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'Tis the season of mixed emotions

If you haven't heard our big news yet, check out the following video:

So . . . . . this pause isn't the only thing that's pregnant. You should probably watch this video NOW.
Posted by Joshua Slabaugh Garber on Sunday, November 15, 2015
Helping Julija with her church camp in August. You can see a
post from last year's camp here, although this time Alisha was
able to join. Julija is the student who adopted us.
If you know anything about our story, you know that our process of trying to grow our family has been one filled with pain, disappointment, and fear. In fact, almost exactly one year ago we were not celebrating -- we were in deep mourning as Alisha and I tried to cope with our second miscarriage.

But this season is much different. Advent has taken on new meaning and the place where Mary's song comes from is filled with new life as we hear those words with fresh ears. If Christmas is about birth, then Advent is about pregnancy.

And holy cow is Alisha pregnant! (For those of you who are interested, we've established Alisha is the "sassy" kind of pregnant lady)

Josh and several of the Ukranian students at the first day of classes parade.
Josh secretly hopes he can be as cool as they are.
We know our blog has been somewhat silent and we apologize. In many ways, it's hard to know what to say. Our fourth year at LCC has not been filled with new experiences and new revelations, but we have stayed busy. In many instances, it feels as though we could just re-link to a past blog post and it's content would be just as relevant today as it was when first posted.

However, outside our LCC routines, there's a lot we've wanted to comment on but we've not been able to find the words. I'll do my best here to recap with hopes of revisiting some of these ideas second semester:
  • Alisha's pregnancy is something we learned right at the start of this school year, so we've had growing anticipation all semester that we had to keep to ourselves out of fear of the devastation of another loss.
  • In the midst of our joy and the anticipation of new life, we've found ourselves in mourning -- late October, we learned that a very close friend and the lead pastor at our church in Phoenix died in a motorcycle accident. I tried to write about that in a blog post but there are no words that can express our sadness. We're still recovering from that along with the Trinity Mennonite Church community.
  • The refugee situation here in Europe -- what is there to say? We've tried to do our part in bringing the conversation to LCC's campus but there's not a lot of certainty on how incoming refugees will impact us and the rest of Lithuania.
  • We were fortunate to travel a few times this year (click the links to see photos). First to Malta for our 10th wedding anniversary, second to Spain to visit some exciting Anabaptist communities, and finally to Telšiai in Lithuania to play music at the SIELOS festival with the LCC Chapel Band and our group, Sparrows.
  • What is our plan for next year? December is usually when LCC wants to know if we intend to return next school year or not. As we are in the fourth year of what was initially a two-year commitment, this has become a process involving great reflection and discernment. We are certainly in the midst of seeking God's will for us.
As you can see from this post, our thoughts are everywhere and anywhere. Our hope is to elaborate better on some of these ideas next semester but, for now, we seek to stay present in this Advent season.

Also, we will be learning our due date and whether we will have a boy or girl after New Years, so check back regularly! We are resolving to keeping this blog updated on a much more regular basis from here on.

If you are reading this, we thank you for your support, encouragement and prayers!

"Cruisin' down the street in my '64..." This is why Josh doesn't get to choose where to park the school van anymore.



Fighting for Peace

Hey, check out this news article.

Just kidding -- it's in Russian. But let me do my best to summarize what happened:

A picture much like this one is what started it all. It is normal
for students to hang their national flags from their windows
as a statement of pride.
Some locals noticed a few of our Russian students hung their nation's flag outside their resident hall window. They interpreted it as "spying for Putin" and contacted a Lithuanian online publication, which added they were a "sign of Russia's occupation."

LCC students caught wind of the article, realized that their Russian brothers and sisters were being misrepresented, and proceeded to hang flags from nearly a dozen of the 25+ countries represented at the university.

This action, combined with a thoughtful letter by one of the students that was forwarded as a response to local media, transformed the situation. Here are some excerpts:
An explosion of flags and solidarity. Fun fact: my office is
through the window in the bottom left.
"[...] all the students who had flags of the countries of their origin hung them out of their rooms to support our fellow Russian students who suffered such an injustice. We want to make sure that these students know that they have support in the face of everyone at LCC, and that they are welcomed here [...] We are all a part of the Christian institution that promotes peace and understanding, and we must make sure that no one is discriminated [...]"
The result has been several articles like the one linked above that speaks to the unique nature of LCC International University and, more importantly, speaks to the importance of tolerance and love in a world filled with messages of fear and hate.

It also illustrates the level of creativity often needed to pursue justice and find lasting solutions to conflict that don't resort to force and coercion. The above situation is one that could have easily divided our students against the Russians or pitted LCC against Klaipeda. Instead, the parties have grown closer thanks to the creativity of a few students. 

Whenever it comes up that I'm a pacifist, I often find myself being written off. I suspect much of this is rooted in the misconception that pacifism is synonymous with being passive.

There is nothing passive about pursuing peace, justice, and following the way of Jesus. 

Let me write that in a larger font just to make sure that's clear:

There is nothing passive about pursuing peace, justice, and following the way of Jesus. 

I came across another article this week that really speaks to this idea. If you like the idea of redeeming neo-Nazis, check this out!

Neither of these instances of nonviolent activism are heralded as "Christian" events. But if part of the idea of God's Kingdom is that it's something that can be experienced both presently and in the future, then these are moments where you can get a glimpse of that.

Randomness: SIELOS

Two weekends ago, I took members of the LCC chapel band to play at the SIELOS ("SOUL") Christian music festival for the third time. 

Alisha and I also unveiled the most recent manifestation of our music making, "Sparrows."