Thursday, August 31, 2017

Catching Up

It's been four months since I last posted.  WOW.  Here's a summer update in maps, pictures, and highlights!

Destinations: My brother's wedding & TeachBeyond New Staff Orientation 
Distance: 1,233 miles
Highlights: What a joy to celebrate the marriage of Dave and Kirsten!  It was also fun to meet some of their closest friends and spend time with my extended family.  The drive from there to Wheaton College was just under six hours, which was a good built-in transition time from sister/bridesmaid to "work mode."  Orientation is a full and exhausting week, but also an overwhelmingly fulfilling opportunity to see the fruit of a year of recruiting, emailing, and preparing the next wave of TeachBeyond members.  I'm thrilled that all of the girls pictured in the photo above (my candidates) are now on the field, beginning the school year in their various countries of service!

Destinations: BFA friends in Ohio and Kentucky & a few days in Nashville for fun
Distance: 1,176 miles
Highlights: You can take us out of Germany, but you can't take the BFA family out of us!  It is always special to reconnect with dear friends from my time in Germany.  Whether exploring new cities together or gathering around the table for a good meal, it is a joy to hear how the Lord continues to work through these friends in their current cities in this season.

Destinations: Grandmom's Celebration of Life 
Distance: 634 miles
Highlights: Although we miss Grandmom, we celebrate her life and are grateful to know that she is now with Jesus.  It was special to have time together as a family for the weekend.

Destinations: New Wilmington Mission Conference
Distance: 135 miles
Highlights: I was honored to be on Mission Staff for the week, which meant sharing my story and the work of TeachBeyond with all different groups - ranging from five-year-olds sitting on the floor around a felt map to a lecture hall filled with adults!  The best part of the week was seeing hundreds of believers of all different ages worshipping the Lord, learning more about missions, and becoming more deeply engaged in God's work around the world.

Destinations: Bridal shower for a college friend & Grace Point Missions Sunday
Distance: 759 miles
Highlights: Seeing college friends, throwing a travel-themed party, meeting someone who teaches at a TeachBeyond partner school, and spending a Sunday with my sending church... a great weekend and well worth the trip!  The focus for Missions Sunday was "life lessons."  I shared that God has shown me that it is His work, not mine, to draw others to serve overseas.  It is so freeing to approach my role as partnering with what the Spirit is already doing people's hearts!  (You can read more reflections on my role here.)

After many miles of driving this summer, I enjoyed most of August in Pittsburgh!  It was refreshing to sleep in my own bed, spend time with friends, host people in my home, serve on worship team at my local church, and experience several local festivals in the city.  As I prepare to head out on one of my longest trips yet, I'm thankful for these weeks of reconnection in my current home base!

Monday, May 1, 2017

Monday Misconceptions: Week 5

This post is part of a series focused on misconceptions about TeachBeyond.  Are you wondering what TeachBeyond is all about?  Check back for new posts on Mondays - or if you can't wait, check out!

Misconception #5:  It's too late to apply for this school year.

Some college graduations have already passed, with others just around the corner.  Elementary teachers and students alike are eager for summer break.  Camps are preparing for their busiest season, and churches are anticipating a different rhythm throughout the summer months.

So, is it too late to serve with TeachBeyond this coming school year?  Absolutely not!

There are still hundreds of openings posted on our Opportunity Board.  Yes, hundreds.  If you're considering overseas opportunities, check out the list!  They're not all for certified teachers either.  We have an urgent need for dorm parents, ESL instructors, and chaplains, as well as a variety of teaching roles.  If you know of someone who might be interested, would you consider sharing this site with them?

Because many positions with TeachBeyond do involve raising financial support, waiting much longer to fill these roles will make it unlikely that new staff will be able to relocate in time for the beginning of the school year.  It's not too late, but time is of the essence.  Is God asking you to take the next step  - despite your uncertainty - to inquire and pray and see how He works?

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Needs Everywhere

I went for a midday run during my lunch break yesterday.  The cloudless skies and mild temperatures invited me to enjoy a dose of Vitamin D.  I wound along my regular path, acutely aware of my own needs in the moment - a deep breath and some upbeat music to keep me moving.  The siren of a passing ambulance interrupted my thoughts.  Someone needs help.  My gaze lifted, and I began to see them.  Needs everywhere.  

Energy for the young mom at the playground with her toddler.
Patience for the teachers in the local elementary school.
A buyer for the family with the "for sale" sign in their yard.

Needs everywhere.  Truthfully, it sounds a lot like my role with TeachBeyond right now.  In some moments, this staggering need fuels my applicant follow up and recruiting trip plans.  But most of the time, the task of filling countless positions seems impossibly daunting.

As I continued my run, I began to pray a familiar prayer: that the Lord would meet the needs of TeachBeyond's partner schools and send more workers into His harvest (Luke 10:2).  Then I heard the lyrics of the song playing in my headphones in that moment: "Jesus, You're all I need."  And the next song:

"You promise never to forsake
What You began, You will sustain
This we know, this we know
I will call upon the Lord, for He alone is strong enough to save"

How quickly I am consumed by the needs surrounding me and swirling inside me!  And yet, I have a loving Provider who knows my needs (Matt. 6:25-34) and is able to do more than I could ask or imagine (Eph. 3:20).

Needs everywhere.  Endurance, healing, encouragement, financial provision, wisdom, rest, hope, salvation...  Whatever we need, we know the Source.  All of our needs are met in Christ!  As we present our requests to Him, may we trade our weights of worry for the peace found in His sovereign provision (Phil. 4:6-7).

"Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus..." (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Monday, February 27, 2017

Monday Misconceptions: Week 4

This post is part of a series focused on misconceptions about TeachBeyond.  Are you wondering what TeachBeyond is all about?  Check back for new posts on Mondays - or if you can't wait, check out!

Misconception #4:  You have to "know for sure" before you apply to TeachBeyond.

There are many times in our lives when we feel uncertain about our next steps and wish that God would give a clear answer.  We are sitting, wondering, questioning what we're supposed to do next.

That was where I was during my senior year of college.  I was facing option overload and was paralyzed by possibilities.  I distinctly remember telling TeachBeyond that I was hesitant about applying, interviewing, and moving forward because I "wasn't sure" if this is what was next.

However, it was that very process - applying, interviewing, and moving forward - that led to an indescribable, undeniable wave of confirmations that this was indeed the direction I should go.  But it took stepping out in faith to bring that confirmation.

In his book Just Do Something, Kevin DeYoung writes this:

"God is not a Magic 8-Ball we shake up and peer into whenever we have a decision to make.  He is a good God who gives us brains, shows us the way of obedience, and invites us to take risks for Him [...] The problem is we think He's going to tell us the wonderful plan before it unfolds.  We feel like we can know - and need to know - what God wants every step of the way." 

The well-known words of Proverbs 3:5-6 emphasize that our role is to "trust in the Lord with all [our] heart[s]," not to lean on our own understanding to figure out what comes next.  Trusting God's direction means that we are taking steps forward in faith, not standing still on the path He's called us to actively pursue.

Serving overseas is not for everyone.  Teaching is not for everyone.  Joining TeachBeyond is not the right fit for everyone.  However, I believe there are some who are sitting, wondering, and questioning what's next - and the answer is to take a step of faith.

"God's will for your life is not very complicated.  Obviously, living a Christlike life is hard work, and what following Jesus entails is not clear in every situation.  But as an overarching principle, the will of God for your life is pretty straightforward: Be holy like Jesus, by the power of the Spirit, for the glory of God." - Kevin DeYoung in Just Do Something

Saturday, February 11, 2017

In Case You Missed It

In case you missed these photos posted on Facebook in response to my previous blog post, here are some snapshots of life from TeachBeyond members serving around the world!

Apartment View in Niger (Abby B.) // Sahel Academy, Niger (Hannah K.)    

Apartment View in St. Petersburg, Russia (Andrew G.)

Apartment Views in Kandern, Germany (Kristi D. // Cathlyn Z. // Tracy G.)

Courtyard near the Teach Beyond Global Centre, Horsham, U.K. (Becky H.)

Faith Academy in Manila, Philippines (Jennifer H.)

Basel, Switzerland - the closest city to Black Forest Academy (Johanna T.)

Bingham Academy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (Josh H.)

Prague, Czech Republic (Jessica W. // Kelly R. // Ben B.)

Apartment View in Bogotá, Colombia (Laura A.)

Vineyard near Black Forest Academy (Laurel B.)

Snowy Schoolyard at Christliche Schule Kandern (Rachel N.)

Christmas in Santa Cruz, Bolivia (Rachel R.)

Monday, February 6, 2017

Monday Misconceptions: Week 3

This post is part of a series focused on misconceptions about TeachBeyond.  Are you wondering what TeachBeyond is all about?  Check back for new posts on Mondays - or if you can't wait, check out!

This misconception is inspired by the "boil water advisory" in Pittsburgh last week!  For a few days, we had to boil tap water or purchase bottled water for drinking, washing dishes, and cooking.  It was a laborious process that made me thankful for the clean water that we typically take for granted in western Pennsylvania.  I was also reminded of a common misconception about missionaries.

Misconception #3:  Being a missionary means living primitively.

What do you think of when you hear the word "missionary"?  You may picture adventurous individuals living in the remote jungles of South America or families ministering among the poorest populations of south Asia.  While some missionaries do fit these stereotypes, there are many other global workers whose homes and daily routines look a lot like ours in North America.

TeachBeyond members live all around the world in big cities and tiny villages, tropical climates and arid areas.  We drive mopeds and bicycles and vans along dirt roads and cobblestone streets and traffic-jammed highways.  Along the way, we pass beaches and mountains and ancient sites you read about in history books.  The only common denominator is that God is at work through transformational education in these diverse locations!  If you'd like to learn more about a specific school or region, we'd love to connect you with a member in that location.

Are you considering going overseas, financially supporting a missionary, or learning more about God's work around the world?  Begin by eliminating the stereotype that missions looks like _______.

International Christian School of Budapest is near Budapest, Hungary

Faith Academy is near Manila, Philippines

Black Forest Academy is in Kandern, Germany

Monday, January 30, 2017

Monday Misconceptions: Week 2

This post is part of a series focused on misconceptions about TeachBeyond.  Are you wondering what TeachBeyond is all about?  Check back for new posts on Mondays - or if you can't wait, check out!

Misconception #2:  You need to be fluent in another language.

"But I don't know another language!"  There is a common assumption that you need to be bilingual to serve overseas.  For Bible translators and church planters, knowing the language of the host country is essential to the effectiveness of the work.

The nature of the ministry of TeachBeyond is a bit different.  The vast majority of roles within TeachBeyond are carried out in English.  Most of our partners are international or bilingual schools, which means that English is the common language of communication or one of two primary languages of instruction.

New TeachBeyond members are not required to attend pre-field language school.  We recognize that their primary mission fields are their classrooms, residence halls, and offices, and as such, most of their ministry will be conducted in English.

We do, however, strongly encourage our members to study language.  Being able to engage with neighbors and other "locals" opens incredible doors of opportunity.  I'll never forget praying for my landlady the night before she was scheduled to have surgery.  It was the first time I had prayed aloud in German, and it was a sacred moment.

Am I glad that I had taken four years of German before moving to Germany?
Were there people at Black Forest Academy who knew next to no German?
Yes, there were.

If God is calling you to go, commit some time to studying language before you get on a plane.  But if you haven't taken a Spanish class since eighth grade, don't let that preclude you from considering TeachBeyond.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Monday Misconceptions: Week 1

This post is the first in a series focused on misconceptions about TeachBeyond.  Are you wondering what TeachBeyond is all about?  Check back for new posts on Mondays - or if you can't wait, check out!

Misconception #1:  TeachBeyond is only for certified teachers.

TeachBeyond.  Since 2009, this name has helped to accurately portray our focus on educational ministry around the world.  However, contrary to this misconception, TeachBeyond is not just for teachers.

1.  Many positions do not require teacher certification.  From school nurse to ITdorm parent to business manager, there are many roles that don't involve teaching.  Each of these is key to the process of transformational education!  Simply put: Without them, schools couldn't run.

2.  We provide TESOL training.  We have a number of opportunities for teaching English Language Learners (ELL), both in national and international school settings.  Most of these don't require a four-year degree in TESOL, but we don't want to send untrained ELL teachers without equipping them.  Every June, there are three weeks of TESOL training through the Institute of Cross-Cultural Training and Wheaton College's TESOL Department.  In addition, members who are interested in further study may pursue an M.A. in TESOL and Intercultural Studies through an affiliation with Wheaton College.

3.  A subject-area bachelor's degree may be sufficient.  Depending on the position and school, there may be opportunities to teach a subject that you have studied, such as a foreign language or art. Many of our schools will also consider applicants who have degrees in core subject areas, such as science and math, that are difficult at times to fill with certified teachers.  In many of those scenarios, we can help these new teachers gain temporary certification through ACSI.  We also provide an intensive one-day tutorial geared to those lacking formal education training, as well as the option of ongoing mentorship by an experienced teacher.

We do love inquiries from certified teachers!  If you've been through an education program, you know how beneficial it is to know about and have experience with classroom management, evaluation, and differentiation.  However, we don't want our non-educator friends to think that TeachBeyond is out of the question!

"Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms.  If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God.  If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.  To Him be the glory!"  1 Peter 4:10-11

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Hope for 2017

As I was writing Christmas and New Year's greetings to friends, I found myself writing (and praying) this over and over again: "May Jesus fill you with true hope as you trust Him with 2017!"

Hope.  It's a word we hear a lot this time of year.  We hope that this new year will be even better than the one before it.  We hope we will find success, fulfillment, direction.  We make wishes and hope they come true.

The thing is, we aren't guaranteed any of those things.  While we can rely on God's provision and protection, we don't get to decide which gifts are perfect (James 1:17) and from what He should defend us (2 Thess. 3:3).  We desire control over our circumstances and long for confidence that 2017 will exceed our expectations, but our omniscient Father asks us to surrender and follow (Psalm 9:10).

According to Romans 5, our hope comes not from knowing what's ahead, but knowing the One who has already gone ahead.  Hope develops as we persevere through the most challenging of circumstances.  And hope rests in the finished work of Christ, who reconciled us to Himself "while we were yet sinners."

So, at the dawn of this New Year, "let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess" (Hebrews 10:23).  Whether our circumstances seem hopeful in our eyes or not, let's allow God's character and promises be our firm foundation.  May He fill us to overflowing with true hope as we trust in Him (Romans 15:13)!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

OnPractice: Connecting with Coaches

Recently, I was a guest author for TeachBeyond's monthly education newsletter called OnPractice. While working on this article, I reflected back on my years of teaching at BFA with gratitude for the opportunities to involve the local community, as well as many of you, in classroom activities.

“What do you think heaven is like?  Do you think we will get bored?” Many questions peppered my sixth grade Bible lessons. While we couldn’t stop to discuss every one, how could I ignore my students’ curiosity about the Word? Because of this, I had each student conduct a research project based on a self-selected topic of interest.  I asked several trusted adults from the community to guide small groups of students, and they became the mentors and managers of the project.  Students were evaluated based on completion, but they gained so much more than knowledge from their interactions with coaches.  

Similarly, adult coaches were an invaluable resource for an ungraded middle school research unit. Students developed inquiry questions for independent study and were matched with coaches – my family and friends around the world – who had experience with the students’ topics. One supporter sent a soccer ball for his middle school researcher, while my brother e-mailed with a student constructing a model trebuchet. It was fascinating to watch student motivation and creativity blossom through this intergenerational, interest-based learning experience!
Why Involve Coaches?
When designed effectively, projects involving adult coaches can have numerous benefits. Hearing other voices will enhance student understanding about a topic and potentially expose them to differing viewpoints. Communicating with coaches will build their confidence and grow their enthusiasm for learning. Furthermore, local community members and long-distance contacts may enjoy this “window” in your classroom. This is a great way to involve supporters, former professors, and nearby experts!
Where Do I Begin?
  • Consider Curriculum: Review curricular themes and goals, and think about whether adult coaches could help students learn specific content or skills. Brainstorm ways to integrate community mentors into already existing activities, or design a purposeful project with a coach-based approach. 
  • Connect with Coaches: Contact people directly or create an online survey to recruit potential coaches. Be sure to clearly communicate your expectations for these mentors, and for longer projects, check in with coaches periodically for feedback.
  • Make it Developmentally Appropriate: Guided independence worked well for my middle school classes, but high school students would likely thrive with greater freedom. At the elementary level, coaches could communicate with the whole class or provide enrichment for gifted learners.
  • Integrate Technology: Besides allowing for communication with long-distance coaches, tech tools may be useful for student research, peer collaboration, and teacher supervision of project progress. When introducing new tools, be sure to incorporate mini-lessons and provide scaffolded practice. 
  • Protect Students: Student privacy is of utmost importance. When I connected my middle school students with remote coaches, I moderated all communication. I sent student e-mails to their coaches and forwarded coach responses back to the students. This was a bit cumbersome, but it was worth it to maintain student privacy and allow me to monitor the process.
As you look ahead to the new year, how will you connect on a deeper level with your students? Perhaps involving coaches could be the next step for facilitating transformational education in your classroom.