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.
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 🙂
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!
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
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.
Lift up your heads, you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in. ~Psalm 24:07
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,
…and now for some pictures for your viewing pleasure..
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.
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.
Thar she blows. Seeing the city and Mt. Dajti for the first time with my own eyes.
Simple, cosy decore
First walk to the bus stop to get to school
A tremendous downpour happened in the middle of teacher training week. I was caught on a block for a half-hour.
Of course there had to be a steam roller! I cannot believe my new fancy gortex shoes actually kept my feet dry as I hopped on tip-toe dodging the *wave crests*!
Skanderbeg Square after the storm
The coast near Lezhe (ryhmes with beige), during high school retreat before school
Nothing like a good bon fire to end a retreat!
Blurry image of a group of us teachers on our way to dine out someplace
The Historical Museum, the most imposing bus stop location ever
Another major project underway. I’ve been told that many projects come before and after elections.
New sidewalks have been in the process of being built the whole time I’ve been here. You can just mozy up the construction area as you please. That makeshift cross was probably put there by one of them catholics from the school across the street, but it could have been anyone.
“I am the vine, you are the branches.” Growing grapes on the roof.
Part of the trek from the K8 building to the high school
This schedule is so essential, I’ve set it as my phone’s lock screen picture!
Room 301, my classroom!
Just saw this the other day on Kyle’s door, over in the K8 building. I’m startled by how comforting a Gandalf reference is in this strange land.
The famous Stephen Center, a restaurant that specializes in catering to expats and missionaries alike. A frequent gathering place for sure.
You better believe they’ve got good tiramisu here.
The Lanë, a river/stream that flows through the city. It’s presence is seen from many blocks away, flanked by trees the whole way as it cuts through the city.
Don’t ask, just take pictures.
My new church home in Albania: Guri i Themelit (translated Stone of Foundation or Cornerstone)
Here’s Mr Docci the pastor, who is also the father of one of my students
And a long time expat worker, Alan, giving a sermon on 2 Corinthians 8 about giving. We’ve had some delightful conversations about missional theology over at the Stephen Center; he’s a big fan of Christopher Wright’s “Mission of God”–a favorite of Biblical Seminary where I studied this past year!
I knew it as suvlaki in college, they call it suvlaqe here, pronounced “soovlach”. If I don’t get a cooking routine down quick, I will be made of the stuff by next June.
Modern technology has its pitfalls, but it can also warm the heart over great distances.
Technology has multiple ways of warming the heart over great distances. Yep, I brought my Xbox. It requires a step down power transformer to run. I’d rather not let it share the fate of my poor little beard trimmer, which died suddenly in a moment of obliviousness on my part.
My first haircut in Albania. Maybe next time I’ll work up the courage to request an “Albanian” haircut.
They say that anything over five stories tall was built since the fall of communism. This image shows the stark contrast between the old and the new in Tirana.
This nearby open market has been making tremendous headway while I’ve been here. Watch out, you get to walk through the construction site. I’m not kidding, I had just come through there.
Besides Jesus, this has been my closest companion: it holds coffee, it hold’s ice water that tastes a little bit like coffee, it is precious to me.
Still acquiring stuff, like a drying rack…and a deep sense of belonging. But I know I belong here, at least for this season.
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
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
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!
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!
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.
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.
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 email@example.com. 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!