Brian’s Thoughts.

            Many of you have been asking what my opinion of the classes has been.  Today was our last day, as Lisa had mentioned.  It was an amazing 10 weeks and we learned more even than we thought possible to learn on these subjects. Looking back, I can see that all of the subjects built on each other and I am glad that we were able to come to all of the classes.  We not only learned a lot in the classes, but also in the community that we were living in here at CIT.

            There were 4 of us that were here at school the whole time and we are grateful that we were able to get to know them.  With every new class we had many new people; it was great for us to be stretched in our relationships and to really bond simply on what we have in common in Christ.  These relationships are what makes leaving here a bittersweet process.  We are raring to go and put into practice all that we have learned, but are saying goodbye to some really close friends.

            There have been things that have stuck out in every class.  The first class that we went through was the equipping class and, along with that, a “Heart of the Missionary” course (HOM) which was a devotional time.  In the HOM course, I was a reminded of who I am in Christ and what all the Gospel entails. Realizing that I am accepted in Christ and that when I realize it, I don’t have to make myself acceptable to any one else.  I realized that things like my perfectionism stem from my wanting to be accepted and Jesus provided acceptance already.  (AMAZING)  The equipping course went right along with that and reminded us that we have to become like children again.  Being children will help keep us from being offensive in our way of doing things and just be willing to learn and do things their way. They are the people we are serving and vice versa. 

Those two courses have meant the most to me during our time here, but we also took a few other classes.  The next class we took was a Language Acquisition class.  We were taught a lot of tools for the “do-it-yourself language learner” and actually got to practice what tools we were given.  I was in a group learning Cabuano; I was amazed that learning language may take time, but that I can do it.  The following class was effective teams and team leaders.  Lisa has explained her side of what happened in her team already.  My team experience was totally different from Lisa’s, but was also really good.  Our team seemed to function really well and we accomplished the task, but it was also made clear how important it is to have a common purpose on a team.  Without that, the team will not function ever as a real team, but rather just a bunch of individuals.

Today we finished our last class, which was Sharpening Your Interpersonal Skills.  It also was a great class and we learned a lot not only about ourselves, but also how the body can function.  We learned everything from good relational skills (listening, sharing, etc.), Biblical confrontation, managing conflict, taking care of stress, and encouraging.  It was great learning all of these skills in an Adult Learning environment, where you have lots of time to practice the tools you are being taught. 

We appreciate all your prayers and support getting and keeping us here. 

Thank You!

End of CIT.

Wow. Tomorrow is our last day at CIT. Time has flown by! We are deeply saddened to be leaving; it’s hard to express it, actually. We have really bonded with people here and it’s been so refreshing to be with people who are going through the same things we are…at the same time. We feel accepted and normal and that’s just been really unusual for probably over a year now. We’re going back home, but it doesn’t feel like home (sorry), and really, this will be the beginning of the end for us. From here on out, we’ll be getting ready to officially leave the States! Scary. But, we’re really ready. We feel prepared as well! We’re looking forward to putting this information to use. I’ve said that before…basically because I really mean it!

This week has been very good. A lot of it was review (things like stress and grieving), but a lot of it was brand new. Lots of really good strategies on how to curb gossip, manage conflict, confront people, and help people grieve well. We covered four different topics a day (most days), so that gives you an idea of how busy it’s been. Tomorrow, we’re finishing at 11:45…and that’s it!

However, we have decided not to leave here until Sunday morning. A friend of ours has hooked us up with a couple in Williamsburg, Virginia, who are willing to let us spend the night with them Sunday and Monday. We were hoping for a little bit of vacation time and since I love history and Brian loves wars…this seemed appropriate. And free housing is always a plus! 🙂 We are spending Saturday with two of our close friends here, hanging out in Charlotte, NC, and then we’ll pull out Sunday morning. After we leave Williamsburg, we are planning on driving on to our headquarters in Lancaster County, PA, and visiting with people there. They are in the middle of candidate orientation and we have been asked to come hang out for a day, meet everybody, and talk about our experience at CIT. We have a few other meetings as well while we’re there, and then we’ll head home to Scranton. And GUNTHER! We’ve missed our dog! It’ll be so nice to see him. Oh, and my parents. 🙂

Thank you all for your continued prayers and support during these past nine weeks. We are so grateful for all of you who dropped us little notes of encouragement. Brian has half his rough draft written for the blog…he will get it done before tomorrow is out – I promise! 🙂 Once we’re home, I do plan on keeping this updated so you all can keep up with our journey to Peru. It might only be four more months before we can start posting some really exciting pictures and information – from down South!

Listening?

Today officially began our last module here at CIT. Hard to believe these nine weeks are coming to a close!! I can’t even think about leaving or I get all teary. These classes have been phenomenal and the friendships alone were well worth the time spent down here. It’s hard to imagine going back to PA and “reality” and all that entails. So, for now, I’ll just focus on the present!

Our TESL class this weekend was informative, but to be honest, we probably could have covered the same amount of material in a 2-hour evening session. It was definitely more beneficial for me than for Brian and I am glad for the new resources. But, our weekend was much busier than we had planned on and we were both exhausted by yesterday evening.

Yesterday morning, we decided to go to church and then head out to a place called Chimney Rock, about 45 miles from here. It’s a beautiful overlook that somebody gave us the money to go see. It’s a park and it’s quite pricey to get into, but we thought since it was a beautiful day, it would be worth the day trip together. The view WAS beautiful…but it was a long afternoon. No one told us that North Carolina’s idea of “hiking” is just “let’s put 5 million stairs into the side of the mountain and watch people hyperventilate as they climb up them in the higher elevation than they’re used to.” On the plus side, we saw the waterfall that is used during the filming of the last scene in the movie “The Last of the Mohicans.” If you’ve seen that movie (which I highly recommend), you’ll remember the absolutely gorgeous scenery at the end. That’s all filmed right there and it really is that breathtaking in person. I have posted those pictures so you can see what I mean.

When we got back last night, we had to dive right into our first session of SYIS, though, so we were pretty exhausted by the time we hit the sack…early! We feel much better today and Brian even had the energy to go hang out with some guys, so I’m home alone…which is probably why I’m writing so much! 🙂

Our class this week has a totally new format and there are many more people than the last modules. Since it’s all “interpersonal skills”, we are doing mostly interacting and very little lecture. We get to “role play” (although so far, all our scenarios have been real life) the different skills we’re learning about, which helps solidify how they work in our minds and what we need to work on. Today, we touched on listening skills (silence, questions, drawing people out, helping them solve their own problems). I’m really not sure what we’re doing tomorrow. I do know we are going to cover this week more conflict resolution tactics, receiving confrontation, and dealing with stress (to name just a few; we basically cover four different topics a day, to give you an idea of how much we’re working through this week). We are both loving this course (even though we’re not allowed to sit together 😦 ) and again, are anxious to put these skills into practice!

Here’s the link to the new photos! Oh, and I’m still trying to get Brian to sit down long enough to type something into this blog…before we leave here! 🙂

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=36456&l=880d4&id=513368337

MoRe PiCtUrEs!

I have posted some more recent pictures on facebook, just follow the link below, as usual. The new ones are first in this album. Just click to make them larger. They are of our time with the Winshape guys last week, just a few of our outdoor afternoon activities. The rest are just hanging out with the group that was here for the two week Teams module – barbecuing, bowling, enjoying OTHER peoples’ children. 🙂 The last few are of a meal Brian and I attempted for our friends, Julie and Paul. Brian made the beautiful apple bread for dessert. We both worked on the chicken basil twist that you see on the right. It was an attempt. It should’ve looked better than that, but hey, it tasted fine!

Hope all of you up north are having a good spring. We’re loving the fact that it’s 80 degrees out today. And yesterday. And possibly tomorrow. Not to rub it in or anything. 🙂 Have a wonderful weekend!

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=34708&l=3e14d&id=513368337

Three Down, Two to Go…

We finished our “Effective Teams and Team Leaders” module this morning. This class literally flew by! We talked this morning about multi-cultural teams and how the dynamics are different, etc. It was quite enlightening. We tend to think that everybody in the world thinks, acts, and reacts like we in America do. That’s not quite true. Even how we deal with conflict is radically different in another culture. Sometimes even just following the model in Matthew 18 looks completely different in another culture – especially one where they are “shame-based.” Lots and lots to think about!

We said goodbye two three more people today. Everyone else is staying for next week’s module – “Sharpening Your Interpersonal Skills.” We begin that module Sunday evening; ten new people will be joining us as well, making this class the largest yet for us – twenty people! They will also be providing us lunch next week since this class is a little more in-depth. Who’s going to complain about free food, I ask you??

Tomorrow begins our other module – “Teaching English as a Second Language.” This is actually going to be one of my jobs in Peru, so I’m anxious to have some kind of clue as to how to go about this! We found out a month ago that this class is actually free if you come for the “Core Five” – which is what we did. So, Brian will be joining me for the next two days! He figured it wouldn’t hurt. 🙂 We will be in class Friday and Saturday from 8:30-4, and then, of course, SYIS begins Sunday evening with a dinner. So, we shall be a tad busy!

We ask for your prayers right now for a couple things. First of all – a HUGE praise: We got our monthly report from BCM and found out that we have much more support than we realized and now, instead of only have 1/3 of our support, we have only 1/3 of our support LEFT to raise!! We are ecstatic! But, be praying for us because 2/3 of our support is not 100%, which is where we are required to be before we can go to Peru.

Be praying for us as we leave next week. We are going to be leaving some wonderful friends who we aren’t sure we’ll see again this side of eternity. That’s hard. Also, we’ll be leaving a quite relaxed, almost vacation-like setting (some days!) to enter back into “reality”: support raising. Transitions aren’t quite our favorite part of life.

Be praying for us as we plan the next few months. We are making a trip to South Dakota sometime in May, but we don’t know when yet. Brian needs to get ahold of a pastor out there to find out our speaking date, but THEN, we found out that our Peruvian director will be in PA sometime in May (looks like towards the end of May) and we would love to meet with him and our personnel director in person while he’s State-side. There are just lots of logistics to work out for the month of May and we don’t really even have a starting point yet.

My mom has requested that you all hear from Brian about his feelings about this training. I asked him to write something this weekend, so hopefully, he’ll stick to that and get something written out for you guys so you can see this training from his point of view as well.

Thank you for holding us up in prayer! We’re in the home stretch for this phase!!

Debrief!

I promised I would discuss what our debriefing time looked like today in our teams class, so I am fulfilling my end of the bargain. 🙂 I thought the debrief time would be in the afternoon, but it wasn’t. It was first thing this morning, right after a Bible study time on forgiveness! I think that was planned…sneaky sneaky.

We all got together in our groups with our facilitator and he went through a survey that we had filled out individually to find out what we all thought of our team. It was a fascinating time. We all agreed that our leader did a phenomenal job and that she was not to blame for anything that happened. It was an incredible learning time as we talked with the man from Iraq about his feelings during our project.

The basic thing we learned is that words and their meanings vary from culture to culture. Our “American” idea of “heart”, “values”, and “purpose” are translated completely differently than someone from Europe would translate them. We, as Americans, are able to do a class project, get into it, and present something creative in a short amount of time, regardless of whether or not we enjoy the project, believe in it, or even want to do it. Our team member from Iraq honestly could not even comprehend doing a class project creatively if his heart wasn’t in it. Those sentiments just aren’t even something we would’ve thought about before this!! Even now, it makes no sense. Is it wrong? Absolutely not! Will we ever understand or even agree? Probably not. Can we work with it? Absolutely. But, we must be at least aware of it or conflict will simmer below the surface for months, if not years.

A lot of questions just were not answered, I must say. Our friend could not express it because, well, it’s just who he is – it’s not something he consciously thinks about every day. Analyzing his natural reactions just is not realistic. So, we had a hard time figuring stuff out, but in the end, apologies were given and recieved all around (because we did hurt him, too, by ignoring him and not realizing his needs), and we left amiably. One thing we did hear from him, though, was that even though he apologized for hurting us, he said he would never apologize for his actions. In fact, he would even do it again if the situation arose. I found that fascinating.

This afternoon, we started “Conflict Resolution” which will be a class that will go until sometime tomorrow. Coming from a background where conflict was looked down upon, I find the concept of conflict being not only necessary but God-given just really hard to swallow! But, I’m learning! It does produce growth, brings glory to God, and allows us to serve others.

I think the last few days have just made me stop and go, “hmm.” I don’t get it, but I’m glad we’re going through it.

huh. teams.

Can you feel my enthusiasm? Today was quite the interesting day! We were put into teams this morning, with about five other people, and given an “assignment.” Each team was given a country and told that we are an actual team in this country and need to devise a plan for planting a church. We had all morning to do this however we wanted, but by this afternoon, we had to have a 15-minute presentation ready to go that was creative and involved everyone in our group. The goal was to see how we work together as a team, implementing the strategies we’ve learned this past week.

The group I was in was “in Italy.” We were the only multi-cultural group with one man originally from Iraq, but living in France, and one lady originally from Germany, working in Ethiopia. So, legitimately, the odds of us having more “issues” were quite realistic. We worked literally all morning (about 3 solid hours) and came up with a wonderful plan of how to “plant a church” in San Marino, Italy. We were to get back together around 1:15 to finish getting our presentation ready, giving us only 15 minutes before class to be actually prepared. During this 15 minutes, we found out that the man from Iraq had never felt comfortable in our group and was not wanting to participate.

Our entire presentation ground to a halt literally minutes before we had to get up front. We ended up deciding to not do a presentation, sacrificing for the one team member who did not feel ready. It was quite the humbling experience.

I’m not going to go into all the emotions that went into this rather realistic role play. If some of you have worked on teams, I’m sure you can imagine what all we were feeling. It will be an interesting debriefing time tomorrow afternoon as we talk as a team about what happened and why.

It’s been a rather long afternoon of discussing it with Brian and just going over it personally and working through what I did wrong and how I was involved, etc. I’ve learned a lot. But, one thing Brian pointed out is that this is definitely a realistic conflict that we will probably face in Peru. People outside of America tend to be more relationally focused and not task focused. The relationship overshadows above and beyond the task. When we neglect to include the relationship in the task, we are essentially saying they are not important and we don’t care about them. Welcome to Peru. In a realistic circumstance, the odds are very high of working for months on a project, thinking you’ve come to an agreement and then finding out that someone has been dissatisfied the entire time and does not want to participate.

So, what do you do? Honestly, I have no idea. This scenario that was supposed to be a relatively easy task blossomed into a whole new learning experience that we weren’t expecting. Some aspects of it were gone about very wrong and should’ve been dealt with differently. But, overall, there was a lot to learn from it.

So. Teams. If you could hear my thoughts, you’d hear a very monotone, unexpressive, “oh joy. teams.” Apparently, it’s not going to be all fun and games and agreement 24/7! ohhhh, so much to learn.