Sunday, December 30, 2007

Christmas in Clearfield

After much thought and discussion, Sharon and I decided to take a minuscule risk by traveling back to my parent's house in Pennsylvania for Christmas this year. Although our doctor told us that he didn't have any real reservations about us traveling, we were a little concerned by the fact that our insurance may not have covered an out-of-state birth if Kürbis decided to shock everybody and come over three weeks early. Thankfully, he/she decided he really enjoys the warmth and comfort of mommy's belly and he won't be a 2007 tax deduction. Since our decision to go to Pennsylvania was a last-second one and we could only stay a few days, we made the trip with our friend Dawn who was going to a nearby area to see her family.

Our trip home was complicated a little by the fact that Dawn needed to leave on Friday to get home for her brother's college graduation, but I had already planned a two-day ski trip in Maine for Thursday and Friday. So after cutting my ski day a little short on Friday, I drove the four hours back to Boston so that we could leave for Pennsylvania at 8:00. Due to bad weather and frequent stops for the prego, we didn't actually make it to my parent's house until 5:00 AM. Since I had the privilege to be the driver for the last three hours, I was especially thankful to be able to stay awake while realizing that I won't be the dad that drives through the night if we can't find a hotel room.

Our time with my family was a lot of fun, and I eventually got to the point that I wasn't nervous that Sharon would go into unexpected labor. Nevertheless, it was a bit of relief when we made it back to Massachusetts and decided to hunker down into the baby comes. For New Year's Eve, we're planning on having a very small get together at our place and try as much as possible to stay out of the snow that is supposedly on the way. Below are some pictures from Christmas and a fun video of my niece Ella that reminded me of the wonder of Christmas morning for kids.

Sharon and me (and Kürbis) in front of our Christmas tree

My mom with the grandkids (Ella, Theo, Nancy, Catherin, Isaac from l-r)

Sharon and her fellow prego sister-in-law Chrissie

Sharon and me with my parents (and sister Megan and Chrissie)
My niece Ella on Christmas morning

Friday, December 14, 2007

Baby Showers and Such

Last weekend, my parents came up to visit us from Pennsylvania and it was great to have some time with them. Sharon was under the impression that they were coming up so that my dad could go to the Steelers-Patriots game with me on Sunday - which was half right. The other reason that they were coming up was so my mom could go to the surprise baby shower for Sharon at our church on Saturday morning. Sharon's friends who were organizing the shower really wanted to keep it a surprise, but I was doubting that could happen - especially since we announced it in church one Sunday when Sharon was away. My biggest fear was that one of the kids in our church that goes to our Awana kids program would slip up and mention it to her sometime. However, they were either really good at keeping the secret or else they just proved one of our friends belief that kids don't ever pay attention in church anyways.

Regardless, it was a lot of fun to be able to surprise Sharon and it was amazing to see how far people traveled to be there. We had one of Sharon's best friends Alice make the trip with my parents and then sneak in a mutual friend's apartment on Friday night so that she could surprise her in the morning. The sight of so many friends brought tears to her eyes - which I guess is the mark of success. So last weekend we had a lot of fun looking at our new baby stuff (lots of diapers!) and also got to go out with my parents to pick out our Christmas tree. Even more exciting was the fact that my parents gave us a camera as an early Christmas present, so hopefully this means that I'll be much better about posting pics. By the time little Kürbis makes his appearance, I'll be a photo taking machine. As far as the Steelers-Patriots games that we went to - I don't want to dwell on it other than to say that it was a good experience and I was still glad that we went despite the less than optimal result.
Sharon's Baby Shower Cake
Kürbis trying on his new clothes
Sharon and I with my parents
Sharon with our new stroller
Da' belly

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Third Time's a Charm

As most of you know, Sharon and I are now on our third car in the last three months as we have quite a knack for killing cars. Since it looks like we'll be staying in the United States for a couple of years after Seminary, we decided to try and get a car that should last for a while. After much shopping around, we finally settled on a 2002 Mazda Protege that we bought off a private seller nearby. He was the original owner and has done an incredible job of maintaining it, so we think it should have close to another decade of life left in it. It's a really fun, somewhat sporty, car to drive and I can't resist from singing the Zoom, Zoom, Zoom little Mazda jingle when I'm in it. It's also exciting for me as this is the first car that I've owned that was made in the same century that I owned it (you may have to think long and hard about that one). We still haven't settled on a name for it yet, so let us know if you have any suggestions. Anyways, here are some pictures and hopefully we'll have some fun stuff to post after this weekend as my Mom and Dad are coming up from Clearfield so that Dad and I can go to the Steelers' - Patriots game this Sunday. If you're watching the game, keep your eyes peeled for a bunch of Steeler fans standing together amidst the angry mob of Pats fans.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Thanksgiving in Atlanta

This past Thanksgiving, Sharon and I had the opportunity to spend the Holiday with her family in Atlanta courtesy of Delta Airlines Frequent Flyer miles. Although it was great to be able to fly on such a busy holiday time, the fact that we were using frequent flyer miles also meant that we had to have stopovers both ways and that we had to return the day after Thanksgiving. Since I had class the Monday before Thanksgiving, I was only able to spend three days in Georgia with Sharon's family, but Sharon was able to leave a few days early so that she had over a week with her family. It was a lot of fun for us to be able to see family especially since there is a decent chance we may be spending Christmas up in Boston because of difficulties with Sharon traveling so late in her pregnancy. We're not as concerned about Sharon giving birth three weeks early as we are that our insurance wouldn't cover the expenses in the rare case that Kürbis decided to make a dramatic appearance in Pennsylvania over Christmas.

The most memorable part of the Georgia trip for me was the Thanksgiving day touch football game that the family played shortly after the conclusion of the meal. I should have gotten a clue when I saw my brother-in-law John merely nibbling at the Thanksgiving feast, but I blindly continued to stuff myself until John proposed an after-dinner football game. Now I've heard of post-Thanksgiving meal football games, but I've always enjoyed them passively by watching on TV. Needless to say, the touch football game we played was a lot of fun, but also left me hurting the rest of the evening with some of the worst indigestion I've ever had (and that's saying a lot). For Sharon, the trip was a great time for her with her family where they could see Kürbis growing and feel him kicking about.

As far as Kürbis, everything is continuing to go well with him and both he and Sharon have been going through quite a growth spurt recently. The latest doctor's checkup this week was very encouraging and we are waiting to get his final opinion about the Christmas traveling possibility on our next visit on Dec. 12. Between now and Christmas, things are going to be crazy busy for me with tons of schoolwork, but I am looking forward to the chance to taking a break to go watch the Steelers upset the Patriots at Foxboro on December 9. We'll be among the many Steeler fans there that will have the opportunity to glory in the Steelers unlikely triumph.

On a sadder note, these past few weeks have been a little traumatic for Koerber possessions. First, our trusty toaster died. This was soon followed by the even more significant death of our car (that's two cars killed in 3 months in case you're counting) and capped off with the crashing of my laptop computer. Although the toaster and the car are in the process of being replaced, we're still trying to figure out what to do about my computer. This is especially a dilemma since I have a bunch of papers I need to be working on (although the hard drive was salvageable). Despite these minor setbacks, it is still comforting to remember that Kürbis is coming soon and these other problems are small in comparison to the excitement we're experiencing.

The Smith-Maynard family together at Thanksgiving

Monday, November 12, 2007

I've never been to Boston in the Fall...

Well...actually I have been to Boston in the Fall. And we've actually lived in Boston in the Fall. But I thought it was a fun way to start this post rather than merely apologizing profusely for my blogging negligence. Thankfully, I finally have some pictures to post, and I figure I have a whole lot of updating to do as well. This Fall, our last Fall in Boston, has been quite a blur as we feel like we've been a little more busy than we would have liked. In the month of October, Sharon had two separate trips to Vermont to go leaf-peeping, plus she still has that baby inside of her sucking all her energy. It has been really fun for me to actually be able to have pushing matches with Kürbis when he feels the need to stretch or kick his body in some fashion. Being able to feel him moving and pushing against my arm has been an great, albeit a little odd, way to feel connected to him (or her, for those of you who may read a little bit too much into my usage of pronouns).

Over the last weekend in October, two of our RA friends from BFA came to visit us and experience the wonders of Boston in the Fall. It was a great time to catch up with Heather and Jen and reminisce about our time at BFA. Both Sharon and I are excited to be able to stay connected with BFA through Sharon's job and we are still waiting to see if the Lord may have something else in store for us with Janz Team and BFA after graduation. Within the next few weeks, we hope to have a little better of an idea of what we may or may not be doing next, so you'll have to stay tuned. It was also great to have Heather and Jen visit because they did something that Sharon and I always forget to do: actually take pictures. Our digital camera is rather outdated (it is, like, so 2001) and unreliable. We're hoping that Santa (or Broozer or Pokey) brings us a new digital camera, and we'd be interested to hear if anybody has any suggestions. This Thursday, Sharon is heading down to Georgia (I'll be joining her there next Monday) to visit her family for Thanksgiving. This weekend, I'll be flying solo, so if anybody wants to call me and catch up, I'll be at home twiddling my thumbs (or more likely, setting all sorts of spider solitaire records).

Jen, Sharon, and Heather (l-r) at the Manchester-by-the-Sea Harbor

Heather, Mike, and Sharon at Singing Beach

I've got me a wife, she's as big as a whale...* (* full spousal consent was received prior to the posting of this caption)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Steeler Nation

So once Steelers football season starts every Fall, I always start to feel nostalgia for Pittsburgh, even though I've never lived there. Those of you who are lifelong Steelers fans will understand, but there is just something special about being a part of a worldwide community united by a common passion and heritage. (Since I'm in Seminary, I figure that I should bring in some comparison/contrast with the nature of the church, but I'll leave that up to you to decide on your own). Anyways, as I was watching the Steelers game in a Steelers bar in Boston with 80 other Steelers fans a week and a half ago, I found comfort in being surrounded by that unmistakable Pittsburgh accent. So when I saw this NFL films video on Steelers nation,
I thought that this should be mandatory viewing for every native Pittsburgher or Steelers fan. Even if you are not a Steelers fan, it is a great insight into the impact of the steel industry on the city of Pittsburgh. After watching it, it made me even more proud to be a Steelers fan and encouraged me to stand strong in this hostile land.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Block Island Day Trip

As the semester is now fully under way here at Gordon-Conwell, it is always nice to have times when you can escape the routine of classwork and such. So, this past Saturday, Sharon and I decided to take a day trip to Block Island in Rhode Island. Block Island is a small island that is located about halfway between Rhode Island and the tip of Long Island. It was such a cool place because they have done a great job in preserving green space and retaining Victorian type architecture that gives the place its charm. Those of you who know how much Sharon and I enjoy our sleep will be super impressed to hear that we were up at 5:30 AM on Saturday morning and on the road by 6:00. After taking the first ferry to the island at 9:00 AM, we spent the rest of the day biking around the island, walking the beaches, and visiting lighthouses. The weather was so nice that I even got to work on my tan and go swimming in the ocean. One of our many highlights of the day was hiking down from the top of the bluffs (first picture) to the rocky beach below. After walking along the beach, we also stumbled across the first nude beach that I've ever seen in the US. Thankfully, the one guy that was taking advantage of this unique opportunity had the decency to (mostly) retreat behind some nearby rocks when he saw us coming. The rest of the day was quite uneventful, yet very relaxing and enjoyable. All in all, it was an incredible day trip that I would highly reccommend to anybody living in or visiting the Boston area.

In other Boston Koerber news, Kürbis is continuing to grow and has grown quite fond of kicking and dancing on mommy's bladder. Hopefully you can see Sharon's ever-expanding belly in the pictures below, and we'll try to do a better job of posting recent prego pics in the upcoming months. As far as our future plans, we just found out that the recent possibility of working at an MK school in central Asia is no longer feasible, so we are once again in the dark about what is next after Seminary. No matter where we end up, I am trying to focus on what I'm learning now, trusting that the Lord will be using that for whatever he has us doing next - which is a lot easier said than actually done. That's all for now from us and possibly (although unlikely) by our next post we'll know more.

View from the top of the bluffs on Block Island

Sharon and I on the beach below the bluffs.

Sharon and I by one of the island's lighthouses

At the end of the day

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Blogging Drought

So over the past few weeks I discovered that blogging is a lot easier when you have interesting things to talk about. After a great and active summer, the last few weeks just sort of slid away from us between summer classwork, nannying (for Sharon, not me), and preparing for our Fall responsibilities. Now that I have started classes, we are back in the routine of Seminary life, yet it is hard to believe that we only have about 8 more months here before moving out. Our apartment building has been a little strange this year as we've had half of our residents move out over the summer, and it is sad to wander past the old apartments of friends who have moved on. I guess it is the nature of our rather unsettled life to have people moving into and out of your life somewhat rapidly, but our time at BFA still hasn't gotten us used to all the goodbyes and transition. As I've experienced the moving of a lot of our close friends here, it does make me realize why their is such a draw to really settling down somewhere and putting down your roots. However, I don't necessarily know that is something that either Sharon or I see happening anywhere in the near future. On the bright side, the fact that a lot of our friends have already left (or will be leaving with us next summer) will make it a good deal easier for us to leave this place. Although we have loved living here, we do realize that this was only a phase in our life and we are starting to prepare for whatever God has next (in addition to our new baby).

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Kürbis' Photo Shoot

This morning Sharon and I were so excited to get to have our first ultrasound of Kürbis. Sharon was feeling a little nervous going into it (the whole carrying another human life within your body thing is striking her as a big responsibility for some reason or another) but we were so thankful to be told that we had a practically perfect ultrasound. They told us that he/she weighs 10 ounces, is 60mm long, and the due date of Jan. 18 was confirmed. We've posted some fun pictures of Kürbis from the interior or exterior views, and if you look real closely you can see that he/she already has Sharon's nose. To the disappointment of many, we decided to stay with our decision not to find out the gender, but we're both thinking that it is a girl. To celebrate the ultrasound, we went to Target this evening to start our baby registry, which was a lot of fun but also a tad overwhelming. With all of baby stuff out there, it is a little tricky figuring out exactly what we need, especially since we don't even know what continent we will be on a year from now. Anyways, without any further ado, here is the star of our show; introducing Kürbis Koerber...

Above is Sharon's favorite shot of Kürbis as you can make out his nose and other facial features.

Here is the stereotypical "Oh no! Our baby is really an alien!" ultrasound photo that I've always thought is a little creepy when I've looked at other people's babies. Although I'm obviously biased, I think that this is one of the least alienish looking ultrasound faceshots I've seen - so much that I'm still holding out hope he'll grow into a human after all.

Here is Sharon and I posing with Kürbis after the ultrasound. It was a memorable day for both of us and we are still thanking the Lord for the encouraging results. It is a little strange thinking that this will likely be the last that we will see of Kürbis until we meet him face to face in 5 months - and I'm sure he'll look a lot different in color.
- Mike

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Family Vacation and Manny

This past Saturday, Sharon and I sadly had to return from a great week at the beach in Ocean City, NJ with my entire immediate family. This is one of the highlights of the summer for all of us and we were blessed with nearly perfect weather and an awesome place to stay. The only bad thing about the week was that the stomach flu showed up at our beach house as an uninvited and unwanted guest that especially struck fear into the hearts of those with young children. Although my brother told me that dealing with puking, sick kids is what makes you a real parent, I was not excited to spend my vacation witnessing that type of authentic parenting. Fortunately, my four nieces and nephews were spared the worst of the sickness and I didn't come down with the bug until after we returned home to Massachusetts. In spite of that minor setback, we all enjoyed the opportunity to hang out with family and enjoy the beauty of the ocean. I could have lots of fun pictures to share with you all, except I've gotten accustomed to relying on others to take pictures for us - something that we'll probably have to remedy after our kiddo is born.

For those of you who were dying to know what the name of our new car would be, we will no longer make you wait in unbearable agony. After numerous minutes of intense discussion and debate, Sharon and I settled on the name of Manny. We derived the name Manny from the word Manna because just as Manna was the Lord's provision for the Israelites in the dessert, this car was God's unexpected blessing for us just when we needed it. Wow, that Seminary education is already coming in handy for the monumental things in life such as naming a car. At the beach, we also found out the reason my brother and sister-in-law were looking to upgrade to a minivan. Chrissie is three months pregnant with their third child so Sharon and I ended up being the ultimate beneficiaries of the fact that three car seats don't fit in an Escort wagon. However, Manny will definitely be a great vehicle for us and our one car seat that will, Lord willing, be bringing home Kurbis from the hospital this January.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow

This week, Sharon and I were forced to say goodbye forever to a very significant part of our family - our 1995 Mercury Sable which we had (sometimes) affectionately referred to as Puck (as a loose acronym for Piece of Crap). We had driven it back to Pennsylvania wondering whether or not it would pass inspection due to the numerous problems it has been having recently. However, as we left the Boston area, it seemed like it was trying to tell us that it still had some fight left in it. Shortly after leaving Massachusetts, the brake light which had come on the past week abruptly went off. Then as soon as we entered Pennsylvania, the ABS warning light also went off and I began to think that the Sable just may actually make it for another year.

When I first got the car in 2001, I foolishly declared that I wanted this to be the car in which I would drive my first child home from the hospital. This was a foolish statement because: #1 - I had no clue even who I was going to marry or when that would happen (if ever) and #2 - I didn't know at the time that 1995 Sables were one of the more unreliable used cars according to info I later got from Consumer Reports. This proclamation of mine seemed to turn into a bit of a curse as the Sable refused to be sold (in spite of numerous efforts on my part) when I went to Germany for three years. Then last year, it passed the state inspection with very little trouble. So when I found out that Sharon was due this January, I was certain that Puck could at least hold out until then. However, the state inspection revealed the need for extensive repairs, signalling the end for our Sable as we were forced to sell him for a mere $100 for scrap. Although Puck didn't quite make it until January, I do think that it is a significant victory that he did get to transport the unborn Kürbis around numerous times over the past couple of months.

The news that we needed a new vehicle didn't come as a huge surprise, but we ended up getting a new (to us) vehicle
from an unexpected source. When I asked my sister-in-law Chrissie to put her family on the lookout for a good used car (due to their auto expertise), she floated the possibility that they would give us their 1997 Ford Escort Wagon. They were already looking to buy a used minivan so they would have more room for their two boys, so the timing was good for them to bless us with the generosity of a car. So after a rushed (and eventful) title transfer and state inspection, our new car is all packed up and ready to take us to the Ocean City, NJ for our first trip with it. We have yet to come up with a name, but we are excited to have a car that should last us for at least a year until we decide what we're doing next. Although it is somewhat sad that Puck will not be able to take Kürbis home from the hospital, we are grateful for the numerous good memories that we have with him (especially as our trusty transportation for our honeymoon). We are even more thankful for the generosity of Matt and Chrissie in blessing us with their car that we are looking forward to having for at least another year or two.

Out with the old...

In with the new (to us)

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Treasuring the Moment

This past weekend, Sharon and I finally had the opportunity to return to the Boston Harbor Islands ( a camping trip with our good friends Bill and Alice. My brother and sister-in-law introduced us to this unique camping experience during our first (and their last) week in the Boston area in August of 2005. We've been talking about a return trip for the last two years, but we weren't able to make it actually happen until this past weekend. The island that we camped on (Lovells) is so unique because it is located a few miles out in the Boston Harbor with breathtaking views of the city in the distance. However, the other side of the island reveals a view of open ocean as far as the eye can see with amazingly clear water for swimming. I wish I had some photos to show just how spectacular the location is, but I guess their absence means you will have to check it out for yourself (and invite us to join you, of course).

As the four of us sat by the fire on the rocky beach on Friday night, we reminisced a little bit about our time at Seminary because Bill and Alice will be finishing school and moving out next week. As we discussed some of the ups and downs over the past two years, it really made me appreciate how much we have enjoyed our time at Gordon Conwell and been blessed with great friendships. On the other hand, I feel like I have sometimes taking these (and other) good times for granted because I'm always so focused on the future. As I prepare for fatherhood, I want to learn to really appreciate moments in life while they're happening rather than only enjoying them through later nostalgic reflections. Especially since I've heard from parents how quickly kids grow up, I want to be able to savor the special moments in our son's or daughter's life as they happen. This is something that will not come naturally to a planner/future-focused person such as myself. If any of you parents have any suggestions in ways to slow down and truly appreciate time with your children, I would love to hear your advice. On the other hand, I know I still have five months until the baby is born, so maybe I should practice by appreciating this time of preparation instead of focusing on the future :)
- Mike

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

3rd Anniversary Celebration

This past weekend Sharon and I celebrated our third anniversary by heading into Boston and spending a night at the Hilton. We got a pretty good deal through priceline on the room and the Hilton was generous enough to upgrade us to a suite when we got there and told them it was our anniversary. Friday evening, we went out for dinner and spent some time just hanging out around the waterfront area. On Saturday, we went on a free whale watch (courtesy of a Shaw's supermarket promotion - we love those deals :) where we were treated to some very close encounters with three humpback whales. It was a great weekend and it was a little strange thinking that this will be the last anniversary for just the two of us with Kürbis set to make his grand entrance in January. With Kürbis on the way, I find that I am trying to think of all the things I would like to do that will be more difficult to do with kids. I know that may be a pessimistic way of looking at things, so I'm also challenging myself to think about all the things that will be so much fun to do with a baby/infant/toddler/child/teenager/etc. Maybe those of you who have kids can spur me on in that way as well.

Speaking of Kürbis, we also celebrated our anniversary by finding and putting together a crib for him. One of our neighbors was leaving and getting rid of this crib, so we rescued it from the dumpster (don't worry moms, it wasn't literally IN the dumpster, just beside it when we claimed it) and assembled it after church on Sunday. I sort of felt a little bit like Jack Bristow (those of you who have seen that Alias episode will understand) in the care, concern, and mild incompetence that was involved in putting it together. It still could use a little bit of structural reinforcement, so we may have to convince my dad to come up and repair it (or else create an inferno in our backyard with it if he deems it a lost cause). As far as the recent outcry over not finding out the baby's gender, our will has been bent but not broken on our decision to wait until birth. However, financial incentives could push us over the edge in case any one is really set on finding out during the Ultrasound.

Today is the actual date of our anniversary, but since we had a big celebration over the weekend, we're going to maintain our weekly tradition of going to Chick-Fil-A for their buy one-get-one free value meal special on Tuesday nights. It is not necessarily the most romantic dinner date, but it is very cost effective and we enjoy the company of all our seminarian friends who will join us. In conclusion as I reflect on the past three years of marriage to my wonderful wife, I thank the Lord for bringing us together. Although I will miss the numerous times of just the two of us together, I am also excited about the journey of parenthood that lies before us.

P.S. I finally got around to posting pictures from our Germany missions trip. If anybody is interested in seeing them, they are posted under the original blog entry.

Sharon and Kürbis in the new crib

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Kürbis' First Doctor Visit

As all of those reading this blog should know, Sharon is over three months pregnant and her due date is January 18. In order to have a fun way to refer to our baby while he/she is in the womb, we decided to use the German word for pumpkin (Kürbis) since it is a little, growing Koerber. The German teens we were working with last week got a great kick out of it and would ask questions about our Kürbis throughout the camp. We are still debating whether Kürbis can refer to any child in Sharon's womb, or if we'll have to think of a new name for our next child. The good thing is that we should have a lot of time to think about that.

Anyways, yesterday was Kürbis' first time to see Dr. Steece, who will be overseeing the pregnancy. We had seen a midwife before who was great, but were excited to be able to meet Dr. Steece and get to know him a little bit. It was very interesting to discover that he is the exact age that Sharon's biological father would have been and began practicing the same year that Sharon's dad did. Like Sharon's dad, he also was a Pastor's Kid who decided to go into the medical field. Both Sharon and I really liked him and his experience and warmth were very encouraging to us. The check-up with Kürbis went very well and we got to hear a strong, healthy heartbeat. The ultrasound is scheduled for August 23rd and we are currently planning on not finding out the gender (but that still might change). We've included some pictures below to show you how the pregnancy is going and how hard I (Mike) am trying to really empathize with Sharon through this time.

- Mike

Monday, July 23, 2007

Germany Missions Trip

Yesterday night, Sharon and I returned from our two week missions trip to Germany. I had planned on trying to update the blog while we were there, but it was hard to find enough time to sleep, let alone get on the internet. So I will now try to sum up the highlights and lowlights of our two week trip as best as possible and I've included a few pictures from the camp.

We arrived in Germany on July 8 after a rather uneventful flight and were very pleased that all of our luggage made it. We had a few busy days of orientation/preparation where Sharon and I realized how much we felt over our heads in trying to direct an English camp, when we hadn't even worked at one previously. Originally Sharon was to be the head cook and I was to be a counselor, but we were asked to lead the camp a few weeks before the camps began. Our experience living in Germany and working in the dorms was helpful (especially since the camp took place at one of the BFA dorms) but we were definitely learning the ropes on the fly. I feel like our staff appreciated our leadership for the most part, although we both wished we would have had more experience with the camps before having to direct one. The pressure of being in charge of the entire camp also took a toll on both Sharon and I, so that we were definitely ready to not have to make any more decisions by the end of camp.

The camp itself seemed to be a success, and the majority of the campers had very positive experiences. This was our first experience working with German teens, and we were suprised to find out that our group was the loudest, most rambunctious group of Germans that I had every encountered during my three years living in the country. Throughout the 10 day camp we struggled with trying to provide structure and get them to be respectful (which never happened) without being too strict or legalistic. Most of the campers were returners, which meant that the primary reasons for coming were to reunite with old friends rather than learn English or grow in their faith. This also made it a little difficult to connect with the campers as they were not particularly interested in getting to know us very well. However, it was still encouraging to see that out of the 28 campers, 6 rededicated their lives to Christ, and 1 made a first-time committment. Although Sharon and I (as well of the rest of the staff) may have experienced some frustrations with the campers, it was rewarding to see that kind of response from campers.

In addition to our struggles with campers, I also had the additional drama of losing our passports while I was hiking in the woods with the campers. Miraculously, I was able to go back the next day and find them in the woods so that we wouldn't be stranded in Germany. All in all, the trip was a good one and it was a lot of fun to be back in the country that still feels like our home and where we have so many great memories. I am feeling less certain that we will be going back there immediately after seminary, but we still don't know what God has in store for us.
- Mike

Entire Camp Photo

My Team ("The Frogs") for camp activities/competitions

Sharon serving dinner to the campers

Monday, July 2, 2007

Janz Team and the AT

I'm just on a tear with my first foray into blogging, so I might as well keep it up. Sharon and I have been pretty busy these past few weeks. Sharon was in Canada helping lead Janz Team Orientation from July 17-24. Orientation went very well, and there is a great group of candidates that will be heading over to Germany in the next month or so to work as Teachers, Dorm Parents, and RAs at BFA. Although it was a good week, she was exhausted when returning from having to burn the candles at both ends and feeling pretty worn down in addition to that.

While she was gone, I headed out for ten days with two Seminary friends (Bill and Seth) to hike the 90-mile long section of the Appalachian Trail that runs through Massachusetts. We started in Connecticut on Sunday July 17 and reached our destination in Vermont on Tuesday July 26. There is so much to talk about concerning the trip, but all three of us that went were amazed at how those hiking in the Appalachian Trail live in their own world and subculture. On the trail, everybody picks up trail names such as Bird, Toothfairy, Retro, Applesauce, A.C., Strider, Leader of the Pack, etc (I went by Gumby - long story). We also learned a little bit about the lifestyle of thru-hikers (those that hike the entire trail in one summer). The demographics of thru-hikers is rather distinct, as almost all of them are either in the early-mid 20s or recently retired. We were also introduced to the wonders of trail magic (goodies that kind locals leave by the trail or give to hikers) and trail angels (those people that leave trail magic and/or take hikers into their homes, drive them places, or help them out in any other way). Our group had some trials and tribulations throughout the trip (I knew one day was not going to go well when Seth decided to open the day by reading from Lamentations) but we persevered and accomplished our goal one day earlier than planned. We really enjoyed getting to know many different thru-hikers and it felt neat to really be a part of the Appalachian trail culture. I've posted a few pictures below from our trip, but there are a whole lot more interesting details that I'm looking forward to sharing with family at the beach.

This Saturday, Sharon and I are leaving with our team of six others to head off to Germany for two weeks to serve at the English camp that Janz Team runs there. We're both looking forward to it, but we know it will be a lot of hard work and it will also be a learning experience for us in relating to German teenagers (as opposed to the American teens we worked with at BFA). Hope everybody reading this is doing well and not getting too bored by my endless blogging.
- Mike

Seth and I at the junction where we started the AT in Conn.

Me studying the map as we entered Massachusetts

Toothfairy, Bird, and Retro (three of our favorite thru-hikers)

Atop Mt. Greylock, the highest point in Mass.

The Mass./Vermont border - our final destination

First Blog Entry

Well, here it is - my first entry into the world of blogging. I figure it is just about time since Sharon and I hope to be having a lot of fun pictures to share in the next year or so. Also, I'm a bit shamed by how much we can keep up with my siblings through their blogs and my youngest child competitive nature has been awakened. Sharon is out nannying all day today, so I figured I would suprise her with the gift of her own blog when she returns. I don't know how often she'll update, so I may be the primary Koerber blogger (especially since I'm the one with the most free time this summer). That's all for now, as I'll give you more updates about what's been going on with us in my next post. - Mike