Saturday, November 26, 2011


I’m thankful for my ceiling fan,
And for the coffee 50 cents can buy.
I’m thankful for my friends afar,
And for the kids that make me cry.

Yes, a very poor attempt at poetry. J It’s been so good for me though this week, thinking about all the things that God blesses us with and remembering to acknowledge that—not just breeze through not taking notice of anything.  Especially now with the craziness of getting ready for the Christmas concert, it takes effort to stop and reflect, but it is so important for me to do it. 
At the beginning of my time here in Cambodia, I was frustrated by the lack of resources we had for music, and by the broken piano that was being used for everything.  When I was telling my mom (who is a music teacher in Hungary where I went to high school) about all of this, she decided to have her middle school musical be a fundraiser for our music program here.  The students and administration agreed, so that is what happened!  Two weeks ago they did their production of “The Princess and the Pea”, which I’m sure was wonderful, and raised money for us by selling tickets and collecting donations.  They are sending us around $1500 to put towards our music program here at Hope!  We are get to use this lovely piano that you see as a result of this, which both myself and my students are enjoying, and we will be purchasing some music for our choir and band that we wouldn’t have had the funds to get.  I am so thankful, and just wanted to share with you about this beautiful blessing and support we are experiencing all the way from Hungary! J
It is getting down to the last few weeks of school.  Two weeks for me, three for the students… I am learning so much about how to do things as a music teacher and how to do things as a music teacher in this country through getting ready for this Christmas production.  How to be efficient, how to be clear about what I want, where to buy paint and wood, what paint not to get, how to organize rehearsal schedules, how to order pizza… I could go on.  I do love the process though, I love the challenge, I love the way that my students get excited, I love seeing the pieces come together and the kids succeed in an amazing way. 
Besides all of this, my highlight of the week was my Year 7/8 classes this week.  We are finishing up a music history unit, and started the Romantic Period this past week.  They were supposed to be “music critics”, analyzing what they heard.  We finished the class period with Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2, and they loved it!  It is so fun to hear them get excited about classical music and see and hear things they have never heard before. 
Please continue to pray as we get close to the end of the semester, for good time management, organization and team work in the last 2 weeks before the concert, and also for my coming trip to the States, that God would prepare my heart for that- Thank you!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


It’s hard to believe that it is nearly the middle of November.  My housemates and I have been wondering where the months have gone, it seems like this semester has flown by.  It also doesn’t feel like winter here, where we are still sweating every time we walk outside—that may be part of it. J  I am continually amazed by God’s patience with me and His provision of energy, conversations, emails from friends, ideas and words to speak right when they are needed as the time is going by and the newness of this life is wearing off. 
Since my last update, I have gotten to see a little more of Cambodia.  A few weeks ago, one of the year 13 students at school decided to work together with a radio show that was taking supplies out to the flooded provinces.  He asked students and parents at school to donate food, toiletries and clothes to collect, and in the end we had 350 bags of food and a good sized pile of clothes to take to Prey Veng.  I had the opportunity to go with a group of people from Hope to deliver the supplies.  For the past couple of months, the flooding in Cambodia has been very bad.  After a long bus ride, we loaded the packages onto a boat and rode for an hour over rice patties and homes that were covered in around 3 meters of water to an island where the poorest people from the 10 surrounding villages were waiting for us.  It was good for me to see the reality of village life outside of the city, but it also broke my heart.  As we were handing out food and antibiotics, I understood more of the poverty and hopelessness that is present in this country.  These people had lost the little that they had and were stuck sitting on small islands just waiting for the water to go down before they could try to start their lives again.  I’m still struggling with understanding how we, in the community I am living in, can continue living the lives that we are when all of this is going on.  So knowing how to respond and also how to think about it is a challenge.       
On a different note, our new choir and band at school had the opportunity to perform for the first time this past weekend!  It started to rain right before we started, so everything was moved to a covered area.  The kids handled it all so well, and people seemed to really enjoy the performances which is encouraging. J I am very proud of them!
Besides that, we are moving towards finishing up the semester and towards the Christmas concert.  Today I went out to start buying material for making costumes, we have started rehearsals for both the primary and the middle school plays, and are working on building props and sets.  It’s amazing how many details there are to take care of and keep track of when putting together something like this! Please keep myself and You Jin (my fellow music teacher) in your prayers during this next month—this is the first time for both of us to be doing something like this on our own.  Thank you! 
I will be in the States for Christmas this year!  I am flying into Chicago on December 14th and driving to a wedding in Iowa, then to Ohio to be with my family, then to Indiana for Jon’s wedding and I would love to see as many of you as possible! J

Sunday, October 9, 2011


We just finished our FLAG week at Hope International School, and though it was a lot of work, it went really well and much more smoothly than I thought it would. :) FLAG stands for "Forever Learning About God", kind of like a Spiritual Emphasis week other places, and the theme this week was from Micah 6:8:
         "He has shown you, O man, what is good.
               And what does the Lord require of you?
          To act justly and to love mercy
              and to walk humbly with your God."
So we explored the topics of justice, mercy and humility.  These kids have such a different understanding of those words because of what they have seen...the first day we talked about justice and as part of the worship time, the students were asked to write prayers for a justice need that they felt strongly about in response to what they had heard.  They have seen injustice, they have seen poverty.  Many of their parents work as full time missionaries dealing directly with these issues.  The kind of humility and passion that can be seen in these prayers is truly amazing.  I took a few of them from the wall...
"Praise be to you for you are the God of justice and the one who blesses us daily.  Lord, please help us to bless you by not standing down and staying silent in the face of injustice, but help up to speak out against injustice by standing up and saying it is wrong."
"Lord, everyday I see a country broken by injustice, poverty and slavery.  Only you can heal these people and this nation.  I pray for healing."
"Lord, help me to play my part and not to be overcome by fear or lethargy."
"I pray for all the street kids here.  And how they are ignored and blend into the background.  Gelop me and fellow Christians to open our eyes and see them as beautiful people you ahve created and treat them as you would.  Thank you for the opportunity to live in this country and have the opportunity to impact the lives of the people around us here."
Please pray with me for the students who understood more about God and the way He has called us to live, that what they heard would not just be a week-long thing, and pray for the staff at school that we would have wisdom in how to follow up with what happened this week. Thank you. :)

Last week for our week off from school I went with one of my housemates Kelly to Malaysia.  I am not very good at taking vacation, and by the end I was ready to be useful again, but it was a good break for my brain and much needed before the craziness of the rest of the semester started.  One of the craziest things about Malaysia was the number of flags that were everywhere there! See picture...


Yes, that was a normal sight pretty much everywhere we went. :)

Other pictures from Malaysia:

The highlight of the week for me was going to Port Klang to see the Logos Hope.  I got to see an old friend from Hungary, Tarissa, and I got to have dinner with my sister's friends from her year there!  To add to the great day, when we were walking through the bookstore, I ran into a Hungarian guy and got to speak Hungarian with him for a bit.  It felt so OM-ish...hard to explain any other way, but it was like a flash-back to old life.  

This past week was so full it felt only 2 days long, and I have a feeling that fullness will continue till December.  I really do love what I am doing.  The responsibility is overwhelming sometimes, especially because the things that I am responsible for don't only effect me anymore.  But my competence comes from God, and I have to remember that as I'm speaking in meetings and making decisions that I don't feel qualified to be making--it is not me who has to have the ability to do things and I am so thankful for that.  So thank you so much for your prayers, and I will try to be more consistent in my blogging. :)

Friday, September 9, 2011


Saturday mornings are beautiful times for me.  Things are quieter on the streets, I don't have to wake up at 5:30, and for the morning I feel like I have so much time left in the weekend to do my work that I don't feel the pressure. :) Today the internet is working beautifully and it is relatively cool as well.  Just lovely.

(I do apologize, I failed to take pictures of my students during the week- I kept thinking about it after they left which doesn't do any good, eh?) 

The past couple weeks have been a whirlwind, literally.  So many things to think about and so many things to do.  During the week it feels like I never stop, and even if I make myself sit down for a minute, my mind is still going full-speed.  I had a nightmare about beginning band at one point, which is silly because it is going well. :) It is a struggle to keep up with everything, but we are still holding on.  And truly, it is such a joy to do what I have been doing.  It is insane, but when I am in the midst of the insanity, I love it because we are making progress, we are being productive, and we are serving the students who are so wonderful and so funny. 

Our bands and choirs have started!  For many of the students it's the first time in an ensemble like this, so it's not only musical learning, but logistical learning for them as well.  There are some who are already making the music room their home and being a part of music their comfort zone. :) So cool.  For band we have a strange mix of instruments so we have been arranging the music ourselves partly because we don't have any music but also because of the huge range of abilities within the group, we are writing parts for specific students.  It is an adventure for sure, and neither You Jin or I have experience with this kind of work.  I am so thankful to be working on things with her though, rather than doing it all on my own. :)

My relationship with my "pastoral group" of 8th graders has been a point of joy and a point of prayer.  These students are the  ones I get to see every morning for devotions and then on Fridays for an hour of "Christian Perspectives".  They are dear to my heart, a classic group of 8th graders, but with more that is behind their 8th grader-ness.  We have been doing journal questions for devotions once a week and I am learning so much about them, and as I'm learning, I am gaining more and more responsibility to respond, love on them and fight for them.  This is why I wanted to teach in a school like this, and I am so excited and feel so privaleged to interact with them at this level, but also feel inadequate to be responding to all the thoughts and questions especially in a school setting.  Though they are all the same age and they are all TCKs, each one of them has a different way of thinking about their sitation- both about the process of them moving to Cambodia and what the purpose is of life in Cambodia.  Please pray for wisdom and courage with these kids.

For those of you who wanted to know about my first birthday in Cambodia, it was quite nice. :) I had the normal day of school, and had a list of things to get done (which didn't happen).  My friends You Jin and Anu made a little party for me during my off-periods, another teacher brought me fancy cupcakes, my students were very cute all day, though my pastoral group was quite upset that I hadn't told them ahead of time so they brought in things on Friday and made me a beautiful card.  (I found out birthdays at school are a big deal.)  And my housemates took me out to dinner to a nice Italian restaurant and got me a cake.  It was a good day. :) 

Friday, August 26, 2011


The weeks seem to be rushing by faster and faster every week.  Days are getting filled with extra events and my head is getting filled with extra ideas and responsibilities. J They are good things, but I have realized the importance of being still here—last weekend I felt like I had been at school the whole week so I planned to go out a few times over the weekend to check out some markets and a new church and buy some guitar strings for school.  It was all fun, but when it got to Monday I felt like I hadn’t had a weekend because it takes so much energy to get around here.  So tonight I am going to a wedding reception for a couple who work at school, but otherwise I am staying in for the most part. J
This week was filled with some new experiences…on Sunday I went to an Anglican church for the first time (and got so lost on the way there! hehe), I went to check out an international choir that meets on Tuesdays, I successfully got to the US embassy to get visa pages in my passport, I spent some hours recruiting students I didn’t even know to join our extra-curricular music clubs, and tonight I am going to a Khmer wedding reception. Oh, and last week I bought hand drums for my classroom!!! I’ve had the chance to do some things that were comfortable too like play a board-game with my principle’s kids at their house, and go out to a nice dinner with a friend last night.  As I mentioned earlier, life has been full.
I think that I am coming out of my “autopilot” stage of transition, and I am starting to see reality.  I am deeply missing people for the first time.  I am falling in love with my students and realizing that I will be following through with them until they leave.  Relationships that have started here are now in the “in-between” phase where small talk is not enough but real conversation may still be awkward.  And as always when I transition, I am fighting the urge to turn off, fighting the urge to become bitter and to do it myself.  I know so well that this is where God has led me to serve, and I am so excited to face the challenge, but I have to allow Him to get me through the transition phase and take me to the things He has called me to. 
The major prayer request for this week would be the extra-curricular clubs that we are starting up.  Because there has been no music program, there is no band or choir program built into the schedule, so we are doing them after school or during lunch as clubs.  They are going to be eclectic groups with different skill and experience levels, and a strange mix of instruments as well. J Please pray that figuring out the details would not come in the way of the students enjoying the experience of music, and that we would be wise in the way that we approach the groups and the things that we ask of the students.  They are adorable and enthusiastic, and I am so excited to see them learn and succeed! J  Hopefully next week I will have some pictures of them for you~
But for today I will leave you with the picture of my lizard that I found on my bedroom wall this morning. Isn’t he cute? J

Saturday, August 13, 2011


Transitioning to a new place is such a strange thing that happens in my brain.  At this point I don't think that I understand that I am living in Cambodia, yet it feels so normal, like I have been here for a lot longer than a week and a half.  The reality will hit me a little later I suppose.  For now though, I have finished my first week of teaching, I have met all my kids, and am now working on composing a curriculum for the rest of the year. :)

This week was a whirlwind, but it was a really good and challenging one.  Every new place that we work and new group of people that we work with comes with a process of understanding how things are run, learning all the terms, and getting into a routine.  Hope School is run differently than other schools I have seen, but I am learning how to fit into the structure.  More important than the structure though, the students that I get to teach are just beautiful and they are what make teaching worth it.  They are from all over the world and have lived in Cambodia for different amounts of time.  Most of them I get to see once a week, so learning names is something I will be investing in.  I am spending a lot of time with a group of 8th graders in the mornings throughout the week for devotions.  Though they are still classic 8th graders, they have a different world view whether they know it or not.  I have seen creativity and crazy potential from so many of my kids already, I am excited to encourage them to think, to explore, to learn and to express.  Please pray for wisdom as I make decisions about what and how to teach these students. 

So what is Cambodia like?  I haven't experienced Cambodia too much outside of school, though I did ride on the back of a moto for the first time (public transportation where you get on the back of someone's motorcycle and they take you where you need to go) when I went out to coffee with a new friend from India.  We were the only people at the coffee place and were watched the whole time. :) The city is an interesting place to be--there is no space.  There are shops of everywhere, and swarms of motos and tuk-tuks on the streets.  I think the most frustrating thing for me so far though has been the inability to communicate.  I have not been in a culture for a long time where I couldn't communicate, and I forgot what it feels like.  Waving and smiling doesn't quite satisfy.  However, within the next couple of weeks I will start my Khmer lessons. :)

This morning I was reading Psalm 103.  As I have been going through this week and the past few weeks, I have made many mistakes in the ways I am teaching, in the ways I am interacting with people, and in the ways I am thinking.  And I know that those mistakes will continue to happen.  I have gotten frustrated with myself and though my emotions are mostly numb right now in my transition, my feelings of guilt have been active.  As a rational person, I have been able to tell myself to stop being overwhelmed by guilt, but this morning reading Psalms 103 confirmed what I had been thinking.  In verses 9-10 he says,
"He will not always accuse, nor will He harbor His anger forever; He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities." 
Then later in verse 13-14:
"As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him; for He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust." 
My "need" to not make mistakes is not how God looks at me.  He remembers that I am dust and has compassion. :) So there is my thought for the day. 

I haven't been able to take too many pictures, but here are some of my music room.  It is one of the best classrooms in the school, so I am very thankful.  The last 2 pictures are taken from the roof of my house showing the contrast between people's living situations here in Phnom Penh.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Things I have learned already...

  • How to cross the street.  It's a lot harder than you'd think!  Traffic rules don't exist, so walking across a street full of motor bikes and tuk-tuks can be a challenge.  My housemate's sister already got a "Cambodian tattoo" from the motorbike exhaust. :)
  • I will be teaching barefoot!  So many of us have dreamed of a job like this, and I get to do it.  We take our shoes off at the entrance of the school.  At my first staff meeting it made me laugh when I looked around at a room full of barefoot teachers. :)
  • Never agree to the price they ask for at the market.  I have observed lots of haggling, and am trying to get up the courage to do it myself.
  • On hot nights if you take a nice cold shower before bed, it helps you to cool off enough to fall asleep.
And so many more things, but those are a few I can point out right now.  My time here so far has been full of learning both the culture and about how the school works.  It has been pretty much insane, but so good. :) The people I have met have been lovely, kind and helpful as I am figuring out everything.  It is a blessing to be a part of an international staff whose hearts are ready to submit to and serve the Lord, I have already been so encouraged by these people and their testimonies. 

Tomorrow morning I start school!  My first day as a REAL LIVE TEACHER!  I am teaching year 5 (grade 4) and up for general music, doing after school extra-curriculars yet to be determined, leading a class of 8th graders for devotions and Christian Perspectives, and anything else that may come up.  Emotions consist of nervousness, excitement, fear, anticipation, and mostly I really just don't know what to think.  I am trusting that God will be working through me and will be my strength this week as I head into something where I have no idea what I am doing...but that's the way it should be anyways, eh? :)
I will know more after tomorrow, and will also try to post some pictures of my new home/life. 

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Humanness in Transition

Is it too early and too much of a sleep deprived morning for this to make sense?  We will see… J
Today I leave to fly to Cambodia.  And it still seems unreal.  My bags are mostly packed, I have said some painful goodbyes, and have tried to tie up as many loose ends with the paper work side of things as possible.  With a 89th birthday party for Grandma and my cousin, and last minute packing and note writing, there is plenty to keep me busy for the few hours before I head to the airport.  Yet in all the motion, overall this feeling of overwhelming gut-ache seems so familiar to me.  Transition.  Grief.  And while I am in this world, I know that this will be a reality. 
This summer God has been revealing my humanness to me. Sounds a little strange, I know, but let me explain.   It comes up in conversation with my high school campers so often!  As we talk about “life” in private conversations and talk about topics in DIG (Discussions Involving God) sessions at camp like love, sin, freedom and suffering, I have realized my complete humanity.  I naturally react to things in such a human way—and I think that all my life I have been avoiding that realization because humans are so stupid so often.  Through these discussions we often come down to the question of “So if we know this is how we naturally act, what do we do about it? How do we deal with knowing our humanity and reacting in a wise way?”.  Good questions, huh? J
Bringing it back to the topic of transition, I am seeking answers to those questions in this area today.  I know that my heart will be broken as I leave because I naturally long to hold on to the relationships and the fake stability of the life I have been living during my time in the States.  And this is not a bad thing and I am not seeking to ignore reality—but how do I deal with my humanness in this situation?  How do I let God take over my mind instead of my grief?
As I write and think about this, I am feeling more at peace than I have for quite some time.  God IS faithful, and I have seen that over and over again.  God DOES provide, both physically and spiritually—this is so evident in my own life.  Who am I to worry, who am I to seek my own comfort?  He does not call me to ignore the pain, but to have peace as I trust Him because of His faithfulness and love while I leave this phase of life and enter into a new one.  These things about Him I know so deeply to be true, and I will choose to remember.  He has prepared me in crazy ways to go teach in Cambodia, and in the pain of leaving I am at peace and am so excited for what He will bring in this new life.  J
Over this past year of what seemed like continuous transition, I have been so encouraged by these verses:
Lamentations 3:19-24
 I remember my affliction and my wandering,
   the bitterness and the gall.
 I well remember them,
   and my soul is downcast within me.
 Yet this I call to mind
   and therefore I have hope:

 Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
   for his compassions never fail.
 They are new every morning;
   great is your faithfulness.
 I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion;
   therefore I will wait for him.”

Sunday, July 17, 2011

New phase of life

In two weeks from today I will be moving to Cambodia, and a week after that I will be a real music teacher at Hope International School meeting my students and starting up my own classes.  It seems unreal as life at the moment is consumed by my wonderful campers. J Yet it is a reality, and though I feel complete peace and joy about God’s leading and my decision to go, my heart aches as the time to end my life in the States comes closer, and I recognize how hard it is going to be.  Starting a new phase of life is exciting, but it comes along with the ending of the previous phase.  God has blessed me with relationships, experiences and growth over the last 4 years in ways I did not expect, and I am so thankful for them.    
Please pray…
… as I finish my last 2 weeks at Camp Carl, for strength and focus, and for continual wisdom as we disciple our group of high school campers and help them prepare for life outside of the camp bubble.  God is doing some beautiful things! J
… for good closure as I leave the life that has been a reality for the last 4 years, especially in saying goodbye to family and dear friends. 
               … for both physical and emotional preparation for starting life in Cambodia.
As I head into these next two weeks, God has reminded me that His power is the only thing that I can rely on to get me through.  For now I am juggling so many thoughts and situations, and when I let one fall and get frustrated with myself, He reminds me as He reminds Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9—“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness”.  I will choose to trust in Him for strength, endurance, focus and wisdom in the craziness that this time holds.  God is good.