Thursday, September 6, 2018

Looking Back...Looking Ahead

Recently I came across this picture, taken five years ago last month. We were all together for 24 hours before I left for Germany for a five year term. Much has changed since this picture was taken. Mom is now in a wheelchair and there are four sweet kids that have since joined our family. I now find myself back in the States for a year after completing that five year term. When I look back at the last five years (or even just the last two months) I stand amazed at all that has happened and all that the Lord has provided and done. And as I look ahead at the months to come I am comforted and encouraged to continue to trust Him fully!

Looking Back
Goodbyes
The end of the school year brought the annual ceremonies, traditions, tears, goodbyes and transition. Every year I am blessed with such great students and this year was no exception. It was a joy to celebrate some of their achievements and accomplishments at our Awards Ceremony.
This year was different however as I was one of the teachers transitioning back to the States for the coming school year. As I have mentioned in previous newsletters this coming school year I will be in the States for Totalization and for HMA. (Per German/US laws, every five years all US citizens must spend an entire year out of the country (Totalization). It is also part of a missionary term to serve for 4-5 years and then spend a year on Home Ministry Assignment (HMA).

Consequently, June was filled not only with end of the school year activities but also with lots of packing, sorting, paperwork, etc as I prepared to be away for the year. The Lord has provided wonderful teachers to fill in for me and I am so thankful to be leaving my classes and students in such capable hands! I was also able to sublet my apartment and car for the year to a fellow staff member. The last few weeks were filled with more goodbyes than I care to count as I said goodbye to those staying and those that are leaving BFA this year or the coming year.  
   
I have learned over the years the importance of leaving well(even if only for a year). This includes making sure to intentionally say goodbye to the people in your life but also saying goodbye to places. The Lord provided a last little getaway in the Vosges mountains (only about an hour or so away) in France. It was a gift to spend a day hiking around lake GĂ©radmer, spending some time with the Lord and saying goodbye to Europe for the year.

 
Unexpected goodbye - I said goodbye this summer to a dear friend and colleague from my years of living and working in MS over a decade ago. The Lord took her home this summer after a tragic car accident. I had been roommates with her daughter Jessica for 2 years and am so thankful for this precious family that treated me like family when I was over 1300 miles from home. What a gift it was to be State-side and able to attend her funeral and celebrate her life. She loved Jesus and others so well and that was evident to all who knew her. Thankful that because of Jesus it is not a final goodbye as we anticipate the glory of Heaven!

Hellos
I landed in Lexington, KY on July 2 and quickly unpacked and repacked for a week of meetings in Carol Stream, IL with TEAM. It was a privilege to meet some fellow missionaries who were also on HMA (Home Ministry Assignment) and hear about what God is doing all over the world!
I was also able to spend some time with my sisters and their families. Always a treat! 
   
 My Dad has had several speaking engagements this summer which has meant Mom and I have been able to spend some quality time together and I am thankful for the privilege of being able to be present in person and tangibly help out in this way.
Looking Ahead
What exactly is HMA?
First of all HMA stands for Home Ministry Assignment. Meaning that instead of being assigned to ministry overseas you are assigned for a year to ministry at ‘home’ in the US to supporters, friends and family. Historically a typical missionary ‘term’ was five years (four years on the field and one year of ‘furlough’ in the States). Things have changed over the years and depending on visas, funding, ministries, etc. this time frame will look different for different missionaries. For me and for BFA, it makes the most sense to spend five years teaching and then take a year off to fulfill totalization requirements, visit supporters and churches, do some fund-raising and connect with family and friends in the States. 
What will this year look like for me? While there is a lot yet to figure out about my year in the States these are the things that I believe the Lord has given to me as His priorities for my year: helping out at home, connecting with supporters/churches and taking some classes in order to renew my certification with ACSI. This has helped me focus my attention for the year and I am grateful for His leading.
Though I will definitely miss my students and colleagues at BFA this year here are some things I am looking forward to…
  • Celebrating my first Thanksgiving in the States in over five years
  • Being within a days drive of my sisters and their families
  • Being with my parents and able to help out
  • Connecting with so many of you! I will be in the Northeast in October and February of this school year. And I will be making some shorter trips here and there within this next school year. I hope to connect with as many of you as possible!
  • Growing as a teacher by having an opportunity to take some classes
   
Ways you can pray…
  • Continue praying for BFA. Each year presents its own unique challenges and joys. This year a new director is stepping into the role - Dr. Bretteny. Pray for divine wisdom as he tackles a new role
  • Pray that the Lord would lead and guide me as I embark on this new and different year. Pray that I would hear His voice clearly and follow him joyfully.
   
Time continues to march on. What a gift it is to know that Jesus works in time and space and we are blessed to be able to look back at His faithfulness through the years. That gives us courage to trust Him with today and all the days to follow. As the hymn Be Still My Soul says so beautifully:

"In every change He faithful will remain...
Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past."

Living Expectantly,
Anna

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Prayer

One of my favorite childhood memories is reading with my Dad. With two younger sisters, I was often my Dad’s side-kick while Mom cared for my sisters. And if you know my Dad at all you are not surprised that time with Dad included books! He not only taught me how to read but instilled in me a love of books. English books were not easy to come by in France 30 some years ago yet we managed to work our way through many of the classics and many others. I cried when Bambi’s mother was killed and enjoyed the sweet story of Pollyanna and Heidi among many others. I remember Dad buying me an English children’s version of Pilgrim's Progress (not an easy feat in the days before Amazon) and reading it to me as I poured over the pictures that captured my imagination. (I brought this book with me to BFA and have read it to my students).
One series of books though stood out above the others, The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis. My Dad’s love for them was contagious! Rarely do I read a book more than once, however I am currently on my fifth time through
The Magician's Nephew in the same number of years. I read it to my students each year. Lewis’ description of creation ties in beautifully when I teach on Genesis 1-2. My hope is to make a familiar story come to life in a new way through Lewis’ words.
If asked I will tell you that my favorite book in the series is whichever one I am currently reading. However, I will say that
The Magician's Nephew is particularly great for reading to a class. And each year I am amazed at how students with short attention spans and boundless energy sit quietly and listen to every word. Every year I am amazed, encouraged and challenged by the simple story of Narnia’s beginnings.

This week I read one of my favorite scenes (although I have several). Digory, a boy desperate to find a cure for his dying mother, overcomes his fears and approaches Aslan to ask for a miracle. After asking, he finally works up the courage to look Aslan in the eyes and to his surprise sees tears, larger than his own, in the lion’s eyes! Later, while traveling, a conversation happens that reveals that though Aslan does know everything, they get the distinct impression that He likes to be asked anyway.
These are some of the characteristics of God that I love most. He is approachable, He weeps with us and He longs to hear from us. Jesus already knows the praises and the burdens that are on my heart and those that are on yours. But this story reminds me that He loves to hear from us!

On that note, can I share a few praises and requests?
Praises:
*The beauty of Spring in the Black Forest
*The Lord's provision of a subletter for my apartment next year while I am in the States
*I turned in my application to CIU online for the fall semester - I need 9-12 credit hours to renew my certification with ACSI
*My students who challenge and encourage me
*In this season of transition, I am thankful for the Lord’s steadfastness
Requests:
*For all the details involved in returning to the States for the year
*For wisdom as I wrap up all four of my classes and turn things over for the year.
*Grace for all the goodbyes that are ahead (some goodbyes are only for a year but others are more permanent)
*For those raising funds to come join BFA in the fall and for the positions that have yet to be filled (http://bfacademy.com/staff/)
*For BFA as we say goodbye to our Head of School and welcome in a new one (http://bfacademy.com/head/)

Thank you all for your prayers! As a staff we are very aware of the large number of people that enable us to serve the students and their families here at BFA. We are also humbled by the large number of people who carry BFA and its staff, students and families in prayer. Thank you! We know the Lord hears those prayers and we see the fruit of those prayers!
**Photo of Digory and Aslan from https://www.sutori.com/story/the-magician-s-nephew-bcfd

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Seasons


Summer is a wonderful season! Long days, warm weather, change of pace and time with family are just some of the reasons to love summer. It felt like I blinked and finals, graduation, goodbyes, a middle school move, packing up and flying back to be with family all happened.

Allow me to share some of the events of the last two months.

Experiential Learning Week. It was a success for all grades. I, along with two other teachers, spent the week with the seventh graders. Multiple countries, public buses, trams, science museum,the zoo, hiking, egg drops, etc. A good time was had by all. Thank you to those who prayed for us this week! The Lord protected us and allowed us to have quality time with students outside of the classroom.

The Zoo

Preparation for the egg drop

Who will win the egg drop??

At the science museum
8th grade Graduation. The week before high school graduation we celebrate our eighth graders with a special dinner and ceremony. Each teacher reads a tribute and challenge to each eighth grade student. It is always a special evening but this year was extra special as I was able to give a tribute to Caleb. Caleb's family are dear family friends that we have known for 20 years. That kind of history is rare at a place like BFA and a real blessing to me. 

Kleenex, Starbursts and Yearbooks. Three things that may not seem to have anything in common and yet all three were a significant part of our last day at the Middle School campus of Sitzenkirch. The last day of school brings much rejoicing, year book signing and even tears. At one point we had to laugh as one teacher was walking around passing out American candy as a fun treat and another teacher was passing out kleenex to those who needed to wipe away their tears. Lots of emotions as we say goodbye to many in our community and also to the Sitzenkirch campus which has been a part of BFA for 45 years and has been the middle school campus since 2011. 


Sitzenkirch Campus
Graduation. Always a special occasion and a time to celebrate our seniors. I taught all three of these siblings and I have been privileged to mentor Naomi (the one graduating) for the last four years. 


Moving. On the hottest week of the year (so far) our Middle School was moved from Sitzenkirch back to the main Kandern campus. Our movers were amazing as the heat was oppressive and we were moving into the fourth and fifth floor of a building with no AC or elevators. 
Moving in Europe (the lift carried everything up to the top floors)
Family Time. Recently it seems that our family times together involve funerals, sickness, etc. But over the July 4th weekend we were able to all gather at my sister and brother-in-laws house in MI and enjoy each other and beautiful Lake Michigan. Adam, Jaden and Noah (my brother-in-law and two of my nephews) helped make this special chair that enabled my Mom to join us at the beach. We made quite the entrance but what a gift that Mom could join us!

Macie trying out Mom's special ride!

Next up - Mom and I will join Dad at Indian Springs Campmeeting in GA and visit some family in the area. I leave the first week of August to return and will attend TEAM’s All Europe Conference and then help begin to unpack all the boxes that were moved in June from one BFA campus to another.

A line of an old hymn has been playing in my head recently - “In every season he faithful will remain.” There have been a lot of changes in the last year and a half and we are definitely in a new season, not just of summer but of life. But Jesus is the firm foundation on which we stand and He remains faithful whatever the season, whatever the change.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Numbers

This year I was asked to be in charge of our “Homework Club.” Basically, it is an elective study hall for students who need some extra time or help. A question that is often heard in that class is, “Miss Key, I know you aren’t good at math but...can you try and help me with my math homework?” Sadly, the kids know me too well! They rarely have French or Bible questions, it tends to be math. Math was a struggle for me in school and it is often a challenging subject for our students as they come from such a variety of educational backgrounds. Math is taught differently in different countries. For example, I was taught in French schools one way of solving long division and another way once I returned State-side.

Even though numbers may not be my thing, I thought I would use numbers, pictures, videos, etc. instead of just words to give you an update. For no reason in particular I will start my countdown with the number fourteen.


14 Months since we brought Mom home from rehab. Click on the link below to read a post I wrote about that day. Thank you for your continued prayers for my Mom and for our family. https://journeywithkaty.wordpress.com/2017/03/10/here-i-raise-my-ebenezer/
 
13 The age my grandfather turned his life over to Jesus and never looked back! (And one of the reasons I love working with this age group!) On April 10 he met His Savior face to face. We celebrated his life on Easter Saturday. What a gift to be there with my family! Click the link below to watch the memorial service. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XHZ1uqy4juo

 
12  The number of minor prophets. My students are in the midst of finishing up a project on the Minor Prophets.

11  Number of countries represented in my 7th grade classroom.

10  Teaching days left before my French students moving on to high school will take their placement exams.

Countries visited by our staff and students on spring break service trips.


8th grade. We are preparing to celebrate the 8th graders as they graduate from middle school.

7  This summer will mark 7 years since I first moved to Germany!

6  Number of middle school staff members leaving at the end of this school year. With only 16 staff at the middle school they will be missed!

5K  The 7th graders organized a run to raise money and awareness for child trafficking and to support the work that IJM (International Justice Mission) does on behalf of these children.





4
Number of teaching weeks left in the school year.

3 The number of dorm parents needed for next school year. Will you join BFA in praying for the Lord's provision for our school and our students?

2 The number of countries we will visit during our Experiential Learning Week at the Middle School (May 22-26). We look forward to exploring our area and learning outside of the classroom.

1 month until our big move! The Middle School is moving back to the main campus in Kandern. We have been in the neighboring village of Sitzenkirch for the last six years (though BFA has had a presence in that building for the last 45 years). Construction is almost finished and excitement is building. The top two floors of the main building shown will house the Middle School.

Click the link below to watch a wonderful short video on a day in the life of the Middle School in our current facility in Sitzenkirch.
https://youtu.be/qJu7Ge2MGvU

Countless  The number of times I have thanked the Lord for each one of you reading this update! Thank you for your faithful love, prayers and support. It means more than you will ever know.

Allow me to close with our school verse for the year. Psalm 33:4 "For the word of the LORD is right and true; he is faithful in all he does."
In all that these numbers represent, in all of the comings and goings, the needs, the good and the hard, in all the transitions of life...He is faithful!

Saturday, December 10, 2016

In every season

Seasons. They are a part of life. Our family learned to truly appreciate the seasons while living in upstate NY. Here in Germany we have just experienced a beautiful fall season.
 
Life is filled with seasons. Seasons filled with joy, transition and pain. Scripture tells us, " For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven." (Ecclesiastes 3:1) In my own personal life I have felt many of those ups and downs in the last year. BFA has also experienced some ups and downs.
 
Here is a small peek into some of the ups and downs the last few weeks here at BFA:
 
A time to dance/build
On November 2, BFA celebrated its 60th anniversary. Each class dressed up from a difference decade of the school’s existence and together we celebrated what the Lord has done in and through this school for the last 60 years. We ended the week with a concert of prayer during a combined chapel (middle school and high school). What a wonderful way to begin the next season.

A time to mourn
On November 7 we received the devastating news that a precious little girl born with a heart defect 7 weeks early to new staff members (one of whom is a BFA alum) had been taken home to be with Jesus after a hard fight! Please pray for this family as they navigate this season of grief.
 
A time to plant
Due to the loss in our community and a few of our student’s own personal struggles, Jesus has given me and other staff members some wonderful opportunities to help students process, ask some difficult questions and grieve together the loss in our community. We pray that the seeds being planted in their lives and hearts will bear fruit for the Kingdom. 

A time to laugh
The Middle School presented the play,
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. They did a wonderful job of presenting this funny yet poignant story.
 
A time to speak
On the Friday after Thanksgiving I co-led our middle school chapel and had the opportunity to present the Gospel and to encourage each student to give themselves fully to Jesus!
 
A time to love/serve
Each year our 8th graders have an opportunity to serve the high school students and staff at BFA's annual Christmas Banquet. For the third year in a row I helped with the 8th graders. Helping fifteen 8th graders serve over 300 people dinner is always an exhausting but fun adventure. Thankful for a wonderful group of students, a great co-leader, and the ability to serve together in this way.
 



A time to embrace
My nephew, Jaden, was able to come visit me for a week and we were able to celebrate his 13th birthday together! What an amazing gift to have him with me and for him to experience part of my world here at BFA.
 
Christmas is a season that is filled with joy and yet this side of heaven it is also a season of pain as we become acutely aware of the things that are not right in this world. The phrase that has been playing over and over in my head this season is a line from a Christmas song written by Chris Tomlin - Into our hopes, into our fears, the Savior of the world appears. The Savior of the world enters into our seasons of hope and into our seasons of fear. He willingly chooses to enter into every season of life, and not only that He chooses to walk with us through each season that life throws at us. I don't know what you or your family may be facing this Christmas. But He does! And right in the middle of it, He appears! I can now say from experience that whether you are celebrating the picture perfect Christmas or whether you are spending Christmas in the Neuro ICU like we did last year, HE IS THERE! And He promises to make everything beautiful in His time! (Ecc. 3:11) May you see the Savior of the world appear in whatever season of life you find yourself in this Christmas.

In every change (or season) He faithful will remain.  (from the hymn "Be still, my soul")

Merry Christmas!

 

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Light for the next step


View of BFA and my driveway from my balcony
 As I walked up my driveway towards my apartment, I found myself struggling to see the road under my feet. I live across the street from BFA (high school) just at the edge of town  and on the top floor of a stand alone house. While a bit unusual for this part of the world I have no immediate neighbors aside from my landlady. On cloudy nights with the forest in my backyard and no street lights to light the way one can feel almost blind trying to find their way up my driveway. It only takes one time of fumbling your way home in the dark, wondering what forest creature may be watching you, to learn to always carry a flashlight with you.

But this night as I walked up my hill the darkness seemed particularly dark. Even with my flashlight I could only see enough to take the next step or maybe two. As I tried to focus on what I could see, and not on what might be hiding in the shadows, I felt the Lord remind me of the fact that He is the Light of the world!! And though we are living in dark days my job is to focus on the Light that He provides! Darkness can at times threaten to consume us and yet He faithfully gives us enough light to take the next step...and then the next...and then the next. What an important reminder!

It was a reminder I needed!! The last year has felt dark. The pathway that once felt brightly lit has grown dim or even invisible and I find myself unsure of what the future will or should look like. And the more I think about or try to look to the future the more uncertain and anxious I become! The Lord graciously reminded me in the midst of the darkness of night that I don't need to look far ahead. He has given me enough light for the next step and for now that is all I need and I am learning (or trying to learn) to be OK with just that.

At times I must confess I want the light to shine brightly on the path ahead, making the path easy and my steps sure. And yet at each turn He keeps giving strength to press on and provides moments of rest when I am not sure if I can take the next step or what the next step might hold.

Not too long ago my sister wrote a beautiful blog on having eyes to see His hand even in the midst of grief, hardship and pain. I want His eyes! I don't want exhaustion, fear, anxiety or grief to keep me from seeing His mercies and grace extended to me in the midst of the losses of the past year.  

So allow me to share some moments of grace this fall:
  • Being back at BFA and experiencing my sixth opening ceremony
  • Students and colleagues who faithfully prayed for me and my family and welcomed me back
  • Walking into a clean apartment and a stocked frig after being gone for 8 months thanks to dear friends
  • A day in the Alps with friends, the majesty of God displayed in His creation revives the soul
  • Seeing a former student get baptized
  • Students who teach me about the world and so much more every day
  • Colleagues that continue to sacrificially give of themselves by covering my classes so I could return to the States for a week to help out at home
  • The smoothest first month of school I have experienced
  • Attending a special Sunday event where all the French churches in the area gathered together to worship!
  • Amazing deals on airline tickets and smooth and uneventful trips to and from the States
  • My Dad's radiation treatments are over!
  • A great week in the States with my Mom where we are able to accomplish a lot, enjoy being together and celebrate her birthday a little early!
  • Seeing God's provision in the amazing people He has provided to care for my Mom
Thank you to so many who have prayed for me as I transition back to BFA and try to continue to help from a distance with some of my mom's care. I have felt those prayers and am so thankful. I would ask for your continued prayers for physical and emotional strength as I try to juggle two worlds.  Please also pray for our staff and students here at BFA that we would individually and collectively seek the Lord with all our heart, mind, soul and strength! This year BFA is celebrating it's 60th year and the theme is Faithful! He is indeed Faithful even in the dark!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Return

Six years ago today in Albany, NY, I weighed my three suitcases for the seemingly countless time, anxiously watched the scale hit almost exactly 50 lbs for each one, thanked the Lord for a kind ticket agent who waived the fee for one of my bags, shed tears as I hugged my family goodbye, went through security and sat at my gate waiting to board my flight and begin my journey to Germany.

I was no stranger to goodbyes, moving, transition or travel and yet you may never have seen a more reluctant or terrified traveler. What was I thinking? Who did I think I was going to teach students French in Germany? Had I really heard Jesus correctly? Didn’t He know that I had no teacher training or experience and had not used the French language in well over a decade? Never have I had a more blunt conversation with the Lord. In no uncertain terms I let Him know that the ONLY reason I was getting on that plane was because I knew in my heart it would be straight up disobedience to stay. So I somewhat begrudgingly got on that plane. Although I doubt I am the first missionary to feel this way it is not the typical story that you send home to supporters. However, I am so thankful for God’s grace and patience with me. As I tell my students, He is big enough for all our fears and doubts. He graciously listened to me and then very clearly led me to His Word (Psalm 28) and reminded me that He who had called me would provide ALL that I needed as I stepped out in obedience, even if it was reluctantly.

I stand in awe remembering the million and one ways the Lord has provided for me in the last six years! From giving me an unexpected love for teaching middle schoolers, to providing faithful supporters who have stood with me for six years, to amazing staff to mentor and help me grow as a teacher, etc.

Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard said that “Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forward.” God tells His people over and over to REMEMBER! This message is one I am preaching to myself these days as I need to remember His faithfulness, His provision, His grace, His strength then in order to have the courage to live and move forward and once again board a plane. This time the situation is different. My reluctance is for very different reasons but the fact that I can’t escape, the thing that is the same, is His call. To stay would be saying ‘no’ to His voice. I feel it as strongly as I felt His call to stay on December 14th when my Mom suffered her stroke. What a gift and blessing it has been to be here the last seven months and serve my parents in this way. These months have been the hardest I have ever experienced. But the beautiful thing is that I can look back to my childhood, I can look back to six years ago, or I can look back at the last seven months and see His faithfulness in the midst of stress, exhaustion, doubts and fears. He has walked with me into the unknown, He has walked with me through the valley of the shadow of death, and He will walk with me as I return to Germany and ‘normal’ life.

Life can only be understood backwards but must be lived forward. And so I move forward on August 14th and will once again board a plane. There are moments when I feel excitement to return to my apartment, my students, my friends and colleagues. And then there are moments when the thought of leaving Mom (and Dad) feels unbearable. While Mom has made amazing progress she is not where I had hoped she would be when I left. While leaving will be difficult, I am so thankful for my parent's whole-hearted support.

Could I once again ask for your prayers?
  • Would you pray that I would lean on His strength and courage to board that plane?
  • Would you pray that as a family we would continue to trust Him even in the midst of the hardships of this year?
  • Would you pray for the Lord to provide just the right ones to care for my Mom after my departure?
  • Would you pray for my Dad as he juggles it all? Pray for physical strength and health as he juggles work, therapy, doctors’ appointments and Mom’s care?
  • Would you pray for me as I transition from the crisis and intensity of the last few months to ‘normal’ life again?
  • Would you keep praying for healing for my Mom? Pray that the Lord would restore her left arm and leg so that she could have increased mobility and independence?
Thank you for your love, support and prayers for me and for our family! You will never know what a gift it is and has been!!

On July 28, 2010 Jesus gave me this Psalm and I cling to it once again on July 28, 2016.
To you, O LORD, I call; my rock, be not deaf to me…
Hear the voice of my pleas for mercy, when I cry to you for help…
Blessed be the Lord! For he has heard the voice of my pleas for mercy. The LORD is my strength and my shield; in Him my heart trusts and I am helped…
The LORD is the strength of his people, he is the saving refuge of his anointed. Oh, save your people and bless your heritage! Be their shepherd and carry them forever. (excerpts of Psalm 28)
(Last weekend Jesus gave us a rare moment for the four of us to be together before my return. We weren't in a hospital or a rehab center and were able to truly enjoy being together. Thankful for my Mom and for my sisters!)