Monday, December 10, 2012

Prayers Prayed - Check; Plans Laid - Check; Decision Made - Czech

We know y'all are on pins & needles out there, so we we'll cut right to the chase.

In case you didn't catch our clue in the title, we're stepping out in faith and joining forces with this school in Prague, Czech Republic. It wasn't an easy decision.  It seemed like every day for the past few weeks we were in a different place each day.  But this weekend we came to the realization that not only is Prague where we feel God is leading us but also where we really want to be.

So now begins the daunting task of support raising, but we will leave that for another post....

Please keep praying for us and with us in this giant step of faith.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

In The End, There Can Be Only One

Christiana again, processing what's on my mind. I have spent the better part of my last four work-days (and even some time over the weekend) updating the RCE website with the many, many positions available for teachers to serve overseas. I've populated so many pages with links to so many schools, in so many cities that I've actually lost count of the total number of teachers needed. This much I can tell you - the total volume  of staff needs in international Christian schools is just overwhelming to me.

If you're a recent acquaintance, then you might not know that I spent four years as an administrator at one of these partner schools. During the latter half of that period, I had the opportunity to recruit. I traveled to various schools to speak to potential teachers. I presented our school's staffing needs at international conventions. I trolled personnel data bases that had been designed specifically for international Christian schools. Every year, I prayed that we would somehow have every single staff position filled before the start of the year. Every year, there was inevitably a vacancy that we scrambled to cover.

(This is not to say that God didn't provide; He always, always did.)

As I entered each of the positions available, and as I typed in the names of each administrator, I reflected on those days of struggling to fill spots. I know what it's like to hold an incredible resume in your hand, to think you've stumbled upon the IDEAL candidate for a key teaching position, and to contact said candidate for an interview by Skype. I know the feeling of elation when -post interview- that candidate follows through in completing a very extensive application, and his or her references start to arrive. I know what it's like to make that second call, to offer that job, to hope that this person or that will join your staff. I know exactly how it feels when that ideal candidate thanks you profusely, only to turn down your offer.

After awhile, you learn not to take it personally.

I'm particularly sensitive to these needs right now, because for the first time in more than a decade, Phil & I are on the other end of that scenario. In someone's estimation, *we* are the ideal candidates. We submitted the applications, the resumes, the references. We were the ones to receive the phone calls or e-mails. We have been offered the job - at two schools. Obviously, we can only accept one of them.

We'd like to make a decision soon, but we certainly want to make sure that we've thought through every aspect, that we've prayed sincerely over both possibilities. We'd like to be able to send out a reply by next week. One way or another, we're going to make one school administrator very happy...and another one very disappointed. Prayers are appreciated.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Not Yet

Christiana today - taking a much-needed break from my online workspace. I'm a huge fan of websites & so-forth, but it's a whole new ballgame when I'm the one trying to get the information out there. I want to make sure all of my data is accurate. And I'm a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to my writing. (Just ask my husband. :)

So what am I doing to unwind from my last two days of web-design? I'm blogging. Online. Which requires multiple edits & rewrites before posting. I really know how to relax, don't I?

We've been very blessed by the positive replies we've received from our latest newsletter. We've also been asked numerous times, "Why aren't you telling us where you *might* be going??" and "Why can't you tell us the names of the schools?"

Blame me. Phil would have told y'all everything; I'm the one that asked him to keep it quiet for just a little longer.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who's had the unfortunate experience of sharing an idea/dream/design/desire, and then endured an onslaught of unsolicited advice.
This is not to say that all advice is negative, or that we're not supposed to seek wise counsel from those around us. There is a time & a place for that, but I'd like to hold off from the public opinion polls for a bit longer.

Right now, we don't have any official invitations, so it seems a bit premature to say,"We're going to ________," or "We'd like to be in ________," when perhaps that's not where we're supposed to go. While we do sense that it's between two specific schools, neither of us as a strong sign that the school in _______ is "the one".

Truthfully, I think my biggest reason for this self-imposed silence is that I want us to know that we're allowing God to lead us in the right direction, and that we're really listening to His cues. This is a major life-decision for us, second only to picking out a mattress. There are so many positives about either - and BOTH- possibilities!

Suppose it should be one of those scenarios in which the Lord is leaving us with two open doors? Well, then, my prayer is that we'll be able to make a wise & informed decision based on our gifts & strengths, not on the feelings of a mother's brother's sister's cousin's auntie's Uncle Barney's father.

If you really fear that you'll expire unless you've been clued in to our schools of consideration, please feel free to shoot us an e-mail. Otherwise, sit back & enjoy the wait with us.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Post-Thanksgiving Excitement

Our latest newsletter is out & circulating! This feels like a major accomplishment to us, for several reasons:
  1. It's our first official newsletter as a couple!
  2. We've spent almost a month trying to consolidate our individual contact lists into a single document, sent from ONE e-mail account. 
  3. Although we are writers, we labored over what we should share, and how long we should allow our letter to be. 
  4. We signed up to use an e-mail distribution site called MailChimp. It's fun, it's eye-catching, and if you've never used it before, it really throws a monkey-wrench into your plans for getting a newsletter out in a day.
We finally hit "send" about 11 p.m. last night, and we've been checking the distribution report to see just how many times that letter has been opened. Are you ready for this? 199. 

199 people have actually received and opened our newsletter. Wow.

We can't speak for every missionary everywhere, but for us, we've sometimes questioned if the time & effort poured into each newsletter was worth it. We've both had the experience of writing up what we felt was a really poignant post, only to catch silence on the other end of cyberspace. And we would wonder, "Did anybody stop and read what was written?" 

For all of the headaches we endured in formatting, exporting & importing contacts, we're pleased with the final product, and we're pretty pumped that MailChimp will tell us exactly how many times someone opens our letter. It's not about the compliments on our writing style, or the commentaries on events in our lives. It's just having the awareness that we're not alone in the work we are doing. It's the knowledge that someone took the time to read an e-mail. It's the hope that our readers are also prayer partners, who will join with us in lifting up our needs & requests. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Resumes, Essays, and Apps...Oh My!

Phil here...Christiana has been writing our blog posts up till now, but considering that I am also a writer, we figured I should take a turn every now and then.

The process of choosing a school has not been an overnight process.  We have been thinking and praying about this for almost 9 months.  In February, we took the list of RCE partner schools and chose places where we felt our individual gifts could be most effective. Initially we had about 6-7 schools that we were considering.  Since then we have taken schools off the list and added more to it.  As we have been narrowing the list, and then expanding, and then narrowing, we arrived at a "Top 5."

I already had a resume written up from last year (the first resume I had ever had to write), so a few weeks ago, Christiana tweaked it (she is an excellent tweaker), and we sent off 5 copies.  Almost immediately 4 of the 5 schools responded.  The 5th never acknowledged our contact, so we took it off the list.  Over the past 2 weeks we have had conversations with the 4 remaining schools. We've been quite busy trying to get applications filled out, essays written, and names and addresses together for reference forms. And through this process we have narrowed our list once again and have sent in applications to 2 specific schools.  

And now... we wait.  Again.  And you are probably on the edge of your seat waiting for us to tell you which schools we have applied to.

Please don't hate us, but we are going to make you wait a bit longer.  When we have been offered jobs officially, we will post again. In the mean time, please pray for us as we continue to seek wisdom in making our final decision.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

E-Mail - Worth the Investment?

Friends...Readers...Counterparts... Here's a question (or three) for you:

Who is still using e-mail as a means of communication? Would you eagerly subscribe to our next mailing list once we actually get it together? Does anyone have any insights regarding the e-mail services that are out there?

We've been investigating a couple of different sites which would help us streamline the distribution of our newsletter, but it seems to be a great deal more involved - and quite a bit pricier - than either of us thought.

What do you recommend? What sort of newsletter experiences have you had? If you were going to start over, would you stick with the same service, or would you go for something else?

Please feel free to comment...or, you know, send us an e-mail.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Positive Feedback

It's fun to log on and see that we have more than 199 pageviews in the last week! Even more fun are the comments left for us to read. We greatly appreciate the encouragement!

We've received a lot of positive feedback this week - 4 out of the 5 schools we contacted have asked for more information! Three of those schools want phone interviews, starting tomorrow.

Ready or not, here we go...

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Destination TBA

Operation "Terminal Velocity" has commenced! Ah, you may have thought it started last week when we kick-started our blog or our Facebook group - nope. It really gets going when we send out letters of inquiry, resumes & references.

Guess what we just did????

Yep, out they went! Five five different five different countries.

And now? We wait.

And we pray.

Feel free to pray along with us.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Reeeeeaally Long Layover

Living & serving overseas has taught us a lot about traveling. We know how to maximize our suitcase space (It's remarkable what you can pack in a pair of shoes!) We have long lists of  "items sure to get your bags hand-searched" at airport security.

We'll tell you (within a few grams) whether or not your suitcase is at its weight limit. We are experts in making the most of our time in airports between connections.
Christiana on the day of departure for The Great TransSiberian Adventure.  Not all of those bags were hers...

If you'd asked us a year ago this time where we thought we would be in 2012, Phil would have said, "Korea" and Christiana would have promptly said, "Russia". (And we would have answered as singles, both pretty sure we were going to stay that way...) 

Imagine our surprise in being:
B) in **neither** of those countries
C) still in the US on what has become an "extended sabbatical"

Life is weird, no?

When God brought us together in January of this year, we both suddenly realized that returning to international ministry was going to look very different. Different as in, "not-going-back-to-where-we-thought-we-thought-we-were-going" different. Different as in, "we-don't-have-a-unified-vision-of-where-we're-supposed-to-be" different. Different as in, "we're-going-to-be-here-longer-than-we-thought" different.

We knew that getting married, moving to a new country, adopting a new culture, adjusting to a new language AND attempting to return to full-time international ministry might just be too much for a first year of wedded bliss. After much deliberation & prayer, we ended up in Niceville, Florida.

Niceville. Sounds like a lovely little serene hamlet, doesn't it? And it is nice, it's just not...well...where we expected to be.

So where are we headed? We're not sure just yet.

How soon will we be departing? That all depends on where we're supposed to go.

One thing we know for sure - we're going to make the most of our time while we're here. Sometimes layovers provide opportunities for much-needed rest.
Phil on the way to Uganda in 2011. Naps are good!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

You Have Arrived at Your Destination

Have you been looking for us? Well, here we are. The Brandes.

We've both tried our hands at blogging several times before...neither of us has been particularly successful. Let's see if writing in collaboration is more motivational for us than going solo. We certainly hope so. 

We're in the midst of trying to revamp our ministry updates & resume communication with our friends, family and support network. Having our own website (or at least a new blog) seemed like a good idea. 

How do we look so far? 

Remember, this is for posterity, so be honest, hmmm?