The CELTA Experience

What a wild, crazy ride this past month has been! I apologize for not posting much over the summer, but in a moment, you’ll understand why.

First, I went back to the States for a little while to help my mom and aunt with my late grandma’s affairs and cleaning up my aunt’s house to sell. We would go about 10 AM and get back around 4-5 PM everyday for a week. Then I was working on the pre-CELTA course work, which was supposed to kind of prep all the trainees for the actual course, in the afternoons. There were about 50 tasks 6-8 hours of work. Yay! (That’s totally sarcasm there.) Plus I was doing a grammar refresher course online so I had a better handle on what I’d be teaching in a month. I got to sing one last time at Mosaic, which was as awesome as I remember and I definitely missed leading worship with the team there.

I had a lovely 10 days with my dad and stepmom, still doing my assignment, but I had a chance to take a break, eat, play some games — generally have some kind of a summer vacation. Then I flew back to Poland, picked up Miłosz, spent a week preparing to stay in Warsaw and packing up for my move when I returned. At the end of that week, I drove up to Warsaw, had a simple dinner for my birthday with friends and got as well rested as I could for CELTA that Monday.

Alright, now for the wild and crazy experience that is the CELTA program. Monday, I ride the tram down to Aleje Niepodłogości near Politechnika and walk into the second building behind the main school. It’s a nice space, a little small, but welcoming and bright. Another trainee walked in with me and we go downstairs where fifteen other strangers are sitting there with the same “this is new” look on their faces. But everyone is friendly and a girl, Justyna, that I later found was one of my teammates gave us newcomers a brief tour around the building.

First day is easy-going. We’re just getting acclimated and the tutors introduce themselves, give us an idea of what our weeks will look like and start building some camaraderie between us all. We had an un-assessed group lesson where we met our students for the next 2 weeks and figured out what kind of teaching abilities we were coming in with. All in all, seemed okay. Then came Tuesday and our lives were swiftly taken over by CELTA.

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My cat gets to sleep. Lucky duck.

Ten hour days for some of us (coming in at 8:30, leaving by 18:30). Having assignments to write while making lesson plans, being assessed and observed while we conduct our classes, input sessions twice a day with a feedback on the lessons from that day, and the ever present reports from our TP (teacher practices) with all the strengths and weaknesses we show so far in the course. Just…a lot. Literally eat, sleep (very little) CELTA for four weeks.

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Blue team! (left to right) Jola, me, Justyna, Nessie (and Jan is our honorary member not present)

It was so nuts! But I learned a ton and for someone who’s never had formal teacher training, it was invaluable. The people on my team are like family, and I already miss them even though it’s only been three days since our last day together. I’ve been invited to Belarus and Morocco, and some of the trainees that live in Poland want to come see me sing at the end of September (more on that later too). I’m incredibly grateful God provided for me in this, and that I had the chance to meet all these lovely people. I feel really well-prepared for this school year and ready to use my new skills to further enhance the quality of Tomy school and keep learning a lot about myself as a teacher, too.

 

Week 1

This past week was challenging for a lot of reasons. The first day on Monday was a little crazy with all the kids coming back from summer vacation and a the teachers not really having a full-out plan for what subjects to do in the preschool. The świetlica was totally overwhelming the first two days because we had the entire preschool in there at once with only a few kids having left for the day. Needless to say, that wasn’t going to fly for very long. By Wednesday, the afternoon crew (me, Monika, and Ella–she helps out with the 2 year olds–usually with one other preschool teacher) had come up with a plan for separating the groups to not only keep the kids safe, but our sanity as well. Teaching English is a little tricky as well because I don’t know what themes each teacher is going with yet…but it’s also preschool. I can really just have some fun, singing in English and trying some games so the kids will pick it up. This week coming will be about establishing our routine.

On top of this is an ever changing teaching schedule, which is just how it is because we have outside instructors with separate schedules themselves, so coordinating everyone is a big job. The apartment is also still a work in progress, but I think we’re nearly settled with it too. We have a kitchen table (yay!) and will be getting a washing machine courtesy of the school for the Proem Edu interns, who happen to all be living in the same building or have access to a washer already. That was a big headache for K and I, so I’m really grateful God has worked it out. The only thing now is maybe purchasing a bike to travel a little bit faster and more efficiently around town. They’re a bit more of an investment, but worth it for sure.

As far as financial support goes, I can’t thank my donators enough for helping me follow through on God’s plans here. There have been some unexpected expenses with preparing a home, and God has provided either through you or by someone here beautifully. I’m so, so grateful and will be doing my best to touch base with any of you that would like to know more about my work here or plans for the next few months as far as sharing the gospel is concerned.

One really exciting thing is I was asked to sing at the church next Sunday! I miss leading worship so much, and when Karolina asked me, I was like “Bam! Here’s my good news that I’ve been waiting for.” Hopefully, my voice is strong enough to do so because I caught a cold on Friday, felt better by Saturday evening, but lost my voice Sunday after having too much fun with my brothers from Warsaw (they’re super sweet, coming to help us build furniture and lift stuff–love you guys!). But I’m pretty sure I’ll recover in time. And if not this week, maybe next!

 

Day 2: Mushrooms

My body woke me up at about 3 am. I scrolled through my phone a little before exhaustion hit me again and I fell back asleep. Żaba’s voice woke me next. She was going to pick me up at 11am. It was already 11. I groggily opened the door and said I would be ready around 1pm instead.

After showering and getting dressed, I walked into the living room and met Marcin, one of Alicja and Radek’s sons. We ate breakfast and watched an episode of Breaking Bad with English subtitles. Then Jacek, his older brother, came down and said hello for a bit before they both disappeared upstairs.

I went outside and wrote a bit in my journal until Żaba rolled up to take me to see the apartment and check an alternative Scandinavian furniture store called Jysk. The apartment complex is very close to the school, literally around the block, and extremely 20170825_130353nice. Everything is being freshly renovated and it’s right on the corner of the street. The downstairs will be a salon with hair and nail services by the owner’s daughter. Upstairs, there are quite a few nicely done apartments. Ours is the second-largest, corner apartment with balconies and big windows. The main room is spacious and the bedroom is more than enough for Kaitlyn, my roommate, and I. Sadly we can’t move in until Wednesday because the builder is still working on the stairs, but we can start bringing in furniture. Tomorrow we will shop for bedframes, mattresses and any other small things.

After visiting the apartment, Żaba and I head over to Jysk and check out what their prices are like compared to IKEA. It’s smaller, but pretty similar to IKEA’s offerings. Sadly, they don’t have much for bed frames and their mattresses prices are comparable. But the bedding and pillows are cheap, and it’s more convenient to come here for that than travel to the nearest IKEA nearly an hour away.

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School entrance.

Next, we head to the school because Żaba has some work to do and I’m given the task of cleaning off my new kitchen chairs. They’re dusty and covered in pollen and cobwebs after being stored in an outside shed, but they’re quite sturdy wooden chairs and they’ll match the table we already have. Alicja is there working too and I show her the photos of the apartment, which she agrees, is gorgeous. I meet a few of the other school staff and have a brief conversation in Polish and English with a lady named Kasia. I pull together some English books that I think would be good for teaching, and a few minutes after that, we’re ready to go.

There’s time, so I get my Polish phone number at T-Mobile and no longer have to depend on wi-fi to contact people. Yay! Żaba drops me off at Alicja and Radek’s for a lovely dinner. (Her salads are the bomb!) Radek comes in later and he and Alicja eat while asking me how things are going. Then Radek shares about his history and shows me an actual letter from his grandfather from Auschwitz. They recently went to the Czech Republic and were close enough to the Austrian border to visit Mauthausen where he was able to find records of his grandfather, thanks to a Polish staff member working there.  

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Later, they invite me on a walk with Fiona. Little did I expect a walk would be an hour jaunt over train tracks and through tall grass and brush toward the river. I definitely wore the wrong shoes, but it was lovely all the same. Radek and Alicja pointed out different things to me in Polish, most of which I remembered vaguely from lessons I’d self-studied. I asked some questions about the Pilica (pronounced pee-lee-tsah) River and wild-life. Fiona dipped in the river multiple times along the way. We saw a swan and some ducks. We met some horses that were friendly so I pet one on their nose. Toward the end, walked through some birch trees and pines and I was told all about the Polish national sport, mushroom collecting. It’s very popular and there are plenty you can eat, and some you can only eat once according to Radek (haha). Sadly this year, there haven’t been many around. Alicja says it is a must for Christmas time.

Heading back, I slip and get a little scratched up in some thick brush with thorns. Ouch. It’s no trouble though, and after we get back and I wash my arm, I’m in good shape. Radek shares some stories about his trip to Africa and about the neighborhood in Tomaszów. It’s interesting how the concept of safe/dangerous varies, but we both agree that being out late is probably not the best idea.

The evening is rounded off with a popular Polish version of Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares and an episode of Planet Earth. I’m not quite tired yet, so I end up chatting with a few Polish friends and messaging my family before bed.

All in all, a very good day.

Bon Voyage!

Today is the day I leave for Poland. I’ve had a hard time figuring out how to word what I’m feeling. There’s a lot excitement and anticipation for what’s to come, but I’ll definitely miss home.

My last weekend at Mosaic was emotional. I definitely cried after the last song, and had to fight my tears at the beginning so I wasn’t bawling on stage trying to sing. My impending departure hit me hard in that moment. These people I was leading in worship, the other members of the band around me, the teaching, the friendships…I’m going to miss it dearly. I’ve grown so much since coming to Mosaic almost 3 years ago. I came feeling burdened and overwhelmed about God, not even sure if I wanted to believe anymore, and have since found freedom and peace in grace and truth. Honestly, God just knew what I needed in a community of believers. I’m so, so grateful.

My family and friends as well have spent a lot of time with me over the last few days. I love them so much. We’ll keep in touch, even though it’s not the same as being in person, but I’m only a Skype or Messenger away. Thank God for technology!

And I’m only able to do this because I have a community of people behind me. Thank you to all of you who have helped and will be helping going forward, whether giving money and/or praying for me. I look forward to sharing the greater things God will do through your generosity and care!

Alright. I have 11 hours before my flight, less than that to finish wrapping up everything at home, and last minute errands to get done. Let’s go!

Pure joy

My departure is coming close. And the closer it gets, the more annoyances (aka. thorns of the flesh as Paul called them) keep showing up. Some are self-inflicted by my lack of trust and insecurity, but some for sure are results of the spiritual warfare going on over my decision to go on a mission for Jesus.

My car still being for sale with one week left to try to gain some funds from it and get rid of the car note; the extra stress of changing schedule at my nanny job (which had never been so crazy before and not the fault of the parents either); getting lost going to church with kids and being late; dropping and loosing things constantly; inability to sleep a full-night; having to fight off discouragement and scrapping this whole venture.  All of these things are kind of small, though, and might just be normal parts of life period.

The push-back I’ve gotten from some of family is much more difficult to handle. That tension hasn’t lessened much. One of the most vocal members of my immediate family was adamantly against me leaving because she felt I was needed at home far more than Poland. I tried share my vision and assurance I had from the Holy Spirit about this, but despite her long-standing belief in Jesus, she felt like I was making a mistake and couldn’t support me. This ended with me needing to leave the room before I said something stupid, and only talking to her once I left with barely a good-bye. I knew I would have to tell her I was officially leaving once I got my plane ticket, but I kept putting it off because the last conversation went so awful.

Just last night, she was rushed to the emergency room with severe pains. A week before I’m supposed to leave. Sigh. I had planned to visit or at least call to let her know I’m actually going because I don’t have any more time to stall. The health issues are just another complication, now.

I just sense all these things and more are Satan’s way of pitching a fit that I’m doing this, and all the more assurance that I’m on the right track. Plus, James 1:2-4 is reassuring:

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”

I read another verse this week–Hebrews 10:36–that started with “patient endurance.” Oh how apt for the season I’m in right now. Patient endurance. The patience to trust God’s process and timing, and the endurance to handle the obstacles and work now and work to come. Anyone that’s trained for any kind of distance race knows the beginning is tough, then you get into a stride where things feel pretty good before hitting what’s known as ‘the wall.’ One of the things I remember learning while I trained for my half-marathon years ago is to recognize the wall and be able to push past it. To keep going until you finish.

I’m feeling like I’m just hitting the first uphill in this race and it’s kicking my butt a little bit. But God’s also at my back encouraging me forward. I gotta keep going.

 

Still

Twenty days until I get on the plane. There’s a lot of emotions that I’m not sure how to process yet. I’m anxious about leaving home and being on my own. I’m a bit concerned about how people there will receive me. I’m nervous about communicating daily with kids who don’t know English. And whether I will be speaking to their parents as well. (I’ve never been good at that in my own language, much less Polish.)

There’s also the great unknown of moving your entire life to a foreign country for a year to serve God’s purpose that isn’t completely laid out yet. The only certainty I have right now is “go.”

I suppose it’s exciting. This is an adventure as much as it’s a risk. All possibilities are open right now. But it’s kind of terrifying that all possibilities are open, too. I anticipated difficulties. I’m going through some before I’ve even got a bag packed. Funding obstacles, family relationship troubles, self-doubt tied to both these things…it feeds into the part of missions and risk-taking that requires one to lean hard on God’s mercy and sovereignty. He’s driving this train toward the right destination, so I just gotta hold on. He knows how the tracks have to twist and turn to make it. Doesn’t mean I’m not still clinging for dear life to my seat, though.

If my posts seem redundant, it’s because I constantly need to remind myself of this: God knows. I’m in the midst of transition, and it’s frustrating, stressful, and just plain hard. There’s joy in knowing that I’m going, that I’m really taking a great leap toward my devotion to Christ. But really, I’m worried, too. I can tell because I haven’t had a full night’s restful sleep in weeks. My soul feels unsettled.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30 NLT

This verse came to mind. I know it’s exactly what I need to do this week. Breathe and be still in him. Amen.

 

Milestone #1

He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.

Matthew 8:26

God pulled through at the last minute. I bought my plane ticket. Poland is officially a-go!

The reality of this hasn’t totally sunk in yet. The week before this past one, I was at a loss. God had taken everything out of my control, except for my continuous reaching out for financial support and prayers. But I took a step back from that too because it was overwhelming me. I needed to just pray and believe God would make things work. He took away the other options for a reason. And bam! On the exact day I had hoped to purchase my plane ticket (my birthday), I received an extremely generous monthly commitment that pushed me up to $1000 monthly. What?! And not only that, but the plane ticket I originally wanted for $617 went up about $100, but the other flight came up to that exact same number. Crazy and so good.

Not that God will always answer this way. I know he’s not a magic genie granting wishes and fulfilling every whim or wish. But it shows that when you’re on the path he chooses, he totally provides. Oh, me of little faith!

I’m mentally slapping my forehead for doubting God’s ability to pull through in the clutch. He does it all the time and I know the rest of the funding I still need will come through, too. So, please do consider donating if you haven’t yet. I’m praying this week for full-funding by August 6th. We shall see!

 

 

Waiting Game

I’m not a fan of patience. I don’t know a lot of people who are. I’m so used to instant gratification that anything that takes longer than I expect it to makes me antsy. Especially if I’m not able to control the outcome and I really, really want it to happen. Like this mission.

I have to wait for my donation totals to be put together. Thing is, I can’t buy my airplane ticket until I know I have enough support committed to stay. My total budget is $1700, but I need $1000 to go ahead with a ticket. I’m at maybe 30% of what I need for the ticket right now. But I don’t know for certain because the report I have isn’t up to date. Argh! Then factor in that I have 4 weeks before I’m trying to leave, and I’m totally frustrated.

I’m fighting to trust God in this today. I had to go outside in humid 94 degree soup this afternoon to pray. I asked if I’m really supposed to do this. That inner nudge was there. Yes. Then I said thank you for everything he’s already done and prayed for greater faith in his way, his timing. I prayed through my fear and anxiety and impatience. I asked to just believe he would make things work. At the end, I had calmed down and took a deep breath.

Hours later, I’m trying not to let the uncertainty overwhelm me again. It sucks not knowing. Really sucks. I’m going to try to get some sleep and hopefully wake up with a refreshed perspective. This is the valley part of my journey I don’t like. These are growing pains and refining fires. In the midst of it, I feel so helpless, but Jesus is with me. Jesus is with me. I had the faith to start, I have to trust him to work out the finish line. Okay, God. Do your thing.

Bring it all to Peace

In my last post, I was really feeling helpless. My anxiety and worry over the details made me feel like the road ahead was too much. Like I couldn’t possibly make this happen. I couldn’t see how God was going to move the obstacles in my way.

Well, happily, I’m not in that space anymore. For now. Reality is, I’ll probably end up feeling that way again at some point down the line, but God’s been encouraging me and through my helplessness, drawing me closer to trusting him. I’ve been praying daily, multiple times a day over this journey, the people in my life, to have patience and faith in his provision, and for continued courage to keep moving forward boldly. I’m memorizing scriptures like Exodus 14:14 (NLT), “The Lord himself will fight for you. Just say calm.”

All of this has helped tremendously, and most of all, I’m encouraged to know that I’ve gotten some monthly donations already submitted. It makes such a huge difference to know I’ve got people on board with this, to see concrete evidence of that. I’m so grateful to have you guys backing me up in prayer and with finances because the spiritual warfare has been real lately. Between some small but annoying setbacks to push-back from family, I’ve been on a rollercoaster of emotions and feeling less secure about what I’m doing. But there have definitely been more open doors than closed ones. I’ve had some cool opportunities to share my mission with people outside my usual circle and seeing their enthusiasm for me gives me that extra boost I need to keep going forward with confidence.

Anyway, the weekend is going to be a busy one. I’m doing a push for donations by next weekend so I will have enough commitment to purchase a plane ticket by my birthday in 2 weeks and getting ready for my flea market table on Saturday morning. I ordered cards to pass out to people, which has already come in handy, and need to pull together all the things I plan on selling. Then I’m serving this weekend at church Saturday and Sunday, and have a possible test drive for my car on Sunday afternoon. Needless to say, I will be exhausted, but in a really good way. Looking forward to seeing what God does in the next few days.

Storm front

Fear is the opposite of security.

I’ve been reading a Bible plan about worry. The usual Scriptures are in there: Matthew 6:25-34 (“do not worry about tomorrow”), Proverbs 3:5-6 (“trust in the Lord, lean not on your understanding”), 1 Peter 5:7 (“give God your worries because he cares for you”). But there was a devotional a few days ago that really struck me.

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything…His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

The devotional talked about what having peace of mind from God actually means. It’s being given the strength to still take action and brave risk despite the presence of fear. It is not about making the worry/fear disappear, but being able to handle it; standing calm in the face of a storm.

As you can imagine, trying to fundraise and spread the word is very stressful. Worry has become my normal lately, but I know that’s not how God wants me to approach this process. This time is about trust. About relying on his strength and provision. I remember how he’s helped me when things looked bleak. When I felt like “there’s no way,” the way always showed up. That his calmness covered my concerns. The boat might rock to and fro but it won’t sink.

I’m facing this coming week with this perspective and it’s changing everything. The restlessness I was having is settling down and I’m taking my journey a step at a time. As I keep praying and reading Scripture, I’m gaining confidence in God’s process. He is the Creator, after all. He knows how this all works.

Edit: One of my goals with this blog is to be real with you guys. You came for the genuine article, not pretty words that look good, right?

I’m feeling rocked by the waves. Hard. I want to say that I remembered this devotional and read it over again to encourage my floundering spirit. Nope. Just went straight to freak-out mode. Had a 20-minute rant-prayer to God about what I’m feeling, what I fear isn’t happening, the paranoias about how things are going to turn out. What is plan B? Do I need to wait another year? God what are you doing?! Help me understand my crazy up and down emotions right now! Argh!

I want to trust, but I don’t. I’m human after all. Things that are out of my control scare me. I’m also drained from my day, which doesn’t help my emotional state to stabilize either. I will continue to pray and fight this drowning feeling I have, but it’s really getting hard to breathe.

 

Be prepared #1

July is here! That means I have about 60 days to be ready. Less than that to have all my funds together. Holy cow.

I’m much calmer today than I was most of this week. I haven’t been eating or sleeping properly because I’m worried, stressed, and scared. My head is full of to-dos and I’m so, so anxious. There is some positive news: I sold my guitar, I signed up for a spot at a church flea market for some of my other things, and I sent out my fundraising video.

Things left to do: buy a plane ticket, sell my car, pay down more debt, and talk with some family members who don’t use social media.

I’m nervous about the talking to family part. I’m not super close to the ones I need to talk to and it’s been a while since I spoke to them or saw them. I feel guilty asking for financial help as the reason I’m reconnecting. But I could also look at it as a chance to reconnect period. Just talk to them and catch up on life. Yay, uncomfortable things I have to do.

Anyway, I signed up for a six-week group this week and part of the discussion and sermon video we watched really helped me. The subject this week was about comparison leading to discontentment and how to combat that with Jesus’ help. This scripture stood out to me for a few reasons:

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

Philippians 4:12-13

The point made was what struck me: until all you have is Jesus, you won’t realize he’s all you need. In lieu of my situation and how I’ve been feeling, I needed that perspective. I have Jesus and that’s more than enough. All my anxiety over this mission trip needs to be let go.

I’m getting there. Work in progress, coming through!

So it begins

I sat on my couch last Friday night, filling out and submitting my application for a long-term mission in Poland with Proem Ministries. And today, I got it back.

Approved! Green light! It’s really happening!

God has made it so clear that I need to do this. Like, I’m convinced in a way that I’ve never felt before in my life. His Spirit is prodding me forward and I feel a little crazy trying to get all this done in 2 months. But he is able and I’m going to trust his lead.

My next steps are to get a donations account set up for people to start giving and committing to give regularly. Then sell a bunch of my stuff to buy the plane ticket and curb all of the debt I have. That includes my car. I’m worried about that one, but God’s going to come through as he always has. I have to tell myself that to remember. And, actually, I almost forgot. The family I nanny for agreed to let me borrow their extra car for as long as I need last week when I shared that I would be selling mine. What the what?! God at work even before I had the official O-K.

Even so, I can’t help but feel somewhat overwhelmed by how much I need to accomplish in short order. It’s not easy uprooting your habitual life, but I believe there are some crazy awesome things to come from all of this. Just worry about today, right, God? (Matthew 6:34)