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!