I’m a Missionary, You’re a Missionary, Everyone is a Missionary

A radio station in Toledo, YES FM, has pastors, missionaries and representatives from missions organizations on every morning to do a devotional of some sort. I have been honored to be on the station multiple times over the years. This post is a combination and summary of those five devotionals where the theme was “Being a Missionary in Your Everyday.”

My job title may officially be a missionary, but really all of us are missionaries. I want to talk to you about what it means to be a missionary in the everyday. This doesn’t mean that you aren’t being called to do short-term mission’s trips or even full-time mission’s work, but in the mean time, how can you live the missionary life in your every day?

After all, we are called to this in Matthew 28:19-20, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

So what does that mean for the person who isn’t called to full-time overseas or local mission’s work? It means the exact same for the full-time missionaries.

David Platt, president of the International Mission Board and author of Radical, recently exhorted new missionaries, but, in my opinion it can be applied to all Christians. He said:
1. May your only offense be obedience to God.
2. May your deepest joy be found & your greatest work done in daily prayer.
3. May your constant protection be the presence of God.
4. May your life cause nations to give glory to God.

Missionary in Your Home

Proverbs 22:6 – Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.

Ephesians 6:4 – Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

It goes beyond parenting though. Whomever is in our home, whether they live with us or are guests, we need to be showing Christ to them.

How? Well:
– Model your relationship with Christ.
– Be real and honest, nothing works better than letting others see your struggles, but also your fight to overcome.
– Be a Safe place – allow people to share their struggles, judgment free. Let it be known you and your house is a place they can go when they need someone.

Missionary to Your Neighbors

Acts 9:36 – In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (in Greek her name is Dorcas); she was always doing good and helping the poor.

I love how it says Tabitha was always doing good. I mean think about it; always doing good. On her way to get water at the well, Tabitha was doing good. When she was cleaning house, she was doing good. When she was watching the kids, she was doing good. No matter what she was doing, or was on her way to do, she was doing good. Maybe the always is a bit of hyperbole, but if she was known as always doing good, she was probably caught doing good way more often than not. She saw needs, and she met them.

I don’t know where I heard it, but someone said your neighbor is anyone that you run across on a regular basis. This means the people who live near you, your postman, the cashiers at the stores you go to, and anyone else whom you give that slight head nod to because it’s a bit awkward if you don’t, they are your neighbors.

How do we practically become missionaries to our neighbors?

3 Simple things can kickstart us to serving our neighbors.
1. Ask questions and listen – I know this will sound crazy, but if you ask them the normal greeting of “How are you?” actually ask them how they are and then listen to their response. Help people feel loved by investing in them and getting to know the real them.
2. Observe – If you look around you can probably notice things where people need help. It could be the homeless person you see on your way to work, the neighbor whose lawn is never mowed because their lawnmower broke and they don’t have money to replace it, the single parent who works two jobs and is scrambling to help their child with their schoolwork. Look around and observe and then ask how you can help, don’t assume.
3. Acknowledge – Words of encouragement are huge for most people. Look for people who are doing something well and point it out to them, or thank them for a job well done.

Now let’s go a bit further into Tabitha’s story.

Acts 9:36‭-‬39 ESV
Now there was in Joppa a disciple named Tabitha, which, translated, means Dorcas. She was full of good works and acts of charity. In those days she became ill and died, and when they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room. Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, hearing that Peter was there, sent two men to him, urging him, “Please come to us without delay.” So Peter rose and went with them. And when he arrived, they took him to the upper room. All the widows stood beside him weeping and showing tunics and other garments that Dorcas made while she was with them.

It doesn’t say for sure, but seeing as these are widows wearing clothes Tabitha made, the thought is that that was part of her “always doing good.” Making clothes could have been her job or a hobby, but either way, she took what she was good at and served her neighbors with that very thing.

A lot of people think serving others has to be doing something you don’t enjoy, because it isn’t service otherwise. Some service needs to be uncomfortable, but not everything does. So, if you like to bake, bake a cake for a neighbor. If you enjoy gardening have extra vegetables in your garden, give them away. If you are skilled at a specific subject, offer to help students near you who are struggling. I don’t care what your passion is or where your skills lie, find someone and bless them with it. Whatever you are skilled at or enjoy doing, look and listen for the opportunities to serve those who need and are in your life.

That being said, I also want to encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and serve your neighbors in ways that stretch you. There are many organizations in the area that need people to come volunteer, be they homeless shelters, after-school programs, or what have you. If you can’t think of a place to volunteer, I’m sure someone at your church or your neighbors that you’ve been getting to know would have some suggestions.

The one thing I want to leave you with, if nothing else, is to get up, get out and serve. Remember we serve because of the Gospel and God’s love for us. We need to share that love to others.

Missionary at Your Church

1 Corinthians 12:27-30
Together you are the body of Christ. Each one of you is part of his body. 28 First, God chose some people to be apostles and prophets and teachers for the church. But he also chose some to work miracles or heal the sick or help others or be leaders or speak different kinds of languages. 29 Not everyone is an apostle. Not everyone is a prophet. Not everyone is a teacher. Not everyone can work miracles. 30 Not everyone can heal the sick. Not everyone can speak different kinds of languages. Not everyone can tell what these languages mean.

1 Peter 4:1-10-11
10 Each of you has been blessed with one of God’s many wonderful gifts to be used in the service of others. So use your gift well. 11 If you have the gift of speaking, preach God’s message. If you have the gift of helping others, do it with the strength that God

Let me tell you a story about one of the best examples of being a missionary to the church that I’ve been able to witness myself. My step-dad has been retired for a few years and almost as soon as he retired he dedicated more and more time to the church, serving on committees, helping with landscaping, setting up for events, etc. He gives more of himself to the church than I’ve seen anyone else do who wasn’t employed full-time by the church.

That’s not to say that we all need to retire and give a lot of our time to the church, but we were given specific skills to help the body of Christ grow closer to Him. I can’t speak for every church, but I’m sure if you contacted your church and asked if they needed help they could probably rattle off a good half dozen or so ways in which you can help. Most churches need nursery workers, Bible study leaders, landscaping, ushers, musicians, greeters, etc. Ask your church this week how you can serve the body of Christ.

Missionary to the World

How can you make international missions a part of your every day without living internationally?

  • Pray the Luke 10:2 prayer for more workers
  • Go on a short-term trip your church is organizing. Don’t know of one? Go to gemeuroteam.org and look at what my organization has coming up and sign up!
  • Send someone else to go on a missions trip. Partner with them financially or prayerfully to impact the world.
  • Go – gap year, internship, ten2 (10 weeks), or longer
  • Send – Most missionaries live on financial support from individuals and churches. Partner with them financially or prayerfully to impact the world.
  • I wrote a blog about how you can support missionaries in other ways and it will be posted next week, so come back and check it out!

Escaping the Room to learn English

One of the camps we partner with has a camp during Easter break and they want it to be less in the classroom and more active. In theory that shouldn’t be too difficult, the only problem being, we don’t have anything like that quite yet.

We needed to brainstorm, so I talked to a good friend of mine who also does English camps and he mentioned using escape rooms to help teach English. I had just done my first two escape rooms earlier that year and loved them, so I was immediately all in.

For those of you who aren’t aware of escape rooms, let me explain the concept a bit before talking about how we will be using them in camps. An escape room is a thematic room that has clues, puzzles and riddles spread throughout the room. Some of the puzzles are straight-forward word scrambles while others require much more brain power to solve. Normally the rooms take an hour to complete and the goal is to find a code that you use to “escape the room.”

The tricky part for our use is that we need a portable escape room or one that does not require a lot of set-up. This would allow us to bring the escape room wherever we have a camp. Most escape rooms are set up for months at a time and therefore can be much more involved. We, on the other hand, will need to come and go within a week and will probably only have a few hours to set up the room for a couple uses and then have to take it down again.

I’ve been tasked with designing the escape room. I’ve done research by going to multiple escape rooms with different numbers of people and discussing with them what worked, what didn’t and how we could adapt some of the good aspects to make it portable. I’m not an escape room expert, but with the help of my friends, I’ve been able to get some very good ideas down on paper.

The second tricky part is that we will want to use these escape rooms for a multitude of themes, so instead of designing one escape room, instead I am designing a template that a theme could be added onto. From that template we could easily adapt the room to fit whatever theme the camp requests…in theory.

The last tricky part is creating something that with only minor tweaks could work with students who know very little English all the way up to conversationally fluent students. Not sure how we will handle that quite yet, but we’ll figure it out.

To me, this is exciting. It is a challenge for sure, but to design something that the kids can learn through that doesn’t even feel like learning is worth the work!

It’s Been a While

Every couple of weeks or so I thought to myself, “You should write a blog sharing whats going on in your world right now.” I’d immediately file that in the good idea folder and then promptly forget about it for another couple of weeks when I’d think to myself…you get the picture. When I logged on today to start actually writing this blog I realized I hadn’t published one since November. Holy goodness a lot has changed since then, so this post is going to be a brief update and immediately after I write this I will be planning and working on the next few posts so I can schedule them to release on a somewhat regular basis. I hope to do at least two posts a month; one about my ministry and one on a random topic which could include whatever pops into my head that month.

Ok, so here is a brief run down of what’s been going on since November:

  • Helped host ICCM (International Conference on Computing and Missions) as my last major event with eDOT where I spoke multiple times and in several different capacities including leading sessions called: “No More Faking Fine,” “40 Days of Decrease,” and another one on different styles of prayer. Be on the lookout as those will probably be jumping off points for my next few blogs.
  • Switched to Euroteam TEFL from eDOT. After 5 years with eDOT in Germany I felt it was time to move on to a different group that was more suited to my skills including curricula development and working with kids in English camps.
  • Helped lead a short-term team at an English camp in Korropi, Greece as my first team officially with Euroteam.
  • Moved out of my apartment in Riedlingen Germany and moved to Perrysburg, OH for my mandatory year in the US.
  • Since I’ve been back in the US my time has been filled with ministry partners, friends and family. I have made many memories already and am looking forward to making more throughout the rest of my time here.

That is the briefest run through of what I’ve been up to as of late. My next post will follow this one closely as I dive a bit more into what is going on with Euroteam TEFL and my role on the team, especially while I am working from the US.

Deeper into the Wardrobe

For months now I have been praying and seeking wisdom about what will happen next. When I originally came to Germany, the plan was to stay for four years, maybe more. I always said, “at least” four years, but I wasn’t sure what was beyond those four years. After three years in Germany I was asked to consider doing some leader development training, but it would mean I had to stay an extra year…so I did and I don’t regret that decision at all.

As my 4th year ended and my new agreed upon length of stay approached, I knew the decision loomed ahead. I needed to figure out what life was going to look like for me going forward. Where would I live? and what job would I have? were the most pertinent questions I needed to address. I’m an over-analyzer so you better believe I had plenty of “options” to choose from. I had seriously considered all of the following (though some were more plausible than others):

  • Return to Toledo and open a boardgame cafe
  • Move to Freiburg and open a boardgame cafe
  • Return to the US and get my doctorate in Instructional Design or User Experience
  • Return to the US and work as an instructional designer
  • Return to the US and work at GEM’s headquarters in one facet or another
  • Return to the US and work at MTI (where I had my pre-field training)
  • Stay in Kandern with eDOT
  • Stay in Kandern, but switch to EuroTeam and work with TEFL

I’m sure there were other options that came to mind at some point, but these were all of the ones I at least spent time researching. The problem I ran into was that all of these options were enticing for one reason or the other.

  • The boardgame cafes were interesting because I love boardgames and have a lot of ideas on how to run a community impacting cafe.
  • I’ve always wanted to get my doctorate, because I’m weird and I like school.
  • I enjoy writing curricula and thought working for a large organization designing their training could be a tough challenge for me.
  • I like the idea of recruiting people to join GEM, or helping them get to the field or designing and leading orientation.
  • MTI is an amazing experience and helped me adjust to life as a missionary. Having a chance to help others would be incredible.
  • I like my team and we do good work, so why change?
  • I love camps and curricula development and believe I am skilled to do both.

I could justify any of those. It was like staring at a counter of cookies and being allowed to only choose one. But they all look so good!

I did have a few major concerns, though, including, “Where does God want me?” and “Where do my passions lie?” After a long while, God finally got me to recognize something I had said many years ago while working at COSI (hands-on Science center) where I wrote curricula and taught camps. I said, “If I could do this full-time and make a living doing so, I would work here in a heartbeat.” COSI barely paid a living wage and I wasn’t ready to do that kind of work full-time yet anyway, but God has been preparing me for this ministry choice for years. I will soon get to say that I am developing curricula and leading short-term teams to teach at English camps full-time.

This is what I get to do…and I’m ecstatic about it. Don’t get me wrong, it was not an easy decision. I didn’t come to this lightly, nor consider all of the things that I would be giving up by living here. I thought about silly things like not being able to get a good hamburger or not having stores open pretty much all day everyday. Then I thought about more difficult things like being far away from my mom and brother and how hard that is at times. I thought about not being there to watch my nieces and nephews grow up. There are many things that made this a difficult decision, but in the end, I am confident this is the right decision; this is where God wants me and so I have said “Here am I, send me.”

So What Does This Mean For Me?

Well, in the short term this means I will be still with GEM eDOT until around March of next year when I make the official switch to GEM EuroTeam. I will continue to develop the Narnia (Adventures in the Wardrobe) curricula and complete my leader development studies. At the end of April I will return to the US for a mandatory year out of Germany (laws are weird!). While in the US I will be talking to churches and individuals about partnering with me and filling in my faithful ministry partners on what things will look like after the year in the US. I am also going to be recruiting short-term teams to come and teach at one of our camps the year I get back (if you are at all interested, please let me know). Potentially I will also be going to colleges to help recruit future TEFL missionaries. I’m not sure if this will happen, but I hope it does! When I return to Germany in 2019, I will work with GEM EuroTeam in the running of TEFL camps and the development of English as a foreign language curricula.

But What Does It Mean For You?

If you are currently a ministry partner of mine, all it means is if you want to continue that partnership you don’t have to do anything. You can certainly alter the partnership with zero hard feelings on my end (contact me if you need more info), but if things are staying the same, then you are already done! If you aren’t a ministry partner of mine, but are curious of learning more, then please let me know and I would be happy to talk with you!

A Wardrobe in Greece and a Table Full of Food

Just before Easter I found myself in Athens with a team from California who came to teach English. The curriculum we were using was the Adventures in the Wardrobe curricula I have been co-writing for quite a while now. The curriculum is based on the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe movie and has been used in Germany before, but this was the first time in Greece. I wrote more about how the camp went on the eDOT site, head over there and find out what some of my student’s favorite colors were.

I was very happy with how the curriculum was received and as one of it’s designers it confirms that what we are doing is worth the time and effort. That alone would have made our time in Greece worthwhile, but what happened the day after the camp ended touched me deeper than just about anything ever has before.

The day after the camp we went to one of the refugee camps in the area to deliver diapers and wipes. 11 of the 50ish students we taught currently live in one of two nearby refugee camps. Most of them came from Afghanistan, but two of them were from Syria and it was these two boys and their mom who this story will center on.

Because of relationships that had been built between one of the leaders of the ministry we partnered with and the people in this camp the two boys were invited to a blatantly Christian camp. Even though they were not Christian, their mom said they could come because they have brains of their own and she wanted them to be able to learn English and have a good time.

My co-leader ended up teaching them during the camp and these boys ate up the lessons. They asked questions, were engaged in the lessons and loved speaking what English they could, whenever they could. They didn’t always understand what we were saying, but they tried as hard as they could to give the best answer they could. They certainly did not lack enthusiasm, that is for sure!

While at the camp we were given diapers and wipes to take to specific cabins. Immediately a young boy found my teammate and I and wanted to help. He grabbed my hand and, to no one’s surprise, started swinging from it. He lead us successfully to the first cabin and we delivered the diaper’s to an appreciative mother. After the success with my new friend we decided he could probably help us find the others we needed to find…yeah, that didn’t work out so well. He lead us, confidently, to many wrong places until eventually he scattered off to find other friends.

While struggling to find one of the cabins we ran into one of the Syrian boys from English camp and after helping us find the right place he dragged us, willingly, to his place to meet his mom. As we arrived we found my co-leader there already talking with his mom and with a plate of food in front of her. We had eaten lunch before we came to camp, but that didn’t seem to matter to his mom, who quickly stood up, shook our hands and then produced two more places of Tabouli and another dish of which I can’t remember the name.

In some cultures it is offensive to leave a plate with food on it and in others a clean plate means you want more. So, somehow we needed to tread this fine line of not offending our host, but also not getting even more food since we were already pretty full. My two teammates didn’t want to be rude, but realized they would not be able to finish eating their plates of food. When the mom ducked inside her place I became the recipient of their remains. Since it would be obvious that I had more food on my plate than before she went inside I had to eat their share quickly. My stomach was full…but I did what needed to be done, or at least, what I thought had to be done.

In the meantime more of our team came and joined us, eventually we had 5 teachers and 3 of the leaders from the camp at our table. At one point one of the leaders called the other in as “backup” because he knew how much food was about to be consumed.

When the mom came back out, I had successfully eaten the rest of the food on my plate (which was delicious by the way) and then my jaw about dropped to the floor with what she was carrying with her. Out on the table she placed a giant pan with saffron rice, potatoes, eggplant and chicken. We weren’t leaving anytime soon and my stomach was not going to be any less full.

IMG_2767.JPG
The reason for “backup.”

Again, we didn’t want to offend anyone, so I took one for the team and had a plate full of this dish. Unfortunately I made the mistake of allowing the mom to serve me. I’m not sure how she managed to get so much on one plate. I did what I could and in the end, I finished my plate. The smile on the boys’ mom’s face was enough to deal with the slight discomfort I was feeling.

Why do I tell you this? Well, it is not to tell you that refugees have it better than you thought, because they don’t. Or that they can make giant meals for anybody that comes to visit, because they can’t. The reason I tell you this is because it was the curriculum that allowed us to meet these wonderful people who opened up their limited resources to us to show their appreciation. There was no way we were going to disrespect this family by not eating what was served, because to them it was an honor to serve us. They loved that we would spend time with them, love them and care for them.

IMG_2771
A photo taken by one of the boys and this was only half of who all ended up at this table.

This is what our partner ministry does in Greece. This is what we do with our curriculum. It is through these relationships that we can share the Gospel and it will be heard because they know we love them and care for them. It is through these relationships that God will bring more into His kingdom and if I have to eat a ridiculous amount of food to help establish those relationships, then that is exactly what I will do!

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!

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.