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!

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!

A Snowball Fight with Strangers

Earlier this month a friend of mine visited for a few days before her mission’s training a couple of hours north of here. While here I was able to show her a chocolate factory in Switzerland, a castle in France and we hiked a hill in Germany. All in all it was full of good food and fun times! The best part, though, was a random snowball fight we were in with some strangers in Gruyère, Switzerland (ok, the best part was the all you can eat chocolate, but this was a close second).

Here we were in a cute, little, Switzerland town and I decided to throw a snowball in the general direction of some people standing below us. I thought I would get a negative reaction from them, but instead, they laughed and fired back. Now, to set the scene, we were about 50 feet above them and another 30 feet away and yet, they tried to fight back. The snowballs flew, from above, from below and then surprising us even more…from the left. Another random couple joined in. It was an all out battle, those with the advantage against those below. The snowballs kept flying with no one really connecting until my friend launched one, not knowing where his victim was (he was hiding behind a building) and it found its target. The girlfriend of the victim laughed hard and motioned that the snowball hit him in the head. As the fight wound down and the couple started to leave the guy took one last shot…at his girlfriend and for a second she believed we hit her and then she saw the truth, she had been betrayed by her former ally…and she laughed!

This moment was not something we could have captured in picture and if we had tried to we would have missed out on the fun. This moment was seized by all of us for what it was, silly fun. Sometimes it is nice to just have fun. Thanks to the strangers who made that possible and to my friends who didn’t think I was completely out of my mind. It was a good day.

New Year’s resolutions?

The fireworks are over, the new year has come and that means my brain starts the same conversation it has every year. Every year I think about doing some resolutions and inside my head the conversation goes something like:

There are lots of things I would like to change about myself, so I should do some resolutions.

But only 8-40% of resolutions are kept, so why bother?

Mine could be a part of the 8-40%.

Sure they could…but will they?

Yes…I mean, sure…I mean…

Don’t get sucked into the hype that just because the year is new, that you have to make formal decisions.

But, I want to, so why not start?

You can start…but will you continue?

Every year I start this way and every year I come to no conclusion. I don’t think there is a right conclusion to be made, for me, for you, for anyone. Each day is a new day, so each day allows us to make changes that we want to make. Does it matter that a new year has begun? Not really, but since God has seen fit to give me another day, I will start today anew with several new goals in mind. None of these have target end dates. Some may take days, some months and some may never finish. Either way, one thing I do know, accountability will help any new goal come to reality and that is why I am placing mine here for all to see. Will you walk beside me and keep me accountable, always striving towards achieving these goals?

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.
  • 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.

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.
  • 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.

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.
  • 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.

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.
  • 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.

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!
  • 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!

That may look like a lot, but I’m ok with that. They are all things that will make me a better person and also show others how much they are loved by me and God.

What are your plans for this year? Do you do resolutions? If so, I would love to hear them.

The Wall and the Stairs

We have all been there before.

A wall lies in front of us and all we can see is this:

brick-wall

I think we know it can’t be all there is.

I think we understand that there has to be more, but that is all we know.

It is what makes up our life.

Sometimes when were are having a good day, we manage to look up.

Even those days we might still only manage to see:

photo-1446716336919-df838e44ce7b

Our view has changed, but our mindset has not.

We are still only looking at the wall directly in front of our faces.

I’m helping a young boy learn math at a local school.

All he has ever known is the wall of failure.

All he can draw upon is the sight of the wall…the thought that he can’t.

It pains me to see him say he can’t do it, before he even tries.

He may not learn a drastic amount of math under mu tutelage.

He may still be behind his classmates.

But what I am hoping is that he turns to the side and sees:

stairs

My hope and prayers for him is that he will see stairs.

A way around or over his wall.

There is hope.

God will help.

My young friend can do it.

So can you.

So can I.

5 Ways Singles Can Help Couples on the Mission Field

A couple weeks back I wrote a blog about how mission agencies, couples and ministry partners can help singles on the field. I had a good discussion with my sister about that blog and because of that I thought more about singles also having their own responsibility (which I will get to in a bit). I highlighted singles in my blog because I am one and I have seen some things that are lacking in the community where I live, but after thinking about the topic some more I came to the rather obvious conclusion, that every individual person on the mission field needs help. While there is no single solution to help every group of people I thought I would list some ideas as to how a single on the mission field might help the couples that are with them on the field.

I was thinking about this some and I realized that I have no idea what a couples needs are, really. I will do my best, though, to provide some ideas that have been shared with me and that I have observed on my own. I will now present you with 5 ways that singles can help couples (with or without kids) on the mission field.

  1. Invite them, as a couple or as an individual to join you. It’s no secret that singles, typically have more time to do things they want to do, whether it is a day trip to a city, dinner out or playing games with friends. That doesn’t mean, though, that couples wouldn’t have time to join them. They might not….but they might.
  2. Love on their kids. Couples with kids are missing family and friends just like singles miss their family and friends. Their kids not having grandma, grandpa, aunt or uncle there can be even harder than us adults not having our family. So bring a smile to the parents and kids faces by becoming their family. This may include babysitting, but it doesn’t always have to be that way. I’m Uncle Jacob to a few kids around here and I love it!
  3. Listen. Even though we might not fully understand the issues of a married couple or parent, we can still listen and be there for them when they are having a bad day. So put your feelings aside, for a bit, about wanting to be married and how you would gladly trade your troubles for their marriage troubles, and just listen. Be there for your friend, it’s that simple.
  4. Be flexible. A single’s schedule is typically more open, so sometimes you might need to be flexible in order to spend time with your married friends. This might mean that your plans will change suddenly or not be set until just before it happens (this is hard for me since I like my plans to be set well in advance). But really, that’s ok. Be flexible and don’t take it personal if they can’t hang out with you as often as you would like.
  5. Invite them to your home or bring dinner to them. It is way more common, in my experience, for singles to be invited over for dinner and not the opposite. To some degree it makes sense, I mean it’s cheaper to feed one than two (or more) but if you can cook, then why not host some people and give them a bit of a break. You might need to offer to bring dinner over if they have young kids who need to go to bed early, so again, be flexible.

I say this is for missionaries on the field, but honestly most of these can be applied, in general, no matter where you are and what you are doing. Every couple and every single is different, so what works for some might not work for others, but if you want to be a blessing to someone in your life, find out what they want/need and help provide that if you can. Everyone could use something, we just need to find out what that is and be willing to help them where they are.

6 Ways to Help Singles on the Mission field

I’ve been on the mission field for almost two years now, I am single and a male, so essentially I’m a unicorn of the mission’s world. We are rare, but so are singles in general. I recently read a blog entry that spoke mostly to the numbers between couples, male singles and female singles. I’ve also been reading a book, Single Mission, and processing through that as an individual and as a way to help eDOT with other singles in the future.

To be honest, being single in the mission field can, quite frankly, suck. Living cross-culturally can be quite difficult in and of itself, but when you have a built-in support system from the get-go, then it can be relieved to some degree. When you don’t have that built-in support system you might be going home by yourself. It’s tough, but that’s not the point of this blog.

In the blog, I mentioned earlier, Justin says that couples outnumber singles 8:2. Then single females outnumber single males 7:3. These numbers come out of 25,319 people and not every agency or area has that same proportion, but in general, these are the numbers the mission field has and it is something that should be taken into account by missionaries on the field, mission agencies and the ministry partners who get and keep missionaries on the field.

This might become a series of posts as I process through the book more, but for now I want to give those three groups some ideas for how to support their single missionary friends.

For the Missions Agencies:

  • Require or highly suggest the single gets and meets regularly with a mentor. This can be invaluable, but may be difficult in certain situations. No matter what though, this can at minimum, be done through Skype.
  • Educate leaders within the mission field and how to handle singles, but also how to give them time and help to accomplish things that couples have two people to do. For example, grocery shopping, running errands, banking and other things that is put solely on the single.

For Ministry Partners:

  • Send a letter/card/note, a physical one, reminding them that they have support from home. Sending it at a random time is great, adding in a little treat (if not too expensive) is appreciated as well.
  • Give singles a safe place to share struggles, even if it is about their mission, co-workers, their new country or whatever. This can be very hard for singles who might not be comfortable sharing struggles with co-workers and so have no one to turn to. Be open and let them know it is alright.

For the married missionaries:

  • Invite the single over for dinner or just to hang out. Every day they go home, maybe to roommates, but maybe not. Don’t just give them an open invitation, invite them to specific things. Even if they can’t come they, most likely, will appreciate the invitation.
  • Make sure they have someplace to be for major holidays and people to hang out with on their birthdays too.

There are definitely other things that you can do to help singles on the mission field. The best way to find out what the single missionary that you know would like is to ask them. I would love to know of some creative ways people have helped you as a single, or ways you have helped a single. Please share your thoughts below.