Saturday, March 30, 2013

In Kyrgyzstan

I've told this to several people - "I don't know why I'm supposed to go to Kyrgyzstan, but when we signed up for M-Trips, it just felt like it was supposed to fit..."

Do I know now?

Absolutely.

My attitude towards those who do work in third world countries used to be that of, "Wow, that is so great. I'm glad God called you there. I couldn't do it." Or so I thought. I didn't think I could live in deplorable conditions - no toilets, no shower, dirt and dust everywhere, etc.

No Toilets
When we got to the orphanage on Friday, we were taken to the "bathrooms." I put those in "" because they weren't really bathrooms like you and I are thinking. People had told me I'd probably be using "a hole in the ground." I thought, "There's no way they'd make little kids go to the toilet in a hole!" Again, I was wrong. Literally, a hole in the ground was what we used for a week when we had to make the trip to the potty...or as they are more commonly known "squatty pottys." And the stench. I can honestly say I have never smelled anything so potent and awful in my life. We were all holding our breaths because we'd gag if we breathed it in. And then we'd see the orphans walk in and out, no big deal. They were used to it. And my selfish, westernized self, would feel awful about holding my nose underneath the collar of my shirt. And I thought immediately of how sometimes, we as Americans or any Western country, tend to think we're above that because we don't have to deal with it. On Sunday when we went into the city, I found a squatty potty with a porcelain covering and felt as though I'd gone to the bathroom at the Ritz.



No Showers
One shower head for 200-something orphans. And because of that, they shower once a month. When I heard that, I couldn't believe it. On Tuesday, we took our second shower of the week. My hair had become so dirty that when I took my bandana off, it didn't budge. I laughed about it because I knew then that we were all probably so smelly that we couldn't even smell ourselves anymore. And the thing about the shower was that after we doused ourselves in soap and shampoo and then dried off, the dust and dirt was so bad by the time we got back to our rooms that we were probably just as dirty as we were before the shower. But it seemed not to matter to me anymore. In fact, a lot of "things" started not to matter anymore.



Orphans
I saved this for the last part because it's probably going to be the longest. I've gone on mission trips before where we interacted with children and even orphans. But these kids quickly became wrapped around my finger. Particularly two little girls I met on the first day. The more I played with them and the more English classes we taught, the more my heart ached for them. Especially watching them interact with our team. They were so happy. And even when we weren't outside with them, they were all smiles and were content playing in the dirt. I began to think of all the times I've been so extremely self-centered and wondered how I would survive without something and yet, here these precious little children were, content to play without toys and "things" and just climb on us like a big jungle gym. The more I stayed, the more I began to contemplate how much we are like these orphans. We come to our Papa God like dirty little orphans and he loves us unconditionally. He loves on us like no one or nothing else can love on us. These kids, most of them, were raised in a Muslim culture and so many of them have probably not heard about Jesus and likely refer to God as "Allah." But my prayer from the beginning was that they would see something different in us and that we'd just be able to love on them. The picture below is a perfect ending to this post. It captures the joy and beauty of an orphan and what I wish to be in front of my Father.




Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Budapest!

Last Wednesday, 7 choir kiddos and 8 orchestra members left BFA and flew to Budapest, Hungary for the ACSI Honors Choir & String Ensemble. The kids had to audition back in the fall and then spent time this semester learning 10 songs to perform at the St. Istvan Cathedral in Budapest as well as at ICSB (International Christian School in Budapest). We gathered with several other Christian schools from around Europe and it was really exciting to meet and get to know other choral directors.

On Saturday, we had a few hours in the city and got to go to the top of the Citadel and see the view from below. Budapest is a beautiful place and although we didn't spend much time in the city, it definitely gave me reasons to want to go back. I've been reading a book called Stasiland about life behind the Berlin Wall and Communism, so it was interesting to be in a city that was once Communist led. We even passed by a park that has the old statues of the Communist era up as a reminder to never let that happen again.

On Sunday, the kids performed two concerts (St. Istvan and ICSB). When we got to St. Istvan I reminded my kids to remember this because not everyone in their lifetime gets to sing at the National Church in Budapest! At the end of the night we had a banquet at the school. It was fun to watch my choir kiddos interact with other MKs and TCKs and see just how much they "get" each other. By the time we left, most of them were saying things like, "I don't want to go back to school! I want to stay here forever!"

We got home last night and I am now unpacking from one trip and gearing up for another on Thursday (M-Trip to Central Asia with 15 kiddos!). It was such a great experience and I'm so glad I got to go and have this time learning from other choral directors and watching my kids shine!

Looking down at Budapest from the Citadel

Our whole gang!

Me and my choir kiddos

ACSI Honors Choir & String Ensemble 2013 in front of St Istvan

Choir & Orchestra singing & playing together

St. Istvan

Five of my seven kiddos after their final performance

Friday, March 8, 2013

When God Closes a Door....

My senior year of college, after many years of preparation and knowing that I wanted to move to New York and pursue this acting thing, God shut the door. I didn't understand and of course I questioned as did others in my life who figured this was what I was always supposed to do. I had talked about it for years and years. But no, this was not to be and as much as I kept asking God, "Are you sure? Really?" The same answer I got was, "Not now."

Two months later, I got hired to be an Au Pair in Basel. You know the rest of the story (most of you do, anyway). I fell in love with Europe and traveling and this part of Europe began to feel like home. I'd go back and forth once again, this time to teach 4th and 5th grade. And I even dabbled in directing then, auditioning some when I got home. But the door still remained locked.

When I came to BFA, the door began to open again. Here I was in a setting I adored - I love Germany, I love teenagers, and I love the world of the stage. I got to be an assistant director for the high school play in the fall and then was given the duty and task of directing the middle schoolers. Last night it was solidified even more just how much I love this. I love every aspect of it.

I'm so glad the door closed on my plans. Because had it remained opened, I wouldn't be here at this school with these wonderful, awesome, talented kiddos that I get to teach. There were lessons I had to learn before the door opened again. I say this as an encouragement to you. There may be doors that have closed and you have no idea why and you might not find out so soon. But I can testify and speak from experience that there is a purpose and a reason for everything.

Feeling so blessed this morning. I love what I do.



Wednesday, March 6, 2013

High School Retreat

Our high schoolers left on Friday afternoon for a full weekend up in the Swiss Alps. We stayed in the village of Lenk, near Gstaad. It was a great time of being with our various small groups, getting to know other kids, and hanging out with friends. Saturday was quite relaxing, in that after the sessions, we were able to walk around town, grab a coffee, play copious rounds of Dutch Blitz, and just relax. We had a great breakout session with the high school girls and spoke openly and honestly about sex, purity, modesty, you name it! It was probably the best talk I've ever had on that topic. I was able to be open and honest with Elizabeth's and my small group girls and we grew closer with each other as a small group.

By the end of the weekend, my heart was so full and I was overjoyed once again to be where I am right now. Being with these kids brings such a joy to my soul and lifts my spirits in every way! I love doing what I do :)

Here's our sweet small group. They definitely own a piece of my heart!