Friday, May 27, 2011

A New Team

As some of you may have heard, although most of you probably haven't, the team will be getting a new addition soon. The Albania team encountered a lot of unforseen difficulties while in Albania, and the decision was made, by them and by some "higher-ups", that they would be better suited in other places. So as a result, Johnna Hill will be joining the team here in Razgrad. Right now, she's staying in Sofia with the team there and will move here when the girls move into their apartment. Join us in praying for our new team. We have been able to adjust to "Razgrad" life. The town is starting to become familiar to us, as well as some of the local people. Johnna has not been able to have this comfort since she left the United States. We're getting excited to introduce her to our new home and we wish to say that the Razgrad team is no longer complete until she arrives. We hope she can come and get settled in soon.

-Jake & Katelyn

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Bachelor Pads, Language Barriers, & Futbol

Before I say anything at all, let me first say that there is so much I could say, already, that I almost don't even really feel like writing anything. There's no way that I could express all the things that are going on. I'm sure everyone on my team, as well as everyone scattered across the region, feels some of the same.

First, some logistical stuff. As we had mentioned before, we thought we were going to be living in Razgrad for the first part of the summer and then moving to Varna for the second part. But because renting out two apartments in Varna, one for the guys and one for the girls, would be too expensive, we will be living in Razgrad the whole summer. We'll be traveling to Varna quite a bit it sounds like though, but we're still not really sure.
Graham & I are staying in an apartment together. It's a one room studio apartment, with a bed and a pull out couch. I have the bed for now but we'll see how long Graham's "strong back" can last on the pull out. We might have to switch it up down the road. The rent is pretty good and it sounds like utilities won't be too bad either. How many people can say that their first real apartment was in Bulgaria??
For now, Katelyn & Bailey are staying with the pastor here, Nikolay Kolev (!/nickolew), and his wife and two daughters. His daughters are about our age and speak very good English. We've been fortunate for that because we've been able to pick up on a lot of the language relatively quickly I think. But it's still very hard. But we'll get to that later. In about a week now, Katelyn & Bailey will move into their apartment as well. They'll have a 2 bedroom, with a kitchen, and wireless we're pretty sure. It belongs to someone from the church who's moving away for a few months so they won't have to pay for utilities, so that's pretty nice.

Pastor Nikolay was out of town when we first got here, but we finally got to talk to him yesterday about what we'd be doing this summer. There's no set plan or model, but he expressed a desire for us to just live out our lives here as an example, especially for the youth. There are certain tasks that he wishes us to carry out, most notably the hydroponics camp around June, and then various other things around the church, such as maybe starting a futbol league. But over and above that, it sounds like he just wants us to join in the life of the church in whatever ways we can. He said he wants to use our strengths.

Tomorrow, on Sunday, Nikolay asked us to speak and just tell a little bit about ourselves, whatever we want to say. We are going to Varna on Monday and then Tuesday is May 24th, which is a big celebration of the Cyrillic alphabet. Apparently there will be a parade/festival sort of thing, so that's pretty exciting.

I know Bailey has already put up some pictures, so check them out. Things have been relatively good here, all things considered. Keep praying for us.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

On the Move

Four days. It's crazy. I drove by the airport the other day and was visualizing myself and my team walking through the airport and saying goodbye and all that other fun stuff (Parting Words from the LOST soundtrack was playing). As I did so, I was made exceedingly aware of the fact that all that I see, all I know, all I have, all that I taste, smell, and feel would not be available to me for the next 3 months. The very interstate which I was driving on, which I drive on 3 or 4 times a week, I wouldn't see for 12 weeks. Not that I care about the interstate, but that loss of familiarity, of comfort was made powerfully present to me. I was talking with Preston the other day and he said, "I probably haven't been away from any of the guys for 3 months since... I was born."
I think school had been a mental block for me up until that point. But no more. I wish I could tell you that I had some flash of insight at this point, some romanticized vision of things that brought an overwhelming sense of peace. But I didn't. And I haven't. At this point, I think our team has heard the least about what things will be like over there. I don't say that to complain, it's just that after hearing certain things about the other teams, such as Michael and one of the three girls on the Romania team having to live alone or the Vidrare team having to cook all their own meals, it makes me wonder what sort of things our team hasn't heard yet.

Two things stand out to me this week and in previous weeks. The words of two great men. The first:

"Those who are living in anxiety and fear have no time or energy for the common good."

These are the words of Walter Brueggemann, who is a renowned Old Testament scholar. He's referring to the practicing of neighboring. We all have fears and anxieties. Some understandable, some not. But I pray that we never cling to our lives so tightly that our fears and anxieties ever get us to the point where we're so scared that we forget about those who Jesus called our neighbor.

The second:
"We're beaten and blown by the wind,
blown by the wind,
And when I go there, I go there with You
It's all I can do."

These are the words of Bono, in Where the Streets Have No Name. With all the stuff I have to do before I leave, I feel a little beaten, a little weathered down by the wind. Some things I feel guilty about, some things I haven't handled as well as I could've or should've (I still don't know a lick of Bulgarian). But all I can (ever) do  is go with God where He is taking me, because He is on the move. And I truly am excited. How could I not be? I hope my somber demeanor in this post hasn't made the reader doubt my eagerness, surety, & joy in going. But I guess all I'm saying is that it probably won't be easy.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Getting Closer

Well last Friday marked one month until we leave.  I didn't realize how fast the time is winding down before we will get on a plane and go to a place where not much is known of how things will go or what we will do.  While we know much more now about what we are going to do, still much is left to the imagination.  This is leaving a lot of room for fear and anxieties, and I am really starting to feel those right now.  

There are people here that I don't really want to leave behind; my family and friends.  And there are familiarities of which I will have a hard time letting go.  There is this scary thought that I need to, and should have already been, thinking about learning another language in the midst of cramming for finals.  It's just a crazy time.  

The only consolation I have from this right now is how I can feel and see God working through all of this.  I can see his hand on this trip.  I wasn't so sure before, and was very doubtful of this trip.  But God has just shown up and provided a way to get there, and given me an attitude of trust that is more open to God's creative work in my life.  So many doors have been opened that can't be explained other than God acting and "making a way in the desert," just like he provided for the Israelites in times of exile.  I fought it for a little while.  I didn't really want to go.  But I know that God is going to do incredible things in us and through us.  It will be a very formative experience in all of our lives, and I know God will bring our hearts closer to his.  Hopefully while we are there we can impact the lives of the people there, and I know they will impact us.

I know this summer will not be easy, and will be very trying at some points.  Sometimes we will want to go home and back to all that is safe and familiar.  We will just want to see the ones we love and have life be back to normal.  But in this time of needing God to really be everything for us, we will find joy.  We will find that sustaining joy through Christ that will be everything we need.  In writing a paper last week, I came across a quote by Frederick Buechner in his book The Longing For Home that I found very encouraging, and I think it relates to this.

"Joy is home…God created us in joy and created us for joy, and in the long run not all darkness there is in the world and in ourselves can separate us finally from that joy, because whatever else it means to say that God created us in his image, I think it means that even when we cannot believe in him, even when we feel most spiritually bankrupt and deserted by him, his mark is deep within us.  We have God's joy in our blood." 

The joy we find through Christ will sustain us, and bring life to us so we can pour that life into those we come into contact with.  No matter how hard it will get sometimes or how far we will feel from home, the joy found in Christ will bring us peace and life, as we learn to trust Him in a new way.  


New Things

Not much, so don't get too excited. While I'm pretty sure its not all we'll be doing, we did find out that we'll probably be teaching ESL classes to some of the kids in Razgrad. The kids will still be in school the first few weeks we're over there, so we'll also be helping with some tutoring after school. They also said we might be doing some camp-type things with the kids at some point, and that we might get to work with the Sofia team some in that.

I feel like we also got a little better feel for how things will go in Varna. It sounds like a group of people from the Razgrad church are all moving to Varna to do a church plant. So we'll be working & living with those people I would guess.

Well, that's all I got!

- Jake

Thursday, February 24, 2011

As of now...

My senior year of high school I decided to read the book of Isaiah every night instead of buying a cheesy teenage girl daily devotional. Not that teen devotional books are bad, I could just never get into them. I found myself in the middle of reading about war. I remember journaling things like, “Who the heck is fighting who and why?” and “God, you are harsh and I don’t think I like it.” Isaiah is filled with 66 chapters of vengeance and justice. Needless to say, my uncertainty and curiosity about this book went on for awhile. Then I came to Isaiah 49:6:
It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.
Then it clicked. My life is this light. It’s not enough for me to love going to my church –I’m called to something bigger! God wanted my life and more for my soul. This excited me beyond belief. I decided to decoratively write this verse on my feet because I knew they were going to literally take me and walk the redemptive love of Christ to the ends of the earth. Plus, it looked cool and, like everyone else, I went through a phase where I desperately wanted a tattoo. I took this verse to heart, but I had no idea what I was saying yes to. The excitement of this revelation of God’s will for my life calmed down a little as time went on. Not because I felt Him less, but because “ends of the earth” is a very general location and I’m pretty sure that I qualify as a Gentile.
Fast forward two years and I’m headed to Bulgaria! I only know of this place because of a geography test I had to take in ninth grade, but I’m going to live there for three whole months. I am beside myself with excitement that I was chosen to be a part of Immerse with such wonderful people. What an opportunity this is to learn and grow and be stretched in unimaginable ways.
To be honest with you, I have absolutely no idea what I’ve gotten myself into. I have an obnoxious habit of pulling my planner out at least four times a day –it helps me feel like I have control over things. All I really know about my summer is the people I’m going to be working with and the country we are going to be in. Like I said, I’m being stretched J
What I do know is that right now, I am called to something BIG by a being even BIGGER than what is comprehendible. “[T]he ends of the earth.” is Bulgaria. The Gentiles are a beautiful group of people stuck in a post-communist way of thought. My life has been made light and I want to use it to restore the creation that God cares about most: His people. This is what it’s like to be three months away from taking His salvation to the ends of the earth.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Where I'm at right now

I think I speak for all of us when I say that the most frustrating part of all of this is not knowing what we're going to be doing there. Whenever I hear about long term trips of this nature, one of the things I hear people go through is wondering if what they're doing there is making any difference, if it even matters. And prone to anxiety as I am, I'm already starting to feel some of that.

In working through it, I simply asked myself, "What are we going there to do?" Plain and simple. The most basic answer I can give is that we are going there to live. But following from that, it occurred to me that we are going to live, for 3 months, in a world that we do not know. To the point, we are going there to live, for 3 months, in a world that has been torn apart by war, oppressive regimes, and religious & ethnic hatred. Eastern Europe has been marginalized and mostly forgotten about, except when the rest of the world feels threatened by its increasing misfortunes. Caught between the always in-vogue Western Europe and the volatile Middle East, countries such as Romania, Bulgaria, & Albania are often blacked out in our worldview.

So while we don't know what we're doing yet, this is why we are going. And regardless of what we get done, how much we help, or how "effective" we are, we know that our calling is to something much greater. It is to share life with those whom our savior has called blessed. We have been called to be with the "least of these", those whom the world has forgotten about. In other words, we are called to love. Love: that is, through God and God alone, what we're going to do.

- Jake

First things first

Здравейте! (Hello!)

This is the blog for The Razgrad/Varna Immerse team! We decided to start a blog to keep all of our families, friends, stalkers, etc. up to date on how we're doing, in preparation and also the trip itself. The name of our blog, we hope, will set the tone for it: we want it to be open, raw, emotive, and concrete. We want you to see what's it's like. 

So, the trip. We are going to Razgrad & Varna, both of which are cities in Bulgaria. We are going as part of a larger effort known as Immerse, in which there are 5 teams being sent to various locations across Eastern Europe. Most of these teams will be spending 12 weeks in one location. Ours is a little different, as we will be spending about 5 weeks in Razgrad, and then spending the remaining 7 weeks in Varna. The other teams are going to:
Sofia, Bulgaria
Vidrare, Bulgaria
Sighisoara, Romania ( 
Gorre, Albania
We would love to tell you what we'll be doing in Razgrad/Varna, but... we don't really know yet! Our understanding is that we will be helping with a church plant in Varna, and our time in Razgrad will be in preparation for that.
Here is our team:

From left to right: Jake Resor; Bailey Bussell; Katelyn Hays; Graham Scott

Bailey Bussell is a Sophomore Religion Major
Katelyn Hays is a Sophomore Social Work Major
Jake Resor is a Junior Religion Major
Graham Scott is a Sophomore Religion & History Major

Future posts will most likely be written by each of us individually, so.. ya. That's it.