Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Why Do We Stay at BFA?

This one is long, but please keep reading until the end!

This is an accreditation year at BFA. All year long, committees have been preparing reports, doing self studies and looking to identify areas for improvement. This week, a team of educators and administrators from various international schools is here conducting interviews and compiling reports to submit to the three accrediting institutions to which we belong. It has been a good week thus far. One particular question that the team keeps asking the various staff members they interview is "Why do you stay at BFA?" This question got me thinking which then led me to our blog so that I could tell you why we stay at BFA!
BUT first, let our colleague and friend, Michele Phoenix, say it better than I ever could. Michele was, incidentally, our first real contact with anyone at BFA. She encouraged us to consider this amazing ministry and for that we are so grateful. Here are her own words that she shared with the entire accreditation team and BFA staff at a reception earlier this week:

(Erin, Michele, Alyssa)

"I'll tell you why I'm here. I'm still here because my heart beats earnestly and fiercely for the students of this school.
I'm here because they challenge me and motivate me and fascinate me and move me. I'm here because my goal is to love them and my purpose is to help them as they navigate this transition from a worldwide childhood to a stateside adulthood.
I'm here because classrooms are venues for healing and lessons are platforms for life changes. I'm here because this is a place where I can love students who are so much like I was at their age, whose lives have been abundantly blessed and relentlessly tried by their parents' call to ministry.
I'm here because there is no greater reward than a visible brightening in overcast souls.Because there is no greater ambition than to see one's past enhance and benefit the future of others.
Because there is no greater calling than to love those for whom our spirits breathe and yearn and soar and groan and plead and grieve and celebrate.
I am here because there is love in this place--there is kinship, there is growth, there is learning and there is a kind of energy that cannot be reproduced elsewhere.
Because this is a place where God is moving. He didn't only bring these students here to get an education--they could get that anywhere. He brought them here for the belonging and revealing and understanding and broadening and healing that can only happen in a community of kindred souls.
He didn't only bring them here only for English and Science and Math and Fine Arts. He brought them here because He wanted to care for them through us, through staff members whose jobs might be teaching but whose callings achieve Eternal Dividends in those unscripted moments outside of lesson plans."

Michele is a BFA alumna, a talented and published author and has an amazing story of healing and restoration. I invite you to check out her blog (www.xanga.com/serenitymine) AFTER you finish reading this one:)

As for Mark and me, we stay because these students have so much love to give and are willing to serve...

In Kenya loving on kids in an orphanage.

Helping to build an additional room at the orphanage.

Caring for the littlest ones of His kingdom (Kenya).

Connecting through smiles and hugs.

Caring for children in the bush of Burkina Faso.

We stay because these students challenge us to step outside of our comfort zones with the ways that they are willing to do just that...

Preparing to go into a mosque in Duisburg, Germany. This is part of the mission team that ministered to Turkish children for a week.

Another mission team serving Iraqi refugees in Jordan.

We stay because these kids with a "worldwide childhood" are poised to do amazing things for Christ in the world and we want to be a part of that...
A self applied mud treatment on the banks of the Dead Sea (this team went to Jordan).

Even the guys got in on the act!

The team that went to St. Petersburg, Russia to serve in a government orphanage.

We stay because these students inspire us with their service to those who need it most...

The team that went to Burkina Faso putting a roof on a church.

We stay because of kids like Josh who has the sweetest spirit and biggest heart for God. Josh is special to us because he teaches drums to Ethan. He's a senior and we'll miss him a ton next year...

We stay because of guys like Jun who always has a smile on his face and never ceases to bring me (Susan) to tears when I watch him during praise and worship on Sunday mornings at church.
Jun calls me "miss"- not Mrs. Powell...just plain old "miss". You gotta love that smile!

We stay because the girls at Storchenblick dorm call us Mama and Papa Powell and honestly it just doesn't get any better than that!
Thank you for all you do to help us STAY where God has called us.
Many blessings and much love,
Susan, Mark, Meredith, Evan and Ethan

Wir Spielen Fussball (well, the kids are anyway)!

We had our first home soccer games this past weekend. The games were played at a nearby field "up the hill" as we say here. On this particular Saturday, "up the hill" resulted in games being played in all sorts of weather from sun to clouds to wind and freezing rain. Crazy!

Boys varsity team getting pumped for the game with a tribal chant. It is quite a sight to see!

Trey working hard to keep control. Trey is one of Mark's small group guys.

Hyung Seok is also one of Mark's small group guys. He scored two goals in the JV Boys' game!

Meredith on the field...that's freezing rain coming down.

Go Krista!

JV Girls' getting ready.

Varsity boys.

The young man getting some serious air in this photo is David. He is Evan's small group leader..an amazing guy!

Jessica - Ethan's special friend. She has so much talent and a sweet spirit to match.

We spent from 10 am until 5 pm watching these gifted students and had a great time. It is a delight to cheer them on in their parents' absence! Talent, grace and sportsmanship prevailed throughout the day and made us so proud of BFA.
Blessings and peace,
Susan and Mark and family

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Life is Good

You've seen the stickers and the t-shirts and I'm here to tell you life is good! It was so great to hear the laughter of students on campus again and see all the hugs that were given first thing Wednesday morning when classes resumed.

I was equally blessed to experience these reunions with students on my birthday. I've never received so many birthday hugs and wishes! It was a great day for many reasons...even though I turned 40.

With the help of a couple of little "elves", Mark treated me with flowers and a cake that we shared with the library staff (and a few in the know students:)) 

Mark's birthday elves! 
I was quite proud of these two who went into town and using only their German (out of necessity) bought such a pretty and delicious cake for me.

Beautiful faces happy to be reunited with one another.

Only at a boarding school in Germany, right? You have to love the liederhosen!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Plays, Pianos, Preparing our Hearts for Easter, Piazza Picnics and Praises!

Every year, the middle schoolers perform in a play that from what we’ve been told and seen this year, is always a stellar production. This year’s play was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in the Black Forest. We have some amazingly talented kids here at BFA. Here are a few pictures to enjoy!

Evan is doing quite well with his piano lessons. It’s his first year, and we are thrilled with his progress. Here’s a picture of him at a recital.

We were blessed to be able to take part in Stations of the Cross with our small groups and several other small groups of students. One of our colleagues (who grew up in the Anglican tradition) planned it and invited us. It was such a special evening for a couple of reasons. One was that it provided a very needed opportunity for Mark and I to worship in a way that is familiar to us. The other is that we were able to help introduce these students to a contemplative form of worship. Not one of the almost 50 students involved had ever participated in Stations of the Cross. As we processed through the stations, my heart was moved by the way the students were obviously being blessed.

"Leaving our sins" on the blood of Jesus, praising His royalty and trusting in His promises.

"Feasting" with Christ.

The last station that I experienced was the “wailing wall”. At this station we were to write on the board the areas in our lives where we feel abandoned and forsaken and give those areas to Christ so that He can fill that void. As I approached the board, I realized that the students had written their messages in many different languages. I was overcome with emotion and the beauty that the languages on the board represented. Christ came to the world to die for all people-all nations, and in a supportive role, we are part of sharing His love to the nations. It was an amazing moment. (Click on the picture to enlarge it and see the various languages).

Spring Break has sprung and we are currently enjoying two weeks off from our busy schedules. We took the opportunity to travel to Italy to see some sights. We weren’t planning on a trip this spring, but started looking at our calendar and realized that we have few opportunities left (between our hopes of leading a mission trip with students next spring and our home ministry summer next year) to travel with Meredith before she leaves for college in just over two years. So, we took some money out of savings, packed a bunch of picnic lunches, downloaded free MP3 audio guides, and drove our old van south. We packed in a lot of sightseeing in 6 days. We were thankful to find a very affordable little cottage to rent for 60 Euros per night and so we made it our base and took day trips from there. We were all exhausted by the end of the trip, but had a great time nonetheless.
Mark and I sharing gelato (Ethan's idea for a cute picture!)

Meredith taking pictures in Venice on her 16th birthday.

My baby and me on her sweet 16th. I cannot believe how quickly the years pass by!

Ethan was quite happy that Mom and Dad budgeted for gelato every day.

One of our many piazza picnic lunches.

Seeing Mammertime prison where Paul was imprisoned in Rome.

Throwing our coins into the Trevi Fountain.

Relaxing on the Spanish steps.

Evan enjoying an espresso on his 13th birthday. Notice also the iPod which seems to be permanently attached to his ear. He loves his music!

A cheesy and touristy picture in front of the Colosseum...but Ethan loved it.

In St. Peter's Basilica

Leaning tower of Pisa

My sweetie and me on the Via Dell'Amor in the Cinque Terre.

Cinque Terre...a rainy day, but beautiful anyway.

As mentioned earlier in this post, during the Stations of the Cross, we were offered the opportunity to write to God the areas of our life where we feel a void, abandoned. I wrote to God about loneliness. It’s no secret, that we really miss our church and worshipping there. We also miss friends and family. It doesn’t mean we don’t love it here or feel fulfilled in our calling…it just is what it is – lonely. God has been faithful to provide other ways of worshipping Him and filling the void we feel. Being able to travel and see His beautiful creation is one of those ways. In St. Peter’s Basilica, I was especially moved by the Pieta. As a mother, I cannot imagine the anguish Mary experienced as she cradled her dead son. I am so thankful to God for the ability to see this piece during the season of Lent and be reminded of the sacrifice Christ made for my sins.

As always, we thank God for you all as well...for your support, prayers and encouragement. May the risen Lord make His face to shine upon you this Easter. You are in our hearts and minds.
Blessings and peace,
Susan (for all the Powells)