Sunday, August 30, 2015

Preparations and Friendships

Over the last week, there has been an air of excitement around the school. Starting last Thursday, everyone who works at BFA gathered at the school for All-staff In-service type meetings. In our morning sessions, we have had a number of guest speakers who have encouraged and inspired us as we begin the year. One of the biggest things I've been impressed with is the fact that as a part of BFA and international Christian education, I am part of something much bigger than myself, and I have a role to play. In the afternoons, we have had time to work on preparations for the coming year in our own classrooms and offices. This year I've moved offices, and am sharing a space with one of my illustrious musical colleagues. My desk is now located in the classroom where I will be teaching Music Appreciation as well as Piano 2. We've acquired a new keyboard this year, so we have more space than ever in which students can learn! I'm quickly getting used to the new space and look forward to all the possibilities it has to offer. I'll make sure to post some pictures soon!

In addition to teaching responsibilities, I will also be a junior class sponsor. This will involve planning fundraisers around the school, helping with a class trip, and likely a lot of other things I have yet to discover. I'm really looking forward to getting to know the students in the junior class, and working with the other sponsors!

Also, in preparation for the new school year, we spent a day cleaning around campus. While cleaning might not be everyone's favorite activity, I really enjoy the opportunity to working alongside other staff whom I might not see much over the course of the semester. Cleaning stairwells is fun when you have great people to work with! I've also been enjoying the chance to spend more time with people in the community here. These friendships and others have played a big part in helping point me to Christ and accountable during my time here. I'm continually reminded that God has placed some wonderful people in my life, from roommates, to officemates and department colleagues, to friends who live down the street. These relationships are truly iron-sharpening-iron and I am thankful for them.

In closing, I just want to say thank you to my financial and prayer supporters!! I thank God for you every time I think of you.

Praise the Lord with me:

1. That I'm able to be back at BFA on time this year!!
2. For you, my financial and prayer supporters!
3. For excellent, thought-provoking sessions during the All-Staff meetings.

Please pray with me:

1. For our students as they travel to Kandern over the next few days.
2. For last-minute preparations as we approach the first day of classes.
3. That I will begin the school year strong, and be open to what my role will look like this year.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

God is Good All the Time, All the Time, God is Good

This post is a bit different from others - on Saturday I learned that Dan Pinkham, a dear friend and mentor of mine, had entered Heaven the night before. God used Dan and his wife Sharon to initially begin my journey to Black Forest Academy. I want to share some thoughts and memories here.

If you are friends or acquaintances of Dan and Sharon Pinkham, you were continually reminded of the words in the title of this post over the last year and a half. It's easy to remind others of this truth when others are struggling; however, it's another thing altogether to speak them from a place of personal hardship. Dan and his family faced a long, uphill battle with an ugly opponent, and one that ultimately took his life. However, I don't want to focus on the last 18 months or so; I want to simply share what this amazing family has meant to me.

I first became acquainted with the Pinkhams through stories of the old days at Csehy Summer School of Music that I heard from my parents. Dan was a camper when my mother was a counselor. Always enjoying a good practical joke, he took great delight in scaring the wits out of my mom when she thought she was practicing her flute in solitude. My mom got over it, though, and the Pinkham's prayer card was frequently brought out in our home through the years, as they embarked on years of missions and service both in the US and abroad. As I became more involved with Csehy, my path became closely involved with Dan and Sharon; He was a member of the board and chapel speaker for many years, and she was his helper-completer. God gifted both Dan and Sharon with wisdom, but their gifts are special because they seemed to bless people equally, whether they were having a one-on-one conversation, or counseling as a couple. I have many memories of long conversations with both of them together during the summers we served together. They exemplified Romans 12:10 - "Outdo one another in showing honor," deferring to each other; it was never a one-up contest. Together they spoke wisdom into my life, and into the lives of so many others. By loving others together, Christ was seen more clearly through them. I can only hope and pray the same for my own life. It's impossible to talk about Dan without talking about Sharon; they were a team, and madly in love. One only had to spend a few moments around them before it was apparent how much he loved her, and vice versa. Perfect? no, but they were the first to admit it, and I pray that I would be so humble.

Another thing that comes to mind when I think of Dan is his infectious laughter. His life was not an easy one; his job didn't put him in the public spotlight or win him fame. But His walk with His Savior became closer with every passing year, and his joy was evident. Dan's laugh was infectious, and was an intrinsic part of any counselor meetings he and Sharon joined. Having to regroup after a joke was a key feature of those times we shared, and I'll miss them dearly!! As I scrolled through old pictures last night, I realized that in most of them, it looks like he's laughing - and it's probably because he was. The beautiful thing, though, is that in making others laugh, Dan was loving on people in his own way, making you feel valued and appreciated. One summer Dan challenged the counselors to introduce themselves with a song, and another year he gave us all pith helmets. Another year we had to make up a poem! Much laughter ensued. Psalm 16:11 says "You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fulness of joy; at Your right hand there are pleasures forever more." I truly believe Dan's life was a clear picture of this verse.

There is so much more I could say, and no doubt more be said by others. Dan's counsel and advice meant the world to me, but I know that I am one among many. To anyone who may read this who knew Dan: You know the way that God impacted your life through this servant of Christ; how are you and I impacting others today? Is Christ more visible that you and I are? These have been my reflections since I heard of Dan's passing, and I pray that with every passing day, He would increase, and I would decrease.

Saying goodbye is never easy. But I am so thankful for the chance to have known Dan and been changed by his life.

So, see you later Dan, and hopefully see you sooner than later. I'm a little bit jealous that you're now in the presence of Jesus, and I can't wait to worship Him together there!

Counselor meetings with Dan were never dull! I can still hear the laughter.

Shawn Doremus and Dan

Sharon and Dan - love those smiles!

How he loved those handbells!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

How Many Days Until Christmas? or Csehy?

As a child, I used to look forward to holidays and birthdays, often counting down the days. Christmas was my favorite! When those special days came they would fly by, leaving me eagerly awaiting the next one. Being involved with Csehy Summer School of Music is my summer equivalent. We plan for it and talk about it through the year, and then in a few short weeks, it’s over, and we’re back to looking through pictures and talking about how much we can’t wait for the next one. I am so incredibly thankful to spend my summers as a part of this organization that has an equal focus on both music and Christ. My responsibilities this summer as Lead Counselor involved mentoring the counselors, interacting with students, organizing schedules, travel arrangements, and 100 other things that might bore you if I listed them here but are all a part of helping Csehy move forward. Having family around for the majority of the time was a huge bonus! This summer was a busy one, but God was busier. It’s truly a privilege to see the way that He works in the hearts of the students at Csehy. Please pray with me that the seeds planted will grow in His time!

I am so thankful to serve with Black Forest Academy during the school year, and Csehy Summer School of Music in the summer. I am continually reminded of how similar these organizations are. Both have Christ and His love for others, especially students, at the heart of their mission. This particular summer was my 17th one affiliated with Csehy; this coming school year is my fifth involved at BFA, and I pray that that relationship is a long-term one as well. Both are tightly connected communities that are continually welcoming people in; the kind that takes root deep inside your heart and leaves you dreaming about what Heaven will be like. 

This weekend will find me wandering the streets of Kandern, Germany once again, and I couldn’t be more excited about the coming school year. This semester my responsibilities will include teaching group piano class, Music Appreciation, and private piano lessons, as well as doing a large amount of accompanying and collaboration. I’m excited to be taking on a few other projects as well, which I will share more about in the future as they unfold, so stay tuned! I’m also praying about the possibility of being a small group leader again and taking on the role of a class sponsor. As a class sponsor I would be involved in organizing events for a specific class and getting to know the students in it. This is an exciting opportunity to be able to mentor and disciple, and one I’m very excited about! There is much to look forward to in this new semester and school year, and I am continually grateful for you, my supporters, who enable me to be a part of what God is doing at BFA. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. 

Praise God with me:
  1. For a wonderful summer at Csehy and beautiful times with family and friends.
  2. For God’s unchanging faithfulness
  3. For the ability to return ON TIME to Germany for the start of a new school year!!!!
  4. For faithful supporters who give so selflessly to the Lord.

Pray with me:

  1. For wisdom in balancing my time in the coming school year. 
  2. For many precious hearts to be touched for Christ this year.
  3. For me to be the best I can be in the roles which God has called me to: teacher, friend, roommate, etc. 
  4. That I will fiercely guard my personal time with God.