“Go into all the World”

Written August 16th, 2009

Training ended this morning with a service. There was worship, a message, we took communion, got our TEFL certificates and had a time of commissioning prayer. And so here I sit and never has the great commission rung in my head so loudly and clearly, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations…” It’s exciting and daunting all at the same time. Part of me feels profoundly unworthy while another part can’t stop crying in thankfulness to God for all he has done for me. Training was hard but more than any temporary discomforts and stresses, it affirmed what I’m about to do in a number of ways.

Firstly, it gave me training and practice in being a teacher. This was probably the most stressful part of training. Making lesson plans in a manner of a couple hours and then teaching 40-minute lessons was so different from anything I’ve ever done. I still don’t feel very good at it. But by the end I could see and feel myself getting comfortable with it. I started getting creative, using ideas I was learning about while adding things to them to make them even better. Teaching will be my central ministry and activity overseas. I can say with confidence I am qualified now to teach and I am even more excited to do so.

Secondly, it affirmed in my heart how important my time in South Africa was. TeachOverseas did a superb job covering all the issues that living overseas entails. During many of these sessions I kept saying, “Man I wish someone had told me that before last year.” I learned A LOT in South Africa the hard way, that is, through experience. I can’t be sure but I think if I didn’t have my time in South Africa last year I think this experience would be almost terrifying in the enormity of it all. This will be a lot different than South Africa was but it has still prepared me in so many important ways. For that I am beyond thankful.

Finally, training allowed me to get to meet my team of fantastic teachers that I get to go overseas with in Central Europe, especially my teammate Derick. Derick and I will be sharing a flat in a small town three hours west of Prague. It is decidedly isolated with almost no English speakers whatsoever. However we are blessed to have a TeachOverseas Alumni teaching in our town as well as 4 other female teachers in a town only 30 minutes from us. These are all decidedly awesome people and will be a great source of fellowship and community when times become difficult there.

This is way too long of an entry but I’ll close with this. The training is complete, the visas secured, the plane tickets bought, I am ready. It is time to go.

“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

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Training and TeachOverseas/ESI

Written August 6th, 2009

I thought it would be good to write a bit about TeachOverseas and what training has been like.

First, TeachOverseas is known overseas as Educational Services International. ESI has always been its name, it only changed its name stateside recently to better reflect what they do. I think it has also served to bring more teachers into the program. If I mention ESI keep in mind I mean TeachOverseas.

There are a number of things I’ve learned here that make me like ESI even more than I did before.  First, they are open to Christians of all backgrounds and denominations while maintaining a solid Biblical mission and basis. Secondly, this is a very diverse organization. By this I mean there are young singles (like myself) but also married couples, families, and older singles as well. Anyone who wants to teach is welcome.  Finally, while the training is admittedly rather quick (a month) it covers things comprehensively.

Every morning we have Teaching English as Foreign language (TEFL) sessions. This goes over the ins and outs of the teaching part of our work. After a general session we usually have a region-specific session about what life will be like teaching where we will be. I’m in the Central European Region along with Hungary and Slovakia. In the afternoons we usually have big general sessions about living overseas. My time in South Africa has richly informed this part of training for me and I am truly thankful for it. Recently we have started language and cultural training about our specific countries.

In the evenings we usually go to Practicum. This is where we teach people English at a local community center English. This was a nerve-wracking thing at first but fantastic practice for our time overseas. In addition we have gotten to meet some great local people and help them with their English.

Yes, there’s a need

Note: With my current internet connection my blog website has not been formatting correctly. I have resorted to writing blog entries on my computer until I am able to post them. Sorry for the delays. I will now post them in a semi staggered fashion before catching up with an entry that will focus on my arrival in Czech. Note I leave this Thursday, the 20th for Europe.

Written July 26th.

Training has started and it has been busy and tiring. I have generally been waking up at 7AM and doing stuff until around 10 at night. It has been great though to meet all the new teachers and many of the returners. It has been an intense time. One theme here is to “lower our expectations.” This means that when we go over we are not to expect much in terms of ease or excitement so that we will be happier if things go well but content even if/when they don’t.

About a week ago we had a session on the realities of the Czech Republic. It was a very bleak picture. Some facts: Over half of Czechs declares themselves to be atheist, one of the highest rates in the world. In the region I will be living in, Western Bohemia, the rate is even higher. Sex is prevalent in the culture in ways that would make most Americans flinch. It is not unusual or frowned upon for 16-year old students to date 30-year olds. While condoms are used, when they fail abortion is common. What Americans would consider pornography is standard fair in advertisements in major newspapers. Prostitution (mostly from non-Czechs stuck in the country) is a major problem as well.

These facts are daunting and I take them seriously. I don’t pretend to be a savior that will swoop in and “fix” everyone upon arrival. That’s God’s job. But I do feel an even stronger calling to this part of the world. My very personality, I feel, will allow me to thrive even in this spiritually dark place. This is a hard task. But God has given it to me and so I can say nothing more than I feel profoundly blessed to be able to do this. I hope you join me in praying for the next year, the Czech People, and my time abroad. Needless to say, I’m excited.

Rocking it with some Folk Art

Note: I hope to add a couple pictures of the market to this entry and many pictures on facebook by next week, stay tuned.

My first weekend in Santa Fe has been awesome. The ultimate highlight was helping run a booth at the International Folk Art Market. This is the premier folk art market in the world with artisans from 45 different countries. My aunt’s mother is an importer and seller of Latin American art and she sponsors a booth every year at the market. This year she brought a Mexican artisan from Oaxaca named Victor Vasquez. He brought roughly 200 pieces of hand-carved, brightly-painted animals and other figurines to sell. 90% of the money he makes will go back to his family and community as many of the pieces were done by artists in villages near him.

The market ran only two days, Saturday and Sunday, but my job was to help wherever I was needed. I got there at 9AM Friday morning and started unpacking the merchandise. The next day my aunt and I arrived at 3PM and 88% of the animals were gone. It was incredible. We had to restock with more stuff from my aunt’s mom’s store for the next day. I took on the role of help wherever I was needed. I got people lemonade, I moved things that needed moving, I watched the booth and I helped with paperwork. Surprisingly the role that I became known for was brownie baker. My aunt made the lunches each day for everyone in our booth and I contributed by baking the brownies for the dessert. Everyone loved them. Now I’ve never been a great cook, and the brownies are the high-altitude version of a mix from a box so I’m not sure how it happened but brownies were requested all weekend.

It was fantastic to walk around and see the art, the artisans, and people from all around the world. It was also great to actually help out and make the event happen. My role was ultimately small but great things will come from it. Kinda similar to what God asks for us daily, I think. Do the small things right every time and God will use it for his glory in huge ways. It was a great weekend.

Already in Training

I made it to New Mexico safely last night. Thanks for praying everyone.

I had to take 3 flights and the second one was delayed to the point that I was postive I was going to miss my connection to Albuquerque. When we landed though I learned my flight was waiting for me and some other connections. So I got off the plane and ran through the terminal. I made it. The trade-off was when I got on the plane I was sweating profusely. I make my way to my seat and as I try to compose myself and relax I overhear the lady next to me talking to the other guy in our row. To my astonishment I hear that this lady has run 50 marathons in all 50 states and upwards of 70 total. I’m a runner but that just made me say good lord. Now generally I am loathe to start small talk on planes. I’m not very social with random people and assume they would just as much not talk. But I had to say something. I tell her I ran my frst two marathons ever this year and we start having a very nice conversation about running and marathons. And then she asks the dreaded question.

“So what do you do for a living?”

I almost always balk, hestitate, shy away from this question. Mostly because frankly, it’s complicated. Do I say missionary? teacher? guy who travels places and believes in Jesus? former esteemed mini-mart clerk? It’s just not very normal and takes a lot of effort and so I dislike it. But this seemed like a pretty nice lady and I’m not prne to lying so I revealed I was going to Czech Republic to teach for a year. Soon it came out I had been in South Africa doing missions work. I explained why I chose the Czech Republic (their are a lot of atheists there). She seemed more interested in what sight-seeing I had done in Africa, however, and soon we were back to  discussing running.

I realized almost as soon as I was done talking with her that even though I still have over a week till training starts, this was my first practice. I NEVER talk to people on planes and yet here I was with the opportunity to lay out who I was and what I believed to this lady. I didn’t ace it. I wasn’t very enthusiastic or clear and I was actually the one who ended up changing the subject. But it was still important. The Bible says we should always have an answer for the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15). People are going to ask here and in the Czech what I am doing. I can cop out and say I’m teaching or just exploring Europe or I can say what is in fact true. I’m going overseas to build relationships with young people who have no awareness of the supernatural world and share the love of Christ with them.

Without a doubt. I’m already in training.