Hope for the Hopeless

“This is awful.”

“Yep.”

Isaac and I drove home in virtual silence.  The disappointments were mounting.  After getting accepted to his first choice college, Isaac had been unable to go.  It was just too expensive, in spite of his numerous scholarships from the school and even one from a local church.  Now he was waiting on his second choice school but it would be months yet.

We’d just put Brandy and Faith on a plane back to Germany, but finances had forced me to stay behind.  I had no return ticket.  No plan for when I could go home.  We were both stuck in limbo.

“Heard back on any of your job applications?”  I asked.

He just shook his head.  The pneumonia had interfered with all of his plans.  No friends.  No job.

“Maybe next week we can drive out to Barclay.”  The tiny college I’d graduated from in Kansas was hovering in the number 3 or 4 slot on Isaac’s list.  “Have a little father/son road trip.”

Isaac smiled softly.  “That’d be fun, Pa.”

While I was trying to line up appointments for my extended stay, I texted admissions over the weekend and setup accommodations for us Monday night and a tour Tuesday morning.  So, after a long slow weekend, the two of us set out for Kansas.

A six hour trip quickly became eight.  As we neared the tiny town of Haviland (population 703), a big sign reading “I’d turn back if I were you” seemed almost prophetic.  The town was so small, we drove right past it and had to turn around, but we found the school.

The Barclay College campus is actually quite lovely.
The Barclay College campus is actually quite lovely.
The bear mascot waving in the breeze.
The bear mascot waving in the breeze.

18 hours later we were back in the car driving home.

“What did you think?”  I asked.

“As plan B,” Isaac answered, “I would be happy to go there.”

The next morning dawned bleakly.  I had no new appointments.

“Dear Lord,” I prayed, “I don’t know what you’re doing, or why you’re doing it this way…  Help me.  Please, Lord.  You’re always there when I need you.  I know you’re hearing me now.  What do I do?”

When I’d finished praying, I walked upstairs to see Isaac.  He looked like I felt.

He’d been waiting for today since his arrival.  He was to audition for the church music team, but the leader couldn’t make it and they would have to reschedule. He felt a bit like the only thing he was looking forward to had been taken away.  Both of us sat looking at one another in shared commiseration.  We felt hopeless.  I started talking, trying to suggest activities that Isaac might enjoy, and all of the sudden, he sat bolt upright, his eyes lighting up.

“What?”  I asked.

He started to slump immediately.  “Nothing.”  He said.  “It’s crazy.  It doesn’t make any sense.”

I smirked.  “None of this makes sense.”  I said, “Let’s hear it.”

“What if I just go to Barclay right now?  This semester.” he replied.  “But, then I’d have to take out loans and it… it’s just crazy.”

I was glad that he was leery of loans, but I knew they’d be very small in this case, so I told him to go ahead and submit the application and I’d get started on finances.

The rest of the week was a whirlwind.  Isaac submitted his application Wednesday, was accepted Thursday and we were back in Kansas moving him into his dorm on Saturday.  Everything seemed like a perfect fit.  By the time I was driving back to Colorado on Sunday afternoon, Isaac was on the soccer team, had found a good church, scheduled an audition for the worship band and was joining the school choir.  I could see God’s hands all over this moment that was tailored precisely for my son.

The next morning, I was back in a darker place.

“Yes, Lord, it’s clear to me I needed to be here to help Isaac step into the amazing plan you have, but,” I whined vigorously, “I’m still stuck here — no closer to having the money raised!”

The foolishness of it, the ingratitude is embarrassing, but I’m being honest.

Between fruitless attempts to raise money, I tried to contact the finance office at Barclay.  Isaac was in classes, but I still didn’t know how much the bill would be.  I expected we’d need an additional $3000-4000 to be paid over the remainder of the year.  Finally, I got the finance guy on the phone.

“I’ve got all Isaac’s info here, I just have to put it into the system.”  He told me.

I listened to his clicking keys for several minutes.  Then came the big number.

“First semester,”  He informed “Isaac will owe $1247 and $1248 next semester.”

I got payment instructions and we agreed to talk again the next day.  As I hung up the phone, I got thinking about Isaac’s church scholarship.  I called them on the phone.

“Yes.  Isaac has already talked with us, we’re directing the scholarship to Barclay.”

The scholarship was $1250 a semester.  I was floored.  Here I was, questioning God and his plan, his ability even to work out our convoluted finances.  But God had known all along, where Isaac would end up and how much it would cost.  He’d arranged it all perfectly from the beginning, though we’d been unable to see it until all the pieces came together.

It’s still hard to contemplate our financial situation.  But I’ve been powerfully reminded just how good and generous our God can be, when we’re seeking him and walking in his will.  It’s not that getting there wasn’t difficult.  Of course, it was.  There were powerful moments of hopelessness and despair.  And yet, God delivered on such a sweeping scale.  How can I not have confidence in his plans for our ministry and financial provision?  Praise the Lord!

Culture Shock!

culture-shock.jpg

We’re at the part of our life here in Germany where culture shock should really be rearing it’s ugly head in the form of us really disliking Germany.  The good news is that we’re really happy here!  That doesn’t mean we’re not experiencing culture shock, though.  We know that a certain amount of the extreme stress we often feel even doing relatively simple activities springs directly out of culture shock.  We hope you’ll be in prayer for us as we continue to find our way in a foreign place, even one we love.

Brandy and I are excited to have returned to language school this week.  Many of you know, we completed a four week course a few months after our arrival, only to have the school cancel our follow-on classes.  In the intervening time, I’ve been doing construction work on our new offices (a barn being converted into an office building).  This is WAY outside my gifting, but it has been a great lesson for me.  If you haven’t already, take a look at our latest newsletter for how God has been at work there.  Brandy has been investing her time getting involved in a local Bible Study, and really working to find a good routine for our family here.

Do you remember Calvin and Hobbes?  Do you remember the one where he had to take school pictures?  Can we say, Isaac is a fan?

isaac-as-calvin.jpg

When asked the question, “Who’s the prettiest girl in school?”,  Isaac replies “Ahh!  Come On…Brittany….Brittany is at school”  Isaac is the sweetest brother in the world.  And when asked “What do you love about Germany?”, he said “The Currywurst, the Ferraris, the Lamborghinis,  the Fussball, the Schnitzel, the Doners [Doner Kebaps are a type of Turkish sandwhich which can be almost like a lamb burrito.  Sounds weird, but they’re really good.]”.  In other words Isaac is your typical 11 year old boy, he is fascinated by fast cars, Sports, and yummy food.  🙂

 

Brittany says (sung to a vague Yankee Doodle tune (there’s too many syllables)),  “I’m a little bitty social faux pas!” Sometimes that’s what it’s like in a new culture.  Sorta like nothing you can do or say is socially or culturally correct or even the slightest bit acceptable.  But it’s so fun too, lot’s of fun stories are to be made!  Because BFA is located here in Kandern, most of the natives are used to having us around.   We are what keep the local grocery store in business, so they tolerate us; and we aren’t quite the usual, run-of-the-mill, evil teenagers so we try to make that a little easier for them… most of the time.  Some have even dusted off the English they learned back in school, and try to speak to us in English. (Funny thing is, their English is just as terrible as most of our German, but neither party wants to give up the chance to speak a new language, so they speak really bad English and we speak really bad German, and things get accomplished, eventually…)  However, every once in a while, after a long day in school some of us crack and it’s immediately apparent we aren’t German teenagers… we laugh too loudly walking down the street [Germans do not make loud noises in public -Ed], this earns us funny looks and side-glances, that make us laugh even harder, or we stand outside the local clothing store trying on all the hats, or… well, we’re silly third culture kids with imaginations… you get the picture, yes?  🙂 Life is good.  Sehr Gut.”

britt-kiss.jpg

 Brittany

Faith says, “Once upon a time I was born, but when we moved to Connecticut it was much funner.  And I started school a little later and then at the middle of school I saw a bunny.  We stayed in CT for 40 weeks.  So then we went to Boston to the airport, we got on the plane, we waited a while for it to start, and then FINALLY it started.  And then once we got off the ground Mommy celebrated with chocolate, it was a little weird.  We stayed up a long time and then I went to sleep for two hours…I don’t know how though.  And then we got off the plane and we rode on a bus.  And then we waited and waited and walked until we went on the other plane.  And then we took off again and we landed and we got off the plane and the Meyers picked us up.

“Now we’ve been here for almost six months.   In Germany now, it started with the mosquitos.  And then I started looking like I had chicken pox.  And then yesterday and today, Nov 7 &8.  Well, the day before yesterday, I pulled out my 8th tooth.  And then yesterday, I got a new book that’s German and English so I can learn more German because I can already speak a little German.  Since we’re staying home a while and in the afternoon we’re working, what I want to do is play the play station with my mom.  And that makes a happily ever after.  THE END!  Bye, see you tomorrow.”

faith-laugh.jpg

 Faith

July Newsletter

cq-july-08-teaser.jpg

click here for the entire thing

The two most common comments we receive on our newsletters are “I love the pictures” and “I always mean to read them, but never get around to it.” That said, this month there are a lot less words and a whole lot more pictures. I hope you’ll let us know what you think.

Arriving in Germany: Is this real?

510lbs.jpg

Can you believe this is 510lbs of luggage?  How about that this doesn’t include our carryons in the trunk of the other car?  🙂

isaac-and-britt-in-boston.jpg

Our first stop was Boston’s Logan International Airport.  You can see the sign above the kid’s heads, but it’s a bit hard to read.  Frankfurt, Germany, 3671 Miles.

faiths-first-euros.jpg

Faith was very excited to change some left over birthday money into Euros.

 

gate.jpg

Shortly before we boarded the plane, Faith asked me, “Daddy, is this real?  Because this happens to me all the time, and then I wake up and it wasn’t real.”

arrival.jpg

This is as real as it gets.  Somewhat the worse for wear after 15 hours of travel, we arrived in Basel, Switzerland, our luggage trailing endlessly off into the horizon…

britt-w-a-flower.jpg

We looked a lot better the next day after a little bit of rest.

stork.jpg

Day two in Germany, after some settling, setting up a bank account, and registering with the town, we took the kids to see the storks in Holzen, a near by village.

storks-brandy-and-sara.jpg

One of the most incredible blessings God has provided for us as we arrived here, has been the tremendous support we have received from the Greater Europe Mission staff people.  In this picture, you can see Brandy with Sara Meyer, wife of my supervisor, Jim, admiring the storks.  Because we’re such a large family, the Meyers have been driving us everywhere in two cars, which since we’re running many errands trying to work out school for the kids, navigating the German buerocracy, and get heating oil for our house (which is preventing us from having hot water) the Meyers have been a tremendous help.  Not to mention they’ve been acting as interpreters for us.  But they aren’t the only ones!  Our neighbors down the street, the Bonhams, put us up in their home for several nights, and they and the Meyers have been taking turns feeding us since we got here.

roman-ruins.jpg

Saturday morning, GemStone Media had our first team building event, as the whole crew traveled to nearby Switzerland to view some Roman ruins.  It was a nice time, allowing the kids to get a sense of Europe’s rich cultural history, and giving us a chance to connect with our new colleagues.

faith-isaac-ice-cream.jpg

For Isaac and Faith, it was another great excuse to have an ice cream.

In so many ways this is such a surreal experience.  We wake up each morning and look out at the farmer’s fields on the other side of the hill, and the mists make everything hazy and dream like.  I keep having to remind myself this isn’t a dream.  Part of our training was to prepare us for culture shock.  We’re in the tourist phase now, where everything is charming and wonderful.  But lingering our there in the distance are the language barrier, all the little cultural snags we’re just beginning to learn, like always saying hello and good bye, and not calling people you see in the distance.  Little things we don’t think about, but which can be very rude here.

Because I’ve been here on several short trips the last five years, I keep having the same problem Faith had in the airport.  I keep forgetting we’re not leaving in a few days.  This is home now.  It’s an awesome feeling.  After five years of working, it’s finally real.  I can pinch myself and not wake up.  🙂  Our God is so incredibly good.

Over the next several months, we have to balance the demands of language school, setting up our household, helping the kids get acclimated, and building working relationships with our team.  Unfortunately, it’s way too easy to make language our bottom priority, but we need to stay focused.  I hope you’ll pray along with us, that God will keep us focused.

Bless you all, and thanks for all the ways you have prayed us here!

Two

Some time back, the Women’s Fellowship here gave Brandy a membership to Mystic Seaport about 50 minutes down the road from where we’re living here. We enjoyed our trip to Mystic very much, and had been intending to go back for some time. On our final family outing in Connecticut, returning to Mystic seemed a fitting way to say goodbye to this place where so much has happened to us.

memorial.png

Because it was Memorial Day, Mystic was reenacting a Memorial Day ceremony from shortly after the civil war, complete with a church service, parade and floating flowers out of the harbor. It was more solemn than I expected, but it was great reminder of what Memorial Day is all about.

3x-trouble.png

brandy-at-mystic.png

She’s so pretty.

faith-at-mystic.png

Yep. Her too.

happy-britt.png

Yeah… And her.

isaac-at-mystic.png

What scheme is Isaac plotting here? I see rope… This could be dangerous.

 

in-the-whale.png

Isaac wrestled a whale while Faith had a snack and Britt nearly became one.

farewell-ct.png

It was a very nice day.