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New Year, New Responsibilities, New Excitement

Amanda, our friend and co-worker, blindfolds Alisha during some Student Life team-building exercises.
A bit of an apology for this post. The text was all written up by Alisha in and we were ready to find pictures to make it nice and then...the Internet went out for 1.5 months. No joke -- such is the life that comes with living in a resident hall. A new update will be posted next week to give a proper update.

Life on campus at LCC International University has been extra busy as students return. For many students, summer is a time of working, studying and relaxing. We spent the last two weeks training our Resident Assistants (RAs). The training was extremely successful and I’m very excited about the new student leaders we’ll be working with this year.

Alisha snags some snacks during the Resident Assistant training retreat. If these
photos look familiar, we went to the same retreat center as in this post.
What, exactly, is it that you will do this year at LCC?” you may ask. Josh will continue working as a Resident Director (RD). That means he’ll care for the students who live in the East side of Neumann Hall. He also will lead and organize the chapel band, plan worship, and coordinate monthly events, meetings and co-curricular activities to aid in the RAs’ professional development. This will be a departure from last year when he supervised the residence hall receptionists and night guards.

In addition, Josh will also be the adviser for the Roots of Justice activist group. Roots of Justice is the group we wrote about in this blog post that seeks to educate the LCC community (and beyond) about the human-trafficking issues that occur in Eastern Europe and beyond. In an attempt to take a more holistic approach to the issue, the group is expanding to help encourage and support a climate of volunteerism on campus.

This year I (Alisha) have moved into a new role on campus. I am now the Interim Director of Community Life. I'll provide leadership and oversight for Community Life, setting the vision, tone and goals for the department. I also manage the Residential Housing program and staff (RDs and RAs) in order to provide a quality living and learning experience for students who live in LCC’s university housing (yes, this means I’m Josh’s boss – weird). Lastly, I'll provide oversight for the Office of Intercultural Programs (they provide intercultural educational programming at LCC and within the Klaipeda community).The un-fun part of the job is handling discipline for students who violate the community standards. However, even though it’s not the most enjoyable part of the job, it is an excellent opportunity to mentor the young students and get them back on the right path.

I’ll also be looking forward to coordinating the campus Artist Collaborative (i.e. Art Club). It’s an awesome way to connect with students where our passions intersect and build relationships outside of my job description.

We squeezed in a breakfast lunch with Ieva. Last year, Ieva was one of Josh's RAs.
This year, she is serving orphans with another LCC graduate in Kyrgystan. Check
out her blog here to see an example of how LCC students are changing the world.
In addition to our on-campus responsibilities, we will also continue to support the Vineyard Klaipėda Church through volunteering at a local orphanage and supporting the church-in-the-bar and open-mic nights at a local pub. We’re so lucky to have such great friends in Kel and Sharon – the church’s coordinators. Thanks to them and our partnership with the Vineyard church, my Temporary Residence Permit (TRP) has been approved and I’m legally able to work in Lithuania! This month at the orphanage, Josh will be attempting to teach the kids who are 13 years and older the concept of American Baseball – a tremendously foreign concept. Keep him in your prayers (editor's note: the baseball game went very well and the kids all were impressed with Josh's skills)

We’ll also be continuing the “church alternative/house church” we started in our apartment called the “Mustard Seed Project.” It’s specifically designed to call on the students who are curious about Jesus but might be skeptical of the church (sadly, this is fair number of LCC students). We’re hoping to continue to shine a little light in this part of the world.

This upcoming weekend will prove to be a memorable one. Josh will be hosting a futbol/football (don’t call it “soccer”) viewing party in our apartment – it’s the World Cup qualifiers this weekend and some of our students are tremendously excited to tune in. (editor's note: Nigeria won, much to the joy of one of our students) Meanwhile, I've got the chance of a lifetime to go home with one of our students, Renata, to her village for her family’s potato harvest. I’ll get to pick potatoes on their goat farm and their cat just had kittens!!! Needless to say, we both have a lot to look forward to.

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 "David Boring."

This handsome devil is a chef at a new restaurant in Klaipėda called “Meat Lovers” – I don’t know about you, but he looks a lot like David Boring to me!

When I told this red-headed gentleman about the look-alike contest and told him my North American friend’s name was David Boring he couldn't believe it. He said, “There’s no way a guy this good looking could be called 'Boring.'” 

And with that, I wish you a great week!

Bonus Bonus Section

Here are a few pictures from Alisha's potato-harvesting adventure.
Most of Alisha's photos consisted of animals from the farm. For example, here are two "glorious goats."

Renata's family harvesting potatoes. It is common for families to work together to harvest their potato fields at the end of the summer. The potatoes are then divided into three categories -- large ones will feed the family through the winter, medium ones go to the livestock, and small ones are saved to re-plant the next season.

Alisha -- the happiest potato picker ever.

The harvest's yield.

Renata, right, gathers some apples to take back to LCC while her mother plays with
the cat, "Donut." It's no surprised that the family has fallen in love with Alisha and
ask Renata about her frequently. 

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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.



Jacket Season!

The Resident Assistants of Neumann Hall's east wing (Josh's hall) light up some sparklers during their RA retreat. They are, from left, Kristine, Ieva, Vadim, and Toms. The weekend retreat, lead by Josh, was an opportunity for the group to grow closer.
If some weeks are a breath in, full of activity and movement, this past week and this week have been a breath out -- a momentary release from the hecticness.

A lot of that time has been spent preparing for next week's Art Education Week, which is, in part, a product of our brainstorming ways to make LCC a more holistic educational experience at the start of the year. The week will feature a couple of evenings devoted to music instruction and experience, a series of photography workshops, an experimental jam session for musicians AND visual artists, and an art show at the end of the week.

Josh also was able to take his group of RAs on their fall retreat, which was very successful. If you have Facebook, you can see all the pictures by clicking here.

We also were able to check out the annual Intercultural Olympics -- yet another example of the unique community we're surrounded by (for those keeping track, Ukraine won this year.).

This week is "Serve Week" -- a time when we focus on teaching servant leadership to the students we work with most directly. We'll post some pictures of Serve Day -- the day where large groups of students go out into the surrounding community to make the world a little bit of a better place.
Finally, the weather is definitely changing. Today was about 50 degrees Fahrenheit and mushrooms are growing everywhere. Jacket season is here... 


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Growing Community

Amanda and Bethany enjoy delicious food at a pot luck
meal. Josh has organized the weekly meals for all those
living on campus during the summer months.
How do you create community?

This is an issue that we'll be examining a lot during our time at LCC International University since a large part of our job description focuses on our creating an atmosphere that fosters community.

Before moving to Lithuania, we lived in an intentional faith community of sorts called Goldensun. At its heart, it was created to be a place where people could live out their faith in a community that places adults with developmental disabilities at its center. Living there meant rejoicing with our neighbors over small victories, lending a hand when one was needed, laughing together often, and sharing the burden during the sad times.

It's hard being away from that. Mark, Aaron, Traci, Jesse, Markey, Anna, Michelle, Jeff, Cade, Robert, Keturah, Jared, Monica, David -- I think about at least one of you every day and I don't think that will ever change.

And don't even get us started on our family and church community!

When we moved, we went from a place of being surrounded by community to having nobody but the two of us and that sensation was extremely unnerving.

But the beautiful think about community is that, with the right elements, it can grow like a weed. We are (happily) experiencing that right now!

The seeds of exciting relationships began to sprout as soon as our plane landed. And while it will never be the same as what we had in Phoenix, it is beautiful and gives us hope nonetheless.

This week as we continue our orientation and training, we are being equipped with skills and knowledge that will help us be the sowers of community in this dormitory. As we learn, I keep returning a quote by Dietrich Bonhoeffer to stay focused on what truly matters.

Bonhoeffer, a pastor, theologian, and anti-Nazi resistant, once said, "He who loves community destroys community; he who loves the brethren builds community."

In other words, community means caring for people.

Keep us in your thoughts as we seek to care for people we've not yet met in an exciting, radical way.


Last Sunday we volunteered at a local orphanage. Here are some pictures!


We learned about the orphanage last month through the Summer Language Institute's camp pastor, Kel Fowler.

Kel, a New Zealander who has been living in Lithuania for the past decade, is the pastor of a local church that has a special relationship with this orphanage. He invited us to come and support a team from the Netherlands as they led a day of games, food, and quality interaction time with the children.

An interesting discovery is that a good portion of the children in the orphanage had developmental disabilities of sorts. I'm not sure how the ratio compares to that of such institutions in the United States, but it is certainly a very difficult environment to grow and develop.

While I was talking with one of the children, he asked me if I thought I'd ever come back. I told him, "I'd really like to."

He looked at me in the eyes for a moment and then said, "I'll be waiting."

It was a very good experience and we definitely plan on continuing to volunteer there when we are able.


Exploring Vilnius video

Now, as promised in last post, I present to you a photo montage of our trip to Vilnius, Lithuania's capital city, last weekend. Turn up your speakers because this video features a special commentary from the two of us!

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