Summers fly as fast as they used to

20170801_095439

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits…  ~ Psalm 103:1-2

Here we are again with a week of summer left before I fly out to Albania! It’s been a busy time back on the East Coast, and it’s flown by as quickly as I anticipated.  Much of the time has been spent working on curriculum for next year as well as a fair bit of networking (with many of you!).  Happily, my sister has been able to capitalize on opportunities to hang out and participate in my summer schedule, and I’ve had some solid family time.  Not too long ago, Emily accompanied me down to Blacksburg where I gave a report to a church committee and met with a couple ol’ friends from college days.  It can easily become a wistful, even melancholy experience visiting there given the trajectory of the past ten years.  Needless to say, I was cheered by Emily’s company.  The trip and activity did take its toll, however, and we returned home with her heart condition badly aggravated. (Going on two years now with her onset of “POTS”.)  …This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through.

I had the pleasure of seeing a bunch of old friends while I was back up in the Philadelphia area for a week taking an AP Summer Institute class to prepare for teaching AP Physics.  Networking with my old community in such a short time left me feeling kind of like God was playing Tetris with my daily planner, packing every day with solid school prep and meaningful visits.  I’ve even visited with out-of-state friends whose schedules aligned perfectly for a meeting.  I am indeed grateful for my many contacts and friends and the layered chapters of life that God has given to me so far, though these experiences over the years have come with a pretty fluid sense of home; even for this Xennial, my transient sense of belonging can be disorienting sometimes.  As grateful as I am for my friendships, I think I’m even more grateful for the hope of one day having one home in Christ’s Kingdom, whatever that may look like.  It’s good for the heart to reflect, as I have with others a couple times over here in the States, that all of these brothers and sisters in Christ will indeed get to meet each other—even if they’re currently separated by oceans and different languages and a lifetime of experiences.

For those of you who are curious, it is true: I’m teaching another AP class in addition to AP Calculus this coming year—and AP Physics 1 will be a humdinger.  I’m still scrambling to get a first cut of the unit plan and list of lab experiments and equipment to bring.  Textbooks are coming in (including those of others’ classes), and at least the external logistics are coming together.  In all I’ll be teaching three classes: AP Calculus for the second time, AP Physics 1 for the first time, and Pre-Calculus (a.k.a. Trigonometry and then some) for the first time.  It’s a robust load for me and it will probably require constant planning this coming year, but with God’s help we can do this.  Thank you for your prayers for personnel—recruiting didn’t exactly go as planned, but we’re making it work to fit the students’ needs.

I’m still getting finances officially in order.  So far, factoring in some reserves from last year and expressly stated confirmation of continued support next year, I am 60% funded with a slightly altered budget. I am still looking to raise about $670/mo.  If you have decided to help support me financially for this second year it would be helpful for budgeting purposes if you indicate by email or a phone call if you plan to do so.  Let me know if you have any questions.  There are a number of you with whom I still need to follow-up personally, but I rarely get around to directly asking for financial support since I’m usually content to simply share what is going on and find out how my supporters are doing themselves.  If I haven’t interacted with you directly yet, expect a phone call or an email from me soon!

PRAYER REQUESTS:

  • I fly back to Albania August 15. That gives me a week to finish last minute preparation for curriculum Stateside where teaching resources (especially physics lab equipment) is most readily available.  Please pray that I complete all the necessary tasks preparing for teaching this year!
  • We have some new staff joining us this year, including some new administrative staff like my new boss and head of high school, Len. He, his wife, and others will need prayer support as they adapt to a new setting with unexpected challenges.
  • Please pray for our students: the ones who have moved on to other locations on the globe (including college) and all those returning for another year at GDQ. I hope to be a better teacher than I was last year and to be more involved in their day-to-day lives.  This will be a challenge since I will be very busy planning for new classes again.

Thank you all so much for your continued support, prayers, and friendship.  You do not realize how encouraging it is to have a loving base like you.  I’ve attached some photos from the summer, but unfortunately I lost nearly all my July photos when I inadvertently did a factory reset on my phone to get the screen working again—crazy!!

Looking forward to staying in touch.

Blessings,

Nate

IMG956395
Back in the States means a fair amount of cuddle time with the family pup
19149320_10105783665385063_7016887251984829482_n
The visits with friends started right away!
20170729_151611
Soaking in the green
20170803_131232
I’ve taken a lot of pictures of outdoor life
cardinal_in_hand_composite
And I lost of a lot of pictures when I inadvertently did a factory reset on my phone trying to restart it–including a really fun picture/video I took holding a dazed cardinal as it recovered from having flown into a window.  It even pooped in my hand, which was startling and kind of gross.
20170730_121104 (2)
We’ve gone on lots of walks for the days that I’ve been home
20170806_173815 (2)
And I’ve gotten some good Minecraft time in with the Sis–and the dog apparently
IMG956272
Emily’s POTS heart condition has proven difficult to manage, and we’re hoping we can achieve a better “new normal” soon.  In the meantime, buoyant pressure from short dips go a long way to mitigate the dizziness and discomfort for a while
IMG956365
I’ve been able to get in some quality time with the parents as well: here we are waiting for the fireworks at Colonial Williamsburg
IMG956370
It was no New Year’s celebration in Tirana, but it was pretty in its own right and it celebrated the fight against tyranny, a hard struggle indeed!  But thanks be to God, his Kingship is the only truly good one and he will bring his good plan to fruition.
IMG956402
We were able to do get some odd jobs done around the house, including re-installing an old car radio for Emily
Resized952017071695222353
It was good, and a little surreal, to be back in the old homestead outside Philly for a week.
apsi_drawing_2C
Here we have a half-hearted reproduction of a picture I snapped during the AP Summer Institute.  It was genuinely a very helpful class, and I’ve been up to my eyeballs parsing through the resources and lessons given to help prepare me for teaching AP Physics 1.
apsi_drawing_1B
Our incredibly knowledgeable instructor took us through many lab experiments, many of which will require me to find alternatives to the super-fancy equipment he used. Here we have a cool projectile ball gun launching from a balcony.
20170803_140304
It was a relief to finally have the textbooks chosen, shipped, and received. They’ll accompany me on my way back which is by far the cheapest way to get things to where I work.
IMG956481
In addition to copious curriculum preparation, I have had the pleasure of networking with many of you.  It’s seasons like these where the body of Christ, and friends in general, can really shine with the power of encouragement.  Thank you all for the love and encouragement you’ve shown me this summer!
IMG956399
Once again I bid adieu to this lovely little piece of the world with old friends and loved ones close by.  My purpose is elsewhere for the time being!
Advertisements

See you laters’ to people, goodbyes’ to seasons

20170613_185643

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

School is out, summer has begun, and so have the many farewells that happen this time of year in this international setting.  Many of the goodbyes will only last a couple months until next year, but a significant number will not be returning.  Life on this globe is full of transition of course, but this is intense. I am humbled by the all the families, teachers, and administrators here who willingly repeat this cycle of departure year after year, all for their love of God and his not-yet children here in Albania.  As my cousin says, most goodbyes are temporary and a simple matter of furlough or summer break, but the hard goodbyes happen when loved ones don’t plan to return.  The end of this year marks some very significant hard goodbyes including my cousins’ eldest son going off to college, a very close ministry partner who is getting married and moving to another country, and the departure of GDQ’s K-12 director.  **Please pray for my cousins and those like them as they process these major changes.  I have only lived here a year and I am experiencing the pangs of losing some good teacher friends who won’t be here next year, including this year’s social studies teacher, Quentin, who lived with his wife and kids in the apartment next door.  I’ll miss those bike ride commutes and fun and fascinating conversations that happened almost daily at school.  **Please pray for Quentin as he transitions with his family to Texas; praise God he received a job offer exactly one minute before his family landed on the tarmac!

After the long gauntlet of external exams and semester finals, the high school switched gears to student internships leaving the actual building very quiet, aside from frequent administrative meetings and discussions about revisions to handbook policy.  “Activity week” is the final week leading up to graduation, in which teachers and students go on several field trips and participate in various community services.  This unique phase of the academic calendar seems to be a productive way of handling the problematic timing of all the IGCSE and AP external exams, and it probably helps the students transition into their especially chaotic international summer experience. **Please pray for these kids: for those heading off to university or a “gap year” and for those who plan on returning to GDQ in the fall, that Christ would vividly hold onto their hearts these next two months as they make various transitions. And for those students who don’t believe, that Christ would vividly grab their hearts soon.  I am grateful for the privilege of teaching them, having poignantly felt that honor during the graduation ceremony.

I fly back to Virginia in a few hours.  In some ways, the time Stateside will probably feel like hitting the pause button on life, but I know God keeps working and changing the environment on us.  I am learning the importance of looking to him expectantly and hopefully, the giver of good gifts who loves to surprise his children.  For my part, I must keep busy.  I still need to fund raise for my second year, but I expect the lion’s share of my summer work will consist of preparing for new classes.  **Praise God, it looks likely that we have a new recruit who will be able to share the math teaching load at the high school, preventing an untimely death of yours truly—but please pray for confirmation of this!  If you are going to be in the Virginia/Pennsylvania area between now and mid-August drop me line; I hope to get in a number of fun visits catching up with friends and family, and I would love to see you. **Finally, please pray for rest and rejuvenation for myself and my teammates; many of us need it, some more than others.  For myself, despite the full and productive season I’ve had here—which is in large part thanks to you all!—God has allowed this season to also be one in which trusting him has been particularly difficult and taxing.  For all of us who claim to trust God, I pray that he will allow us to take real pleasure in our first love: Him.  For those of you who support me in love and friendship but don’t share my faith, thank you for your care, and you know you can ask me anytime about who drives me to come out here.  I’ll be in touch.

Blessings,

Nate

20170510_072419_001.jpg
The view from my apartment building’s stairwell
20170512_102553
Andy giving a special end-of-year chapel reading Dr. Seuss’ “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”
20170512_154806
One of my students turned in her take-home test during the last week of class with a colorful alternative to staples; coincidentally she did really well!
20170517_095435
This is me realizing that I need to spend a class or two on Microsoft Excel spreadsheets rather than rush though cell formulas with a student after class.
20170528_123130
A random tourist picture of the day with a bride and groom travelling in style!
20170528_162438
One of my teacher-friends has taken pity on my under-developed cooking skills and has decided to help me learn a few standbys.
20170530_182251
Roger and Nikki Pearse will be missed, having headed GDQ for 13 pivotal years.  Here, the GDQ community is giving them a royal send-off with a special ceremony.
20170602_212640
I decided to stick around til midnight with the high schoolers during their Friday night lock-in.  Here we have some of the South Korean students cooking mouth-watering food that they were happy to share.
20170605_100513
Activity week comes complete with a beach day, which is probably much more relaxing for the high school teachers than the lower school!
20170606_080340
Now is the season for purchasing new textbooks.  Here we have Kyle’s choice for world history–fitting for such a huge nerd of ancient Rome! (I’m fascinated by the history too.)
20170607_095315
Activity week also included a forced march–mandatory walk up part of Mt. Dajti
20170607_104003
…In which some of us visited an old bunker, complete with communist signage–incredible
20170609_101446
So I say goodbye to the classroom for a couple months
20170611_215849
There’s more activity than just the high school: Scanderbeg Square has re-opened after a major beautification overhaul (was it needed?)  It is good to have that lane open again to traverse the middle of the city.
20170611_220843
The celebrations are also a reminder of the elections that are happening soon.  You can pray for good governance which is still a big need for this still-new democracy.
20170613_110510
This final week here I had the privilege to join some friends on a trip up north to see what is known as the Albanian alps–we took a ferry ride to get there which was beautiful.
20170613_151526
And the destination was as magnificent as everyone said it would be.  I am truly blessed to be able to serve in such an accessible and interesting place!

20170614_101002

20170614_152034
And I’m even more blessed to be able to serve with such fine people, truly (this picture being a segment of the amazing community God has provided all of us here).

Winding up before winding down my first year

20170304_181723

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.” ~Hebrews 12:28-29

…Wherein Nate summarizes the experience of the lion’s share of the Spring semester at GDQ and expresses the anticipation of wrapping things up before the start of summer craziness coming in six or so weeks…

Mirë dita (good day)! Thanks for your patience with my newsletter; rest assured that things have been busy and productive over here in Tirana these past two-and-a-half months.  We’re in the home stretch of the academic year, and I’m already thinking about what next year holds.  I still find it interesting how God pulled me out of an engineering cubicle, through a year of seminary, and into a high school classroom, all ostensibly for his glory.  No matter how far off my originally intended path, I must trust that I am on the path that he has always wanted for me.  It feels less and less like a long detour, but some confusion and bemusement certainly persist.  For now, if I don’t focus on God’s sufficiency for present tasks, I’ll get lost wondering about the future.

Spring and cottonwood are in the air, and our students are anxiously and hurriedly completing their studies and tests to close out the academic year. A number of the seniors have already been accepted into universities, and some are in the middle of making final choices—my cousin included. The high school teachers are scrambling just as much making sure our units finish well as we alternate between lessons and proctoring large standardized tests from Cambridge, England and Advanced Placement (AP) exams. I myself got to supervise the U.S. History AP exam this past Friday for a solid four hours. In two weeks, the high schoolers will finish normal semester exams to cap off their class grades and then spend two weeks in various internships before the official end-of-year and graduation on June 9. Lower and middle school have normal class for the remainder of this month, but given the chaotic environment of the high school I’m not sure which I would prefer! Please pray for all our students to finish the year well and to make wise decisions as they move forward.

We skipped the rainy season this winter somehow. I was well prepared with my Colombia gear, including rain pants and water-proof shoes for biking, but I’ve hardly needed these. Most of the days here consist of a very regular routine of biking to school, teaching, grading, and late nights planning—the life of a first-year teacher I suppose. The process of subsisting from lesson plan to lesson plan has remained pretty constant, and I hope to benefit from this hard work next year with more time to intentionally invest in relationships with friends and students. As an American, I feel the pressure of living in another culture daily, but any discomfort is more than countered by the warmth and acceptance I experience from my Albanian friends here—in and outside of GDQ. I imagine the cultural strain would be much harder if I were not a man, and my respect for the women here—expat and Albanian—increases from week to week.

Various highlights have punctuated the normal Spring semester schedule such as spirit week at the high school, Summer Day (harvest related), and the grand opening of the newly renovated open market a couple blocks away from my apartment.  My friends and I even got to glimpse the prime minister of Albania as he came out to give the commemoration speech.  I’ve also gotten out of the city a few times during breaks including two trips to Lake Orhid bordering neighboring Macedonia and a four-day trip to Rome during spring break!  For brevity, I’ll relegate those experiences to captioned pictures for your viewing pleasure 🙂

PRAYER POINTS:

  • The high schoolers need special prayer support these next two weeks as they complete their exams, in some cases for potential college credit. Christopher takes his AP Calculus test on Tuesday, which is what we have been preparing for all year! I’m pretty confident he’ll get a 5 (top score), but prayers are appreciated!
  • We give God thanks and praise for filling the administrative roster for next year! We’re bringing in a veteran missionary school administrator to head the middle school and high school grades.  And we have someone coming in from the GDQ community to head up Kindergarten through 6th grade.  We’re happy to have Lori Neuman continue as interim K-12 director, but GDQ is still looking for a long-term replacement for her starting the 2018-2019 school year.
  • THIS IS THE BIG ONE FOR ME AT THE MOMENT…My own experience teaching next year is likely tied to the outcome of this year’s recruitment efforts.  With the current high-school math teacher finishing out her three-year commitment here, I am slated to take on at least two of her classes.  We are hoping and praying for a science/math teacher hybrid who can share some of that load so that I don’t die.  (Once again, if you’re interested in the details you can look at the specific needs listed here: http://www.gdqschool.org/opportunities/staff-openings/.)

Thank you again for all your support, prayer, financial, and otherwise.  I plan to get another good update out before I return home a little over a month from now.  In the meantime feel free to contact me via email or Facebook if you want to hear more or let me know how I can be praying for you.  Blessings!

-Nate

20170215_134408
Several teachers and I tagged along on a field trip with the 12-graders to the Bektashi World Headquarters here in Tirana one afternoon.  The Bektashi order might be considered a sect of Islam which borders on universalism in some ways.
20170218_090011
Local construction is always ongoing in Tirana, but it’s been especially prevalent these past few months around the nearby Bazar i Re (“New Market”). So here is before…
20170314_084609
…And after
20170218_093829
A recent invention of some local expats: asking for banana-walnut infused pancakes!  Have I mentioned how much I love Stephen Center?
20170221_170230
I’ve been informed we call her Whitney, not Whiney–still squeaky and loving as ever.
20170224_130008
One weekend I was able to join some teacher friends on a day trip to Lake Ohrid, which is a famous tourist stop between Albania and neighboring Macedonia.  Coincidentally, that weekend a political kerfuffle began to snowball in which the minority Albanians made a major bid to have their language officially recognized as Macedonia’s second language.
20170224_133957
Boat rides come highly recommended here, especially if you can kidnap a friendly street dog for extra company.
20170224_134605
The shoreline of Ohrid City
20170304_173856
Fast forward to the shoreline of the Artificial Lake in Tirana on my first bike ride to that area.  It’s a favorite outdoor hang out spot for, well everybody. Such desolate beauty can only be found from this angle.
20170305_142038
An interior view of the newly finished Toptani Mall, which I can no longer refer to as simply “The Curvy Glass Building”
20170306_203339
A typical sight in my apartment–it looks just like this as I type!
20170307_085832
My calculus students working away at limits with L’Hopital’s Rule.  I’ll miss these guys.  It’s been an honor and a treat to serve as their teacher their senior year.
20170307_171958
Some of the GDQ gang playing Uno at the Teachers’ Day event.  Beaming straight at us we have the fabulous Alma, our high school office manager who keeps the ship sailing from day to day.
20170311_110505
Stopping for fruit on the way to a nearby TeachBeyond staff gathering
20170314_141224
Visiting the Pyramid with my housemate Sajmir on Summer Day (March 14, go figure–I’m told it’s something to do with the harvest)
20170314_142444
One of the best housemates a person could want in a cross-cultural setting, in any setting really.  Some things take no effort to be grateful for: my brother Sajmir is one of them.
20170314_182402
With the Bazaar i Re’s recent construction overhaul, some wonder if it is more hurtful than helpful to the local merchants.  Is this the epitome of detrimental gentrification? I certainly hope for their sakes it is not.  So far, commerce appears to be recovering (this was an early picture).
20170315_164229
The final sports season at GDQ is volleyball, which has quite the enthusiastic following.  Our boys team plays in the finals this Wednesday!  The venue this year has been a Turkish school with an underground gym, pretty neat.
20170316_150342
Putting things together in anticipation of the big AP Calculus test. Here we’re matching differential equation examples to their respective slope fields–exciting!
20170317_192638
Confession time: I borrowed a hymnal from BCF back when I was a college student and never got around to returning it.  If it is any consolation, I ended up bringing it with me and it has provided some precious quiet times with the Lord as I work and live over here.  I can bring it back when I visit this summer! You’ll forgive me right?
20170320_090809
Opening day of high school spirit week: pajama [bottom] day!
20170322_204741
My cup ran clear over on my birthday when I was invited to come over to my cousins’ home with some friends to celebrate. Red velvet cake is my favorite!
20170326_102412
Signs of Spring…and an encroaching presence of Islam
20170327_181103
April showers
20170330_153558
I made sure to work around the Minecraft characters my students had left on the board.
20170402_104348
More spring
20170402_124426
More juxtaposition
20170405_090520
Daphne the mule has become something of a Physics class mascot. I made that figure myself with the image of a cantering mule (no kidding) and two pictures of Indiana Jones.  I don’t think the students appreciate Daphne very much since they claim she haunts their dreams.
20170408_114507
Back to the Bazaar i Re, where business seems to keep improving for the local merchants
20170408_114942
Various booths were set up a few weeks ago with a number of different crafts to buy.
20170415_212330
I try to do my part as a produce client by building a basic cooking repertoire. Still a work a progress.
20170410_181017
Ah Rome.  I had the pleasure of visiting this city for four days over spring break with some other teacher friends.  It’s hard to pass up when its just a $150 plane ride away!
20170410_230504
Our apartment was located only a few blocks away from the Colosseum, just remarkable.
20170411_122405
I could spend days here thinking about the history
20170411_172923
The Roman Forum was also a spectacle to behold.  Keep the size of the people in mind when considering scale.  This panoramic view from atop the Palatine Hill where the Emperor lived (from where we get the word palace).
20170411_182637
The trip was exhausting physically because we visited so much, but also mentally because I could not stop thinking about literally 2000 years worth of history, from ancient times, through the dark ages, and into the Renaissance and beyond… Also, Busch Gardens nailed it.
20170412_143246
We had a whole Vatican Day where we did nothing but worship Mary–ouch!! Just kidding.  Truly, it was a treat to visit such an important and historical, and epically massive sight. Once again, scale: notice the size of the people right up to the doors of Saint Peter’s Basilica–can you see them?
20170412_174531
I spent much of the day gazing all around me and praying for my brothers and sisters who are Catholic, praying for all of us really.
20170413_122021
When in Rome, you eat gelato..and we did.
20170413_171138
We also visited an ancient river port city named Ostia Antica (where we get the word “antiques” I hear).  This place was more immersive than Rome in many ways!
20170417_183811
The view from home never ceases to amaze
20170416_111815
On Easter Sunday a number of evangelical churches in and around the Tirana area came together to worship outside in a prominent location south of the city center.  It was quite a sight to behold, and I hear it was an encouragement to some brothers and sisters for sure.
20170420_102120
The first week after spring break we had a traveling speaker from TeachBeyond give chapel presentations every day.  It was quite a blessing, for me included.  (The tattoo on that student is not real, no fear.)
20170429_145214
Cottonwood, the snow of spring!
20170504_104844
A regular view for me, sitting and working in the staff room.  This is still a busy week, but soon things will wind down for the year.  Thank you for all your prayers and support!  Please keep praying for additional recruitment especially!!

 

 

 

Gezuar Vitin e Ri! (Happy New Year!)

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.  ~Titus 3:5-7

20170119_065257

Happy New Year folks! (Ge-‘zoo-ar ‘vee-tin ee ray) [Edit: I had the wrong translation originally!]  Before I spend any prose illustrating the past two months of life, I want to get one bit of BIG NEWS out of the way, and that is that **I’ve decided to stay on for a second year serving GDQ in Tirana, Albania!!** I did not make this decision lightly, but after a season of prayer, trusted council, and personal worship (Scripture devotions and the like) it became clearly apparent that remaining over here to serve for this next upcoming year is the faithful choice for me.  I want to give a special shout out to the whole community of teachers, fellow ministers, students, parents, and friends who have welcomed me so warmly here and have no doubt made my decision much easier.  From my point of view, this is where God has me serving him for now.  For an early-thirties  millennial, the lack of a clear plan for future years continues to chafe somewhat, but I know God has me whatever life brings.  I am thankful for a place at his table.

We’re now far into the winter season and I want to give a brief update on the status of my journey over here in the “land of eagles”—the Albanians’ name for their country Shqipëria (shcheep-per-ia).  The holiday corridor of November and December ended in a hectic scramble to get school work done (for teachers and students alike), at which point I happily received my parents for a Christmas-to-New-Years visit.  We planned a number of things.  Few turned out the way we intended, like swapping out a three-day Italy trip for a week convalescing in my apartment while my parents recovered from bad cases of the respiratory flu that was ravaging the land.  We also did not intend on them staying through mid-January while nearby Istanbul and its airport emerged from an uncommon layer of snow and ice.  I also did not expect to have the taxing experience of having to teach remotely via Google classroom for a week while schools throughout the city were forcibly closed by the ministry of health, ostensibly due to the flu epidemic.  We had many special treats though, including a spectacular New Years firework display launched from hundreds of apartment balconies across the city, and a 30-year record snow, 1-in deep (it stuck!) not many days later.  Overall, my parents’ long visit was a joy and a boon to me.  They met just about every part of my community here, they know my streets and hang-outs, they know how to pray for me now far better than they did before.  I miss them, but I feel strangely closer to them now that they’ve been here, and they feel the same.

It’s just me and my housemate Sajmir in the apartment again, and the schoolwork roles along at a brisk pace.  With a semester under my belt, I am a more comfortable teacher in some regards, but I feel like I still need to capitalize on what I’ve learned.  Daily, I’m working on marshaling the tools and resources available to me to organize my lesson units and class periods better.  I’m starting to get a better handle on AP Calculus preparation, but it will remain a hardy challenge to finish content with a month to spare for practicing the big AP test.  I received friendly applause when I announced to my Business Math class that I’ll be sticking around for another year, which really cheered me.  And the staff are happy to have me stay, especially in light of the significant change-ups headed our way next year.  There’s already talk of what classes I’d teach, and which ones I’d hand off to potential newcomers.  It’s good to be a part of a team.

There are many things to pray for and to be thankful for.  Here’re my top three:

  • For GDQ students and staff as we proceed into the second half of this academic year. Pray especially for our high school seniors as they continue navigating the ramp up to college (or “university”), gap years, or whatever else is on the horizon for them. The challenge is especially daunting given their international context.
  • For GDQ recruitment as the school seeks to fill its ranks for next year. You can look at the specific needs listed on their website here: http://www.gdqschool.org/opportunities/staff-openings/.  Do you know anyone who could fill these roles?  Pray too for the team-members that still need to decide their plan for next year.
  • For each other, no kidding. I am still learning how to communicate with a wide base of supporters as I work, and I welcome any questions you might have for me—as well as prayer requests of your own.  Each of you has contributed to this enterprise, either financially or through prayer or both, and I want you to know that you’re a part of this.  I want you to be encouraged and edified too, enjoying some of the fruit of your participation even now.  I say I’ve decided to stay another year, but God will have to provide.  We’ll see how this all shakes down as the year progresses, but for now I am content to carry on with the work he’s given me.

Here is another slew of pictures for your viewing pleasure, with captions.  By now many of you probably realize that a lot of the meat of these updates is in those images and captions!  Thank you again for all your support and encouragement; you’re a part of something bigger than any of us can see.

In Christ,

Nate

20161221_155743
My parents got straight to work documenting the view when they arrived!
20161221_164507
Introducing the Stephen Center, my regular haunt
20161222_142806-2
The Teleferique was an easy choice for a casual day seeing the sights while getting over jetlag
20161222_142743
A glimpse of rural Albania, a thing I’ve hardly had sight of so far…
image-0-02-05-0b0339baccb402aef859199d07e20dc85c3226aab7323f19e0323d64e1792ba9-v
That small sheen on the horizon behind us is actually the Adriatic Sea!
20161222_155946
Momma
20161223_130048
We spent a day visiting the nearby coastal city of Durres, ancient gateway to Rome.  We were hosted by the Bishops, whose son I teach.  Pray for their work in this gateway city; it’s not hard to see this place as one of the front-lines of the struggle for Albania’s soul.
20161223_131010
Part of the ancient amphitheater, half-excavated but also wholly covered in medieval concrete by the Ottomans long ago in an attempt to erase history.  According to legend, this may be the very site of Titus’ martyrdom under Emperor Trajan.
20161223_134009
There is no analog for this amphitheater in the rest of Balkans, with estimates that it could seat 18,000 to 20,000 spectators!
20161230_214348
A common sight in the apartment, especially during the rough flu week.  We cruised through the entirety of “John Adams” during that time–an interesting theme given the recent election.
20161230_112141
A view from the “Observator” tower during our fist morning stepping out from our long flu convalescence. My cousins’ house is actually in this shot.
20170101_000012-2
New Years is crazy here!
20161231_235100
Some of us tried our hand at sending off a lamp, which wasn’t very successful.
20170101_160946
This unfinished quad minaret mosque already dominates the local skyline.  Its call to prayer is going to be something indeed.
20170101_162522
Out and about seeing the sights of Tirana. Here visiting “the Pyramid” which is an old vestige of communist days under dictator Enver Hoxha (‘Ho-ja).  Interestingly, one of my students recently informed me that the name Hoxha is as common as Smith is back home.
20170101_163951
A piece of the Berlin Wall
image-0-02-05-e7115cee041cc60047d02626b0035a2ad785f9cf9d487a1492f160dc24349fb2-v
Heading into BunkArt 2, which is a recent museum dedicated to the victims of Hoxha’s deadly and autocratic rule.
20170101_170635
The museum is designed well, and is located in a genuine bunker attached to the old ministry of internal affairs.
20170101_171726
Very heavy history, but worth the time to learn about it.
20170106_084950
Snow on Mt. Dajti…and here we were excited about going to see the white stuff up there…
image-0-02-05-399623a0588fffb05c4e6262235e6e16d80e756ffc616b73a7097fe5f6082d8e-v
…Never expected to have it come down to us!
20170111_210630
According to my cousins, it has never snowed enough to stick in their memory of nearly 20 years.  The last significant snow was back in 1985.
20170111_213224
A selfie with my housemate and bro, Sajmir (I’ve no idea why I look like Kylo Ren from Star Wars)
20170112_085413
A rare and beautiful sight
20170112_130313
Only a day or so before my parents flew back home, we visited nearby Kruje up on the nearby mountain slopes, north of Tirana.
image-0-02-05-27431301b84fe27ceb7170ccd4b0dfd1f7c8644e1d9615169dc11f90fb7736b1-v
It’s got quite a view
20170112_151713
My cousin Melodye, Johnny, and our friend Sarah. We had the pleasure of dining where they regularly take guests who are visiting.  Come what may, it really has been a blessing to finally see their life over in this hemisphere.
20170112_162329
God’s beauty in a land that needs him
20170120_140629
Now some random highlights.  Here we have my Calculus student Joshua and I playing Battlefield 1 in a nearby computer gaming “arena” with some other GDQ students off camera.
image-0-02-05-30192efa0e2fd5cc8b1026ce262e09b6103fbce5dc534571f53a3d61618d1c1e-v
My cousin Christopher–my other Calculus student–and I comparing facial hair
20170208_172233
Our high school basketball team playing New York High School (the nice gym is part of another school)
20170125_154541
The covered garage at the base of my apartment building where I and another teacher keep our bikes.
20170125_154526_2
I really dig the vines.
20170126_193627
In my travel gear heading down my tiny elevator, ready for the commute to school
image-0-02-05-bb335eb92d1721e97e775b752df0734fd79fffb9abb791c960a08968fa790d79-v
Another stray dog pic.  I named this one Whiney, sweet as can be.
image-0-02-05-805a8a02fa5d169635ee8a98520dfea0ce757d999da7896a719080b5c334f563-v
A common sight after a meal, best shared with friends.  I think my parents are in the market for an espresso maker now.
image-0-02-05-c61c968e6f2976fa361f87d277321f26d2440eb2cbcab1d6fe8a24fdd41763df-v
The birds regularly circle around a nearby intersection just down the road, filling each afternoon with fun and wonder if you’re looking.
20170113_160256
It was a special treat to share this place with them for a while.
image-0-02-05-9697537da7f033bb8fd49394134e031ae4c9b713464a31cd5cf01930de135cba-v
Still curious about the future, but I’ll take the beauty God offers.

From the middle of Thanksgiving

Lift up your heads, you gates;
be lifted up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in
.
  ~Psalm 24:07

20161112_150040
Sun rays south of the city Elbasan where we went to watch a football/soccer game

Greetings from Albania! Or, as the locals here call it, “Shqipëri” (sh-‘cheepree, the ‘q’ makes a ‘ch’ sound).  This update is a long time in coming, I know, so it’s slightly on the longish side.  Once again, I’ve got some paragraphs that summarize what I’ve been up to these past two months, followed by pictures with captions to help illustrate the experience here.  Bottom-line, I’m still adjusting to the demands of teaching, I have been given an amazing group of encouraging friends here, and I need prayer as I push—or as the Holy Spirit pushes me—into whatever is coming next.  Please pray for that last part especially.

My previous update came a few weeks into the first quarter, and we’re just about as far into the next one now.  My lesson planning skills still leave much to be desired, but now it’s less common for me to be up late planning for the next day.  The routine at GDQ has gone through several change-ups and life keeps us on our toes, but I love the team here: they are a dedicated, hardworking, and encouraging crew.  My students might be getting the hang of my teaching style as well, though I’m constantly trying to improve how I teach. One very happy and recent update is that my AP Calculus syllabus was finally approved by the College Board, and now I can officially say I’m teaching AP Calc!

We had a week-long fall break in early October in which I went with a small group of teachers to Santorini island in the Aegean Sea to rest up and see the sights.  It was a remarkable time and it genuinely felt like a gift undeserved (pictures follow).  For my part, I’m enjoying getting to know the teachers and their stories as much as getting the hang of teaching itself.  It is a special experience to be able to share weekly life with brothers and sisters who are following Jesus in a place so different from our original sense of “home”—it’s also great getting to know the Albanian staff and their perspective.

In a real way, I’ve entered “Act 2” for my time here adjusting to life in Tirana.  For the entirety of the first quarter (September-October), I was often on foot or taking public transportation to school.  At the beginning of November, I finally got around to borrowing a bike from a family and getting it fixed up with my cousin’s help.  On top of that, I recently moved out of the chilly bottom floor of a three-story villa surrounded by mandarin trees and a gate and into a warmer and probably drier high-rise apartment.  Between the apartment and the bike, my experience in Tirana has changed a lot.

I’m right in the middle of the Thanksgiving/Albanian Independence holiday.  I trust you all had pleasant company for a Thanksgiving Day meal. I was pleased to share the day with my TeachBeyond friends which span grades K-12.  Some of us are heading out for a two-day trip to Kosovo to go hiking before school starts up again this week.  This comes at a cost to lesson planning and rest, but it will probably do me some good to get out of the city for a little bit.  The calendar year is wrapping up quickly, and the Christmas break with my parents’ visit is right around the corner!

The big question of next year is right around the corner too.  We teachers have already received our first “intentions for the next year” questionnaire—which I returned with a big ol’ “nuk e di” (“I don’t know”).  But I will need to decide by sometime in January/February about whether I plan to return next year.  For those of you who have been tracking my story, you’ve at least caught on that my coming here to Albania was preceded by a difficult season and much vocational confusion.  There is no question in my mind that God has brought me here; it’s still incredible how quickly he connected many of you all to me and cobbled together your resources to get me over here.  And now that I’m here I find myself in the middle of both an amazing, continued provision of resources, friends, and encouragement, and that struggle against unbelief (i.e selfish insecurities) that gets in the way of pressing on into more of his rich blessings and purpose.  Please pray for me as I make my way through this final holiday season of the year.  Pray that God would quicken my spirit to a more worshipful attitude and a more peaceful trust in him.  Pray the same for all my friends here!

For my praying friends, please pray:

  • For GDQ School and recruitment of new teachers for next year. Next update I’ll go more into this topic, which is a biggie.  For now, you can visit their website to keep appraised of the recruitment situation (http://www.gdqschool.org/opportunities/staff-openings/). Specifically, look under the “Opportunities for 2017-2018” heading.  This really is a terrific place to work 😉
  • For all the holiday travel that is currently underway and will be underway in a matter of weeks. Please pray for safety.
  • For the students and teachers to finish this calendar year well. This may sound like a trite request, but it probably is not: the stronger we finish 2016 the stronger we begin next year which is crucial.
  • Interestingly, many teachers have noted that this semester has been particularly challenging for whatever reason. Please ask for more grace for the coming Spring Semester, that our hearts would be uplifted and that God would receive great honor in what he accomplishes through us.

Please let me know if there’s any way I can pray for you or if you’d just like to catch up.  Thank you so much for all your support, as well as your patience in waiting for an update from me.  I’m still getting the hang of this!  Cheers!

And blessings in Christ,

Nate

…and now for some pictures for your viewing pleasure..

20160922_174649
Seeing more of the sights: a large Eastern Orthodox church near Skanderbeg Square
20160922_175008
More sights: a huge tower in the middle of the city has remained unfinished for years.  I privately refer to it as the Stone Tower, reminding me of a setting in a video game from childhood 🙂
20160923_121151
GDQ is going through some major transition in the coming years. This is our high school principle being prayed over by the student body after the announcement that she is stepping up as interim K-12 director until we find a more permanent replacement. Lori is one of the hardest working and most productive persons I know, pray for her.
20161003_071823
Mount Dajti (‘DI-tee) blanketed in smooth clouds on a clear September morning
20161006_074957
The entrance to the HS building where I work.  I love how the lobby windows behave like open walls.  They’ve been closed since it’s gotten a little chilly outside.
20161007_164254
Look students, symmetry!
20161028_080906
I’ve named the big one Sprite. I’may afraid the little one isn’t with us anymore 😦
20161105_090107
More strays basking in the sun.  Tirana has a very humane way of dealing with these fellas: neutering and tagging rather than the other thing.
20161008_092201
The Santorini company! A fantastic group to go adventuring with.
20161008_174150
A view of a helpful landmark near our Air B&B homebase.  There’s an ancient city up on the crest of that hill!
20161009_170528
Visting Fira, the city with blue roofs, sans the blue roofs for the time being
20161009_165059
It felt like walking into a postcard, really.
20161010_123239
One morning we got to swim in a hot spring at the side of the central volcano, then we hiked said volcano.
20161010_131621
Viewing Fira from a distance
20161011_124445
Checking out the ancient city of Thira perched above where we stayed that week. History, vistas, good friendship, who can ask for more?
20161011_132003
Thira was a fortress city that was a major naval power in ancient times.
20161012_134445
I thought Thira was going to be the best day, then the next day happened…On the other side of that rock outcropping is a ledge that provided some excellent cliff jumping!
fb_img_1480284797817
Geronimo!
20161012_182027
Ending our week with an amazing sunset view from the southern tip
20161105_131640
Back in Tirana where I continued enjoying a ground floor residence amid fruit trees galore. I had no idea mandarin trees have such lovely flowers!
20161106_135934
Up until recently, this was the pleasant little view outside my home
20161109_194316
My borrowed bike, all spruced up and ready to go. Thank you to all the people who helped me get this thing up and running!
20161030_134323
A view of part of the “electric market” where all manner of technological devices can be found.
20161030_102459
Protecting by day
20161028_205655
Keeping vigil by night
20161108_075306
Markets abound here, and this pretty one caught my eye on the way to school
20161003_165525
View from the K8 building. This place has remarkable vistas!
20161108_174145
A mural at the K8 building. Every now and then I find myself over here for meetings or grabbing supplies for physics experiments.
20161029_111555
One Saturday we took the Teleferique up to Mount Dajti’s summit, getting out of the city for a little bit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

20161029_130939
The view of Tirana from near the top!
20161113_095427
In early November there was a week of torrential rain and flooding. This is the Lana river after it had begun to recede toward normal levels, though still pretty high. Sadly my housemate Sajmir’s family home was flooded in the valley north of Tirana. Please pray for him and his family as they rebuild.
20161108_122751
The umbrella drying station at the HS
20161112_144912
Several weeks ago an group of us went to a city called Elbasan, nestled up in the mountains southeast of Tirana, for a football game with Israel.
20161113_154342
The same weekend of the game in Elbasan I moved from the villa into fill a vacancy in a nearby high-rise apartment. Still figuring out my routine here.
20161125_154156
The new apartment comes with a terrific view!
20161114_201759
A fun shot of the super-super moon the other week.
20161127_120729
And this view was just taken this morning on our way into Kosovo for our hiking excursion. A fitting illustration of my view of the future: very shrouded, but with a hope that God’s plan is loaded with beauty.

One month since landfall

Finally, notice of my arrival.  I’m happy to report that I’m alive and well.

REAL QUICK: In case you just want a few snapshots into life here, I’ve taken a page out of the playbook of some of some fellow travelers and have a bunch of pictures with captions at the end of my report for your viewing pleasure.  If you’re really short on time, you can find bulleted prayer requests right between the prose n’ pics.

screenshot_20160917-185136
What is my blue dot doing there?!

Hey folks! Allow me to come back up to the surface for a moment to catch you up.  On August 19, I flew out of Washington, D.C. heading to Tirana, Albania via Rome.  Those days immediately before and after arrival were so non-stop, hectic and full that they felt utterly surreal as I floated on the help and provision from loved ones, international travel infrastructure, complete strangers, and new friends.  I should have lobbed a quick update to inform you of my safe arrival, but you’ll have to forgive me as I hit the ground sprinting.  Those connected to me through Facebook received a brief communique a week later that all was well as the entire high school student body and staff returned from our weekend retreat which had immediately followed four days of teacher training.

When I initially arrived here, I had a fellow teacher named Kyle living in my spare bedroom.  Returning for his second year at GDQ, his introductory guidance through the city proved a true God-send.  Through Kyle I found the church I plan to attend for the rest of the year as well as many teacher friends from the middle and lower schools that I wouldn’t have connected with as quickly otherwise.  Over the course of the first few days during teacher training I met all the staff and they are a lovely bunch.  I couldn’t ask for better compatriots and friends here.  Kyle has since moved into an apartment with friends he made last year, and his previous housemate, Sajmir, will be moving into my spare bedroom shortly. Sajmir is a native Albanian from a nearby city who works for Cru among university students here in Tirana. Exciting stuff.

The students at GDQ are terrific young people who temper their feisty teenager-hood with genuine faith and a respect for us faculty.  They know we’ve come a long way to teach them, and they seem to appreciate that we’re here to help them.  I wasn’t entirely sure how things would go with my classroom management, but so far I haven’t completely embarrassed myself or let them down.  Between calculus, physics, and business math there are plenty of ways to screw up, and I’ve already made a number of mistakes.  My hope (and prayer) is that, as I build a routine of rest and steadier lesson planning, I’ll be more present in the moment—I’m already noticing improvement in my handling of the lessons and I’m so appreciative of the students’ hard work.  Can’t believe all three classes are transitioning to their respective Unit 2’s already!

It is nearly impossible to capture the moods and experiences I’ve had during these four weeks (two and a half of them teaching!), and there’s certainly more to unpack.  My hope is I’ll do an okay job of conveying God’s continuing grace as this year passes by, hopefully every six weeks or so.  For now, here are some key prayer requests and a number of snapshots.  Thank you so much for joining me in this adventure!

  • Please pray for GDQ School as the year continues to pick up pace: that the students would learn both the class content and the life lessons God has in store for them. Also, a nasty stomach virus has been afflicting faculty and students for two weeks now, pray that it ceases.
  • For my fellow teachers and myself: I’m slowly getting into a groove but lesson plans and need for rest remain big challenges for me as I adapt to life and work here.
  • For continued fellowship and purposeful living in and outside of school.

 

For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.  ~2 Corinthians 5:15-16

T-minus 2.5 days!

He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?  ~Romans 8:32

20160815_145818
Not actually posing for this, but Tucker sort of is

Well folks, I’m headed to Albania this Friday! Funding for my monthly budget started to speed toward completion last week, and we began to look at ticket options in anticipation for getting me there before the school year started.  The flight was secured Monday and I have now reached 100% of my monthly budget!!  This of course includes all the monthly pledges I’ve received.  I’m really amazed by everyone’s generosity and what I believe to be God’s aggressive provision throughout this entire fundraising process.  Thank you so much to all who have contributed financially already or have pledged to do so this year.  From here on out, the key updates you’ll be receiving from me will directly relate to the goings on over in Tirana, Albania!

20160813_085324
According to a recent devotion, MEM is the Hebrew word for CHAOS, see illustration

I’ve been back in Virginia for a week trying to get everything sorted and prepared for departure.  Now that the departure date is no longer floating, I’m feeling the pressure to get all those ducks in a row.  It’s been a pretty solid week with my family, for which I’m thankful.  The Olympics have also been a special treat for old times’ sake.  We’re all feeling the mixed emotions that probably typically come with a big transition like this one.  There’s expectancy and hope sure, but notes of sadness abound and that silly thing called change keeps stirring the pot without a break; what a privilege and encouragement it is though to know that we’re not meant to live for ourselves only.  I’m trying to soak in all these old environs and time with the parents, but the greatest peace for me comes when concentrating on the simple trust that God has the best plan and that all the past will be rolled up together with future experiences in a big story that isn’t yet clear.

 

I’m encouraged that I’ll have a full week of preparation and teacher training prior to the first day of class on August 31. I’m also pleased I’ll be able to participate in the weekend retreat that takes place immediately after teacher training in which the teachers and students get some time to hang out and get to know one another, which is very cool.  You’ll forgive me if it doesn’t feel real quite yet.  But that disbelief doesn’t matter at this point: the thing is going to happen and this time next week I will already be somewhat acquainted with my fellow teachers and the school in which I’ll be teaching!  Between the speedy provision of funds and copious encouragement from everyone, it really feels like God is smiling on this venture, even gleefully putting stuff in motion.  I really don’t know what he’s up to, but I know he’s up to something.

Your prayers have likely played a major role in everything so far…and the next few weeks are *critical*.  For those who pray, please pray:

  • That I will finish all my tasks and packing.  The to-do list is kind of overwhelming still.
  • That I and the rest of the GDQ team will arrive safely in Albania, and that we will all be able to connect well and adjust and adapt to all the changes ahead, both in and out of school.  Please pray for a good start with the students in a couple weeks!!
  • For those of us sent and those sending who will deeply miss us.  Please don’t just ask for peace or calm: ask for hope, ask for team-like zeal.

I’m grateful to you all for your love and support, and I look forward to touching base from over in Eastern Europe!

IMG_2785 - Copy
…Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. ~Phil. 3:13b-14

Entering the home stretch before launch

20160803_164414
And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. ~Phil. 4:19

Late July is a popular season for family vacations at the beach.  Instead of sun and sand, I’ve had tree shade and quiet neighborhood sidewalks along which I’ve enjoyed many phone conversations and the occasional respite from fundraising while listening to a good sermon or book on tape. (Thank you Elliott for introducing me to Brandon Sanderson’s fantasy series last year!)  It has been a weird, busy, crazy summer for me, and in just a little while I will venture into probably the most dynamic fall season I’ve ever experienced!

 

It has been a stretching and sometimes refreshing time catching up with my network of friends and contacts and asking them for money.  Even as I’m presently straining toward the future, I’m often reaching back to old memories and places I’ve been while I connect with old friends.  And God has smiled on the effort: I am very grateful to be able to announce that I’ve reached 75% of my monthly budget!  A special shout-out goes to my old church from college days at Virginia Tech, Blacksburg Christian Fellowship, for following up with me this past week and agreeing to support me.  I don’t know if I’ve ever witnessed such a striking and encouraging rapport develop in such a short amount of time! Your generosity and missional focus have blessed me at a crucial time, and I look forward to visiting next summer to share what God will have accomplished during my time overseas.

20160727_140015
CCEF is an incredibly rich resource for speaking biblical truth into the grit and reality of life.  Just look!

Sometimes I shake my head at God’s concept of time: I have things to do in a very limited window, and then he gives me more things to do in that same window.  But he provides as needed.  Continuing stresses looking forward and frustrations with some of life’s disappointments revealed a potential need to pursue professional counsel to speak biblical truth into things, despite having already received copious love and encouragement from friends and family.  I initially hesitated to publicly mention my first foray into the world of counseling as a patient, but it’s clear to me that this is a great opportunity to share the witness of God’s restorative power and love through the truth of his word and wise counsel.  Once again, God opened a door precisely when and precisely as long as he needed to, and I was able to squeeze in several sessions with the then only available counselor, whose schedule would not have normally permitted such a string of consecutive “intensives”.  It’s come to my attention that many of the people I know directly and indirectly who serve as “sent” witnesses have undergone counseling of some sort, and it seems that it’s pretty normal for God to soften up those he sends.

 

20160728_000607
My New Bedford play mat: Winning with the white whale as the pièce de résistance was a special bit of grace!
20160801_115232_filter
Phil. 4:19 again…And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

 

Throughout these weeks I’ve been aware that I’m saying goodbye to Glenside, a place I’ve called home for most of the past ten years—at least for the time being.  Thankfully, I’ve been able to have good farewells with many of my friends here.  I’ve treasured meals and late night conversations, and especially beating my good friend Nat at his own (seriously awesome) board game, New Bedford! It hasn’t been all warm fuzzies however: my 2006 Corolla was totaled last Saturday when a drunk driver slammed into my housemate and me at a red light.  It’s incredible how time-consuming the fallout of this has been so far.  Thankfully no one was seriously hurt.  My little silver chariot, a constant this whole decade, is now out of the picture as I transition to a new chapter in life. It’s a real sentimental loss and logistical headache, but I must value what Christ values.

This is the home stretch before launch.  One more church service tomorrow (Sunday) at New Life Glenside, then I head back to my parents’ home in Virginia for final prep before flying overseas.  Hopefully, I’ll reach 100% funding within the next week or two so that I can fly out in time for staff orientation at GDQ.  Please pray for that!  If any of my gentle readers here are interested in giving toward the remaining need of about $320/mo, please contact me at ncook@teachbeyond.org. You can also go straight to my personal giving page at https://give.teachbeyond.org/support/nathan-cook/ for options to donate electronically  😉

TL;DR (“Too-long-didn’t-read”) Please pray:

  • That God provides the funds needed to arrive in Albania in a timely manner. We’re getting close! If there is a delay, GDQ will need prayer for how to adapt until I arrive.
  • For my preparation to teach my three math-and-science classes; this responsibility has taken a backseat as I’ve scrambled to proceed through everything else! No pun intended regarding totaled car.
  • For persevering in an attitude of hope and faith and love as this transition roles along. It is clear that God is continuing to press the gospel into my life, and it is this very gospel that I hope to bring with me to wherever he sends me.

And once again for my non-praying friends, I am so thankful for your partnership and friendship through this process.  Thank you for belonging to this group!

Back in Glenside, fundraising with a will

We’re right in the middle of summer, and it’s time for another update.  These past three weeks have been very full indeed.  Just after beginning this blog, I headed out of country with a group from my church to encourage and support fellow workers elsewhere.  It was a productive and inspiring trip; however it has made the fundraising window for my teaching position in Tirana, Albania even tighter.  I have about three weeks before I hope to be fully funded with a plane ticket in my hand heading to Albania.  Thankfully, nothing is impossible for God, and I trust that he is fully capable of supplying the needed funds in the required time.

ap_cert_lowresThis past week I participated in a calculus teacher training program to qualify me to teach the AP class.  It was a firehose experience and a hardy reminder that I need to polish up on my calculus knowledge.  To spice things up even more, the AP powers that be at College Board have decided to revamp the curriculum–the year I begin teaching–to require from teachers and students a deeper knowledge of the subject and to lessen our reliance on cookie-cutter and repetitive problems.  Even in this intimidating setting, God provided encouragement through our very knowledgeable instructor.  My suspicion that he is a believer was quickly confirmed, and our daily field trips to get after-lunch coffee at the nearby Target provided ample opportunity to share God’s goodness and provision with each other.  Praise God for unlooked-for help!

20160724_182551
The heart of a man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps ~ Prov. 16:9

At this point, I am close to 35% funded.  My TeachBeyond mobilizer and I have streamlined my budget so that I require about $1700/month for 11 months.  Since this is a single-year commitment, I am required to raise 100% of the budget before TeachBeyond purchases the plane tickets.  To help quantify the need conceptually: I would be fully funded if 10 people were to pledge $50/month and another 10 people were to pledge $75/month.  TeachBeyond encourages would-be donors to consider giving on a monthly basis to simplify administration.  Every bit helps, however, and I would welcome any amount if you’re interested in giving.  Please shoot me an email if you’d like to hear more about all of this.  You can also go to https://give.teachbeyond.org/support/nathan-cook/ to give electronically from a number of options.  Let me know if you have any questions.

Thank you so much for your prayers through this process of preparation!  Here are several key requests for you to pray for:

  • That Christ would conform my heart to gladly serve him and share his love, wherever he takes me. My zeal for his name is easily encumbered by the many details of preparation as well as my longing for life to make sense at age 33—a little melodramatic, but there it is.
  • That the fundraising effort would be completed in a timely manner, and that the Holy Spirit would work through the many interactions of this process, continuing to glorify his name even before I leave for Tirana!
  • That I would prepare well for teaching, and that the logistics of the transition out of the Philly area and off to Tirana would go smoothly and not greatly detract from good farewells here.

And for my un-praying friends, I sincerely appreciate your supporting my effort to serve the GDQ school, which itself improves lives directly through education and indirectly through the ministry efforts of the students’ families.  You and I are part of something big here.

I will keep you all posted on how these next weeks progress!

Blog is up!

Hey everyone, my blog is finally up!  This past June has been very full, and I praise God for the speed and efficiency in which all the necessary steps have fallen into place to get me to where I am now.  Having reached out to my missionary cousin about a teaching opportunity in Albania in late May, I was offered that position and was fully accepted by a separate sending agency all within three weeks!

This blog will serve to update my prayer and financial supporters about my fundraising efforts and then, if the Lord wills, my experiences teaching this upcoming school year!  Thank you to all who have supported me thru prayer or funding so far.  If you’re interested to hear more about what I’m doing, or why I need to raise support, please send me an email at ncook@teachbeyond.org.  You can also go straight to my personal giving page at https://give.teachbeyond.org/support/nathan-cook/

oak2