Tuesday, April 26, 2011

What's your major?

So do we look like your typical English teacher? (Yes, we are or are studying it! - Jacky, Dodo, me, and Miriam)
One of the favorite things students like to ask each other is: "What do you study?
What's your major?" Sometimes a typical nerdy engineering student might have a couple of pens in his shirt pocket, as a clue.
Well, you didn't have to search too far for the answer at our recent semester kick-off party where everyone dressed the part of what they study! Here are Sabrina and Anja above...
And Stephi and Christiane study food sciences/ chemistry! (with a rather brown banana to prove it!) A "game" we had was a "Science Slam" where 5 of us presented a theme and explained it, using a flip chart, to the group.

Sunny days around Easter

It was great seeing old friends last week, Alrik and Antje, who visited from Weimar and used to be active in our Jena Connexxion group! And I got to (finally) meet their sweet baby boy! We enjoyed sharing updates on our lives & it was especially interesting to hear about their work world --of product & graphic design with an amazing company, Pappenfuss.
It seems like spring has finally sprung... so Johnny and Inga and I did some "wandern" recently (hiking, walking) in a lovely natural forest.
On Good Friday I once again got to enjoy the sunny days, with friends including Kris & Birthe above (to their left, Stan & Peter).
You can see we weren't the only ones with the great idea of having a picnic!
I think the guys gave the afternoon a thumbs up! (Kris with our friend Thanh)

Saturday, April 16, 2011

gettin' on the same page

How do you bring various people together, so that we work as ONE? As a team, much like a rowing crew with arms and legs strained, striving toward the finish line as smoothly as possible on that river. I have a TON to learn about this. And those close to me could write a book about the times I fail weekly. But this aspect in ministry and life is one that I do value highly. Team.

One element is through the process of Planning. Whether gathering just as a staff or with key students, planning builds a sense of "team." We actually are starting this process, prep-ing for the next college semester already IN the previous semester, as we dialogue, 'tweek,' & figure out things we want to include or change. If your program is more organic, you can make changes super quickly. Like from week to week if necessary (I have found this even more necessary in the catalyst mode-- starting up a NEW group. Or in a culture like Spain). As we toss around ideas (and that's the way my preference works, to think out loud!), I feel we brainstorm our way to "we ALL own this" vision. As we leave the planning process, everyone knows where we're headed. And WHY.

Praise. This is evaluation, and can happen anytime. Give thanks and dish out compliments freely for what is "worthwhile" (depending on your view of "success" for that event, or that character trait or task or attitude... or what have you...). And on the other hand, change, correct and cut out stuff that doesn't help you (your team, your organization, your walk with God, etc.) to go in a positive direction. You may want to take note of Andy Stanley's thoughts for leaders on saying "thank you". I also love what he says in a free podcast about "Clarify the Win." What you praise will become part of this "same page" and vision.

Pause. A key time for preparation is during the semester break-- thankfully in Germany, there are 6 weeks between the 2 main semesters. And coming together is a great time to stoke the larger vision! To get away from the daily rush of having to crank out a program, and stop long enough to plan. If you have the funds & time, it's helpful to get away from your normal surroundings for building team or planning. An overnight at a retreat place is great. Maybe even if you just went to Starbucks for a few hours!

Pray. This joins hearts like nothin' you've ever seen. You can also combine worship, music & a Bible study. You find it hard to be irritated at one another, while praying together. Now, I don't mean to use this as a manipulation tool; but let's be frank-- do we ever go to God enough in prayer? I don't. We intercede for each other personally and for our vision.

Play. Games help you get on the same page, without even realizing it! Laughing. Finding out personalities (who is competitive!). Preferences (like which color you prefer for your "place marker"). We organized 2 events recently with our group -- one for overall semester planning. To start things off, Anja had a cool game where she tore out pages from magazines. Then she cut out just one small block from that photo. In teams, just by looking at that small slice, we had to guess what the REST of the photo (the larger picture) might be!

Afterwards we explained the theme: all over the room we had taped up pictures of puzzle pieces. I shared that life may sometimes seem like a bag of marbles where each one is different. We are all just dropped on this earth or in our city. There is no rhyme or reason as to why we're here or our relation to each other.
"Life seems to be a series of unrelated, disjointed events and experiences."1
(in photo above are: Ollie, Stephanie, Dodo, & Kris)

However, the biblical model of life is that life is more like a jigsaw puzzle. We are unique as individuals. But the pieces have a pattern and we all "fit together" in a grand plan of God's! Even though sometimes things seem random, eventually (at the latest, in Heaven), we'll discover how things make sense. Our goal now is to please God and find out what HIS big perspective is for us, and the world! The verse we used is great:

"Now we see things imperfectly as in a cloudy mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
- 1 Corinthians 13:12, New Living Translation -

Pizza was enjoyed by all ... (photo below: Anja, S├Âren, Stephanie, and Nikola). Ok-- you don't need pizza to be a good team, but we all know how valuable it is to stop and drink coffee together, or cook a meal. Sharing ideas over food is great!
We had a 2nd event, a seminar time just for planning our Bible discussion groups, that begin next week in 2 restaurants/ pubs, Alex & Eusebia (click here for photos & menu! :-). Our discussion leaders for this semester are Kris, Marc, Hanna, Christiane, Birthe, and yours truly!
(1 Milt Hughes, "Life Perspective" in The Journey Notebook, 1995, which was published before by Lifeway as Spiritual Journey Notebook. The concept of the bag of marbles versus a jigsaw puzzle comes from his book!)

Friday, April 15, 2011

Birthe's Home

Recently I visited Birthe's (far right) home town about an hour from here.
We attended the church which had an influence on her coming to faith, & she shared a bit about her work on staff with Connexxion. Afterwards we took a stroll in the city, with 2 friends!There were some quaint "half- timbered" houses (called "fachwerk) as pictured above.
This church worship room below looks fairly good-sized ... I figured some of my friends might like to have an overview of one of the largest "free church" denominations in Germany, the Baptists and Brethren Churches together.
In Germany, this denomination has:
-- 950 congregations.
-- an average of 97 members per church.
-- 2,128 persons who were baptized in 2009.

A few interesting facts about religion in this nation:
-- The population of Germany is 81,471,000 persons.
-- So .11 % of the population is Baptistic-- not 11 % but less than 1/2 of 1 %.
-- Various charismatic & evangelical churches number 272,000 persons (not incl. Baptists).
-- Churches of Russian- German heritage: from 300,000 - to - 380,000 members.
-- Catholics number 25,400,000.
-- Protestant Church (state church) = 25,100,000 members.
-- Islam - 3 million adherents.
-- Acc. to a 2006 survey by Shell: 30% of German youths (ages 12-24) believe in a personal God. 19% believe in a spiritual power of some sort. 28% would call themselves atheists.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Willkommen, Kris!

Last week we welcomed Kris H. to our Connexxion Team (see far right). He will be working with university students in our city for the next 2 or so years. He is from Texas so the greeting was accompanied by some delicious (and hard to find here) Dr. Pepper! Ollie (left) has been helping him search for a stove & other needed items. Marc (in red, also an engineering student) is his new roommate. Willkommen und Gottes Segen!