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What do you say when you can't find the words?

It is with deep sadness I write to you all. There are certain things in life that are difficult to express; things so hard that words do not convey the matters of the heart. This is one of those occasions.

Josh and I suffered a second miscarriage last week. Last April when we experienced the first loss, it was traumatic, but we were reassured that “it's common” and “it happens more than you think” – both things are true, but not exactly comforting.

This time, however, it hit a bit harder. Losing a second baby somehow cuts deeper and causes me to ask unfair questions like, "What have I done wrong to deserve this?" or, "What have I done to make God angry?" or, even worse, think things like, "I wouldn't be a good mother anyway."

This loss makes me question many things, but I must trust that God has a plan and that I must defer to God’s hopes for us. To be honest, the thought of God’s promises doesn't always motivate me to get up off the couch, or provide relief from the constant ache of my muscles, or give a sense of calm during social situations when I simply want to sit down and disengage, but it does provide the release that NOT ALL THINGS ARE IN MY CONTROL.

You don’t have to know me well to know that I like order and prefer to do things "by the book." I’m a planner and a list-maker.

Through this process of loss, I have to accept that there are things that I cannot possibly manipulate to go my way. I must shamefully admit that my prayer life is terrible. Because of my controlling nature, I’m the last one to "give it up to God in prayer" but I must now lay it all down before the Lord and release these stresses and second-guesses, trusting that God has a plan.

I can find peace in knowing that I have hundreds of awesome “kids” already -- the students live on
LCC’s campus. They are passionate and curious, seeking and learning and growing every day.

Never ceasing to amaze me, they have come around Josh and me though this difficult time offering their own kinds of support. The students and staff of this place show their care by dropping off a simple note of encouragement, a treat left at my office or in my mailbox, and even coming to our apartment to cook a meal. Let me publicly say thank you to those who have reached out with care, support, love and prayers. You have all helped us to begin walking the path of healing.
Flowers, cards, food, teddy bears and more flowers from dear friends at LCC.

Rest assured that we have not suffered through this process, in a foreign country, alone. Our dear friend Ilona Bertasiute has been our fearless guide, translator, appointment maker, compassionate advocate, supportive companion and all-around irreplaceable pal.

Ilona has come with us to every appointment and sat with Josh as I underwent surgery last week. Ilona's mother has even joined the case and assisted with requesting medical records from my last stay in the hospital. In these times of deep anxiety, when being "away from home" is most difficult, we realize where "home" truly is... here in Klaipeda surrounded by our new community who can hold us up when our own legs cannot. I thank God for Ilona's friendship.

I ask that you hold Josh and me in prayer as we pursue information regarding these failed pregnancies. I will have a follow-up visit with my OBGYN next week on Monday, December 8.

She is a lovely Lithuanian woman named Odeta who speaks English and works at the city’s fertility clinic. She is confident that we can find a solution and will again conceive as soon as my mind and body have healed.

Please pray for Josh and me, for Dr. Odeta and for God’s discernment as we enter into the next months of uncertainty.

I pray for hope and for the energy to survive the busy season ahead.



Ukraine and Russia and LCC

Josh and the residents from one of his floors sit down to feast on the pizzas they made together.
Alisha leads a panel of LCC student leaders as they share their experiences.
The situation in the region, at the political level, changes hourly. It could be a full-time job to keep up with the news media regarding Ukraine and its neighbors. In the news, it seemed just a few weeks ago to be a relatively peaceful protest movement in Independence Square in Kiev related to alignment with the EU or Russia (with the Winter Olympics the center of attention in Sochi). 

It then quickly changed with a government overthrow and almost 100 deaths, to now a situation related to the autonomy vs. foreign occupation of Crimea, and it bleeds into Lithuanian uncertainty with Russian naval exercises in the Baltic Sea and on and on...any description of the situation is rendered simplistic because of the layers of history and regional relations involved. The point here is not to describe the political context.

As a small university in Lithuania, LCC International University’s primary impact is not at the political level. But we believe we do play a very important role.

The LCC pond isn't frozen now, but broomball/hockey was a great
success this winter while it was.
We demonstrate community. We are an international university – and we happen to have 69 Ukrainian students, and 53 Russian students on campus. Each one of us has strong opinions about the current situation, opinions that are determined by life experience, or education, or the opinions of others. 

As a community, LCC states, “We celebrate diversity of cultures and traditions, personalities and opinions.” (Core Value #5) Living in community means that we work on what unites us, and not what divides us. We are people interacting with people, not representatives of a government interacting with representatives of a government. 

The orphanage is still a big part of our lives. And orphans still
love Josh's beard.
We serve a God of peace.  In John 14:27, Jesus says: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." 

Especially when it feels like peace is being threatened, we must continue to carry a message of peace and reconciliation.

Alisha is, at times, the mature mama bird the Study Abroad
students need, as the picture above illustrates.
We stand for justice. We must be Micah 6:8 people: “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” 

When God models justice, it is never modest or polite or understated. Justice is bold. But it is accompanied by a love of mercy. We must live and speak accordingly and we teach from this perspective.

Viktorija, who attends the Klaipeda Vineyard Church with us,
shows off her painting after a community event that combined
art and faith.
We care for the needs of our students. Very practically, we are monitoring the fluctuation of currencies in the region. In the year ending on Feb. 28, the Ukrainian currency had devalued by 26 percent. Four other regional currencies had also devalued by 15+ percent. As always, we have emergency financial aid available should it be necessary. 

We are people of prayer.  Above all, we must demonstrate our faith in the One who holds the future. We pray for each other, for national leaders, for safety and security, for the church everywhere, for peace. We encourage each other by praying for each other. 

And we go on. We've just had mid-term exams, spring break, underground potlucks, and chapel. Our lives cannot be defined by politics. But sometimes political situations help us clarify our message and provide new opportunities for demonstrating who we are.



Stirring things up

Second semester at LCC is already off to a bang and we are very excited with how things are developing. If last semester was one of learning and absorbing, then this is one of creation and implementation.

We're not saying we've mastered life here (sweet biscuits the Lithuanian language is difficult!), but we're certainly in a better place to initiate ideas that will impact the lives of those around us here at LCC.

For example, first semester we helped plan the university's first ever Art Week, which was a huge success (check out our blog post HERE for a recap). Students were coming out of the woodwork when given a means to exercise their creativity. Since then, Alisha has been building and growing relationships with some select students and including them in her art projects. This semester, Alisha's taking it to the next level and is starting "Art Club" -- a group meant to bring artistic students together and foster a community where they can use their creative talents. The first poster hasn't even been hung and already there is a buzz and a stream of students asking Alisha, "Is there really going to be an art club?"

Finding needs and filling them.

One thing we were told about before coming is that there is a group on campus that works to fight the human trafficking issue that is a big problem in Eastern Europe. That group, "Roots of Justice," is re-launching this semester with Josh being groomed to be next year's staff advisor. The group is also being adjusted so that, starting next fall, it will function as a year-round service/activist group that will hopefully gain momentum on campus rather than starting over every-other semester. A major part of the group's efforts go into creating Revolution Week -- an educational week devoted to teaching LCC students about sex and labor trafficking that happens both in this region and in their own countries. Many students also find themselves victims of labor trafficking during their summer jobs and internship which take them all over the world and this year an extra focus is being made to help them be more aware of when they are being taken advantage of.

Finding needs and filling them.

Last week we finished LCC's first "Green Week" -- a time when we educated students about sustainability and how to live in a more environmentally friendly fashion. As is true virtually anywhere you travel in the world, there is a surprising amount of misinformation about these issues -- specifically recycling, sustainable farming (and food consumption), and harmful effects that a hyper-consumer economy has on the health of the planet. The response from students was overall positive and it feels like we've definitely encouraged a conversation here that needs to take place.

Finding needs and filling them.

Alisha's "Peasant Bread" -- a staple of our time speant conspiring.
Perhaps the most ambitious undertaking we're working on this semester is a humble attempt to bring the type of faith community we found in Trinity Mennonite Church in Glendale to the students (and our peers) who are seeking an alternative to the "normal" church experience. To be clear, there are churches here and they are very fulfilling to lots of people. But we've found a population of students here who are very interested in Jesus but skeptical of "the church" and institutional religion. And those are the students we find we most closely relate to. So we've set out this semester to re-imagine what the church could look like in Europe's post-Christian society with a few other friends.

Finding needs and filling them.


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The last days of summer

It's been a busy one since last post, so this week will be in review through photos (and a extra special movie you will NOT want to miss at the end).

This past weekend was our University's presidential inauguration as well as Community Day -- a time at the start of each year where the students gather for games and food and, in short, get to know one another better.
At LCC, we celebrate the independence day of each country represented. This week, we celebrated Ukraine's Independence Day and next week will be Moldova's. The events tend to include samples of local music, traditions, singing, dancing, and food -- all led by students native to the country.

Alisha has continued to work on her fear of birds by bringing occasional scraps to the ducks that live next to the university. She will quickly point out which "ducks are OK" and which "ducks are NOT OK."

The first "Underground Potluck." As Community Meals fall under the programming of a different department, we've not been able to continue ours from this summer. However, if students begin having them on their own...well there's not much we can do about that.

The meal ended with multiple games of Dutch Blitz. If you think you are an expert at the game, come visit LCC -- students from all corners of the world gather to play this game when they need a break from their studies and some of them are quite good.

And now, as promised, a very special video.

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Finding Rhythm (120 BPM)

Alisha and Amanda row with determination for their leg of LCC's 2012 Ugly Duckling Cup. Although victory was not in the cards for the faculty team, the event successfully brought the campus together in friendly competition.
Life has finally seemed to have found a rhythm for us here at LCC International University. Not sure if that's because we have become less busy or if we've just grown accustomed to the high-energy, always-accessible lifestyle of being resident directors.

Either way, the feeling is nice.

This weekend marks the official inauguration of LCCs sixth president, Dr. Marlene Wall. Such events are a big deal on university campuses (click here for details), so that means there will be extra events we are, in part, responsible for. That included a special chapel service today, Community Day on Friday, and the Inauguration Ceremony on Saturday.

Neighbor Fire Update

Last week, our post was about a neighboring group of homes that caught on fire. Here's a brief update. Josh has attempted to visit the homes a few times to find ways the students can help on the long road to recovery. However, the language barrier and busy schedules has made it difficult to follow up.

Of the two homes that were severely damaged, there has been no luck contacting the residents of one and the residents of the other have been in no rush as they had insurance on the home and did not want to interrupt that process.

It seems sometimes loving your neighbor is hard purely for logistical reasons. We are going to make a few more attempts to offer assistance and we'll post how that goes.

Garbers on Ice

On a lighter note, a group of students asked us to go ice skating at a local mall with them and we agreed. Here is our adventure, documented for your enjoyment!

Bonus Section

We like to play a game called "Eastern-European doppelganger." Occasionally we spot someone while out and about who reminds us of one of our friends from the U.S. Below is our second public installment. We present "Jess Simmons."

Jess is a long-time friend we met while she was a youth at Trinity Mennonite Church. We've since seen her grow up and even graduate from college. We think she's pretty great.

Although technically the girl who is Jess' doppelganger is not from Eastern Europe, she is someone we met here who is attending LCC, so we figure it still counts. Her name is Kate Metelak, she's a full-time student at LCC, her parents both work as faculty/staff, and Josh helped her brother lead music at the Summer Language Institute.

Jess, left, and Kate, right.

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