Prayer Runner part 2

I didn’t want to run today because it was stinking hot, but I did because I want this to become my norm. Not because I need running to be my norm, but because I felt a need to have quiet,  His quiet, and to pray. 

3 things I prayed for on my run today:

  1. For my friend’s son David to find a couple of good friends.
  2. For my sister Kim’s upcoming marriage to be for His glory and that alone! 
  3. To submit my fear and impatience to Him. 

IFree you would like me to pray for you on my next run, leave a comment here or on Instagram (@jacobjcoon). I’d love to be praying for you! 

Prayer Runner

So, I’m trying something new. I tend to try new things a lot, and then I let them slide, but I am really hoping to do this on a regular basis. The idea was inspired by my good friend who would post a picture of something from his run, which mostly ended up being his sweaty face in a post-run selfie, and then posted what he thought about while running. I tend to listen to music while running, but instead what I decided to try is to take a picture while running, who knows what of, and then post on Instagram and maybe here too, but I was praying about while running.

The goal isn’t for me to boast about my prayer life, because there are far more things in my life worthy of boasting about before my prayer life, but rather it is for people to see that they are being prayed for and to keep me accountable to myself to pray while I run. What else do I have to do?

So, my goal is to pray and then post about three things while I run. Most likely it will be the first half of my run, because the second half is typically only one prayer…”please God, let me keep breathing.”

So here was yesterday’s run and prayers. I hope you enjoy these! I may not post them on the blog every time (unless you all really like them), but you can always find them on my Instagram (@jacobjcoon).

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3 things I prayed for on today’s run:
1. For my two brand new nieces
2. Joshua’s Eagle Scout project
3. For me to know Him better and for Him to grow in my life.

Helping New Missionaries – through the leaders

The last three weeks I have been taking a look at how different groups can help new missionaries be comfortable, feel loved and want to stay on the mission field. I started by looking at how people “from home” could help, then I turned the attention to the field and other missionaries on the field with them. In the last installment I looked back at “home” and focused on how mission’s committees can help out and now this week I look back to the field at the leaders within the organizations the missionaries are working. As I have said in the other installments of this series, while it is geared mostly to new missionaries, most of this works for missionaries of all levels of experience. In my experience here are some ways that leaders within organizations can help their new missionaries:

  1. Celebrate their arrival – Can you imagine a better way to start your life as an on-the-field missionary then to come off the plane to a welcome committee? That won’t always be possible and in fact will probably not be super feasible, but within the first few days of their arrival, celebrate. It doesn’t have to be anything major, but let them know you are excited they are here, because you are…or at least you should be.
  2. Establish clear guidelines – These will change from field to field, but no matter where the new missionary is working they are going to need to know what is expected of them. Do you work 40 hrs a week, can they attend an international church, can they run errands during the day (because the stores close early). What do you expect from them? Tell them. This will help them not stress over something they shouldn’t have to stress about when they get there. The clearer you are the better, but not every situation will lend itself to perfect clarity and that is ok. Be clear about what you can be clear about and let them know.
  3. Give flexibility and grace – Every new missionary is going to make mistakes and probably a lot of them so be patient with them and extend grace. Allow them to make mistakes and be flexible when it takes them a bit longer to do things than you thought it would.
  4. Introduce them to people with similar likes – You know people and you should at least partially know your new missionary so introducing them to people you know (inside and outside of your mission) who have similar likes and dislikes. This will allow them to establish friends faster and at a time when friends will be a major need for them. They will need people who are not their direct supervisor to talk to and yes, maybe even vent to, so help them find those people.
  5. Celebrate successes and milestones – This is something that can easily be missed and forgotten, but when valued and done well it can impact the new missionary in ways you might not even imagine. The trick to this is celebrating in appropriate ways for the new missionary. The easiest way to figure out what would impact your new missionary the most is to ask them what they would like. Maybe they would like to have some cake and coffee or maybe a meal, or maybe a game night with the whole team. Celebrate their successes and milestones in a way they respond to and you will have a much more joyful missionary.
  6. Guide them and give them time in their adjustment – When any new missionary gets on the field they are faced with a lot of adjustments, no matter where they came from or where they are serving. When they first get to the field, help them through the adjustment by taking them to the grocery store, on a city tour, to the registration office and any other place they will need to go. Beyond that though, be considerate of how much time they may need for their adjustment. If they need to learn a new language that should be prioritized and it will take longer than other adjustments, so give them the time they need before putting them to work. Everyone will need a different amount of time to adjust to their new location and having supportive leaders walk beside them during that time will help them reach a level of comfort that may be stunted if they feel rushed.
  7. Share knowledge of the locale and for hosting – As a leader on the field, you will know about places because you have been to those places. Your new missionary will not, so share your knowledge with them. This can be about the best gas stations, grocery stores, fun day trips or any number of other things. This will help your new missionary in general, but especially when it comes to hosting visitors. Give them tips and tricks to help them enjoy their new area and show others as well.
  8. Regular check-ins – This one had the greatest impact for me personally. When I started meeting with one of my supervisors on a weekly basis to discuss things with no judgement, I felt cared for. We don’t always have the deepest conversations, but it is nice to have that safe place to say, “This stuff sucks,” or “I really need help here.” Check in with your new missionary yourself, or find someone they connect with on the team, but no matter what, check in with them.

Helping New Missionaries – through the church

Over the last couple weeks I have written about how people “from home” and people “from the field” can help new missionaries and as I continue this series I will be taking a look back home again, but not to individuals, instead the churches themselves. While a lot of what I suggested people “from home” do in order to help new missionaries can be applied to churches as well, this list will be a bit more centered on mission’s committees. So, without further ado, here are some things missions committees can do to help out new (and old) missionaries:

  1. Give time – for requests – Mission’s committees are going to have requests of the missionary, and quite frankly, that’s ok and expected. My suggestion is to give them time and grace to complete said request. It’s ok to send them requests and reminders for those things to be completed, but keep in mind that they have their own job to do and won’t always have a lot of extra time. This is especially the case for new missionaries as it is a full-time job adjusting to the new culture.
  2. Give time – for speaking – When your new missionaries are preparing to leave or returning for a visit, consider giving them time to speak. This doesn’t have to be a sermon, or even be in front of the whole church, but you should give them dedicated time to speak with people and tell them about what is going on with their mission. If you really want to help them out, be proactive and set things up for them (more on that in the next one) as they may not know all that would be available to them otherwise.
  3. church pewPlan events – with consultation – As I stated in the previous point, help your new missionary by planning events for them. This could be as simple as getting a few small groups to host them to as elaborate as you want. Maybe a nice reception after church so the missionary can mingle and strike up casual conversations with people who may not have otherwise stayed after church if there wasn’t some delicious cookies and snacks. I do need to say this though, please, please, please talk with the missionary before you set anything up. Their schedule could be extremely packed and they may not have time to do anything beyond what they have already set up on their own. Offering to help is huge though!
  4. Give a good send off – Whether your church is the new missionaries only supporting church or you are one of many, send them off well. Make it a party! After all, they are going to do the Lord’s work and you are helping them do that, so celebrate with them! (Again, talk to them first, not everyone wants a party).
  5. Communicate changes – Things change all the time in churches and that is normal. What is super awkward, though, is when the new missionary attempts to contact a specific person at the church and they are no longer there or Sunday school isn’t happening anymore, or… There are a huge number of things that could change and letting the new missionary know is a good idea. Of course, this especially goes with your financial support of them. If you have to decrease your giving, let them know. That happens, it isn’t fun to hear, but it happens, so let them know.
  6. Ask questions – A lot of times people in the church don’t know what the plans of the missionary are, what their job is, how long they will be “home” or any number of other things. I have a simple solution to that…ask them. Get to know your missionary by asking the questions you want to know.
  7. Learn what they do – Again, this goes with the previous point, but understanding what your missionary does will not only help you, it will make them feel loved because of how much you care. An easy way to do this, beyond asking questions, is to follow them on their social media of choice. Let them share their life with you in the way they choose and participate with them.
  8. Send trips – If your church and the missionary are both able, why not send a group to serve with them periodically. This won’t always work, for a multitude of different reasons, but it’s worth a shot to ask.

Helping New Missionaries – from the field

The second installment in this “helping new missionaries” series takes a look at how “veteran” missionaries can help out “new” missionaries. I can tell you from experience, the more people involved me in their lives, the more I felt comfortable in Germany. It has allowed me to concentrate more on how I can impact others for God instead of wondering how I would make it through 2/3/4 more years.

  1. Dinner – Ok, this is an obvious one, but invite new missionaries into your home for a home cooked meal. One of the hardest adjustments for me was getting used to knowing what I could cook, what things are called and quite frankly going into a grocery store full of items in a different language can be a wee bit stressful. Providing a home cooked meal, no matter how talented you are in the kitchen, can provide a huge amount of stress relief.
  2. IMG_1947Invite them to places – This covers a huge range of options. If you are headed to the grocery store, invite someone along. If you are going to go for a walk, invite someone along. Honestly, if you are going anywhere, no matter how small or undesirable you think it might be, invite someone. Even the invitation may be enough to help them feel loved.
  3. Tell them about places nearby – After 3 years here in Germany there are still a bunch of places I did not know even existed, or at least, how to get there. Partially this was my fault, but some of the places I was never told about or shown how to get there. Take the time to show new missionaries your favorite places, and shoot, even your least favorite places!
  4. Introduce them to missionaries and non-missionaries – You have friends, they don’t, need I say more? Probably not, but I am going to anyway. A great way to introduce new missionaries to new people is to combine this with #1 or #2. Don’t make it weird or anything, but if you notice they have something in common with someone you know, set up a time for them to meet and maybe that will provide them with the friends they need.
  5. Celebrate with them – Holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, and anything else that deserves celebration should be celebrated in community. I doubt anyone wants to be home alone on any major holiday, so invite them over. If you have a family, you might not be able or want to invite them over for the whole day, but why not for a couple of hours? Being away from family on days when family are normally together is difficult, so help ease the loneliness and invite them over.
  6. Let them do nothing – There will be days when new missionaries need to literally do nothing. Their brain will be filled with a truck load of stuff and if they are forced to do anything, talk to anyone or even look at “foreign” things they might break. So give them the space they need to take a day and recover, to watch their favorite show, read a book or stare at the wall. Who cares what they do, just let them take a break every now and then.
  7. Listen – don’t fix or judge – New missionaries are going to have problems. Their pains and struggles may be similar to some that us “veteran” missionaries experienced, but they may also be different. The key is, they need a safe place to talk out their issues, with no fear of judgement, but also without feeling like they need to be fixed. Yes, you can certainly give suggestions, but let them ask instead of assuming they want them. They may need to talk about their problems and nothing else. Let them adjust and let them vent.
  8. Love them – Don’t think about when they may leave – This is a tricky one here. It is well know that missionaries come and go and in the back of most people’s head is the natural thought that they may not know these people for long and so, why would they pour a large amount of time into someone who is only going to be around for a couple of years. It’s tough, I know, but suck it up!  No matter where you are you don’t know how long someone will be there, but we aren’t called to love people who will be in our lives for a long time, we are called to love people…period!

3 Year Deutschiversary

I've arrived!

3 Years ago, today, I arrived in Basel, Switzerland, just a short drive to what would be my new home: Kandern (Riedlingen, really, but close enough!).  There was a lot I didn’t know, wasn’t ready for and a lot that even if I was told, I would have forgotten. It was a long time in coming, but it finally happened. I had arrived.

When I was younger I never thought I would leave Toledo. It’s not that I couldn’t have found a job elsewhere, but I was comfortable in Toledo. Toledo was my home and I had no intention of leaving. I think I can still hear God laughing when I say that, because He had way different plans for me than I had ever imagined. God knew what He was doing (duh!) by sending me to Maryland first, allowing me to feel comfortable in another place, to make another home. Now Maryland was never the home that Toledo was, but it was a home. After making Maryland my home for 7 years, God had a new home for me; Germany. Instead of an 8-12 hour drive from my original home, now I was going to be an 8-12 hour flight away.

Establishing a new home, in a new country, with new people, a new job and people who…gasp…didn’t speak English as their first language (though their English is way better than my German) was tough. I definitely have had some ups and downs, some highs that may never be reached again and some lows that I hope I never again have to experience.  God has provided during all of those times though and helped me see Kandern as my third home. I have friends and family here just like I do in Maryland and Toledo. I have favorite restaurants, locations to visit, and places to relax. I love and am loved here.

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been here 3 years already, but so much has happened so at the same time, it is easy to believe. God has done so much for me over the past 3 years and I can’t wait to see what He has planned for however much longer He has me in this home.

Before I go, I have to say thank you to all of those who are back in the US and here in Germany, who have made this possible. Seriously, you are my favorite people!

Helping New Missionaries – from “home”

As I approach 3 years as a missionary in Germany I’ve begun reflecting on what has been good and what has helped me make it this far. The sad truth of the matter is that 3 years as a missionary makes you a veteran. That doesn’t mean that you’ve adapted to the new culture, that you’ve mastered the language, that you never dream about living a “normal” life back home (wherever that is) without having to raise support or even that you don’t long for (insert your favorite food item here, for me it’s definitely hamburgers) every now and then. What it does mean is that you have been on the field longer than some  and that’s about it.

That being said, most likely, people did things that helped you stay where you are despite the food cravings, the longing for home and the dislike of the people/culture/language (yes, that is normal). What they did and who they are will vary from person to person, but I think there are some things that are universal.

In Matthew 9:37-38 Jesus said to his disciples, “‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.'”

I’m no Bible scholar, but I’m pretty decent at Math and I can tell you that if missionaries don’t stay on the field very long then we have to keep sending more and more missionaries to make up for the loss while still trying to play catch-up to how many are needed.  Over the next couple weeks I want to look at a few different angles to how we can help  new missionaries stay on the field.

supportThis week I want to look at some ways that people back “home” can support their favorite missionaries.
Those at home and those on the field are a partnership, supporting each other, so let’s walk arm in arm together, serving God and helping others see His love through us.

8 Ways to Support Your Favorite Missionaries:

  1. Prayer – Obviously missionaries need prayer for all aspects of their life just like anyone else, but receiving a note letting them know you are praying for them can be a huge help on tough days. A simple e-mail saying I’m praying can mean a lot, but praying without sending a note is also greatly appreciated.
  2. Care packages – Care packages don’t have to be anything amazing. They don’t have to cost a lot of money or any money outside of the shipping itself. Sending some artwork done by young family members or recent pictures of friends/family will also brighten the day of your favorite missionary. Some place are really difficult/expensive to send packages to, so make sure you discuss the best way to send something with the person to which you are sending the package. Care packages also do not have to be physical items. Consider sending a digital code for iTunes/Google Play or Amazon so they can treat themselves to music/movies/books. Trust me, they will love that too!
  3. Letters – This isn’t so different from care packages, but letters are easier to send and can be way more personal than a care package. Sending cards for birthdays or holidays are great, but also consider sending a random letter on a random day. I bet you God will use it to bless the missionary who receives it and it might just come on the exact day he or she needed a boost.
  4. Freedom to travel – This is a tricky one. Missionaries who live on financial support are given a salary just like any other job, but unlike any other job that salary comes from individuals who have chosen to partner with them for a specific ministry. It has been known to happen that some people get upset when they see their missionary traveling to “exotic” locations and doing things that for most people would be a once in a lifetime thing. What I’m saying though, is wherever your missionaries are, they can travel places where you may never go, but just because they are taking a vacation it doesn’t mean they are being poor stewards of your gifts. Give them the freedom to travel and let them enjoy the location where God has sent them to work.
  5. Respond to newsletters – In addition to the day to day tasks that come with their ministry, missionaries have to send newsletters on a regular basis. Some missionaries love writing them and others struggle with them. Either way, one of the toughest things is taking the time to create and send a newsletter regularly and then hearing nothing back. Send your missionary a little virtual love and send them an e-mail saying…well saying really anything at all.
  6. Visit – This one may or may not be tough depending on your financial situation, their location, etc. but if you are able to visit your missionaries when they are on the field or when they are “home” then I highly recommend it. Talk to your missionaries first though…please! Oh and if you do visit them, ask them what you can bring from “home,” they will love a few treats to make it into your suitcase.
  7. Get excited – This is simple. Show enthusiasm when your missionary shows enthusiasm. Nothing stinks more than when you are excited and all you hear back are a bunch of crickets. Don’t fake enthusiasm, but if you are excited by something they say or do, then let them know!
  8. Financial – I’m not even going to apologize ending with this one. A good chunk of, but not all, missionaries raise their own financial support. This means that most of their lives depends on the financial contributions by individuals. When those contributions don’t come in, they take a pay cut which might mean they have to get creative in how they squeeze a few extra dollars out of their budget. Even if you can’t contribute on a monthly/annual basis, contributing special gifts may help them out more than you even know. This is a part of the life we decided to live when we followed God’s calling and we accept that, but it doesn’t make it less of a need. Any financial gift is greatly appreciated and will help keep your favorite missionary on the field for as long as possible.

Let’s be honest, while this will help new missionaries, all of these things are great for any of your missionaries. Think about how you can brighten the day of missionaries you care about.

Ok, but what do you actually do?

In the last post on what instructional design is and the 30,000 foot view of what instructional designers do, this post will bring it all down to the ground level and look specifically at the design of one activity.

For our Narnia curriculum we wanted a fun activity that had the students using the vocabulary from that day’s theme, which was clothing. We wanted the activity to be engaging to the point where the students almost forgot that they were “reviewing” their vocabulary.

Our plan was to play a game, but we were struggling to come up with a game that was fun. One of the major tools in an instructional designer’s tool belt is taking something that already exists and changing it to fit their needs. Honestly, this is one of my favorite things to do as a designer.

My colleague suggested taking a game called 6 Nimmt Junior and adapting it to clothing. The basics of 6 Nimmt Junior is that there are four rows of “stables” and the players are trying to get all six animals into a row, allowing them to take the cards. Each card can have between one and three different animals. If an animal on the card does not appear in a row already the player has to put it in that row, but if all of the animals are already in every row then they get to choose in which row to put the card.

The game is pretty simple and lent itself very well to adaptation. If you are familiar with the first Chronicles of Narnia movie (The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) then you know the children go through a wardrobe to get to Narnia. Well, what goes in a wardrobe? Clothes, that’s what. Essentially all that needed to happen was a change of theme of the game. Instead of putting animals into a stable, the students will now be putting clothing into a wardrobe. Simple.

But that is not all that it takes to make an activity for a TEFL curriculum so the next step was changing the rules to provide reasons for the students to use their new vocabulary (the items of clothing). Instead of just playing a card like in the original game, in our game the students have to say what they are putting into the wardrobe. So if the card has a shirt, pants and a hat on it, then the students would say “I am putting a shirt, pants and a hat into wardrobe #3.” By the end of the game they should be pretty used to all of the types of clothing in the game and using them in a simple sentence.

This adaptation was pretty simple and not all adaptations can be created as easily, but sometimes they are.

Looking Back at January and February

A good friend of mine did something that often, too often probably, we don’t do. He looked me straight in the face and said, “How are your resolutions going?” Sadly, my answer was…I honestly don’t know. I couldn’t even remember what I said I wanted to do this year, so I thought, today I would take the time (and plan on doing this again every two months) to check back in and see how I’m doing. So here we go!

Physical

  • Lose weight – I don’t want to specify a number because I don’t know what number to specify. I have a good amount to lose and I want to continue losing until I reach a weight where I am comfortable. Since the beginning of the year I have lost 15 lbs which is just under 2 lbs a week, so that’s pretty good!
  • Run at least one triathlon and beat my previous time – I ran my first triathlon last year with my mom and brother and I really enjoyed it. There is one coming up in May not too far from me and I hope to be ready enough to beat my previous time. I haven’t registered for the May triathlon, but I have been training. 10 weeks to go!

Spiritual

  • Pray – I pray, but not nearly as much as I desire to pray. I want my prayer life to be as vital to me as anything else and making a conscious effort to pray more is the first step. Prayer has been happening more than it used to, but I long for more and deeper prayers.
  • Disciple and be discipled – Until recently I have never really had a mentor, but the last few months have been nice meeting with someone weekly to discuss life. I want to be that for someone as well, but I’m not sure where that person will come from. To be honest I forgot about this one, but God didn’t because he put one of my small group boys on my heart. We have just started to meet for breakfast weekly.

Mental

  • Counseling – I am a big proponent of counseling. I think just about everyone should get counseling at some point. I started counseling again last October and I am really enjoying it. The next step is to truly take what I am learning and make an effort to institute it into my daily life. I’m still struggling with this one. I hear what my counselor is saying and I believe it, but putting it into action is difficult.
  • Read more for fun – I used to read a lot and really enjoyed it. Now it seems I read for 10-15 minutes and then I get bored, fall asleep or move onto something else. I want to get back into reading for pleasure because when I do that I am in a better place. I started reading the Lord of the Rings for the first time. While I don’t read every day, I have found myself reading much more and seeking time to sit down and enjoy reading again.

Missional

  • Increase my skills – Seeing as I am doing a lot of work in TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) I want to get certified to teach TEFL. Doing that will allow me to be better at creating curriculum in general, but especially for TEFL projects. I still haven’t figured out how this is going to happen.
  • Communicate consistently, clearly and more often- That says it all, I wouldn’t be here without my ministry partners, so I need to do a better job at sharing about my work here and letting them know how much they mean to me. I am communicating more and trying to be clear and consistent. Is it working?

Family

  • Love on them – I’ve got an amazing family and they deserve so much love. I could do more to remind them of how awesome they are! Working on this…I’ve got some ideas though.
  • My adopted families – Over here I’ve got several families who have essentially adopted me in as a brother and an uncle. Again, I want to show them how awesome they are too! I have been able to cook a couple meals for friends and one adopted family. I also get to help with homework when I go over. I love being able to take on that role when I am there.

Overall, I am pretty happy with my progress on my resolutions, but this isn’t about me. The point of my resolutions in the first place was to become a better person. To work on the things I felt God laying on my heart. God is definitely working through others to help me become a better person/brother/son/friend and for that I am thankful!

Wait…what do you do?

I’m an instructional designer, which means I essentially, wait for it…design instruction. Even though that statement seems pretty ridiculous, I have said that more often than I can count (not literally, I can count pretty high). Instead of trying to say the same thing over and over again, I thought I would share with you all what it means to design instruction, the process behind designing instruction and maybe a few other tidbits of information here and there in relation to my work, here in Germany.

I won’t do this all in one post though, so don’t worry. This post will mostly serve as a basic introduction to what it is that instructional designers do.

If you noticed the picture for this blog, it will serve as an analogy for how the process of instructional design begins. No matter who the client is, they typically come to you and present their need, or their felt-need in order to get the project started. Typically though, their idea is either too fleshed out by someone not trained in instructional design or it is a view from 3,000 feet. The first meeting is important for both sides of the project, because the client needs to understand what will work, and the designer needs to understand what the goals of the instruction are to be.

Herein lies the analogy, when the project first starts it is hidden in the clouds of possibility. In order to understand the whole project, the designer must know that they are looking at a forest while the client must recognize that the designer can best guide people to that base of the trees. If either part of this is not understood then the designer might lead to the wrong destination and the whole project could be a waste of time.

Hopefully that sheds a bit of light into what it is that I do. Next post I will be using a specific example of how instruction can be crafted from non-curriculum based sources before going into detail on how the design of a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) curriculum based on the Chronicles of Narnia movies has and is continuing to work.

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