Hello, Fearless Readers,
Welcome to April. The sun shone brightly today in Esslingen and I wore a skirt and tee-shirt. There was a line out the door of the ice cream shop. Life is good.
I've now been in Germany a month, and know it is high time I give you an update on what I'm "really doing", as so many of you have asked.
Let me begin by clarifying why I am in Germany this year:
1. I just graduated from college with a B.A. in Global Studies and French. I know I want to go on to Masters/Doctoral study in some sort of international arena, but I'm not sure precisely which one yet. The three possibilities are International Conflict Transformation/Communications, Linguistics, or Intercultural Ministry.
2. Since I don't know what area of study (or in what country, for that matter), I wish to pursue, I figured it was a good time to take a little break from school and get some real world experience. In addition, any of the above graduate programs require students to know at least two non-English languages, and the earlier in life one attempts to learn languages, the better. I figured it was time for a new one.
3. In my freshman year of college, I had an experience with God that I would call a "call to ministry", and since then, have wanted to explore what working in ministry full-time looks like.
4. Through various routes (a middle school visit, high school exchange students, my stay in France, they YL/ejw partnership) I've had the chance to get to know a lot of Germans that I really, really like, and learn a lot about Germany that is appealing to me. Plus, I just plain love languages. In short, I've wanted to learn German and travel in Germany for some time.
5. I've heard so many interesting discussions that have come out of the YL/EJW partnership that have attracted me. Particularly, Americans from YL often remark that the EJW is more socially engaged than YL, as well as more deeply theological. These two applications of ministry are really where I feel myself to be headed, so this felt like a good fit. In addition, the EJW has sent a lot of people to America for internships, etc., but YL has sent few to Germany. I like being a bridge-builder.
6. Relationships. Many of you know that my boyfriend, Etienne (French) is studying in Germany this year. We now live 1.5hours apart, instead of an ocean apart. With my dad's new job as YL director in Western Europe, my parents will also soon be transplanting to Europe. I'm very, very, excited about my parent's move, and want to participate in this new chapter of their life.
I think 6 is good enough for right now.
Here is a bit about what I do here:
I am a "Praktikantin" (which means intern, or that I'm learning a mix of social and pastoral youth work) for two Christian youth organizations:
1. EJE - Translates to Protestant Youth Work in Esslingen -- a smaller branch of the EJW, YL's partner. This is an arm of the church that specializes in youth outreach. They extended my "invitation", if you will.
-EJE pays me a monthly stipend, and I work Tuesdays and Thursdays in a youth center in a socially difficult part of the city called Zollberg. (Pronounced like Sohlberg, North Parkers! I laughed to myself when I found that out!) This center is called t1 (pronounced "tay-eyens"), and I basically do YL contact work there. We have a soccer/basketball court, foosball, pingpong, and pool tables, video games, free internet, sell pop and juice and french fries and pizza and other unhealthy things teenagers like to eat, and we play cool music. On Tuesday afternoons I work "kids club" -- open to kids from 8-12, as well as handicapped kids from a local school, and then Tuesday and Thursday evenings is regular open hours when I hang out with high-school aged kids from around the neighborhood. We have one girl, named Lisa, who I have connected well with, and a LOT of guys, whose names I haven't all got yet, but who are nice, too. (And when they're not nice, they're yelling in German...or Turkish...or Italian...or Arabic...at each other, so I don't understand!). More to come later in a "spotlight" blog on t1.
-I will also be going on a lot of camps/trips with EJE. For example, I'll be heading to Taize, France, on a youth retreat in a few weeks, then to Bremen for something called "Kirchentag" (Church day), and will help to host a visit of Palestinian/Israeli students to Esslingen this summer. I feel so blessed to have so many opportunities to travel and learn! So far, I get along really well with the team at EJE, and am learning a ton.
2.The YMCA in Esslingen (in German, CVJM) - a parachurch organization/community that fosters programs for Christian formation and fun (primariliy for youth, from about age 5-25).
-CVJM offers me housing, and I work Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays in Lutherbau, CVJM's center of command in Esslingen that houses the central offices, weekly meetings of their different groups (kids-teens-adults), various big events and, incidentally, my apartment!
- I find CVJM's method of ministry really cool, because it is almost entirely reliant upon their vast system of volunteers. They have a really dedicated community of of people that make their events happen, that meet together regularly to worship and study the Bible together, but also to have fun and to volunteer. Some of the teenage girls I work with, for instance, lead a girl's group for 8-12 year olds on Wednesday nights -- so people have the chance to minister and to be ministered to within the same community. I think this holistic approach is really neat.
- I'll primarily work with two programs in CVJM, TenSing and Trainee. I also help plan and execute a once-a-month Sunday-night worship service for young people, called One Way, and participate in camps and retreats. Hopefully, none of our retreats will take place here...
-I will try to "spotlight" each of my activities in its own post later, but to give you a brief overview, TenSing is a once-a-week meeting where teens get together to sing (wouldn't you know), and then break up into smaller groups: theater, dance, band, tech, etc. They work together for about a year, and create a show that they then perform. The program started in Norway and is sweeping Europe - will be launched end of April in CVJM Esslingen.
Trainee is an attempt that CVJM is making to have more contact with kids at school, since the trend in Germany is that children spend more time/do more activities at school (like in the US). This is a sort of after school program to help teens think about what direction they want to go in after school (college, work, trade school, etc.), to offer leadership training and homework help and basically get in contact with teens where they are. This will also be launched in late April as a joint effort between EJE and CVJM, and they are hoping I will be able to bring some of my YL knowledge to contribute to their work.
Despite this long entry, this is only a surface-level description of what I do! I hope it wasn't too boring to read, but it needed to be said once and for all! Later entries will "spotlight" each of the activities I do, and hopefully introduce you to some of the fantastic people I work with.
For now, though, I need to head to bed, since it is late in Germany, and I have a German course to attend early tomorrow morning!
Miss you, wherever you are in the world.