Sunday, December 5, 2010

Thanksgiving, Christmas Banquet, and Basketball

With the holidays that come with this time of year, the pace of life has definitely picked up. We’ve had several different exciting events already, with more to come. To start, we had an exciting Thanksgiving meal for the dorm the week before American Thanksgiving. Lots of yummy dishes, like green bean casserole, stuffing, turkey, and sweet potatoes were included. As we enjoyed the food and fellowship, and reflected on what we are thankful for, one of the biggest things on my mind was the fact that I feel more at home here than I ever thought I would this soon. To be able to sit at the table and talk and laugh with those around me after knowing them for less than two months; to feel like I’m fitting into the ways of the dorm; and most of all to find reassurance every day knowing that this is exactly where I’m supposed to be. I truly have much to be thankful for. I know that this post comes a bit after the fact, but I also want to say how much I am thankful for my family. Many parents have trouble letting their kids go, especially when it’s to someplace they’ve never been halfway around the world. While my parents would probably tell you that it hasn’t been easy, never for a moment have they questioned God’s direction in my life, and that means more than words will ever be able to express. I’m also thankful for my sister Carolyn, and brothers, Jonathan, Tim, Peter, and Mark. While being six completely different people, I couldn’t ask for a more loving group of people. I miss being part of their lives, but they’ve been amazing so far with keeping me informedJ. Keep it up guys! I love you!

Dorm Thanksgiving dinner
Last weekend was the annual Christmas banquet. The banquet is a formal event, so students, especially the ladies, had been preparing for several weeks. I had a chance to help the Blauen ladies get ready and spent several hours across the street doing hair and hanging out with them. When I returned to Sonne to finish getting myself ready, the transformation I found in our Sonne Knights was incredible. In my opinion, they’re already a handsome group, but this particular evening found them looking positively dashing! The theme was a masquerade ball, and the evening was full of food, lots of pictures, and featured a program in which students shared their various talents. The highlight of the evening was a group waltzing lesson. It’s a little tricky, but lots of fun once you get it.  
Sonne guys getting ready to leave for the banquet
Josh McKeown and me at the Christmas Banquet

Students and staff enjoy the Christmas Banquet











BFA hosted it’s first home basketball games this past Friday evening, and most of the student body as well as many faculty and staff came out for a great night of school spirit. Sonne guys were particularly enthusiastic in cheering for one of our own, Sunshine, on varsity. He scored with in the first few seconds of being on the court, and the team also won! Very excitingJ.
BFA Falcons during a time out
















Boy's varsity team enters the court





In other news, I’ve learned to drive our stick-shift vans, and am now approved by BFA Residence Life to drive students. This is particularly exciting because I didn’t have a clue how to drive stick before arriving in Germany. I’m glad to have gotten over this hurdle, and pick up more of my part of the load. While the staff here doesn’t complain, I think it’ll be a relief for them as well!
Snow continues to fall here, and the landscape is beautiful. It’s snowing right now, and from where I’m sitting in the living area right now, I can see a hillside already covered in beautiful powdery whiteness. God’s fingerprints are all over His creation! With only two weeks left in the semester, I’d like to ask you to pray for special strength and grace for everyone here. The students are working hard to finish strong, and we as staff want to be as supportive and loving as possible. Please pray that we will continue to show Christ in everything we do and say.  

Lauren


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The thoughts in this post may seem a bit scattered, but this can of increased activity in the dorm which, in this case, is a good thing. Gradually, I’m learning my place here, among the staff, and with the students. One good word that describes my goals in being here is “Balance.” Balance in relationships, developing new ones in the community here, and trying to maintain those from the states. Balance in getting to know my students, trying to help guide and discipline, but also learning when to come alongside and just be a friend. Learning how to balance time, giving sufficient time to meal preparation and other necessary activities in addition to rest time and sleep. For experienced parents who may be reading this, you are probably thinking “Wait til you have your own kids!” I just count myself blessed to have a chance to learn from the students here. I’m learning that all of life is learning, and I’m grateful for a patient Teacher, and fellow students.

I’d like to give you occasional glimpses into life here in the dorm to help you picture life here a bit better. One of my favorite times of the day is when the guys come home from school. They come bursting in the door, and the first thing they say is usually, “Snack!” After making a bee-line for the food and promptly devouring it, they settle down for a bit, some watching soccer games, some go to their rooms, and others hang out on the couches in the living room. Between this time and dinner time, if efforts are not being made towards homework, there is time for games and good conversation. I’ve become somewhat proficient at several new games since I’ve been here, and one of the guys has come up with about 10 different ways to play Uno. Though these may not seem like new and innovative ways to get to know people, I look forward to this window of time each day because of the time spent with the guys.

Recently I had the opportunity to spend some extra time out in the mountains. It was an incredible lesson in purpose. The nature surrounding me was incredibly beautiful, but as I looked around I realized that the mountains, trees, and everything around me was doing exactly what it was created for. Granted, the world is deteriorating, but still, God created those things to exist for His glory, and they were doing just that. Then it occurred to me that I, the thinking, feeling breathing human being surrounded by all this beauty, have difficulty choosing to honor my Creator. I found myself asking God to help me glorify Him and fulfill His purpose for me as completely as the nature around me. 

I'm going to try and post one more time this week, so maybe my next post will be a little more coherent :) 

Lauren

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Week 3

Funny how when you’re young, Christmas seems to take forever to come. Then once you get older, you blink and another holiday, month, etc.  is upon you. I’m very excited to be starting my third week at Sonne. Getting acclimated here has included getting to know a very special and unique fellowship of believers. They are open and accepting, and passionate about their part of the ministry here. I have also had some great opportunities to get to know the guys. This has gone a lot faster than I had expected. Whether it’s a little conversation here, a game there (I learned to play Risk this week), helping with homework, or whatever the situation, getting to know these people better is a continual joy. At dinner the other night I had a flash-back to my first meal here, and while it’s a good memory, I was relieved to find that I have become 100% more comfortable here. I’m really enjoying getting to know the dorm-staff here as well. While there is a definite variance in personality, the differences are pleasant ones. I’m just thankful for their patience with me. Each one has put out considerable effort to teach me, get to know me, and just help me feel comfortable. Thank you Debbie, Marty, Tommy, and Chris! Before I arrived, I had started a study of the books of First and Second Timothy, and II Timothy 2:22 has become a major catalyst in my adjusting process. It says, “So flee youthful passions, and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to put this verse into action each day alongside a staff that exemplifies this verse so clearly.  

The past few weeks have not been without difficulty. Nothing major, but I have to admit that I do get a bit more homesick than I had imagined I would. I suppose this is a good thing though, because I have such an awesome base of family and friends to miss. I want all of you who are reading this to know that I think of and pray for you often. I just want to take a second here to thank all of you who have written for your emails, encouraging notes on Facebook, etc. for taking the time to contact me. It means so much! Also, congrats to the BJU Chorale for what I heard from very reliable sources was a stellar concert the other night. I dearly wish I could have been there, but I hold you all in my heart! Kudos, and best wishes for a wonderful year of beautiful music!

Lastly, I'm including some pictures to help you visualize where I am a bit better. The first one is a picture of the outside of the dorm. I particularly love the clouds in this one. The next two are the valley where we are located. The last one is the sitting area in my room. It's been fun making everything fit exactly how I want it. Enjoy!




Thursday, October 14, 2010

First Days

As I sit at the desk in my room in Sonne, I can hardly believe that I’m here. The last weekend at home flew by, and before I knew it I was saying goodbye to mom, dad, and the boys, and boarding a plane for London, then Basel. The flight to London was not as long as I remembered which is always nice for a transatlantic flight. When I arrived at London-Heathrow, I was a little confused because its huge, and it was also 6 o’clock in the morning. My flight to Basel left a little late because French pilots and other flight staff had gone on strike that morning, but we still made it to Basel in good time. I was very relieved when I had pulled all four of my bags off the luggage belt. It seems that the only time I have trouble with my luggage is when flying domestic in the US. Ironic. Marty Shilling, our dorm dad, met me at the airport after customs, and we loaded my luggage into the car. Thankfully, all of it fit! They have lots of great culturally rich traditions here, and I was introduced to a new one on the ride to Mulhaus. There are farms here that grow flowers which the public can stop pick, and pay for on the honor system. I now have some lovely chrysanthemums sitting beside me on my desk. 

When we arrived at Sonne, Debbie, our dorm mom, Tommy, and Chris were there for a warm welcome. The friendliness of the other res life staff here is such a blessing. They helped get my luggage upstairs to my rooms, and I spent the afternoon meeting the guys and unpacking. Somehow, I was able to unpack everything in one shot (which if you know me well, is quite uncharacteristic for me J). Everything fits great, and I love my little set up here. I also witnessed my first creeking that evening. Creeking is a ritual accompanying the birthday celebration of any given resident here at Sonne. As soon as the candles on his cake are blown out, the birthday celebrant makes a run for the door where he is headed off, picked up, and carried out the door, down the driveway, and doused in the creek. It’s really a fun tradition here, but personally I’m glad to have a summer birthday!

Since I’m jumping into an already started school-year, I wasn’t sure how easily I would get to know the guys. But I’m doing pretty well with names so far, and I’ve had some great breakthroughs and chances to get to know some of them. There are some really special people in this student body. I’ve already discovered some that enjoy music, and for those who are wondering if I’m getting a chance to use any of the musical part of my brain, rest assured that I am! More on that later, though. Suffice it to say that I’m loving it here already. 

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Commissioning

It's funny to discover how God has directed our paths even when we didn't realize He was doing it. My pastor had scheduled a Commissioning Service for me during tonight's evening service on Wednesday, and we were thankful God had directed him this way when we found out I was leaving on Monday! Tonight's service was a huge blessing. A former missionary, and great student of the Word, gave the challenge to me out of Micah 6:8. This was very special because God had begun to use that verse in my life during the time at Csehy this summer. Now it's meaning is intensified for me.  


"He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?" Micah 6:8 


The first two commands pertain to dealing with mankind, and the last to my relationship with God. If God is first in a person's life, everything else will fall into place. This is my prayer as I enter this new phase in my life. After a time of prayer and laying on of hands, pastor delivered a challenge to the church. He emphasized their partnership with me, and with BFA, and said that by sending someone over they were sending part of themselves as well.  After the service, I was overwhelmed by the expressions of love, promises to pray, wise words, and warm embraces by many present. It was tremendously difficult to say good-bye to such loved ones, but I know that they are supportive of my going, and will be upholding me in prayer daily. I praise God for such a church family that demonstrates the love of Christ in such tangible ways.


So as the time draws near, I ask the Lord to help me walk humbly with Him. I'm looking forward to arriving in Germany, but even more, I'm excited to how I am going to grow and change. 



Thursday, October 7, 2010

Getting Ready to Go

Just when we think we know the extent of the workings of God, He makes us marvel yet again! As of today, my support has reached the point which will allow me to depart for Germany and become part of the ministry there. Lord willing, I will be arriving at BFA next week! In truth, the time since late July, when all of this started, has passed rather quickly. However, as is true when we wait for anything, I often became a bit impatient. God has been incredibly good every step of the way, which causes me to look forward to His workings in the future with great anticipation. His way is best, always. 
Packing does not excite me (I don’t know why). The destination surely does. I’m excited to be in Germany, but for some reason the prospect of figuring out what to take and what not to take is a bit overwhelming. But just as He has been guiding thus far, I know His hand is in this as well. So just a few more short days and my life will have relocated to a new country, new people, and new responsibilities. As I write this, it seems hard to believe that time has finally come. The road of support raising has many twists and turns, but God is directing each one. All that matters is that our eyes are on Him. 
Once again, I want to say thank you to my faithful support partners. I'll be flying in an airplane on Monday, but you are the true 'wings' God is using to take me. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your loving support. Now that He has enabled me to go, I trust His enabling to make me fit for this position. To Him be the glory! 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Sharing Opportunity

I have the opportunity to share with a ladies' group at my church this evening, and I'm excited! Please pray that I will say exactly what God would have me share. My church is my primary group of supporters, so I don't have to worry about whether they are behind me or not! Pray that people will be blessed and God's name will be honored.

Still in need of about 5%, so please pray!! 

Monday, October 4, 2010

Prayer Request

As we start this week, I have a brief prayer request. Please pray with me that God will protect me from fear and anxiety as this process enters the home stretch of this stage. I am convinced that this is His will for me. After a few minor seeming setbacks this morning I experienced a huge amount of anxiety and doubt. I'm so thankful for God's faithfulness to us even in things like that, and for the constant consistency of His Word.
Let me share with you some of the verses that encouraged me:

"Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you. Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer; listen to my plea for grace. In the day of my trouble I call upon you, for you answer me. There is none like you among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like yours." Psalm 86:4-8


As I write this, I have the classical radio station on in the background. They are in the midst of an intense member fund-drive, and let me tell you, they are passionate about their station. As I listen it's easy for me to envy them, and the money going their way. I have to remind myself that I have the God of the universe providing my every need, and that the last bit of support will come in His perfect time and way. 


Please pray with me that the last bit of support will come in. I need about 5% more, and I'm praying for it to come in TODAY! I'll keep you updated as excitement continues to mount! God is supremely good, all the time.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Unexpected Blessings

This evening my family and I had the blessing of participating in the evening service at Grace Gospel Chapel in Rio Grande, NJ. We've been visiting this church ever since I was little with my dad's choir, for weddings, and other things. The people are wonderful, and their joy is infectious! The pastor had asked for information from me concerning BFA, and when I gave it to him tonight he asked me to share briefly with the church. I was a little hesitant to ask for support. This is such a tight economic time, and they have been so generous to us before. However, as I finished sharing I felt like I should offer some info on how people could partner and support. After the service as we greeted people, I was approached by a kind older couple. In quiet voices, they said, "We need to talk to you. We would like to support you for $100 per month. How do we go about doing that?" What a blessing, and how marvelously humbling! As of now, I need about $30 per month. God has provided so richly, and I am convinced He will bring the rest in as well in His time.
This post will seem a bit backwards, but please forgive me, as it's rather late and I'm a bit sleepy. This morning at my home church, the speaker was a guest missionary from South Africa. His wife is from our area, and I felt a particular interest because I had never heard them speak before. He spoke of surrender, of self and what we think is important. He said, "To what extent am I willing to let go of my rights for the sake of the Gospel?" At this stage in my life, I'm not headed to as obviously difficult an area as this dear couples serves. However, as I sat in the pew this morning, I was struck with the obvious necessity to leave self behind. Who I am and my wants are of lesser importance than what God wants me to be. As I go and learn to be the hands and feet of Christ to the guys in my dorm, I pray that God will give me grace and insight to dispense with whatever is necessary for the sake of His dear name.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

9%

After so many incredible expressions of love from so many friends and family, I am just 9% away from the 80% support level and a plane ticket to Germany! Praise the Lord! 
If you are reading this and have not yet decided to partner with the ministry of BFA, I would encourage you to prayerfully consider giving. Remember that by giving, you aren't just supporting an individual. You are helping to support a ministry which ministers to missionaries and their families!  If just 9 people give $20 per month, the goal will be reached. Click here to donate: Donate Online This link will take you directly to the TeachBeyond online donation page and has instructions on how to give. Thank you so much for your prayers! God's timing is perfect, and I know that the need will be supplied in His time. Praise Him!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

10% to Go!!

I am praising God for His marvelous provision today!! As of now, I have 70% of the support I need. Praise the Lord! However, in order to depart for BFA I need to have 80% of my monthly support pledged. I am currently in need of 10% more, which is $200 per month.  This could be 20 people at $10/month, 10 people at $20/month, 5 people at $40/month, 4 people at $50/month, 2 people at $100/month, or of course 1 person at $200/month. If you are interested in giving, or know of someone who is, please contact me: laurenholland25@yahoo.com. As soon as the last 10% is pledged, I can buy my ticket and make plans to leave. God's provision is awesome, and I am very excited to see how He is going to provide for this next stem. For information on how to give and giving options Click here: Donate Today!
God is so good, and I pray that more people will continue to catch the vision and partner with this ministry!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

No Fleece Necessary

'Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it." John 14:13-14

We serve a God who created the universe, sent His Son to save us, and works in our lives daily, and yet we doubt His ability to answer prayer. Sometimes when I pray, I have this "if you're able to" mindset. I ask God for things, or to do things, but for some reason deep down, I don't acknowledge that He's truly capable to answer. I don't know about you, but I have a hard time trusting, especially when I can't see whom I am trusting. The more proof I see that the person is really there, the more inclined I am to trust. However, in the verses above, all it tells us to do is ask, and He will do it. No fleece, no strings attached. Just ask. "I will do it." That's not an "If I have time," or "I'll try." It is "I will" from "I am." The ultimate goal? "That the Father may be glorified in the Son." He delights to give us good things. "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whim there is no variation or shadow due to change." James 1:17 Our response? "And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to god the Father through Him." Colossians 3:17
We ask in faith, and when He answers, we respond in thanks. 
The reason for this contemplation is that I have experienced a major answer to prayer.  A couple of weeks ago, my church took a survey to see how much people were interested in committing to giving.  Pastor has been wonderfully supportive, and has expressed many times that the church wants to help me get to BFA as soon as possible. This past Sunday was the deadline for responding to the survey, and Sunday evening I was informed that they want to assume 50% of my support. We asked, He answered, and I respond with a heart overflowing with gratitude. This places me very close to the 80% mark, though how close is yet to be determined. 
As support continues to come in I would ask you to pray with me for several things:
  • That the remainder of my support would come in
  • That details such as paperwork, etc. would come together
  • Packing process - wisdom in what to take, and what not to take
  • Small items needing to be purchased before I go
  • Language study - I am endeavoring to absorb as much German as I can before I get there!
I would also like to thank every family and individual that has contributed to my support thus far.  I am incredibly grateful, and I pray that God will reward you richly! To my incredible church family: many, many, many thanks! I am overwhelmed at how God has led, and I am so thankful for you! 

I look forward to keeping you updated as much will be happening in the next few weeks! Germany gets closer by the day!


Friday, September 24, 2010

New Team Members and a Camera

I am overwhelmed by the response to support letters.  Thank you to everyone who has contributed!! What I never realized before this experience is how humbling it is to be in this position. To see how people have given so sacrificially is indeed humbling and a rebuke. One week from yesterday is October 1st. When I think of what God has done in the past month, I am again in awe. When I think of how we will see Him work in the month to come, I am excited.  To anyone that may happen to read this that is older and more mature, you maybe be thinking, "how naiive!" But to have as my only choice to lean on Christ is a thrill indeed. Though I trusted Him to a degree before, I am learning to trust Him in new ways. Each day is another opportunity to exercise this new trust.  For example, the other day I was praying about a new camera. My dear old Kodak of 5 years finally stopped working, and I was trying to rationalize spending 2 years abroad with no pictures to illustrate what I was doing. I asked the Lord about it, and gave the thought of a new camera to him. I knew it was a little thing, and if He wanted me to go without it, than I would. So yesterday, by way of some tithe money, some forgotten birthday money, and a UPS truck that had no idea it was delivering a gift from God, my cute little Samsung SL50. I know that this wasn't something REALLY exciting like a plane ticket, but to me who doubts much, it was just another evidence that God cares about the little things. Because if He provides for the little needs, then He most certainly cares for, and is in control of the big ones.

I also wanted to share what a blessing it has been to spend this time at home. God has a way of making us be still, and I am enjoying the quiet time and spending quality time with my incredible family. I do not deserve to be so blessed! I have also been soaking up the fellowship with my wonderful church family. After being away at BJU for so long, it is good to be back and renew friendships. God has given a wonderful praying support-group of Christian young women, and I have been blessed by spending time talking and praying with them. At a time of life when my side of conversations consists of support, Germany, me, support, Germany, and more support percentages, these women have served to broaden my perspective past myself.  What amazing fellowship we can have when coming to God's presence together!

 "The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance." Psalm 16:6 


As I contemplate the measures I am to take with support-raising, I must keep before me the blessings He as already given. He is faithful!

Monday, September 20, 2010

10 days

Today is September 20th, which means that October is a mere 10 days away. My goal is to be in Germany in October, and I currently have about 10% of the 80% pledged support needed.  God has provided already in  many humbling ways, and I know that He is able to provide the rest.  If you are interested in joining the support team, please see the links at the bottom of the page, or email me personally at laurenholland25@yahoo.com. There is a definite need here, and the sooner I can leave the better. Please pray with me that people will give as God leads them, and that I will continue to trust.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

I am overwhelmed with the incredible care God provides. Several new supporters joined the team this week, and I am extremely grateful! Pray with me that God will continue to provide!

Friday, September 17, 2010

While the weather is nice, I've taken to having my devotions outside in our front yard.  Today, as I sat thinking and praying about support, noticed the sparrows. There had been one or two hopping around all week, but this morning there was a whole flock of them foraging through the grass and evidently gorging themselves on something very tasty.  "I wonder if they are even aware of their needs," I thought. The same God that cares for them, cares for me, and yet I sit here and wonder if He remembers I'm here sometimes.
 "Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? Yet not one of them is forgotten before God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows." Luke 12:6-7 
 God, grant me a bigger picture of Who You are, and a greater measure of faith to believe Your promises to me are true.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Pressing toward the goal

"I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:14
I find myself returning to this verse throughout this process. It's exciting to know that the same God who empowered Paul and worked in him so mightily is my God too! 

Last night I received notification from TeachBeyond about new supporters! Praise the Lord! Support is coming in His time and His way.  Thank God for His Sovereignty!


Monday, September 13, 2010

Motivation

Just wanted to share the chorus to a hymn we sang in church yesterday. I had mindlessly sung the words many times before, but yesterday they embedded themselves in my mind.

"Oh the height and depth of mercy!
Oh the length and breadth of love!
Oh the fullness of redemption,
Pledge of endless life above!" 

As we sang, I realized that this, above all, needs to be my power-source. God has given us everything, and what does He ask of me in return? That I live my life wholly for Him, a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1) for His complete honor and glory.  He doesn't leave us unequipped, but gives us, "all things that [pertain] unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue." (2 Peter 1:3)  

As I thought about the words to the song, all that I have been given, and the ministry I am joining, I was greatly humbled.  He has given me so much, and now I want to give back by pouring into the lives of others the love the He has given me! In order for that to be my motivation in October, it needs to be my motivation today. 


Friday, September 10, 2010

It's in the Little Things...

Once again, I am reminded that God hears our prayers.  This morning as my mom and I went on our routine walk, I was feeling kind of down and out. My confidence in the fact that God could and would provide was pretty low.  We prayed as we went, and I am ashamed to admit that mine was an attitude, of "Please do, though I don't see how it's possible." I was immediately remorseful, and asked Him to strengthen my faith. This afternoon with the mail came a monthly supporter. Praise the Lord! This is His work and doing, not mine. Proverbs 3:5-6