Sunday, January 14, 2018

Plan B

Do you think your parents would let me stay at their house tonight?  I texted my friend after church last Sunday.  A quick glance at the weather forecast for Monday indicated that it would be better to get out that evening.  I began packing my bags, checking my recruiting supply inventory, and loading up the car.  I still had to play keyboard for the 5:00 service, but I could get to Columbus in a few hours.

The next morning, I woke up in a guest bedroom in Columbus to a world of white and a car encased in ice.  Indeed, I had made the right decision!  A few hours later, the roads were clear and I made it down to Cedarville University uneventfully.


Little did I know that my quick exit on Sunday night was just the first in a number of changes in plans  that week:

A pipe had burst in my hosts' home, so a series of texts connected me with a family I'd never met.  Their home turned out to be a lot more convenient to Cedarville's campus, and I was blessed by their generous hospitality to me, a stranger.

A double-booked class visit led to a combined presentation with a fellow missions recruiter, which rarely happens!  We were able to show our opportunities not as competitive (which is how it sometimes feels), but as complementary in advancing the Gospel through education.

Despite unseasonably warm temperatures mid-week, another treacherous forecast for the end of the week caused me to cancel my trip down to Louisville and return home a few days early.  I was nestled back home in Pittsburgh with a restocked refrigerator before the freezing rain and snow hit!



Before this trip even began, a friend had encouraged me to take advantage of the opportunities that arose out of the unexpected events of the week.  What a timely reminder to embrace the "Abenteuer" (adventure) of the unknown.  Looking through the lens of divine orchestration rather than added frustration can drastically alter our perspectives! 

What "curve balls" have you experienced recently?  Does it feel like you're on to Plan Z by now?  We can rest in the confidence that God is not surprised by our circumstances or uncertain about the outcome.  As His followers, we can step into the opportunities presented before us, knowing that our omniscient Eternal Father (Isaiah 46:9-10) is working in us (Philippians 1:6).

Plan A, Plan B, or Plan Z, it doesn't matter: "If God is for us, who can be against us? We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us!"  (Romans 8:31, 37)

Friday, December 15, 2017

Seasons

I first heard the song "Seasons" back in October when Hillsong Worship's newest Christmas album released.  It felt too early to be listening to Christmas music, but the truths of its lyrics reverberated in my mind and soul.

"If all I know of harvest
Is that it's worth my patience
Then if You're not done working
God, I'm not done waiting"


Now this song seems to be popping up everywhere - my Facebook feed, last week's church service, numerous conversations with friends.  The lyrics declare the goodness of God amidst our unmet expectations, long-awaited outcomes, and unspoken hopes.  Whether we feel the weight of waiting right now or can clearly see evidence of fruit, He is the God of the rhythmic seasons - faithfully present in our patience.

"And when I finally see my tree
Still I believe there's a season to come"


My work with mobilization sometimes feels like burying a seed and wondering if it will ever peek through the frosty flowerbed.  I question whether dormant emails will yield future missionaries.  I'm sure you can relate: What are you wishing for, pondering, longing to see this Christmas?  Deep down, we know that this wintry waiting isn't so much about the answers, but the trust it blossoms within us.

"For all I know of seasons
Is that You take Your time

You could have saved us in a second
Instead You sent a child"


In the stillness of winter, may we know the nearness of our eternal God, El Olam (Gen. 21:33),
Who is not bound by the human concept of time,
Who sent His Son at just the right moment (Ro. 5:6, Gal. 4:4) and is still active today,
and Who intimately knows our winters and our harvests.

"Though the winter is long
Even richer the harvest it brings"

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

A Day in the Life

There's no "typical day" around here, but yesterday was a full day (yes, this was a real day, but I'll spare you some of the details) that highlights many aspects of what I do as Associate Director of Mobilization!  Step into my "office," also known as my dining room table...


7:45 a.m.  I check email, responding to several with partner schools in another time zone who are more than halfway through the work day!  My inbox often has several new web inquiries, which I distribute to other mobilization team members based on geographic location, overseas interest, and demographics.  I generate a personality survey report for an applicant who is in process, excited to see that she is moving forward.  I don't usually start my day this early, but having a flexible schedule is one perk of this job!

9:30 a.m.  After a quick breakfast, I call the missions administrator at a church in Tennessee, and we chat about the Church Endorsement form that one of my applicants has asked her to complete.  It's fascinating to hear about the church's missions department, which includes two missions committees for local and global outreach.  As we hang up, I pray for the applicants, asking God to guide their process of discernment and preparation.

10:00 a.m.  Every Tuesday, I meet with my two supervisees to hear how things are going, from specific candidate questions to recruitment planning to big-picture brainstorming.  The first of the day is with Christy, who began serving in mobilization last year.  I always enjoy bouncing ideas off of Christy and hearing her insights and suggestions!

10:36 a.m.  I scan my inbox, where I discover an email from an applicant I haven't heard from in a while.  It's great to know that she is ready to move forward and schedule an interview!  I also see something about initial plans for Urbana 2018.  It's hard to believe that it's already time to begin preparing to recruit at Urbana again!

10:52 a.m.  Time to make a cup of coffee before the next meeting!


11:00 a.m.  Bev and I begin our conversation by chatting about Thanksgiving plans, followed by some questions about applicants and upcoming recruiting events.  Bev just began with the mobilization team this fall, so it's particularly exciting to see that she has several active applicants right now!

11:42 a.m.  With an afternoon full of meetings ahead of me, I assemble lunch and settle back into my spot at the dining room table.

12:00 p.m.  I join the Candidate Processing Committee meeting, which opens with sharing prayer requests.  We pray for one another, our members around the world, and the applicants we are considering.  I don't have anyone to present today, but I'm excited to have 15 active applicants who will be presented to this committee in the coming months.  My colleagues share the stories of their applicants, we ask questions, and we vote to accept several new candidates today.

2:30 p.m.   It's time to FaceTime friends in Germany to talk about TeachBeyond's Instagram!  I began managing the account last month, and the Turners kicked off an every-other-week "takeover" rotation.  Today we exchange ideas and feedback, and briefly preview the plan for the next month.  I have loved learning the world of Instagram marketing and collaborating with members around the world to share #teachbeyondlife!  Be sure to follow @teachbeyond to see for yourself!


3:20 p.m.  My supervisor and I typically connect on Tuesday afternoons, often even if one of us is on the road.  Today we are both working from home, but with the full lineup of meetings and long list of to-dos before Thanksgiving, we're keeping our conversation relatively short today.  I pull up my running list of topics to discuss, and we work our way through a few this afternoon.

4:11 p.m.  One meeting has led right into another, and it's time to jump on a call with a college senior who found out about TeachBeyond at a recent event in Michigan.  She's interested in one of our schools in Bolivia, and I conclude the call with the promise to send her the full-time application.

5:23 p.m.  Questions arise about the developments with a specific project, so I dialogue with a colleague in Canada about the details.

6:30 p.m.  That's a wrap!  This was a longer day than most, but I'm grateful for the many conversations I've been able to have.  There is always more that could be done, but I have learned that it's important to define clear boundaries when working from home.  I strive to be faithful in my work - and trust the Lord to multiply my efforts and bring just the right people to serve overseas with TeachBeyond!

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.  It is the Lord Christ you are serving." Colossians 3:23-24

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Reconnecting & New Vision

It's been over two years since I left Germany, my home for five formative years, to return to the States.  Two years of helping to send new staff to that "other home."  Two years, fast-forwarding all of my former students into high school.  (My first class of fourth graders are juniors... what?!)

Two years sometimes feels like a lifetime ago, and stepping back into that world last month was like stumbling into a dream.  A strangely familiar, wonderfully welcoming dream world.


By far, the highlight of my trip was reconnecting.  It was a joy to spend hours in conversation with dear friends, to hear a delighted "Miss Brown!" while walking around the familiar campus of BFA, to put my German to use at the local festivals.  Exploring new places and revisiting favorite ones.  These were God-ordained moments: reunions that I never could have orchestrated so perfectly, clearly pointing to the Giver of every good gift (Matthew 7:11, James 1:17).

Dinner with my mentor and her family

Some of my former students, now high schoolers!


A trip to Kandern isn't complete without visiting the Eis Cafe... multiple times!

I met this special family in the TeachBeyond orientation youth program in 2014.

It was great to catch up with Lizzy, an RA at BFA, whom I hadn't seen since orientation 2016!

I loved sharing Basel with these two, who are now serving in Germany and the UK.

Reconnecting didn't only happen at BFA!  I love that my current role has tethered me to a network of amazing educators serving with TeachBeyond around the world.  Just as we had experienced in Asia last fall, it was informative and encouraging to hear stories from colleagues in Hungary, Spain, and the Czech Republic as we shared excursions, meals, and meetings.



 


And so, I return with new vision.  As I set up my display table on college campuses and sit in the offices of missions pastors, these images come to mind.  Replays of school tours and city explorations.  Team meetings filled with laughter, as well as heartfelt prayers for one another.  The faces of the ones He has called to those places for this time.  Those school names are no longer just words on a page, but beautiful communities of willing servants and growing learners.

I wonder, Who's next?  Who else will join them as teachers, administrators, residence life staff?  I can't wait to see how He answers through the obedient yeses of His people!

(Want to see more? Watch our trip video here!)




 

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 teachbeyond.org!

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 teachbeyond.org!

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 teachbeyond.org!

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