Tuesday, November 29, 2011

With a Grateful Heart

Although it is just after Thanksgiving, I wanted to mention several things for which I am thankful. First, I am thankful for the God who loves me, died for me, and has given me eternal life. He is everything. He gives me the grace, strength, and health to live, and most of all, forgiveness from sin. I am thankful for my family, my parents, my sister, my 4 handsome brothers, and of course my amazing extended family. I am thankful for my home church, without whom it would be physically impossible to be here. I am thankful for the opportunity to serve at BFA. God is doing some incredible things here, and I feel honored just to be aware and observant. I am thankful for the staff I am privileged to work with every day here at Sonne. They continually bless my life and I am thankful for the chance to learn from and with them. Lastly, but definitely not least, I am thankful for my guys here at Sonne. To my Sonneknights past and present, if any of you happen to read this: God has given all of you a special place in my heart. Listening to your thoughts, watching you grow and laugh together, crying, laughing, and rejoicing with you are the highlights of my life. You may never know how much God has taught me through you.

  In the last post, I mentioned dorm Thanksgiving. Since then, I had the joy of celebrating two more Thanksgiving meals, both with groups of people here whom I have come to love dearly. Since Germans do not celebrate Thanksgiving like we do, the Christmas decorations here have been appearing since before we had our Thanksgiving celebration. I love Christmas and Christmas decor, so I find this time of year very exciting because the town Germans go all out. The day after dorm Thanksgiving we set up the Christmas tree and decorated the dorm. Last Saturday was Christmas Banquet at school. This is a big event in the BFA community, and the guys began asking the girls weeks ago. Everyone dresses up and gathers for a formal dinner complete with an entertaining program. In my mind, this is the kick-off event for the Christmas season here. Another Christmas tradition which is prominent her in Germany is the Weinachtsmarkt, or “Christmas market.” While every city does their Christmas market differently, the focus is usually on Christmas ornaments, decorations, and other winter/Christmas merchandise. In another week we’ll be taking the guys to one of the big Christmas markets, so look for that in a post soon!

With Christmas just around the corner, I also have some personal excitement. I had not planned on going home for Christmas this year, but God provided money and means, so I’ll be home for Christmas! I am greatly looking forward to being home for the holiday season, and if any of you will be in the southern NJ area, please let me know. I would love to see you!

Please continue to pray for the guys as they persevere to the end of the semester. Their spirits are good, but they are also looking forward to going home to their families. Pray that they will continue to be healthy.
Thank you once again for your continued support. Please know that through your prayers and financial support, you have a vital part in the ministry here.

Blessings,

Lauren
Sonne group picture

Sonne guys looking handsome and ready for Banquet!

Banquet with Josh and Caleb

Christmas Banquet, with Paul 

with Chris and Timmy, my awesome fellow-RAs

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Give Thanks

Over the past week we have had some exciting times, so I would like to share some highlights with you now. First of all, last Sunday, one of my seniors was baptized, as a public profession of his walk with Christ. Over the past few years, God has taken him through some difficult times, and especially this year, we have been blessed to see increasing evidence of God’s work in his life. He truly desires to make God the center of his life. Baptisms are a very important public event in this community, taking place during the Sunday morning service at Black Forest Christian Fellowship. The person getting baptized shares their testimony of faith, and then are baptized and prayed over by people whom they have asked to stand up with them. It is an incredibly special, joyful time. 
David sharing his testimony before being baptized

I enjoyed my last few days off this week as well, and was able to go to Lisbon, Portugal for a couple of days. Enjoy pictures below.

Triumphal gate in Lisbon. Love the yellow building!
Lisbon Riverfront










On Thursday, we celebrated Thanksgiving at our dorm. All day, we as staff baked, peeled, mashed, casseroled, and decorated. We sat around the table, enjoying each other’s company, and sharing stories and memories. As I talked with the guys, I couldn’t help but thankfully reflect on all that has taken place in my own heart in the past year. After enjoying the delicious food, we went around the table and everyone shared things they were thankful for. This took a little while, with 30 people, but this was also a very moving time. Through much laughter and a few tears, the guys were very open, and it was exciting to hear them share. Thanks go to Chris Jones for some of the Thanksgiving and Baptism pics!


PJ and David enjoy dorm Thanksgiving


Sonne Thanksgiving
Over the past weeks and months, I have been asked many times, “What are your plans for next year?” The honest answer is that I am still not 100% sure exactly what God has for me next. Lord willing, I am planning to be in Germany at BFA, however my exact role remains unclear. Please pray with me as I seek God’s will in this. The thought of leaving the dorm is difficult, but the possibility is there. I love these kids so much, and I desire to be used by God. I look forward to updating you soon as God continues to lead me. Thank you so much for your prayers. We have had relatively good health, and God has kept us safe through many kilometers traveled, and many busy weekends. Please continue to pray for us as the school year progresses. Pray for the guys as they continue to work on homework. Pray that they will be diligent, and persevere to the end of the semester. Several of my seniors have gotten accepted to universities, but there are several still waiting to hear, or working through the application process. As many of you may remember, this is a very difficult time for them as well. No matter what may be going on in our lives, I would like to leave you with something of which I’ve been continually reminded. God is good, all the time. He is good, He is guiding, and He is completely trustworthy. What confidence! I pray that you will know more of His perfect goodness today!

Blessings,
Lauren

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Valuing the Quiet Moment

The past few days have been busy ones, but some of our guys are beginning to see fruit for their labors. One told me that he got accepted to his first choice college. After many weeks of fine-tuning and practice, another one performed at a recital the other night and was a huge success. This morning was the only home Cross Country meet for BFA, and two of our guys ran, both doing well. A senior from Korea took a test to evaluate his English language skills today which will be instrumental in helping him get accepted into college. He is confident that he did well, and we are optimistic. Another student who has been having some serious academic difficulty is finally beginning to bring his grades up. He faces several disabilities, so his path has been uphill. He is determined to succeed. Several of our seniors are emerging as leaders among their peers. I have to say that I am extremely proud of our guys. Each one faces some unique difficulties. They all get homesick from time to time, and who would not? It is hard to be away from one’s family.  Despite the busy schedules, one of the things that I value is the quiet moment. Times when we can back away from our schedules and enjoy some rest. Today after the meet, I went on a walk with three of our guys. The road we followed was rich with fall foliage. All of us were tired, but as we walked our spirits rose, and we enjoyed each other’s company. We found ourselves talking about our families and about things we were learning. The past few days have also held great conversations with staff and students. I’m sure that other people are also wired this way, but I place great value on good conversation, remembering them to savor later. I find that it deepens friendships, and helps me value others more.

Please continue to pray for the students. November will soon be upon us, and since it is a dark month, with the sun rising later and setting earlier. School work is piling up, so the combined effect can be quite discouraging. Please pray that they will continue to work hard, sleep well, and grow through it all. Pray for continued unity in the dorm. As I mentioned before, some of the guys are emerging as leaders, so I would ask that you pray for courage and continued growth for them. Pray that we as staff will serve from hearts of love, for God and the guys. It is so easy to do daily tasks to simply get them out of the way. The Res life theme for the year is “Do all to the glory of God.” Please pray that this will be our motivation in all things. Pray for good health. We have had several guys struggle with bronchitis, and flu season is just around the corner. Thank you so much for taking time to read my blog, and thank you for your prayers!

Blessings,
Lauren

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Chai tea and an Anniversary

 Dense fog drifts over the ridge of Hoch Blauen, creating a dramatic contrast with the evergreens. This is a common sight out the front windows of the dorm, and though I find it somewhat enchanting other days, today I long to see the sun. The dark days have begun up the hill, but inside it is warm and bright, and twenty three contented people reside. As I sit with my chai tea in one hand and my pen in the other, candlelight lends its luster to the room and I pause to reflect, because today is a special day. Today is the anniversary of an unexpected beginning. One year ago today, October 13, 2010, my plane taxied into the Basel airport, and I crossed the threshold of Sonne and an adventure which I am still blessed to be living. I have thought much recently about that day; Marty meeting me at the airport and stopping to let me pick flowers for my first intrinsically German experience; Debbie and Tommy meeting me with huge warm smiles and hugs at the door; Eating lunch with Chris, and still wondering where on earth I was. After my stuff was safe in my new room, I was whisked off to my first staff meeting.  Though nervous, I still remember thinking how happy I was to be there, and “have I got a lot to learn.” That was also likely the quietest I have been in a staff meeting. And then 4:15 came. I entered the living room and shook the hands of some of the greatest guys in the world. Though it tooke me a while to get their names just right, they are now forever etched on my heart. From that time, no even before, God began to give me His love for them, a love which I learn to show and live in new ways every day.

The hours, days, weeks, and months that followed were filled to the brim with firsts, “this is hows,” and “You’re going to finds.” With all my heart I am glad I did not perceive the enormous breadth of the learning curve I had entered. I probably would not have come. But gradually over time, the “firsts” become fewer and farther between. Relationships emerged from acquaintances. Conversations happened. I learned to drive the manual dorm vans. My guys even let me in on their girl-problems. It was not an easy year, but it was good. It was good, because God was in it. His fingerprints are all over it. Great things He has done. Today is one year. But there is so much more to do. What will another year bring? Will I be sitting here another year from now? Although I don’t know the answers to these questions, I know the One Who does. And I trust Him implicitly. 

My tea is getting cold, and dinner will be here soon. Have a good evening, friend.

Always, Lauren

Sunday, October 2, 2011

A Waterfall and other Adventures

Last Thursday our Juniors and Seniors departed on their class trips, the Juniors to Normandy and other points French, and the Seniors to Italy to explore cities such as Florence and Rome. The dorm is a very quiet place without them, and I’m realizing again the life and energy these guys bring. With only our freshmen and sophomores around for the weekend, we enjoyed a very laid-back weekend. On Saturday morning we took the guys to the nearby town of Todtnau. There is a large Rodelbahn there. Now what exactly is a Rodelbahn? I have to admit that I didn’t fully understand either, until yesterday. A Rodelbahn is a sort of downhill rollercoaster. You ride in a small car, and control how fast you go by how much you pull on the brakes. The one in Todtnau, twists and turns through 3 kilometers of countryside, and is the longest of its kind in Germany. Controlling your own speed flavors the experience with a sense of adventure, and our guys found it exhilarating (so did I!). We were blessed with perfect weather, so we took full advantage of it, walking around the town of Todtnau a bit before hiking to a nearby waterfall for a picnic lunch. The guys explored the area around the falls, while I sat off to the side and enjoyed soaking my feet in the cool water. It was a great, relaxing day outdoors, and one which I think everyone really enjoyed.

As we round the bend into October, the school year is proving to be full of activities and excitement, with new challenges every step of the way. I would ask you to pray for several things. First, for our junior class as they travel back tomorrow, both for safety and good health. Second, for the seniors as they continue to travel. They still have several more days of travel together, so please pray for good health, good attitudes, good bonding time, and spiritual growth. I have had several great conversations with some of the seniors already this year, so I would also ask for wisdom. I am note a wise person, but His grace is sufficient. Please pray that I would be humble in my dealings with all of the students and staff. Lastly, I would like to ask you to pray for a couple of health issues I have been having. Over the past months, I have been experiencing the symptoms of hypoglycemia. The doctors here have confirmed that in my case it is not linked to diabetes, but I still have some major dietary changes to make. Keeping a close watch on my diet’s content and frequency is involved. Please pray for will power, strength, and consistency. I’m just looking forward to feeling well all the time. I try not to post about health at the risk of sounding like I’m complaining, but this is going to be a big hurdle for me, so I would appreciate the prayer. Lastly, I would ask you to prayer for my sister, Carolyn’s support. She is at 40%, and has been for the past month. The dorm here really, really needs her, but we are trusting that this is God’s perfect timing. If you or someone you know would be interested in supporting her, please email me: laurenholland25@yahoo.com. Thank you so much for your support of me, prayerfully and financially! 

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The weekend again?!



When I got up yesterday morning one of the first things I thought was, “I can’t believe it’s Saturday again!” Time is flying already, and this weekend finds us at the end of the second week of classes. These first two weeks have been incredible already. We have 18 guys in the dorm, which is a little smaller than last year. We are praying for even more closeness and unity because of our smaller size. I am again on 3rd floor and in charge of the seniors. This is my joy and privilege. These guys are the reason that I am here. This year we have seven seniors, and each one is a joy to work with. While last year held the excitement of venturing into the unknown of dorm life at BFA, this year holds the comforting familiarity of strengthening relationships and building new ones. I am greatly enjoying getting to know each one and learning what makes him unique and distinct. Each one has his strengths, and each one has areas where he is growing and maturing. This year holds many opportunities for these young men, and I am incredibly excited to see what God will do in their lives!

The school year kicked off last Tuesday with opening ceremonies. During this, there was a procession of flags, charges to the Faculty and Staff, and a role call of nations represented. As I watched each student carry his flag and cheer as his country was read, I was both inspired and sobered by the great responsibility that I have. Each of these student comes from a unique background, and their parents are trusting them to our care for nurturing, discipline, and growth. I know that I am not capable of doing anything good on my own, therefore anything good that happens here comes from God. How amazing that He would choose to use us!
The students have been adjusting to their class schedules and dorm life well. Please pray for our four new students as they continue to adjust. The first time away from home and family for an extended time is a very difficult  thing for most people, so please pray that each one will learn to trust God in a new and bigger way.

At the beginning of each school year, our dorm holds an event called Floor Soccer, which is exactly what it sounds like. Each grade/floor competes against each other in a tournament, and it is tradition for the senior class to dress up in crazy costumes. Just wait until you see the pictures below! This year's floor soccer champions were my awesome 3rd floor seniors! It may have helped that they have 3 varsity soccer players on the floor...just maybe. 

I’m including some pictures that attempt to capture some of the beginning moments of the school year. Enjoy! And as always, thank you so much for your prayers and financial support! God is using you daily!




Dorm staff outing during staff orientation. Debbie, Marty, and Chris.
!

Julie and Tiffany at the RA outing to IKEA. Can you tell they're excited? 
Before: my room's previous color...


After: The red is gone, and my room is now a lovely shade of peach!

Charlie and RA Timmy are excited for floor soccer!

Juniors ready for floor soccer

First floor Freshmen and Sophomores ready for floor soccer!

Outside view of our dorm

Floor soccer!

Keith, GI, and Chan enjoying floor soccer

Seniors! the 2012 floor soccer champions! 

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Resting


Rest. It's something of which we never seem to have enough. Yet it is always available for us in the presence of our Savior. Today the thoughts I will share are not original with me; I'm not that eloquent. I simply want to share the text to a song which I have been meditating on for a while now. As you read, let the words soak into your soul, and thank God with me for the rest that knowing Him brings
Jesus, I am resting, resting
In the joy of what Thou art;
I am finding out the greatness
Of Thy loving heart.
Thou hast bid me gaze upon Thee,
As Thy beauty fills my soul,
For by Thy transforming power,
Thou hast made me whole.
O how great Thy loving kindness,
Vaster, broader than the sea!
O, how marvelous Thy goodness
Lavished all on me!
Yes, I rest in Thee, Beloved,
Know what wealth of grace is Thine,
Know Thy certainty of promise
And have made it mine. (Refrain)
Simply trusting Thee, Lord Jesus,
I behold Thee as Thou art,
And Thy love, so pure, so changeless,
Satisfies my heart;
Satisfies its deepest longings,
Meets, supplies its every need,
Compasseth me round with blessings:
Thine is love indeed. (Refrain)
Ever lift Thy face upon me
As I work and wait for Thee;
Resting 'neath Thy smile, Lord Jesus,
Earth's dark shadows flee.
Brightness of my Father's glory,
Sunshine of my Father's face,
Keep me ever trusting, resting,
Fill me with Thy grace. (Refrain)
Refrain:
Jesus, I am resting, resting
In the joy of what Thou art;
I am finding out the greatness
Of Thy loving heart.
Text: Jesus I am Resting, Resting, by Jean Sophia Pigott

Praying that you will know His rest and Love today! 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Carolyn

Me and Carolyn in Philly
I am constantly reminded of the fact that I have some incredible people in my life. After settling in here at BFA, naturally I wanted to share it with my family. This past spring, after college graduation and much deliberation, my sister Carolyn dived into the hiring process. The journey has been exciting, and God’s calling in her life is obvious. God has given Carolyn energy, humor, wisdom, and most of all, a love for Him with a desire to know His will that increases every day. She has a love for high school students, and a heart of compassion. In my journey to get here, Carolyn was one of my biggest encouragers and cheerleaders, checking up on me constantly. She is my best friend, and I am so excited that God is leading her here. She is coming to BFA to be an RA at Liel dorm, a girl’s dorm. As you likely know, it takes time, effort, and a lot of faith to raise money for anything. Right now, Carolyn is experiencing that first hand. She is taking advantage of every opportunity to share about the ministry here, and we are praying hard that her support will come in very soon. The school year started yesterday, but she can only come once her pledged support level hits 90%. Now, her support level jumped to 30% the other day, which is miles ahead of where it had been for the last month. With 60% to go, we are praying for miracles! I am asking you to partner with us in praying that God will get her here soon. Our God is great, powerful, and good, all the time. He knows our needs before we ask, so I am confident that this is all happening according to His divine timetable. Please pray! If you are interested in giving, please visit this website: http://www.teachbeyond.org/ and click the Donate tab. Thank you for reading, and also for your continued support of me. We serve an amazing God!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Home sweet Sonne – Amazing what a little paint can do!

After several weeks of orientation, we are now back up the hill and nearly finished preparing the dorm for the arrival of our students. This year I have the privilege of serving with Chris Jones, and Marty and Debbie Shilling, all experienced staff who were here last year. We are happy to welcome Timmy Gaster as our third RA. He is new to Sonne, but not to BFA. Timmy was an RA at Maugenhard for two years before taking a year away and then returning this year. We are excited to have Timmy as part of our team. The students begin to arrive tomorrow, and there has been a lot to do to prep the dorm so it is sparkling for their arrival. We had lots of cleaning, repairs, and renovations to keep us busy in the mean time. We also were blessed to have the help of a work team from the US. They painted our first floor hallway and kitchen, and helped with many other tasks around the dorm. We were so thankful for their help! My room received a fresh coat of paint in a new color. I’m just about done rearranging and placing all of my things, so I’ll post pics soon. I love the feeling the dorm has right now. It has an air of excited anticipation. I have to say, that I am greatly anticipating the arrival of our students. We have had a lot of meetings as a staff, and as we’ve discussed our guys, I have this mounting excitement to see them and work with them. Each one brings his specific needs and strengths to the table. As I think about them, I find myself asking God to work through me, use me, and keep me out of the way. This is His work, and I want to do it in His time and way. 

Friday, August 12, 2011

Meet Katie


Although Csehy is over, I want you to meet one of the remarkable young people that we work with.  Katie is a young woman whose life has literally been transformed by God’s grace. With her permission, I'd like to share her story with you. Katie has been a camper for the past seven summers, and was always happy and fun to be around. Two winters ago, Katie was involved in a life-threatening ski accident. I’ll never forget receiving the message that Katie had been air-lifted to the hospital and had doctors working around the clock helping her fight for her life. She had broken many bones, punctured a rib, and could possibly be paralyzed for life. As the days and weeks passed, friends and family prayed diligently for Katie, but things did not look good. Friends from camp and home visited Katie, and helped as much as they could. Her best friend Nancy never stopped praying for, visiting, and encouraging her. Despite many treatments and surgeries, doctors did not give her much hope of ever being able to walk again. Her parents had the house completely remodeled to accommodate Katie’s wheelchair. Katie would live, but it seemed she wouldn’t lead a normal life. In spite of all of the discouraging facts she was being given, however, Katie refused to give up hope. She wasn’t supposed to be able to move from the waist down again, but only 26 days after the accident Katie moved her toes. Soon she began to move her legs. When Katie tried walking, one doctor told her that she wouldn’t be able to walk more than 50 feet. “I walked 500, just to spite him,” says Katie, with a spunky grin. In summer 2010, Katie returned to Csehy in a wheelchair, but with high spirits. She desperately wanted her independence. This past summer, Katie again came to Csehy. This time, she was able to walk up to me and give me a hug. God has literally raised her up and set her back on her feet. Her walk is still a bit shaky, but knowing Katie, she will likely keep getting stronger. The most beautiful part of this story is that Katie readily acknowledges God’s hand in all of this. She even shared with the girls on my hall that God used this accident and the journey following it to draw her closer to Himself. 
Katie freely talks about the events related here, and when she does, she glows with God's grace. She knows that He saved her life for a purpose, and what I see in her is a unique courage that will meet whatever difficulty she meets with Godly strength. She is an example for me of trust and faith in the God who created us. I am excited to see how God will continue to use this remarkable young lady.

Simply Trusting,
Lauren

Katie and me at Csehy
PS: I am safely back in Germany, and will be posting again in the next day or so about the happenings here. Thanks for your prayers!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Heading Back

Time flies when you're having fun, and I have most definitely had a blast this summer. Csehy ended yesterday, and some very tearful goodbyes were said. It was my heart-felt joy to have been able to be a part of the lives of these kids even tho it was a very short time. They were amazing, and wonderful, and talented and I miss them already. Yes, they are human too, but I was so encouraged to see so many teens who were seriously seeking to please God with their lives. You're probably thinking, "well, isn't this a music camp, full of lots of little (and not so little) music nerds/enthusiasts, etc.?" While the answer to that, is a resounding yes, you should also know that in addition to music, we are intently focused on the spiritual journeys of our students as well. The greatest desire of my heart is that 1) each camper will have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and 2) that each one will leave camp looking more like his Savior than he did when he arrived. One young man recommitted his life to Christ, and others are sharing freely about the difference that He is making in their lives. They truly desire to live differently, and to stay open to Christ's work in their lives. Please pray that they will do so, and have the strength to follow through. 
It's a family thing: me and my amazing siblings after the last Csehy concert. I love them!!
So now what? Well, today my family and I drove back to our home in and NJ, and as I write, I am sitting in my living room looking at a successfully (for now...) unpacked and repacked suitcase. Tomorrow, I fly out to Germany for my second year as an RA at BFA. I will again be serving at Sonne, and am so excited to work with the staff and students there again. For the first few weeks, we have a time of orientation (which I am slightly late for, due to camp), and the students arrive at the end of August. Please pray for me as I travel, get over jet-lag, and settle in to things again. Also, please pray for renewed energy, strength and enthusiasm. I am so thankful for having such clear continued direction in my life. If you recall, about a year ago, this was all incredibly new, and I was just beginning the support-raising process. Now, a year later, He is taking me confidently back. To God be the glory, great things He has done!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Simply Trusting: Csehy Week 5 - Struggles and joys

Simply Trusting: Csehy Week 5 - Struggles and joys: "It’s not really the end of July, is it? I can hardly believe that this summer has flown by so quickly. The 5 weeks spent at Csehy are nearly..."

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Csehy Week 5 - Struggles and joys

It’s not really the end of July, is it? I can hardly believe that this summer has flown by so quickly. The 5 weeks spent at Csehy are nearly finished, and this makes me very sad. Each year, I am more aware of and involved with what goes on behind the scenes. I enjoy helping and watching things work from the inside and trying to help things run efficiently. I also love the personal interaction I am able to have here with the students, staff and faculty. Many of the faculty and staff have become mentors to me and have spent significant time investing in me. Working with the counselors is also one of my great joys. Each one brings so many strengths and abilities to the team, and I am continually encouraged and built up by being around them.  I am personally encouraged by the love that they each have for their campers. Each night we pray as a group. This time of prayer is an intense time of praying and sharing burdens. Many nights there are tears both of struggle and joy. They are a very special group of people. I asked several of the counselors to share why they love Csehy, and what they struggled with. Here is what they said:

“The fellowship, the people that are here. As a camper, I didn’t really see that. But this each year I see it and my need for it more clearly.” – Philip, counselor office assistant

“I love the campers and the interaction with them, and the interaction we can have. Also the whole counselor dynamic and the group. The first week was challenging because I felt that there was a lot I didn’t know about or know enough about.” – Aimee, 1st year counselor

“[I love] The opportunity to have a super-boosted time of growth because here you can step away from life and have time with God. You can step away from the things that are normally a distraction from your relationship with God.” Shawn, counselor

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Summer Happenings

Before the whole summer flies by, I want to give a quick update. I have some thoughts to share with you about transitioning, endings and beginnings, but for now facts will have to suffice J After a busy but successful finish to the school year, I returned home and enjoyed some much-needed down time with my family both immediate and church. Again I was amazed with the love and support of those supporting me. It was truly a joy to share about the ministry of BFA with everyone at home. I was privileged to share about BFA with my church family and I have to admit that I was a bit nervous. I knew that they were excited to hear about it, but BFA is a new ministry to my church family. I wanted to give an accurate picture of life there, so they could understand and know better how to pray. God was so good, and through showing lots of pictures and stories about the guys and our interactions, I think that they have a clearer picture, and one that can be built upon in the future.

After a few weeks at home, my family and I drove up to NY where we are involved at the Csehy Summer School of Music. Csehy (pronounced “Chay-hee”) is a small Christian music camp which lasts for a little over a month in the summer. My parents were involved with the camp when they were newly married and for much of my life it has been a tradition to return. I was a camper for several years, and am in my fifth year as a counselor. Some would say that it would be wiser to move on to other possibilities, to use summer another way, to rest, relax. For me, returning to Csehy is a sort of home-coming. The people here, faculty, staff, and students, are like family to me. They have mentored and walked with me since I first came as a young teenager. God has used them in my life, and some very formative decisions in recent years have been made here. I know that because of the people here, I will be closer to God when I leave than I was when I came. The campers this year are fantastic. They are learning, growing, and struggling. Many of them are asking questions and actively seeking answers from Scripture. We are in the middle of our second week here, and I’ve already had numerous conversations with campers about everything, from life, to forgiveness, to confrontation, and everything in between. It means so much that they would share their hearts with me, and I can’t wait to see what God will do in their lives in the future.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

One week to go!

Only one week left. It hardly seems possible! We have had so much going on here, so I'm going to attempt to catch you up. First, I had the privilege to help lead a BFA missions trip to Slovenia in April. We did community service projects, and made some fantastic new friends in the country. 
Team Slovenia 2011 


Painting benches


playing games with new friends


Beautiful Slovenia
Second, we had Junior-Senior Banquet which is exactly what it sounds like. Our Juniors put together a nice program and formal dinner to honor the Senior class. The evening is filled with tributes and songs and talent acts, and is an all-around good time of food, friends, and laughter.
Some handsome Sonne guys ready for Jr/Sr Banquet

Students at JSB

Fellow RAs

with my Seniors

Sonne staff pic, courtesy Chris Jones

Some of my talented guys performing at JSB 

Second, I was able to return to the US for a very short weekend for the wedding of some dear friends of mine. God graciously provided the money for a ticket, and I flew to the States on Friday, intending to fly back to Germany on Sunday, arriving on Monday. However, due to several different factors, I was significantly delayed in Philadelphia, and was unable to fly out until the next day. Because of this, I was blessed to go home for the night and see my family, something I had not anticipated. This was the first time I had seen them since I left in October, so it was a HUGE blessing. It was funny, because I had told some friends here that I just wanted to go home for a few hours and talk with my family. I got to do just that!  Plus I got to fill up on hugs, which I haven't gotten much of in a while. Hugs are some of my favorite things in the world, and there is nothing like receiving them from those you love. 
Bridesmaids

the lovely bride and me


So as we finish this year, we appreciate your prayers. Please continue to pray for strength, endurance, and joy in the little things! Thanks!

~LH

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Journal Entries

I’ve been doing a little reflecting over the past year. I’ve kept a journal for a while now, and although I’m not the most regular writer, but it has been fun to read over some previous entries. Looking back and cherishing the ways the God has worked only inspires confidence and excitement in the fact that He is still at work, and never leaves His own. I want to share a few of these entries with you now. These are from May 2010 and following:

I’ve been thinking about graduation, and what it means to different people. For some, it means a transition into a new position or job.  They have completed a degree which will enable or qualify them to work at a new level. For others, it means the end of one phase of academia, and the beginning of a new one.  For others, it’s rather fearful, because they’re not sure what will come next.  I’m not exactly sure into which category I fall. I have a job teaching private piano students at home, but I don’t want to be home for too long.  I really want to either get a job accompanying for a university or college, or work for a community music school, or something which doesn’t involve teaching 100% of the time. 

I was reading through some previous entries, and I was thinking about 2 of my favorite moments from this past year.  I think the top two (musically), were at my note check, and then at my check, respectively. As I left the room from being told that I passed my note-check, Dr. Moore and Mr. Lehman and I were chatting, about whatever was going on that weekend (Messiah I think…). As they talked, their backs were to Dr. K, who was sitting in the corner.  She had been quiet the whole time and had listened without music.  As I turned to thank them again, I saw that past them, she had a huge smile on her face and was giving me two thumbs up.  I don’t ever want to do what I do for men’s applause, but that moment made the past few agonizing months worth every second. The other moment was again with Dr. K, but this time at my check. I got up from the bench in Stratton Hall, and as Dr. Moore and Mr. Ream were furiously scribbling, Dr. K was clapping enthusiastically, hands above her head, and smiling.  This was a bonding student to teacher moment that I will never forget. 

Another year of Csehy is come and gone again.  Somehow it seems to get shorter every year.  We’re almost home, and I’m working on the Phase2 application for BFA.  Sometime, I’ll write more about this opportunity, but for now, I just wanted to get down how thankful I feel for this summer. I came into it so weak, and He was strong through me.  I can take no credit for what He has done, because I had nothing to give. He was everything. Now my prayer is that this will only continue and that I will have a growing awareness of His presence and my need for Him.

I’m off to Deutschland to be an RA in Sonne, one of the boys’ dorms at the Black Forest Academy. I’m excited, but for a moment when I was trying to walk away, I felt again like the freshman that walked away from her family at BJU on a hot Sunday afternoon in August of 2004.  I don’t like goodbyes. Most skills, with practice improve with time, or at least get easier.  This one, for me, is not. I suppose that’s a good thing tho. I’m excited to be going, and I cannot wait to get there and see what the Lord is going to teach me, and how I’m going to grow.  I have a feeling that I don’t even know half of what’s coming at me. That’s ok though. I have been more aware of God’s presence, control, and working in my life over the past months than ever before in my life, and it gives me great comfort.  I may not know the path, but He does, and He will give strength and guide me through.

back to today:
Now I find myself at the end of my first year, and I’m kinda wondering where the time went. The students and staff of Sonne and BFA are more than just names. They are individuals who have taken a permanent place in my heart. Their struggles, victories, heartbreaks and joys have become mine. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. One question which I frequently ask myself is how people I didn’t even know existed less than one year ago have become fixtures in my life. And how did I come to love them as I do? The answer is simple. Jeremiah 31:3 says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.” His love is amazing, flooding my life, and pouring into the lives of others. If I relied singularly on my own love to reach 21 guys, it would be very discouraging. However, by His grace, He has given me His love. This has been one exceedingly full year, with many, many ups and downs. Through it all, there has been a joy knowing that this is exactly where I am supposed to be. 

Friday, April 1, 2011

Knights, Castles, and Steak

Lorrach Castle, conquered by Sonne Knights 

Dear Reader,

We find ourselves at the beginning of April, and yet again, I realize that I am in a rut of posting once a month. We have had some exciting times around BFA and Sonne! The Soccer and track seasons has begun, and we have over two thirds of our students involved. I’m pretty proud of these guys. The track team came back from their first meet last weekend, and all the way back to the dorm they talked about the fun they had. It feels like soccer lingo has taken over the dorm, and if you don’t believe that soccer is its own language, you should hang out here for a few days. One of the secret desires of my childhood (among other things), was to play soccer, and I love the fervor and enthusiasm with which our guys play. At our very first home game, BFA scored in the first 20 seconds of the game, and I’m happy to report that it was Jonny Florencio, one of my seniorsJ. In case you couldn’t tell, I’m pretty proud of these guys.

We like to have special outings for the guys every now and then, just to break up the norm of eat-sleep-school-homework-eat-sleep-school, well you get the idea. One weekend, we took the guys to a nearby medieval castle, and as you can tell from the pictures below, they had a blast. Some of our students had requested a dress-up dinner out, so a couple of weeks ago, all of our Sonne Knights put on freshly ironed shirts, laced up their neckties, and went to the Argentinian Steak House in Lorrach. They looked great, and a good time was had by all! You can enjoy some pictures of this below as well.

To say that there has been a lot to think about in the past weeks and months is an understatement. More of this will come out in the next weeks and months, I hope. For now, suffice it to say that God is working away at places in my heart that I didn’t even know existed. It is exciting, and makes me very hopeful for the future.
We are about a week away from spring break and as many of the students scatter to the many places they call home, I would ask you to pray for their safety, rest, and restoration. Many of them will be going on BFA-organized mission trips, and we would ask for your prayers for them as well. I am privileged to help lead a team to Slovenia. We will be spending a week in the country, coming alongside several missionary families, and helping in various aspects of service and ministry. Please pray for servant-like, teachable hearts for all of us. I look forward to writing about the trip in a couple weeks. Lastly, I’d ask you to pray for the students as they finish the school year. When they return from spring break, the guys will be facing about 5 more weeks of school. Pray for focus, strength, and good attitudes. The school is rapidly coming to a close, and it is the sincere desire of the staff here to continue to invest in these students and take advantage of every opportunity. Please pray that there will be many victories, and that growth will continue to take place, right up to the finish line. 

~LH

Adventures at a castle

crazy guys at a castle!

All dressed up and ready to eat at the Argentinian Steak House

See those smiles? they're about to eat steak...

Paul and me

Trevor and me

Thursday, March 10, 2011

A Day in the Life

Dear Reader,

I’d like to give you a taste of one day of dorm life at Sonne. Every dorm has different staff, students, needs, and skill sets. This is a glimpse into ours:

7:30am – It’s my turn to drive for early van. Each day we offer an early ride down to school for students who have sports practice, homework, or need to work with a teacher. This is usually a pretty quiet ride because everyone is still waking up.

8:15am – Time to catch the bus! As the students make their way to the bus stop, everybody gets a hug.

8:35am – Staff meeting. We discuss the goings on in the dorm, and solve the problems of the world before going on with our dayJ.

11:30am – After a quick piano warm up, I leave for school for some rehearsals. More on that later. During the afternoon, we have some free time for rest, activities, or basically whatever helps us to maintain the level of sanity which allows us to be ourselves.

11:40-3:45pm – Lots of piano playing! I love that I get to do what I love! Piano is definitely one of the things that makes me me. I’m doing a bunch of accompanying, for the BFA choir, Music Festival at the end of the month, and a staff recital in May. God knew that this was a bigger need for me than I realized.

3:50pm – I pick up a the substitute van to take back up the hill and realize that I don’t know how to put this particular van in reverse. I’m such a girl. By the time someone helps me figure it out, the buses have arrived to pick up the students and take them home, and have blocked me in to my parking space. At first I was frustrated, but then I realized that maybe this was some God-given ‘be-still’ time before the craziness of the evening. Thank you Father!

4:15PM – The guys arrive home, and I arrive ahead of them. Just barely. Getting back up the hill was an adventure. No danger, but I realize yet again that I am still new to driving a manual. This time of day is another favorite for me. The guys come home and have snack, and often relate hilarious little anecdotes about their day. Today, Paul, one of our juniors was ecstatic because he got a perfect score on a quiz he wasn’t ready for. He had been in a contest with another student, and being only somewhat prepared, he hadn’t expected to do well. Apparently he’s a good guesser though, because he scored higher than the other student who had prepared more than he had! Ok, so my story-telling skills aren’t as good as Paul’s, but I promise that it was funnyJ.

5:15pm – Upstairs for a quick Skype date with my mom. We’re currently trying to coordinate summer plans, and they’re starting to come together. We’re also trying to work out a way for some of my brothers to come over and visit me. I miss my family tons, and it’s always good to hear from them.

6pm – Time to call Henry from his room to come and set the table. Each of our students has a different chore that he is responsible for, and they perform these tasks daily. I have to say, on the whole these guys do a great job! They are hard workers and appreciate a job well done.

6:15pm – The dinner van arrives, carrying the last of our athletes home from practice, and bringing food for the dorm. It doesn’t take long to get the food set out and the guys to find their seats. Our guys are extremely active and have appetites to match!

6:35pm – The first night I was at Sonne, I was floored by how quickly these guys could eat. It still amazes me. They have begun to sit and chat longer, but they also know that they have chores to do and homework calls. Although the time we spend at the table is short, I always enjoy the conversation and laughs we share.  The night I’m writing this being Wednesday, many of the guys are also heading off to small group Bible studies which is further incentive to get chores done quickly.

7:15pm – The van heads down the hill to drop the guys off at small groups. About half of our guys go, so the dorm stays very quiet for a while. Some of our seniors are involved with doing Bible studies for younger students, and it is a great opportunity for them to hone their leadership skills.

9pm – It’s time for a mid-evening snack as the guys return from small groups and start in on any homework they might have for the next day.  It’s usually during this time that I get asked to proofread papers or help with homework.

10:20pm – The freshmen, sophomores, and juniors head to their rooms and get ready for bed. School days are long days, and sleep is a necessity!

11pm – Seniors head to their rooms. They don’t have lights out, but they’re usually pretty good about being quiet and getting to bed. With college days approaching, these are good habits to form.

11:15pm – I’m in my room and winding down. Sometimes I use this time to stay in touch with family and friends back in the US, but I’m usually in bed by midnight. Tomorrow morning is going to come sooner than I’d wish for, and I love my sleep. It’s been a great, full day. And we get to do it all over again tomorrow!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Laughter and Introspection

             February has been a month full of lots of different weather. It started with snow still covering the ground, but recently we’ve been experiencing some beautiful spring-like temperatures. In an area which is covered in clouds and fog much of the time, I am loving the blue skies and sunshine. We’ve had a lot of special events happening here lately. Last weekend we had home basketball games and the week before that we had our first home wrestling tournament. Three guys from our dorm are on the wrestling team, and they made us so proud! It’s exciting to watch them learn to compete well, as well as learning to be teachable. Home sporting events are really unique. In high school, I enjoyed attending soccer and basketball games, but they weren’t a priority, because I lived with my family so naturally I followed their schedule. Here however, since so many of the students live in the dorms, the community is very closely knit. One of the most exciting things for me at these events is to listen to the students and faculty cheer for the team. Even if the team playing in the previous game lost, the enthusiasm is just as strong for the next game, and you can hear it in the cheering.  

As you read about these students who have become so dear to my heart, please pray with me for them. This is a critical time for many seniors. They are confirming college and future decisions, and seeking exactly what they should do after graduation. Pray that God will prepare them for life after graduation in ways they are not even aware of. Closeness to Him is paramount. Also, please pray for health and safety for our students. We’ve had a cold and flu virus sweep the dorm, among other things, and the fatigue of a busy semester doesn’t help things. Pray for physical and spiritual protection.

Recently I was in a conversation where the topic concerned lessons learned since being at BFA. One of the many things that come to mind is how I’m learning to take joy in the little things. I love to laugh. Plain and simple. Here in the dorm, I feel like it happens a lot. The guys (students and staff) are always doing things that make me smile, giggle, and laugh almost to the point of tears sometimes. Random happy dances during chores after dinner, birthdays celebrations, stories of everyday life with fellow students, and the simple joys of interacting person to person. I am reminded of Psalm 16: 11, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” The joy that can flood our lives when walking with Christ is incredible, and yet there are so many people who do not experience this on a daily basis. I am so blessed! You may be thinking, “what a superficial girl,” but remember that we are commanded (not just suggested) to rejoice always! (I Thessalonians 5:16). I thank God for the joy that He brings to our lives, and the ensuing laughter.

Another thing that God has been teaching me concerns my attitude in coming to Him. Is it on my terms or His? My time with Him tends to get pushed back in the name of relaxing and recharging. Sometimes I think, I can just do it later, or if I rest now, surely I’ll be more awake later. Other times, different tasks seem more pressing and urgent. Sound familiar? I hope I’m not alone. It’s taken me a while to realize, but after coming away so refreshed from times in the Word, He has shown me my need for Him. I found myself asking God to make me desperate for Him. And guess what? He answers prayer. He has brought deep conviction when I miss my time with Him, especially when I don’t sacrifice and put Him ahead of everything else. It comes down to this: If I am not putting Him first, what kind of example am I living before the students in my care?
Please forgive this introspective post. I hope it makes sense. I am finding that in the midst of a ministry where I am being poured out, God is also pouring into me richly, and the lessons are many.  What an honor to walk with the Lover of our souls.

Always, Lauren

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Christmas Break and a New Year

We are almost finished with our 3 week break for Christmas and New Year’s, and the past days have been filled with much-needed rest and relaxation. I spent the majority of the break with a friend who lives in Kandern, and it’s been fun to get out and enjoy and get to know some more of the fantastic members of the BFA and BFCF communities. Those who have been wondering if I would be able to use my music here will be pleased to know that I was honored to participate in BFCF’s Christmas Eve service. The service was a beautiful rendering of gifts of music and Scripture, and a blessing to share in. Christmas Day, though much quieter than I’m accustomed to, was also well spent, with dinner being shared with other members of my new-found ResLife family. We laughed and talked and shared some great food. New Year’s in Kandern is like New Year’s nowhere else. Just before midnight on New Year’s Eve, people gather in the Blumenplatz, or town square and as the bells ring in the new year, firecrackers, fireworks, and sparklers light up the night. The atmosphere is exciting, though it feels somewhat like a warzone. This goes on for hours, and when the smoke clears, the sun rises on a bright new year. Throughout the rest of the break, I’ve been able to take some day trips outside Kandern, and spend quality time with friends here. I’ve also enjoyed the opportunity to become better acquainted with the town, country and continent that has become my home. The other day I encountered a shop-keeper who spoke no English. Why should she? I’m in her country. I used all the German I knew, but I got what I needed. Exiting the shop, I felt empowered. I can do this. I can live here and be comfortable. This is my new reality. With the nature of dorm life and the schedules we keep, I don’t often get to interact with the community in this way, but I’m determined to consciously seek more encounters like that.

I want to thank all of my supporters, both prayer and financial, for partnering with me faithfully. Six months ago, if you had told me I’d be back in Germany, I’d have told you you’re nuts and not to get my hopes up. Now, because of your faithful support, God has allowed and enabled me to serve here, and I want you to know that a day does not go by that I do not thank God for you.

Although I haven’t done this in previous years, from lessons the Lord has been teaching me, I’ve chosen one for this year. Colossians 3:16 begins, “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom…” I’m aware that there is more to this verse, but this first part has stuck with me for several months now. In order for me to serve in the best way possible, I need to be submerged in Scripture. In order for the Word to dwell in me richly, I need to be dwelling in the Word. And not just occasionally. When you haven’t eaten all day and someone offers you a 4-course meal, you don’t just eat a piece of lettuce and walk away expecting to function normally. I am convinced that God wants me to function victoriously in my walk with Him, and I pray that this year I’ll be able to achieve that, or at least begin to. So my theme for 2011 is “Dwelling richly in the Word.” I am incredibly excited to see how God will bring this about in my life, and I look forward to another wonderful year of walking with Him. 

Trip to Basel, Switzerland. 

This looks scary, but it's just a firecracker in the square to celebrate the New Year. :)