled it "old man getting owned." I'm not sure exactly what's happening actually.

2.) Fall Party

Faithful blog readers and those familiar with BFA know that Fall Party is a big party that takes place on one of the first weekends of the year where everyone dresses up in a costume. Last year, the theme was "Black and White," and I, along with my co-RA Andrew, cleverly dressed up as gray issues. This year the theme was "Opposites," and the party took place last weekend. Here are some of the costumes this year:

David and Joseph were a businessman and a slacker.

Samuel and Han Gil were an angel and a demon.

Ross and Jeremiah were rich and poor.

Reece and a friend Josh were a Mac and a PC.

Anna and another RA Bonnie were Coke and Pepsi.

By this time, an exceptionally clever blog reader who is also my friend on facebook would realize where my current profile picture came from. This year I went along with fellow RA Chris dressed as war and peace. This is why I'm a bearded, tattooed, fur-wearing, war-mongering, giant-sword-wielding Viking. And why I'm accompanied by a friendly yet strong-willed hippie. I thought it was quite original and clever, but evidently a few more people thought the same and showed up with their own interpretation. Oh well, I liked ours the best. And it was the second year in a row I broke out my tattoo sleeves for Fall Party.

3.) Sad Goodbye

Don't worry, the sad goodbye was not for a student, a staff member, or even a human for that matter. The goodbye I'm referring to was for our beloved van SY 50.

We usually refer to our vans according to their license plates, which is why this van was known as SY 50. The LO at the beginning designates the district where the vehicle is from, which in this case is Lörrach, a larger town not far from here where almost all of our vans are from. This van belonged to HBR last year and actually has been here at this dorm for roughly the last twelve years. That's not a joke. So you can see how a strong connection has been made between the van and the dorm.

Let me describe the character of this van. It had no power steering. It had no power windows. It had no power locks. It had no power, period. It could barely get up a hill sometimes. It had no radio. The transmission was on its last legs. We had to double clutch in and out of second gear. After the engine was started, the key could be taken out of the ignition with no repercussions, and it often fell out on accident. In the winter, students were supposed to sit in the back of the van to help give it more weight and better grip. It made weird noises. The interior had torn upholstery, ripped up flooring, chunks missing from seats, and random pieces and handles missing. The outside of the van had various dents, scratches, scrapes, and rust spots. Don't get me wrong, the van was completely safe to drive, we never had any huge problems with it, and I loved driving the heck out of it. Everyone loved it.

Well, the van was sold this year and no longer resides anywhere at BFA. I felt like it was my duty to our guys and to anyone who has lived at HBR for the last decade to hold a memorial service for the van. If you are understanding me so far, then you know what I mean when I say I'm not sure if the service was supposed to be a joke or serious. It was a little of both. We definitely did not intend to mock the passing of people in our lives who have meant much to us. But we invited the students, especially the returning ones to meet outside at 7 o'clock in the evening on Sunday yesterday for this service and to dress nicely.

We met outside on the basketball court next to this tree.

I put together these pictures of the van from the past years. Some of the pictures were from years ago, and the guys really enjoyed looking at them.

I shared a little bit about SY 50's past and delivered a "eulogy," if you will. I shared some of my favorite memories. One time I was riding in the passenger seat last year as Andrew drove, and all of a sudden my right foot was soaking wet. I looked down and found that a puddle was forming after a hose had come undone and was spilling windshield fluid all over me. I couldn't believe it. Another time, I was taking a student to school, and it had just started snowing. I compared it to if you had just bought a brand new pair of the fuzziest socks you could find and then sprinted around on a freshly waxed floor. It was a little scary.

A lot of the students chipped in with memories of their own as well.

We took all of the pictures of the van and put them in this pot and burned them.

Then we headed down to the creek and spread the ashes and sang songs.

This time with the students remembering this van will be one of favorite memories I take from BFA when I leave. I'm glad that we did it.

Things continue to get a little easier in the dorm although it is nonstop busyness all the time. Greg and Danielle were off this weekend so it was just Anna and I, and we also had a couple come in as dorm subs. It felt like every day presented its own new crisis over the weekend. But everything is fine! Please pray as we continue to learn and take care of our responsibilities.

Please pray for Timmy, an RA at Maugenhard dorm who is here in his second year. His support is very low right now. At this point, it's not looking good for him to return for the second semester, and he might not even be able to make it through this semester. This would be really terrible if he had to leave. Please pray for the people who know him and his ministry, that their hearts would be softened and they would be willing to take hold of the opportunity to use the resources God has given them to support Timmy and his ministry. Thank you for praying! God bless!

In His Service,

Monday, August 31, 2009

I'm Still Alive

Forgive my silence! I'm not dead! In fact I am very much alive. I arrived back in Germany on July 21st. Orientation for the new Res Life staff started on August 3rd. Students started showing up on August 23rd. Today is September 6th. Students have been here for two weeks now. I've been meaning to write a blog for a long, long time, and the planned title has shifted from "My Summer" to "I'm Back" to "One Week Left" to "They're Here" to "One Week In" and now I'm settling for "I'm Still Alive." Sorry about that.

But every time I sit down to start typing, I think, "How am I supposed to summarize everything that has happened since my last post?" Because students graduated and left. And I worked at BFA doing odd jobs for a couple weeks. And I went back home to the U.S. where I hadn't been for ten months. While I was there, I spent considerable time in Illinois, Tennessee, Georgia, and Wisconsin. I returned a month later and brought my brother and sister back to Germany with me. We spent a couple awesome weeks together traveling around Europe. And orientation and new students and so on and so forth. So really I just need to post a blog to break this stale three-month old ice, and then I feel like I can start writing more regularly again. Our new dorm parents Greg and Danielle have been updating their blog seemingly once a day or at least several times a week. I'm not joking. Here it is: Go to that link and read about all of the things I have been too lazy and negligent to tell you about.

Speaking of our new dorm parents, Greg and Danielle Storrs are doing a fantastic job in this role here at HBR. The guys are responding very well to them, and we're all having a great time together. I can't find a picture of our staff together, but here is a pic of the Storrs family that I just ripped off their blog.

We do not have any new RA's in HBR this year. This is not ideal. There was only one male RA who applied, was accepted, raised support, and arrived here at BFA. So there are four guy RA's as opposed to seven last year, and two of the boys' dorms are short one male RA. We just went from having four RA's last year in HBR to two this year. While we are handling this ok, it is still a bit of a transition. Please pray for the Storrs as they continue through this transition to a different role and a different culture and a different life. Pray also that we as a staff would be using our gifts to capably fill the positions we hold. Pray that we are getting rest and are not getting too stressed out.

Other highlights: On that first Tuesday after all of the students were here, the opening ceremony was held. This was just like last year. All of the seniors filed in holding the flags of probably 50-some countries.

This year the student body president comes out of HBR. He is a senior named Will, and he is seen here in the red tie preparing to give his speech and then delivering it.

We spent a long time getting the dorm ready to be lived in again, and now we're so glad that the students are actually back. Here's another good picture. This is one of our vans upon returning from a trip to the grocery store a few days before the students returned. Greg and Danielle were amazed at the sheer volume of food we bought and agreed that it felt like it should last all year long. But no, a lot of it lasted only the first week or so... We usually purchase at least one thousand dollars' worth of groceries each week.

That's all I'll share for now, but hopefully I'll be on again soon to share some more details from the past couple weeks. Thank you for reading. I am very excited for this new year of school! Please pray for my students and my staff and me! Thank you and God bless!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Less Than a Week Left

Graduation is this Friday! There is less than one week left! We have been packing the days absolutely full as the end draws ever nearer. Friday was the Spring Party which took place "up the hill" in the town of Marzell outside of the boys' dorm Sonne. Sonne and Blauen, the girls' dorm across the street, are about a 10 or 15 minute drive away and basically halfway up a mountain. The Spring Party is the last school-wide event before graduation. The theme was "Viking Olympics" (don't ask me why), and there were a lot of competitive games pitting each class against each other, which reminded me a lot of the Homecoming games that we had back when I was in high school. They had contests for pushing a van, throwing a log, and pie-eating. The best part of the evening was when the entire junior and senior classes were engaged in a tug of war and actually broke the rope and fell to the ground in an incredulous heap.

After we returned to HBR from the party, we gobbled up some fresh chocolate chip cookies, and thirteen of us prepared to leave again. Andrew and I had the privilege of taking our senior class out on a camping trip overnight Friday. Remember that castle I hiked to back in September? Well, we returned there and slept overnight atop the castle's tower.

This is most of us hanging out around the fire before heading up to bed.

Here we are falling asleep laying awake all night as bitterly cold winds threaten to sweep us right off the top of the tower.

This was my view when I awoke and got up in the morning. Note the familiar pillowcase.

Saturday the students spent all day packing up their stuff and cleaning up their rooms. They should pretty much be living out of a suitcase at this point. Here's a shot of the wreckage on my floor.

And here's Marc getting a box out of the attic. All of the students were responsible for arranging all of their possessions in storage upstairs, and for the seniors, there is a lot of work to do, especially for some of them who have lived here for years and years and have seen the amount of belongings they own grow larger and larger.

Sunday we spent most of the day on a giant end-of-the-year dorm outing. First, we went to church and the seniors were honored and given Bibles. It was almost like an early graduation ceremony. After church we came home for a quick lunch and then headed out to a water park called Laguna. It was a really fun place, and I am continually amazed by things I find here that you would never, ever see in the States. Example: this water park had a big blue slide that was probably five feet wide across and twisted and turned all the way down to a small pool below. However, there was no limit at all about how many people could get on the slide and when. So tons of people are jumping onto it nonstop and slamming into other people all the way down. There were a couple times where we probably had close to 15 of our guys fighting each other and yelling "HBR!" all the way down. I kept getting off the slide feeling like my legs had been the victims of a 18th century torture device as people were rolling all over me and riding me like a raft all the way down the slide. Oh yeah, and another thing. This water park did not allow shorts to be worn. Only speedos! They were the square-cut style with legs so it's not as bad as what you're thinking, but it was not something I was used to. And umm... I don't have any pictures to post.

We left after a few hours and spent some time playing basketball and volleyball at the school's gym before going home and inhaling some enormous t-bone steaks. Yummy! We finished off the day by driving out to Basel, Switzerland to watch "Star Trek." It was one of the smaller theaters and our dorm took up the entire two back rows. Anytime someone did the "live long and prosper" hand gesture onscreen, about 20 guys in the back of the theater threw up the sign along with them. Then we came home and went to bed after a long day!

Answers to prayer! I found out a few months ago that new dorm parents were found for our dorm. I didn't want to write anything until it was confirmed that they were going to be coming. Well, it has been confirmed for a few weeks now. It was an especially sensitive matter because the new dorm parents are coming from that fantastic missionary talent pool known as the "pumpkin capital of the world." Yes, next year I'll be working alongside a couple from my hometown of Morton, Illinois! And if you're from Illinois, you probably either know this news already or there is at least a good chance you know who they are. The new dorm parents at HBR next year are Greg and Danielle Storrs. Greg was formerly the middle school youth pastor at Grace Church in Morton. Check out to stay updated with their transition to BFA! I thought it was really bizarre that the new dorm parents randomly come from my own small hometown, but I am continually amazed at the funny ways in which God chooses to work. I am extremely excited about next year and really look forward to working with the two of them.

I also just found out that there has finally been a male RA accepted for this fall. And guess where he's from? Central Illinois! Chris Jones has accepted a position as resident assistant at BFA for next year. Chris went to Moody where he just graduated from, and we were also both directors for Camp of Champions USA a couple summers ago. I'm really excited for Chris and will be happy to be working with him again, at least in the Residence Life program and possibly even in the same dorm.

If you know any of these folks or even if you don't, feel free to write them a note and encourage them as they progress through the sometimes daunting task of raising support (they're all on facebook). I love seeing the way that God has answered the prayers for next year. There is also a married couple who have been accepted as RA's. There are no married RA's this year, but it is not uncommon. So it would be best if there was at least one more male RA for next year, and time is running short. Please continue praying. And pray for the countdown that is going on right now! Four days til graduation, five days til everyone leaves! Later!


Sunday, May 24, 2009

I don't remember how air conditioning feels

It's hot here. The last few weeks have felt... hot. I wish I could think of a funny metaphor, but I'm too hot to come up with anything good. We don't have any air conditioning. It doesn't seem to be very popular over here in these parts although I can't imagine why not. Yes, since I've been here, the moments have been few and far between when I have been able to experience the magnificent gift of AC. Today was somewhere in the 90's. It's the kind of situation where you take a shower, and immediately you are in the same predicament you were in pre-shower. Sweaty and uncomfortable. It's a travesty. But I digress.

This was a pretty big weekend for the students. The soccer and track teams were away at their national tournaments from the middle of the week into the weekend. Both our boys' and girls' soccer teams were ranked as the one-seed entering the tournament! HBR sent six guys to participate in the track tournament and several of them came back with medals. And both of the soccer teams made it all the way to the championship. The girls won the tournament, but the boys had to settle for second place, which they were pretty bummed about. But they all performed really well. From what I hear, all of the other schools who compete in our conference really appreciate BFA for who we are and how we play the game. So as BFA progresses through the tournament, all of the other schools who are already out cheer for our kids. It's really incredible. Also, a lot of the other teams apparently buy us food to send with us because they know we don't have access to American food like the other schools located on army bases do. As our eleven students returned late Saturday night (actually Sunday morning at 2:15 - I picked them up), it was clear that they had a great experience at the tournaments and gave it their all.

We let the guys stay home from church today and made a brunch of pancakes for them at 10. At noon we started the annual event referred to as "Senior Appreciation." This is where we went through each of our eleven seniors one by one and opened the floor to everyone so that other students could tell each guy what they appreciate about him, recall fun memories, and let him know how much he means to them. It was really good for each student to be able to hear those things from so many people, and it was good for students to have a platform where they could vocalize those ideas to their friends. Laughs rang out, and tears were shed. We took a short break in the middle, but the whole thing went for close to five hours. Wow! We've got a lot of great seniors departing so I wasn't surprised. After we wrapped it up, we went downstairs for a delicious dinner of ribs that was being prepared as we talked. After dinner I dropped some guys off at the pool for about an hour, and then a group of us played ultimate frisbee for about another hour. It was a good day.

Being forced to process the year so that I could vocally encourage and affirm each of our seniors merely reinforced to me the fact that I love our students, and I love my job. Thank you for your part in helping me be a part of their lives this year. We have had a great year, but it isn't done yet. In a mere two weeks graduation will be taking place, and everyone will be leaving. Continue to lift the students up in prayer along with me to the very end and beyond. Thanks!


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

BFA? 10. The earthquake? 4.5.

Ahoy there from the finally-green-again Deutschland! I was informed one morning earlier this week that we experienced an earthquake during the night which woke up quite a few residents of our dorm while I, of course, slept right through it. Our RA Anna is from California so she has felt her fair share of earthquakes, and this one woke her up so it was a decent one. It ranked a 4.5! I wish I would have woke up and felt it because I don't think I've ever felt one, but alas. God made me a happy and heavy sleeper. Meanwhile, the sights and smells of a spring that continues to get warmer tell the boys that the end is almost near. We've had several fun events take place in the last week or two. Let me tell you about their sights and smells.

Last week the student council hosted an event called "BFA's Got Talent" where students entered and performed various talents, which were actually quite remarkable. There was a lot of singing and piano playing, but there was also xylophone playing, humorous skits, and interpretive dance. The first picture is the student who took first place. His name is Jun Kim, and he performed some sweet martial arts moves for the crowd, including the use of one of my favorite weapons of all time: the nunchuk.

And this is Reece from HBR. He sang a Lifehouse song accompanied by his friend David. They did a great job!

Oh yeah, and umm... the RA's were strongly encouraged to participate in the show with their own act. I won't link to it, but if you are interested and want to go digging for it, feel free. You can find it on my facebook or on youtube if you search for "evolution of dance BFA." Disclaimer: we are not good dancers. We realize this. But we had a blast putting it together (the day before the event itself) and performing it in front of our screaming fan base.

We enjoyed another big event on Friday night - one that is possibly the biggest all year and one that holds particular significance for the seniors and the end of the school year. Last night was JSB. The Junior Senior Banquet. It's a banquet put on by the junior class for the senior class with only juniors and seniors allowed to attend. The night included a dinner and some entertainment, most of which were tributes put on by each dorm's juniors for the senior class, a tradition that takes place every year at JSB.

An important tradition every year for HBR on the day of JSB is that all of the guys attending go outside and play pole soccer for as long as possible before running in to shower and get ready as fast as they can. I have meant to write a blog post explaining in depth the sport of pole soccer, but haven't got around to it. It is played on our basketball court behind the dorm. Basically, it's just soccer, but the basketball poles take the place of the nets. So to score you have to nail the pole. Sound difficult? It can be. But it's a lot of fun. I have improved quite a bit since first arriving. Here are some pics proving the guys were outside playing less than an hour before we left for the banquet instead of inside doing their hair and their nails.

Then it was time to come in and get ready.

Here is our senior class doing a fun pic right before we left.

We drove to a place in Muellheim where the banquet was held, and all the kids found their dates outside (if they had one).

The theme of the night was "If Dreams Come True" and focused on the future of the seniors, their dreams coming true, never never land, and all the happy thoughts that we could muster. No really, Peter Pan was at the center of the decorations and what not. HBR's very own juniors Parker Rundstrom and David Blanchard were the emcees for the night, playing the parts of Peter Pan and Captain Hook. Did I stay up late the night before creating a Captain Hook hat using cardboard, staples, red paper, glue and tape? Why, yes. Yes, I did. You just take a good look at it.

Here is a picture of Phil, once again performing a song on stage along with friends Jae and Hannah. Good job, Phil!

JSB was a lot of fun and acted as the unofficial marker for the end of the year for the seniors. Good luck to us in trying to get them to do anything from now on. They are checked out. Ready for the end. Pray for our senior class as they make all of the necessary preparations for moving on with their plans for the summer and for next school year.

We celebrated two of our seniors' birthdays on Tuesday - Aryan and Sam. Seniors are immune to creeking so that tradition was not in play. Sidenote: my birthday fell over spring break, and as of now we have not celebrated it as a dorm so I have not been creeked. We'll see what happens. Now, you know I can make a delicious carrot cake. But take a look at the delicious birthday veggie platter I made for Sam. For their birthdays, we let them choose whatever cake or dessert they want from a list that includes a veggie tray. So some of our more healthy-minded students like Sam actually do pick the vegetables. A decision that I would have never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever made growing up. Or now for that matter.

Last week I asked Sam if he would write a paragraph for me to throw on my blog that shows a little bit of his perspective as a student. Sam has been here for five years so he knows BFA well by this point. Sam is one of the best in the dorm at encouraging other students, especially the underclassmen. He's really intentional about including others and making them feel welcome. I really appreciate that about Sam. He's one of many in our senior class that makes our job as a dorm staff a little easier. Here's what he wrote:

"I’m a senior at HBR, the best dorm ever, obviously, and Brandon, my RA asked me to write something.

Just a little about myself: my name’s Sam Lee, and I’m a Korean American. My parents serve in the central asian republic of Kyrgyzstan. I am finally graduating, and I will be attending University of Notre Dame next year.

I’d just like to share what this place, both BFA and HBR has done for me. I have been going to this school since my 8th grade year, and since my freshman year I have been a proud member of HBR. I pretty much did not have the best attitude about this place the whole 5 years I have been here. It is only recently, when I realized that I am leaving this place, that I realize how much it all meant to me. Though it was hard “growing up” without my parents always being there for me, I think it was easier for me to mature through it all. I grew to understand what it’s like to be myself, what the Christian faith really means in my life, and how to live within a community (Living in a dorm is NOT easy, I can assure you this). Amidst all this “growing,” however, there were countless times when I swore to myself that I’d leave BFA the next year (and yet, here I am, as a senior). Now, reflecting back on all those hardships, I think it really was the people that made me come back every year. The relationships I made with my “bros,” the staff, and the many friends at school are each an important part of what I am now.

But don’t get me wrong. I am way excited to go and graduate. I am actually diagnosed a fatal case of senioritis and so I’m just hoping that I make it down the aisle. :)"

Sam is one of 28 young men at HBR who you can pray for right now. I assure you that they all need your prayers and that they appreciate your ministry to them, even if they don't know about it. Sam is in this picture with me along with Stephen and Peter, two more seniors. I thank you on behalf of them and also for myself personally for your continued love and prayer. Be blessed!