Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Then and Now

This was last year on the first day of school when we had a first grader, two preschoolers and an almost four-month-old.


This was Monday, the first day of school, and we now have a second grader, a kindergartner, one preschooler and an almost sixteen-month-old.

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And I just can't believe it.

Monday, August 19, 2013


This is what summer

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is all about.

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Monday, July 22, 2013

More KIBA and a Little Pankow

We started Thursday just like every other day of KIBA: dancing and mumbling singing along with the (German!) KIBA songs. Evie was in her favorite place.
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These wonderful ladies were a HUGE help for us Americans who knew very little German. They helped translate what the kids were saying to us as well as what was going on in our morning and mid-day meetings.
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Evie spent Thursday looking at books in her stroller. She's still working on her English.
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Caleb was solo in his class on Thursday because Sam was "home" sick. (I forgot to mention in my last post that Wednesday night started a contagion of sickness that lasted nearly two weeks! Thankfully the bug only lasted about 24 hours, but it hit thirteen of the fourteen members of the Phillips and Starkey families whether they were in Berlin or not). During this day's class, Caleb got to share about his experience when the tornado hit their home a few years ago. Germany doesn't have tornadoes so the kids were all curious about what it was like.
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Sarah and Sam {not pictured here} were able to join us for the second half of the day, which I was really happy about. Both because Sam was feeling better and because Sarah and I were in charge of that day's craft and I didn't want to fly solo.
We planned to have the kids make groggers {noise-makers traditionally used during Purim fest}. While the story of Esther is read, the children shake their groggers any time Haman's name is mentioned. It's a clever way to keep the kids engaged.
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This is the first completed grogger.
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Although Sam was feeling well enough to be at KIBA, he opted to stay back and be creative with the moms instead of heading to the park for baseball with the dads.
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Gloria, who was part of the team from MN that ran the first KIBA, was an awesome help with the kids. She helped teach the oldest group of KIBA kids in the morning and then did a lot of translating for Brian and Sean in the afternoons at the park.
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As we headed home that day, I noticed that the walk was beginning to feel familiar and the things I'd noticed the first few days were becoming the "new normal." So I snapped a few shots of our way home in order to reset my vision.
Pankow: from KIBA to "home"
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Just like Pankow became familiar, I think it's easy to get familiar with every day life and to lose the alertness that God wants us to have. It's so easy for me to focus on my daily tasks {cooking, cleaning, reading, snuggling, tickling, disciplining...} and forget that God has me doing these things for a bigger purpose, I just need to reset my vision in order to see that He's asking me to serve and love and teach my family so that He may be glorified. I need to remain alert to the Spirit's prompting so that I don't miss the beautiful details in my children and lose appreciation for the privilege I have to be home with them.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Home Sick

Day three of KIBA started just like all the others. Two wonderful people played with the big kids so the rest of the KIBA team could meet for prayer and preparation for the rest of the day. Then we gathered as the children arrived and started singing. We listened to German kids' songs (the ones used for KIBA) almost exclusively for weeks before we left for Berlin. Despite that, there was still only one song that I could sing confidently: Ich Lieb Dich, Jesus {I Love You, Jesus}. And I think that's because there are only twelve words in the whole song.

Song time was one of the few times Evie could roam {not Rome} around without disturbing the teaching, but all the dancing and moving about made her a little nervous. She spent most of song time in someone's arms.

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No matter what country you're in, kids can't sing songs without actions. I'll be the first one to admit that the actions helped me to know what the songs were about too. One of the songs was about how creative God is and it listed some of the unique traits about different animals. One of the lyrics said something about a bunny - hase - {obvious from the "ears" made by two fingers on top of your head} and its nose - nase - {at least I thought it was the bunny's nose because the action was to scrunch up your nose and point to it with your finger}. I think my assumption was correct because at one point in the week I told a little girl that she had paint on her nose and used the same word. Lest you think my German improved dramatically from simply being able to ask about the weather, I should clarify that I didn't actually tell this girl that she had paint on her nose. I pointed to my nose, said nase and positioned her so she could see herself in the mirror. It's amazing what you can get across with hand gestures and grunting. Anyway...the actions came in handy.

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The kids in Sean's class acted out the story of Esther most days. Again with the actions... For Jack, this may as well have been a silent production.
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This day the kids made castles our of toilet paper tubes. There was a Bible verse written on the castle German :)
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One Wednesday each month, FeG Pankow uses a room in the community center to offer a "cultural" experience. This month's Wednesday just happened to be the same week we were in town so we were asked to share a little Minnesota culture with the attendees. We told them about what it's like to live here and gave them a little taste of Minnesota with Pearson's Nut Rolls, root beer, s'mores and Sarah's {now world} famous chocolate chip cookies. After the initial introductions I took the kids back to the apartment so they could get a decent night of sleep.
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I don't know if it was all the reminders of home in the presentation or that we'd been gone for nearly a week by then, but I was really starting to miss the kids back in Minnesota.
While the rest of the team fielded politically charged questions, I had a quiet evening looking through pictures and writing what would be my last blog post from Berlin.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Zwei und Zwo

We didn't have a memory card on day two so we have no pictures to show. I have to admit, it's a blessing in disguise when I have no camera around my neck...

I think, in general, day two went better than day one at KIBA. Not that day one was bad. It' just that, on Tuesday, we knew what to expect and were better prepared to take care of the babies and actually be of some help. And we are getting to know the German team here a little better so the connections are becoming deeper. Day two was very similar to day one in terms of structure:

1. Songs
2. Classroom (Sean, Sarah and I "help" in various classrooms each morning)
3. Small group
4. Craft or active game (Brian leads the games each day)
5. Lunch!
6. Chaos Free play time
7. Creative or active workshop

But the active workshop (American football that the kids all think is soccer) was cancelled because of the rain {it rained all. day. long.} So almost all the kids chose crafts. Dave was purposefully vague about the craft alternative, but as soon as the craft kids heard that Shrek was playing, we lost a lot of our make-up-making/knitting/card-stamping crowd.

One interesting thing about the rain is that we saw what a morning commute was like in a primarily non-car city. The bikes still buzzed about. Parents still pulled their kids in trailers or walked alongside them to get on the tram. The children looked adorable in their rain pants that looked like waders and their matching galoshes. I don't think I've ever seen so many umbrellas in one place.

After KIBA, we stopped at the mall to:

Get dinner: Sean and I finally had the currywurst we'd heard so much about
Get milk and bread: This trip to Kaufland was easier because the cashier spoke English, but a little tricky because we didn't have any one euro coins so we couldn't get a shopping cart
Buy delicious fruit for our guests: Yes, even in a foreign city in a rented space, we couldn't go a full week without having someone over.

Our guests Tuesday evening were the Berlin City Team {the team in Berlin with Reach Global} and some of their guests. It was wonderful to get to hear their stories about why God has them in this city at this time, how God has worked in their lives to get them to this point, what drew them here and what keeps them here. The variety of life stages, passions, interests, skills, etc. really demonstrated how God uses all of the gifts He gives us in so many different ways.

Before coming to Berlin I only knew how to count to three. Part of the church service on Sunday morning was a countdown. So in the mile walk from our flat to the church, I learned 1 to 10 and 10 to 1. On Tuesday as I was watching some boys play the classroom game, I heard them counting from 1 to 6 and heard them using a different work for 2 than I'd learned a few days before. I learned Tuesday evening that when counting in a series {1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6} it's common for the kids to use zwo instead of zwei to better differentiate between zwei and drei because it's less confusing. Now, lest you think you'll impress your next group of German guests, be warned that zwo is only used when counting a series. So don't offer your guests zwo desserts. Always offer zwei.

And now, even though I'm still a day behind, I can't keep my eyes open one more second so I must say gute nacht and fill you in on day three of KIBA tomorrow.

Thank you for your prayers.

It's Just Another...Or Is It?

I'm not sure "manic" describes this Monday, but it was a little crazy.

This the church. And this is where KIBA {KInder Bibel Aktion} is.

The church meets in a private school {I don't even know the name of it}, but the school doesn't want to be associated with the church so FeG Pankow can't list it's actual location in any of its materials.

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Instead it lists the Tabakspeicher {tobacco store} as its location. This tobacco factory, once owned by a Jewish family, has been renovated and is now full of luxury apartments.

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It also shares a commons area with the school so it's a great alternative for helping people find the church. {Just listing the address is a little obscure}. It's just a little strange at first when people hear you go to church at the tobacco store.

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Here is another look at the commons area. The basketball court and beach volleyball make outside play a great energy release after lunch.

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So does this fun playground behind the school building.

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After many meetings with the KIBA team in Berlin, both over Skype and in-person, the day finally arrived when KIBA would begin. The kids are grouped based on age and, upon registering, they were to gather in their assigned groups. We were supposed to be at the table to greet "our" kids. Sean is helping with the youngest grades during the morning session. Jack is in this group and I think he feels more comfortable knowing Sean is there with him. Sean is great at engaging with the kids despite the language barrier. Most of these kids haven't been in school long enough to be able to speak English and Sean doesn't sprechen much Deutsch so the communication gets very creative.

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During registration this day, I met a girl I'll call V {Europeans have very strict privacy standards so I won't be using the names of the KIBA kids and I won't be posting pictures of their faces}. She's 10 and was invited by one of the other KIBA families. She speaks very good English so, thanks to her, we're able to communicate easily. We hung out during the song time until she got comfortable with the other kids.

Once all the kids were registered, we began the song time. At home we listened to KIBA songs almost nonstop before our trip so we're very excited when the songs start playing - it's one of the few things that feels familiar.

When song time is over, the kids head upstairs for the lesson on Esther. Sarah and I and the babies help with the middle grades. Sam and Caleb are in this group; so are about 17 other kids! It's the biggest group by far.

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Manu teaches this group and does a great job engaging the children. After the main lesson, the kids break up into small groups to go a little deeper, work in their workbooks and play games.

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Some time during the morning, the k├╝che helpers bring up snacks. The kids and teachers enjoyed fruit kabobs on the first day.

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After the lessons are over, the kids head down to the cafeteria for lunch. This is the main meal during the day so it's hearty. I'm not sure if it's the cooking or the activity that gives the kids such a big appetite, but they EAT A LOT. After lunch and an hour or so of free time outside, the kids come back to hear about the workshops {one active, one creative} for the afternoon. Our team was asked to run some of the workshops so throughout the week Sean and Brian will be teaching baseball and American football. On the first day, Jack and Caleb had to decide between learning baseball or how to make cosmetics. Needless to say, they chose the baseball.

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For the kids that aren't interested in either option there are a few other creative outlets. When Manu pulled out a box of yarn, I knew I'd found my niche! Plus, V chose the "knifty knitters" and I was anxious to get to know her a little more. As I got started on the hat I was making for Jack {grey and maroon for ERA}, I looked up and found myself sitting around a table of women ranging in age from 70s to 10 and knew that this is where I would feel at home. In God's great wisdom, He designed learning to be passed on from the older to the younger generations {Titus 2:3-5}.

The highlight of my day happened while sitting around this table. V walked over to ask me a question and put her hand, familiarly, on my shoulder as she did. One of the German KIBA helpers, Marlis {a woman full to bursting with love for the Lord and His people} asked me a question about "my daughter," assuming that V belonged to me. When I told her she wasn't my daughter, Marlis asked the other women around the table in German why V could speak English so well. I quickly answered her {in English, of course} because I knew exactly what she was asking. God used this to demonstrate that language isn't a barrier when people are connected by the Holy Spirit.

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When the workshops ended, the kids got their final snack of the day {ice cream, or eis} and headed back home with their parents or whatever adult was picking them up. When all of our responsibilities were done at the school, we meandered home for a short break and then headed to Evelyn's flat for her dinner. Even though her husband, Daniel, couldn't join us for long, he lovingly {and deliciously} prepared the meal for us. It was definitely some of the best pizza I've had.

The adults sat together in the dining room

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while the kids enjoyed their time in the kitchen.

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After a great meal and wonderful conversation, we rounded up our crew and headed home with day one of KIBA checked off.

The first day was full of great lessons:
1. Language doesn't have to be a barrier to getting to know someone and it's never a barrier to being able to show them God's love
2. Lots of German children speak English
3. Evie really benefits from her morning nap
4. I know sehr ein bisschen Deutsch, but would really like to learn more
5. Service is an act of the heart, not the body

Gute nacht

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

KIBA Started

KIBA started.

It's late.

I'm tired.

The update will have to wait.

Monday, June 24, 2013


Sunday was a day of preparation. Here are the boys preparing for a busy day with a big breakfast: Honey Balls, Musli and some of the best nectarines they've ever had.

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The day before I had spent time with the boys making the KIBA sign for outside of the church. We were all so happy to see our sign when we walked up.

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With fresh KIBA shirts, we took the opportunity for a team photo. Even the babies got dresses shirts. Aren't they cute?

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Here is our family before the church service in our KIBA gear.

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This Sunday was family Sunday so the service was more kid oriented than usual. Most of the songs were from last year's KIBA so the kids knew them and could sing along and do the actions. There wasn't a separate nursery or children's education hour so all the kids stayed for the whole service. Evie enjoyed discovering all the new toys in the box at the back of the room. I really enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere and the opportunity to worship and listen to the sermon despite needing to be moving around to take care of Evie.

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This is Dave leading the service.

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Brian taught us about Noah this week.

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Clearly his family was engaged :)

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On our way home, the boys discovered that if they linked arms, they could just barely reach all the way around this tree.

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The girls woke from much needed naps and prepared for dinner with a snack.

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We had a few minutes of down time so we took the chance to learn a few line dances in preparation for what we'll be teaching on Friday night. Evie was not content to just watch. She had so much fun holding my hands and dancing right along with me.

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On Wednesday evening we're giving a talk about what it's like to live in Minnesota. We'll serve a variety of snacks typical in the US and/or from Minnesota. However, I'm sure what will be most memorable are Sarah's famous chocolate chip cookies. Sarah and I spent the evening preparing cookies in the apartment right below ours {the tenant is the landlady who told us we could use her oven as our flat doesn't have one}.


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we thought we'd have enough to go around.

As you'll find out tomorrow, this was the first of many very busy and full days. While we are all exhausted at the end of the day and can tell we're being stretched, we are confident that God is allowing us to grow in our love and knowledge of Him by serving where we're needed {or where we are}.