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.

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?