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.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Recruiting and Reconnecting in Minnesota!

What does it look like for me to be "on the road"?  Here's a glimpse into my recent recruiting trip.

Recruiting at Bethel University, UNWSP, and Crown College!

Setting up a TeachBeyond display.  This is my "home base" for the day.  It didn't take too many recruiting events to establish a routine for assembling the banners, brochures, and rack cards for people to peruse.  I never know what conversations will happen at the table, but I pray that God will provide people for me to connect with throughout the day.  Whether or not these interactions lead to completed inquiry cards and applications, I love the divine appointments to listen to their life stories, and speak truth and purpose into people's perspectives about the future (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Speaking to classes.  Although it's not possible on every campus, I welcome the opportunity to share with education majors about TeachBeyond.  I tell them the story of my uncertainty about serving overseas, and many nod their heads as they resonate with the roller coaster of indecision.  Conveying God's work in our partner schools is even easier to do since the mobilization trip to Southeast Asia last month!

Meeting with "influencers."  Talking with interested individuals is great, but establishing connections with professors, student life staff, and career services representatives can be even more valuable.  These "influencers" (as we call them) have the potential to impact many more students than I can reach in a few hours of on-campus recruiting!  It's great to be able to leave information for this person to pass on to their networks, which has ripple effects into the future.

Connecting with church leaders in the area.  Whether from the home church of a current TeachBeyond member or a personal friend of mine, I thoroughly enjoy talking with missions representatives from local churches.  It is helpful to learn more about their programs, such as focus people groups and the process for becoming a mission partner, as well as share about opportunities for their congregations to get involved with TeachBeyond.

Spending "down time" with friends.  On the trip to Minnesota specifically, reconnecting with friends was an added bonus!  I stayed with a family I know from Kandern whose college-aged daughter was in my small group at BFA.  It was wonderful to eat together, reminisce about memories from Germany, and hear about what has happened in the last year and a half.  It was so special to give their daughter Katie a hug, hear stories about college life, and meet some of her friends!

Reconnecting with Katie was a highlight of the trip!

I also had dinner with a former BFA co-worker, one of my first friends in Kandern back in 2010!  It was delightful to catch up with Emily and see her neighborhood in the Twin Cities.

What a difference 6 years makes!

Ultimately, recruiting is a seed-sowing adventure (1 Cor. 3:6-7).  Post-trip emailing and periodic reconnecting - the "watering" of seeds - are time-consuming but worthwhile tasks.  I never know which conversations will grow into serious commitment to overseas service.  Thankfully, God does!  I'm grateful that this work is His, that I partner with the omniscient Father who is ever drawing His children into deeper obedience and trust... which sometimes looks like joining TeachBeyond.

Beautiful sunrise over Crown College!

Friday, October 28, 2016

Reflections on a Whirlwind Trip!

I just returned from a whirlwind tour of Southeast Asia: 9 flights and 4 countries in 13 days!  It was incredible to be able to see the schools, experience different cultures, and spend time with the current TeachBeyond members.

A "taste" of Southeast Asia!

Representing the TeachBeyond Mobilization team in Asia!

This trip reminded me of several key points about TeachBeyond:

No school or project is the same!  While the mission of transformational education remains the same, it plays out differently in various contexts.  Each school in each location has its own distinct challenges and blessings.  This makes it difficult to summarize the work of TeachBeyond in one sentence, but it means that there are opportunities for people with a wide variety of personalities, skills, and passions!  The conversations and experiences from this trip will be an invaluable resource as I guide future applicants toward a good "fit" for overseas service.

Quality education is a gift to a community.  Schools focused on serving missionary kids empower the parents of their students to stay on the field.  Others geared toward nationals have unique opportunities for outreach.  In each setting, good teaching and well-designed programs are a platform for exemplifying Christ to students, their families, and whole communities.

Praying on the site of the future Grace International School campus

Dinner with TeachBeyond members in Chiang Rai

There will always be a need for more workers.  School leaders in each location expressed gratitude for their partnership with TeachBeyond, yet also emphasized the overwhelming need for more staff.  They aren't looking for just anyone to "fill" the positions, but they welcome applicants for all sorts of positions - from librarian to seminary professor to teacher trainer.

 It was so fun to see friends serving around the world!

I'm exhausted from many hours on airplanes and two weeks of grueling travel, but I'm energized by this firsthand glimpse into God's work through TeachBeyond in this region of the world!  More than ever, I believe that God is at work through humble, surrendered servants who "shine like stars as [they] hold out the Word of life" (Phil. 2:15-16).  Greater things are yet to come.

Do you know someone (maybe it's you!) who might be interested in serving overseas?
How is God calling you to be part of reaching the nations with the Gospel?

Thursday, October 13, 2016


That's right... I'm headed to southeast Asia tonight!

Who:  Six TeachBeyond staff from the Mobilization and Member Care/Personnel teams
What:  A whirlwind trip to our schools/projects in the region
When:  October 14-26
Where:  Three countries in southeast Asia
Why:  To get an overview of the schools and encourage our members there!

I'm excited for this opportunity to reconnect with TeachBeyond friends who serve in southeast Asia, as well as gain a better perspective for recruiting for the region.  I would really appreciate your prayers for our trip.  Please pray for...

  • Energy:  Pray that I'll be able to sleep on our flights and have energy for our jam-packed schedule!
  • Safety & Health:  Pray that my cold would not progress any further, and that we would have safety and good health throughout the two weeks we are away.
  • Flexibility:  This is always key for serving overseas!  Pray that I would trust the Lord with the details as I step out of my comfort zone.
  • Encouragement:  Pray that my team would be an encouragement to the staff and students at each of the schools we visit, as well as a witness to their communities.

Promises from Psalm 91:

"Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, 'He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in Whom I trust.'
Surely He will save you from the fowler's snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with His feathers, 
and under His wings, you will find refuge;
His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart...
For He will command His angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways."

Friday, October 7, 2016

Grandma's Words of Wisdom

It's been three weeks since my grandma went to be with Jesus.

Grandma was - and will continue to be - an inspirational role model to me.  She was a woman of fervent prayer and deep trust in the Lord.  Grandma taught for almost thirty years, so it's no surprise that my mom, two of my cousins, and I have each had classrooms of our own!  I see so much of myself in Grandma: eagerly welcoming newcomers, enthusiastically hosting friends, optimistically embracing life as an adventure, and brimming with stories to tell.

Home video from January 1994 / Family vacation in Florida

October 2015 / Family gathered to remember and celebrate Grandma's life

My grandmother was a woman of many words of wisdom.  (Or, as she would probably say with a laugh, "a woman of many words"!)  Along with other members of the family, I had the opportunity to speak at Grandma's Life Celebration last weekend, so I decided to share excerpts from Grandma's emails over the years.  I'm sure she wouldn't mind me sharing these with you, as well.

Grandma's Words of Wisdom

God is love, and is in love with each of us.  Take time frequently to share this love.  Obedience to God's commands is the way we show Him our love. 

He commands us to be encouragers.  Don't let the busy pace of your daily responsibilities interfere with opportunities to be an encourager.  Let people know you recognize their kindnesses. It’s fun to be an encourager!

Our awareness of the Lord's leading and His provisions makes Him smile when He sees how we lean upon Him for strength and guidance. 

Sometimes when things do not go according to our plans, we are amazed at how God's provision for the day is even better than we'd dreamed.  Who said seniors are inflexible?  It's only our joints!

Sometimes God uses us as PART of the process, not its completion.  Following His lead is our only responsibility.  Our daily request should be that God will show us anyone we can encourage or help, that we will not pass up any opportunity.  

One tiny caution: get your rest, take care of a minor sore throat, for good health is the backbone of productive activity.

In all uncomfortable situations, I try – magic word: try – to see a benefit.  Though it may be small, finding it gives me the peace He promised.

In happy moments, praise God
In difficult moments, seek God
In quiet moments, worship God
In painful moments, trust God
In every moment, thank God.   
He loves to hear your voice.

This may be a year of political and economic turmoil, but we can trust in God's Word to strengthen, encourage, and guide us throughout.

God is always confirming His will.  Sometimes I find myself rushing ahead of Him, not listening closely enough, not quietly waiting, but He is there!  

Take advantage of every opportunity to see the world.  Life’s journey is a wonderful adventure.  Hold tightly to the realization that no step is unknown to the One who has created and loves you. 

Only one life to live, soon to be past.  Only what’s done for Christ will last.  Finish well, for many arms wait to hug you…. Mine included.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight."  Proverbs 3:5-6

A sticky note I found in Grandma's Bible