Tuesday, December 9, 2008

St. Nikolaus Day

For many years, December 6th has to us just been the day after Mark's birthday - but not this year. This year, through some dear friends in the States we learned about a German holiday that will be very meaningful to us from this day forward. December 6th is St. Nikolaus Day and it's all about children. On the eve of this holiday, children put out their shoes and St. Nikolaus comes and puts little gifts in them.

On December 6th this year, a package arrived at our home. It was a box full of various Lebkuchen, Spekulatius cookies, Dominosteine and Stollen - all typical German treats served at Christmas. Inside the package was a card wishing us a Happy St. Nikolaus Day. We were so touched by the gesture. The package came at such an amazing time for me personally as it connected me to home and friends on a day when I was in need of such. I promptly sent our friends a hearty thank you via Facebook and they responded with a message that once again confirmed our ministry and calling here. I am including part of the message here with permission:

"We rejoice with you in your ministry and are so blessed that we can be a small part of it. It is great to be able to share in your daily lives such as through facebook and your blog. Through you we share a little in being missionaries. On this day we remember how Jesus welcomed children and His love inspired Nicholas to come to the aid of children. Even more so we remember and are very thankful that you have heeded the call and love of God in ministering to His children in BFA!! So know that we love you all and do think about you frequently. Thank you for sharing your lives with us and the students entrusted to you!!"

We are certainly blessed!

Collect (prayer) for St. Nikolaus Day
Let your continual mercy, O Lord, enkindle in your church the never-failing gift of charity, that, following the example of your servant Nicholas of Myra, we may have grace to deal in generosity and love with children and with all who are poor and distressed, and to uphold the cause of those who have no helper; for the sake of him who gave his life for us, your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and ever.

Here are some recent ministry highlights and happenings here at BFA:

BFA was invited by the town of Kandern to perform at the local Christmas Fest. (the following four pics are borrowed from my friend Sandee)
High School Chorale
Middle School Choir (Evan is behind these pretty girls!)
High school mime team
High school drama team

Ethan grilling bread dough. The cheapest (1 Euro) babysitter around:)

Thursday night at the Powells. I cooked 3 kilos of taco meat for these hungry basketball players. Needless to say, it was all eaten!

This past weekend all of BFA turned out to cheer on our JV and Varsity Basketball teams. I yelled so much for "our" kids, my throat was sore!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thanksgiving with Friends and Christmas Banquet

We were blessed to give thanks with some sweet friends and colleagues on Saturday after Thanksgiving. Our friends, Bo and Leigh, hosted us all at their place on a farm. It was such a nice time and we enjoyed creating new memories.
Ethan loved spending time with their two dogs, Huck and Sadie.

Then it was on to Storch dorm where I helped out with hair and makeup. It takes quite a bit of time, hairspray and curling irons to get 21 girls looking beautiful. I had a great time.
Mere got ready at Storch with her friends. Here she is with a couple chilling before their "appointments".

This beautiful girl is Jessica. She is Ethan's buddy/babysitter on Wednesday evenings...LOVE this girl!

My amazingly beautiful small group.

Mark and I with one sweet girl..Jae. We're really tight with her:) She calls Mark "dad'!
Esther is another one of our best buds! She has the best smile and sweetest personality.
Mark's small group.
Lizzy is such a sweet young woman. She's an RA at a girls' dorm. We share hikes in woods and sweet times of sharing...an amazing person.
We've still got it after 18 years! Not a bad looking couple if you ask me!
Meredith and her date, Peter.
Hallie and Max.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Random Thoughts/Happenings

1. Our daughter is an amazing young woman. We are so proud of who she is becoming. She knows what she wants, knows what she believes in and most importantly, she loves God and cares about serving Him with her life. So, when she asked if she could get her nose pierced, we said "yes" because when it comes right down to it, what does it really matter if she has a sparkly stud in her nose? It doesn't. Right now if you ask her what she plans to do with her life, she'll tell you that she wants to go to law school, work for International Justice Mission and devote her life to freeing people from unjust situations (kudos, Dixon!) One of the things that Meredith continues to teach me is that she is not me. She is who Christ created her to be and He is continually shaping her to become who He wants her to be so that His perfect will can be accomplished in and through her...even with a nose ring:)
(Before piercing with our friend Leigh)
(After - such pretty ladies! As a side note, Leigh is one of several young, hip ladies who "pours herself" into Meredith on a regular basis. I am so thankful for the example that Leigh provides for Mere. Leigh has an amazing heart and is the cutest most giving gal around. Thanks, Leigh for being brave with Mere!)

2. Our house is full of people more often than it is not...and we couldn't be more happy! Those of you who knew us way back when I called Mark "Mr. Unapproachable" can share in the joy that we feel when we hear the laughter of teens in the next room or the silence that's heard as a tired dorm assistant naps on our couch. We said when we came here that our house would be open to minister to people and it is. We love it. (Don't worry though, we have our protected family days!) We still continue to be amazed at how God has equipped us (through His people) for this very purpose and how much we love what He has called us to.

Evan with his band buddies jamming in our attic. They are really good!

3. Mark asked me to the Christmas Banquet. Think this looks like a proposal? You should hear some of the things the guys do around here JUST to ask a girl to the banquet.

4. Mark is shoveling the snow off of our sidewalk. I do believe this is a first for him. We've already had two beautiful snows and it's not even December. Quite a treat for us Tennesseans:)

5. Last but certainly not least, we'd like to wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving. About the time you sit down to enjoy a loving feast, we'll be finishing up another day of work here. Yep, no day off...so we are having Thanksgiving with friends on Saturday at noon and then attending a Christmas Banquet that evening with all the students. Go figure...only in Germany and at BFA! We are so thankful for you all who pray for us and financially support us so that our (yours and ours) ministry can continue.

Many blessings and much peace,
Susan and family

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Road Not Taken

"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood..."

These two paths are part of an almost daily hike/walk that I take in the woods around Kandern. Almost every time I reach this point on my hike I think about the Robert Frost poem and the symbolism that this divergent path holds in my life. I always go to the right when hiking because I am at a point in my life where I am trying not to take the path of least resistance but rather "the one less traveled by". The pathway to the left descends and I want to climb in order to really get a good workout. The path to the right leads to a steep ascent. I love it!

(The ascent - it's steeper than it looks:))

My time walking in the woods is both a physical and spiritual experience for me. It's here that I can clear my mind and talk to God. He is so faithful to give me some real clarity of thought during these times. It's during these walks that I humbly present my requests to Him and seek wisdom for the tasks to which He has called me. There's just something about being out in His creation and really pushing my body hard that is just so cleansing, invigorting and inspiring. About halfway up the steep ascent, my legs are burning, my heart is pounding and my lungs feel as though they will burst. My body yells for me to stop but my mind says keep going. I push further and finally reach the top to take in the scenery and it makes all the work worth it!

I have crested this hilltop many times now and the scene that I take in each time never gets old and it always takes my breath away. I can't help but compare my hike to life and Heaven. Life is hard sometimes and what God requires of us- to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with Him- is not easy. Sometimes the sacrifices seem too great and we just want to give up, but what a wonderful reward the promise of Heaven is.
As you may have read from my last post, we are beginning to realize the sacrifices that we make in being here. We miss home, familiarity and routine. Believe it or not, even after three months we are still adjusting to life in foreign culture and there is something new to learn every day. It's hard some days, but the benefits and rewards far outweigh the difficulties.
girls that call you Uncky Mark and Aunt Susan, and
appreciative students who are happy for a night away from the dorm, and
fabulous family times in this beautiful place to which God has called us to serve.

Just recently I was reading a daily devotional email that our church, St. Bartholomew's, sends out. Here's an excerpt from it: "There are times when we think that the problems in the world are far too large for us to make any difference when in fact, each and everyone, when living as authentic followers of Jesus, can dramatically change our environments." I am so encouraged to know that where I lack wisdom in knowing how to best minister to these precious students, God is able to manifest His kingdom through me in spite of my frailties and shortcomings. Thanks be to God.
Blessings and peace,
p.s. the countries represented in this post are Russia, Kazahkstan, Slovenia, Korea, Germany and of course the good old U.S. of A!
p.s.s. thanks to my friend Laura for the great idea of adding the "Lately I've been..." feature to the right:)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Ich bin zu Hause in Deutschland, aber....

The title is translated "I am at home in Germany, but..." I am at home in Germany, but I am homesick. It's official. I am really surprised by it too! Just today it has started and I am feeling a bit sad and on the verge of tears. I'm bearing my soul to you all because I covet your prayers. I am relying heavily today on the incredible and extraordinary ways that God used to get us here and resting in the confirmation of our call. In no way does my sadness indicate that I believe we shouldn't be here or that there is not immense value in what we are doing, I just miss home today. So, pray for me. Wondering what I miss? Well, here's the short list...
1.St. B's - the people, the clergy and the worship
2.My mom and dad
3.Mark's mom and dad
4.Bob, Tamara and Priscilla 
5. The Hamptons, the Grosses, the Wests (both of them), the Flynns, oh heck, everybody in the Lifebuilders Class
6. Chill time with Jenny and RyRy's sweet smile.
7. Affordable Starbucks (it's twice as much here)
8 Shopping at Target
9. Football on TV
10. Mexican food
11. Eating out
12. Tamara's silliness and P calling me Aunt Sue-ie
13. The preschool hall at St. B's
14. American TV
15. Meredith and Evan being in an amazing youth group.
16. The students and staff at Pinewood Elementary
17. Being able to actually read the paper and our mail
18. Being known and having close friends
19. Our little dog that we gave up to come here
20. Our brothers and sisters and their families.
I told you it was a short list!
The holidays are around the corner and I am beginning to imagine what a Christmas will be like without going to our parents' houses for extended family celebrations. It will be hard I am sure, but there are new experiences and new memories to make here. We are hoping to take a small trip over our Christmas break which will give us something fun to look forward to. We are also going to have holiday dinners with some of our fellow Janz Team missionaries, which will be a nice tradition to start. We also hear Germany is amazing at Christmas time with markets and such. 
Thank goodness we have Skype and an unlimited calling plan to the States. If you any of you have webcams, let us know! We'd love to chat sometime. Thanks for all your prayers and know that we love and miss you!
Blessings and peace,

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Recent Ministry Activities

Fall has arrived here in Kandern and the colors are beautiful. The changing leaves remind me of home and how much I love Autumn. Fall at BFA is full of ministry opportunities and we are making the most of every chance we get to invest in the lives of these MK's. On a recent beautiful fall Sunday, Mark and Evan went for a ride with Tony, a dorm student who is in Mark's small group. 

A couple of weeks ago, Mark helped out with the Middle School Fall Party. The theme was Cartoons and the costumes the kids made were amazing! 
The same night, I helped with the Elementary School Party. I coordinated the games for the evening. Unfortunately, I don't have pics of me running around the gym playing Apple, Apple, Pumpkin (a version of duck duck goose). I know you all are really upset to miss those pics:)
Here's a few of the middle school party.  Evan was Eeyore!

I remember when we were raising support how often we told people how we thought a large portion of our ministry would happen in our home. Well, we are happy to report that we were right. What a delight is to have students in our home. Thursday evenings at the Powells have become a sought after event among students. We now have kids inviting themselves over and are beginning to form a waiting list! This is really not so much about us, but rather about how these kids want and need personal contacts and time outside of their dorms. We love being able to provide a meal and some fun times for them. Last Thursday I saw this gang (below) walking down our street and opened my kitchen window so that I could hear their laughter. It made me smile:)

Their smiles and laughter are so contagious. We are learning so much from these students.

My arms are still sore from our Wii boxing matches! But, hey this almost 40 year old won!

Jae and Esther...love, love these sweet girls. They are from Storch dorm where we sub.

One evening while subbing at Storch, we tagged along with the girls to a bonfire they had with a boys dorm. The dorms often play pranks on one another.  During their most recent escapade, the Storch girls "stole" the Maugenhard boys' DVD player. So, in order to get it back the boys had to serenade the girls (pictured above). It was quite comical to hear these guys singing a Backstreet Boys song to the girls. 

Above are some of our sweet Storch girls. 

Mark, Evan and Ethan playing spoons with the girls. It got quite loud during the game!

Sweet Bethany checking her Facebook in the dorm!

I'd like to start something new in this post. I'd love for you all to know where each of these kids' parents are serving and in what capacity. Unfortunately, for safety reasons, it wouldn't be prudent to specify which country each student is from. But what I can do is list which countries are represented in each post so that you all can see how far reaching our ministry at BFA is. So, the countries that I know of represented here are Russia, Kyrgystan, Slovenia, Macedonia, Mali, China, France, Turkey and Germany.

As always, thank you all for your support of our ministry. We think of you often and thank our God upon our every remembrance of you.
Blessings and peace,