Sunday, December 13, 2009

fiesta de navidad

Our Christmas party was fabulous & a mixture of... super fun people, such as Fatima & Sierra (exchange students from Oregon) & Inma (from Sevilla). As well as Annie (above) from our English Club. And these amazing men, Fran, Jose Maria, Carlos M., Carlos H., Isaac, Jake and Abraham.
We had great food! (people kept saying that). Jose and Andrea had about 3 tries at spelling "Christmas"! (but great job, guys!)
Awesome decorations and candlelight atmosphere! And even a talking parrot, which Jose Maria got for a game.
Festive carols (sung in 2 languages). The Spanish ones are called "Villancicos."
Everyone enjoyed the funny games! (including a "white elephant" gift exchange-- lots of laughs!). Rosa is un-wrapping a Santa Claus! Megan was a busy bee in the kitchen in the afternoon.
Most of us didn't wanna see the party end! ha! The day had begun at 10:45 a.m. with Lea coming over to bake German cookies!
And I think the last group left around 4:20 a.m. (the next day!! ... and 1 more was still there, spending the night at my place). THANKS to all who made it truly a team effort! Here I am with Andrea and Megan, our fantastic interns this semester (we will miss you guys!), and Nataly by me from our English Club!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Decorating & celebrating

Normally Germans take off their shoes at the door (at least students) but Spaniards do not-- but my friends did me a favor last week. We had a marvelous time at "Charlemos" (translation = "Let's chat!" -- our student Bible discussion group) last week. Abraham, Fran and Carlos are posing near my little 4 Euro tree, that 2 guys gave me last Christmas!
Each week we have a "creative part" before we read from the Bible -- it could be a story, a poem, a game, a special ice breaker, etc. This week Jake (student from Wyoming) showed them what true trust feels like, asking for a volunteer. Andrea was the "lucky" one, as Jake showed our group fancy, country- swing dance moves, including intricate steps where you "dip" your partner almost to the floor!
We hung out afterwards -- a true sense of community-- not just talking ABOUT the Bible, but living it. Living out Jesus' love and creativity and encouragement.
We ate chili and made decorations for our Christmas party 2 days later... what talented people here! That same day I'd opened a big package which had been mailed to me, lovingly filled w/ goodies from my friends at USC Christian Challenge, a marvelous campus ministry where I used to be on staff in LA.
Notice the 3-D tannenbaum-- Lea is from Germany (a nanny) and man, do they know how to do Christmas crafts over there and in general, to use simple things to "make it yourself!" All i did was buy craft paper, and I put scissors & glue onto the coffee table-- and... there you have it! Andrea (an intern w/ Connexxion from Texas) is holding the palm & Alex (exchange student from Germany) the snowman-- both in 3-D! from gold & red corrugated paper (it was Alex's idea to have a "Christmas palm"). I guess he thought since it's almost Christmas, but we have such a different climate here, it had to be "Christmas palm."
Later on (at midnight, as it was turning her b-day) we sang "Happy Birthday" to one of our friends, Megan from Alabama, who has been doing an internship with Connexxion the past 3 months here. I gave her a nutella sandwich with a candle atop! What a night! :-)

Monday, December 07, 2009

The catalysts, the risk- takers

When you move to a new place, you're never sure who will believe you, frankly. And believe IN you. And in the fresh concept that you're hoping students will be a part of: Connexxion. So here they are: 4 of the very instrumental, life-shaper students (there WERE more of you-- i haven't forgotten)... who dedicated LOTS of time, brainstorming, leadership, & sweat (YES, sweat--riding their bikes in the cold rain to meet up), to create a new Connexxion group in Braunschweig, beginning in the spring of 2007. I was brand new in town, and they made me feel at home, even on my first Sunday at church.

(from right to left) My heroines: Miri, Birthe, Janine, & Lydia. Lydia moved the fall of 2007 from Jena. This was the city where Connexxion began & where she had lived closer to her family (& twin sister Maria), but she took a step of faith to start a "new life" in Braunschweig. She worked on her Master's thesis in Braunschweig (now doing her doctorate! smart girl!) in nutritional sciences, living on the grounds of a government forestry/ animal husbandry research center with plenty of cow barns. She became one of the creative minds behind our Bible discussion group meeting in a cafe on Mondays (where the group still meets). And is now Anja G.'s roomie, meaning she helps with hosting a ton of parties (among other things).
Miriam and Janine were good friends whom I met my first Sunday at my new church; both studying to become elementary school teachers. They included me in their "circle" of friends & saw the need for a new kind of group where they could invite their university friends. We had movie nights together, cooked together, & drank lots of tea & coffee. And they formed part of our discipleship group. Miri especially helped with Bible discussion group & such activities as handing out candy canes at Christmas in the student "Mensa", etc. The last year, since graduation, they've spent overseas (in England and Asia), exploring their giftings & making a difference for Jesus.

Birthe had emailed me already in January of '07, wondering when I was coming to their city. What vision she has! She was finishing up her social work degree, & we enjoyed being outdoors, taking walks in the huge park near my apartment. She ended up living with me for 2 months, after her ankle was injured in a soccer game. Birthe is now serving on Connexxion staff half-time, while also doing her seminary studies on line with IGW. It was great being re-united last month at the Connexxion retreat, after a long absence from one another.

Weekend with Connexxion, Germany

Our fall Connexxion retreat in Germany was super!
About 30 of us soaked up the love through fellowship, free times, and challenging messages.
We had an awesome speaker Gunter Kiene, who served for more than 30 years on the staff of Torchbearers, which has several Bible schools around the world (german: Facheltr├Ąger). He talked about the importance and how-to's of discipleship (following Jesus closely). Below I'm standing with the group that came to the weekend from Braunschweig, four of whom were very instrumental in getting that campus group "off the ground" in 2007.
We also had a crazy fun night with group games, skits & various talents exhibited! It's always super special for me to connect with friends whom I've known over the years. And it's a challenge for me to switch from Spanish to... getting off the plane to speak German all of a sudden. Hopefully, soon we can bring some students from here over and then that will be the true test, going back and forth between the two languages!


Thanksgiving (on the United States calendar) was celebrated early here in Sevilla as I joined my cooking with that of my American friends (about 20 adults plus kids) for a most special time of feasting, fun and sharing a worship service together! Below are Andrea, Francesca, Darby and Megan (Andrea & Megan are doing a 3-month internship in Sevilla area).
Celeste gave us certain assignments so things would flow and be interactive,
such as to talk about what we were thankful for,
or a time when we were not thankful, or to read the story of the first Thanksgiving, etc.
I was invited to read Psalm 100 and to talk about how I celebrate when I AM thankful-- I shared 2 things: 1) about our family tradition of singing an old hymn, "the doxology,"
while holding hands, when we get especially good news! And 2) of listening to some hip-hop type, praise music and dancing around my living room, when I'm celebrating my gratefulness at home! (For an example of a song I really like on you tube, click HERE!)

I was proud of my homemade pecan bars-- and Jake ran over before we left town for the "burbs" (or pueblo- village!) for the dinner, and helped out, too!
Maybe you'd like to read the Psalm I shared with them in a different, modern version, called "the message":
A Thanksgiving Psalm
1-2 On your feet now—applaud God! Bring a gift of laughter,
sing yourselves into his presence.

3 Know this: God is God, and God, God.
He made us; we didn't make him.
We're his people, his well-tended sheep.

4 Enter with the password: "Thank you!"
Make yourselves at home, talking praise.
Thank him. Worship him.

5 For God is sheer beauty,
all-generous in love,
loyal always and ever.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Keeping connected ...

Above are pictures from a big party we had as part of a cultural exchange week. It was October when the Braunschweig Connexxion group came -- how fun to have friends visit me in my "other home"! Including Inga, who was my roommate & an intern with us here last year.
We packed in really full days!
I thought you'd enjoy seeing some of the fun things we did (they don't correspond to the descriptions-- sorry!), such as an "Oktoberfest" party (Bavarian festival theme)...
meeting students on campus...
going out for late- night "tapas" (appetizers)....
and helping out with a worship time in a restaurant as well as a Friday Family Festival in a nearby suburb, Bormujos.

Weekend in the Sierra Mountains

Our Connexxion group organized a weekend in the Sierras, which is a low mountain area about 1 hour from Seville.
It was fun having extra friends with us, too, to lead 2 talks from the Bible. Sylvia is a profession
al singer/ composer, who teaches "sevillanas" traditional dance & also works with Intervarsity Christian Fellowship (the Spain equivalent). Ruben is a social worker administrator for a youth detention center and an active leader in my church.
We all cooked together, had a picnic, played music, went hiking (about 15 kilometers on Saturday & a few more on Sunday afternoon),
explored a waterfall, and enjoyed the cozy fireplace!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Night in Morocco

Who doesn't love a theme party? Especially with fun college friends in Sevilla, like Javi at the top, studying education, with Andrea, who's doing an internship here.

We're so close to North Africa; the cultures, languages, and architecture have overlapped here a great deal over the centuries. Just watch Carlos, beating out the djembe drum!
Any room can be transformed into an arab tea house with plenty of pillows, sheets, comforters & throw rugs. Just be sure to cover everything you can with them. Offer extra socks for your guests! A few low tables or stools, maybe some figs, nuts and mandarine oranges in a bowl --
(and of course hot tea) - & the atmosphere is complete! Here are 2 very special friends, Fran and Dani, who have been great "coaches" of the culture and language, during my first months adjusting to life in Spain.

We cooked varieties of cous cous together
(depending on the ingredients each person brought),
which was an adventure in the kitchen as well. Fatima and Marta are wearing a "palestino," as am I, which has been a popular scarf here for about 4 years. Jake, an American exchange student, is "hidden" behind his very colorful garb, between Amy and Abraham.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Back to School party

It was really fun in October to have a "back to school" party with college students here. We encouraged people to wear a white shirt, a bit reminiscent of their traditional school uniforms, and played silly kids' games.