May: News, Thanks, and Prayers

Out for a spring walk to Sitzenkirch!

News and Dates:

  • Early May: Timmy returning to Seattle for a weekend, to visit his upcoming job at Seattle Christian School.
  • May 12: Timmy graduates from Regent University with his Masters of Clinical Mental Health Counseling!
  • May 29: Timmy’s birthday
  • Curriculum for May: College essays, postmodern literature
  • For those who haven’t heard yet, we’re expecting a baby in October! Kristi is feeling great, and we’re all excited to welcome this new little one into the family.
  • Our other major mid-April news was that Timmy will be working at Seattle Christian School starting in August 2018, serving as the Secondary Student and Spiritual Life Coordinator.

We’re Thankful For:

  • A Healthy Baby and a smooth pregnancy for Kristi so far. We’re also thankful for great healthcare here in Germany, and for having walked through the transfer from Germany to Seattle (pregnant!) once in the past to make this time smoother.
  • A Completed Degree for Timmy, for which he’s finished most of his school and class work at this point. We’re thankful for the education he’s received at Regent, and excited to see him get to use his gifts in the future.
  • College Essays, which always provide a space for reflection at the end of a busy year. Kristi is thankful for the time to get to know her students better, and for a lower-key essay to end the year.
  • Beautiful Spring Weather here in Kandern, providing good time to get outside and enjoy the last months in our little town.

Please Be In Prayer For:

  • Housing in Seattle. We’ll be in the market to rent an apartment on the east side of Seattle (Bellevue/Kirkland/Issaquah) starting in August. Pray for wisdom as we check out the options, and for an affordable, healthy living space for our family.
  • Transition. Pray for us as we continue to check off the many practical tasks associated with leaving the country, as well as the emotional process of saying goodbye to our home of almost a decade.

As always, we continue to be thankful for the prayer, encouragement and support from family, churches and friends back home that makes this ministry possible. Thank you for your faithfulness over the years, and we’re excited to connect with many of you in person soon! Please let us know if there are ways that we can be praying for you, or if you have any questions our life or ministry in Kandern.

Peace in Christ,

Timmy & Kristi Dahlstrom

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April: News, Thanks, and Prayers

BFA English teachers hiking on our Spring Break professional development trip to the UK.

News and Dates:

  • March 26-April 5: Spring Break
  • April 7: BFA Staff Appreciation Dinner
  • April 9: Classes resume (Start of Quarter 4)
  • April 20: Freshman class party
  • Curriculum for April: The Crucible, opinion columns and reviews

We’re Thankful For:

  • Oma and Papa, also known as Richard and Donna Dahlstrom, who came for a short visit in March. We’re thankful for the joy they bring to us and to Luci, and the incredible mentors and support they’ve been to us in marriage and ministry here.
  • Space in a Shipping Container, belonging to our landlords, which is currently on its way to Washington State. This was a huge answer to prayer, as they generously helped us to send back the majority of our things, along with our bicycles!
  • English Department Trip to the Cotswolds region of the UK, allowing Kristi to spend time connecting with her colleagues, reflecting on seven years’ teaching with the BFA English department, and exploring the beautiful countryside of southwestern England.
  • Continued Answers to Prayer for our future plans. More details to come this month!

Please Be In Prayer For:

  • Health. Flu season is lingering here in Germany, with an extra-long winter that’s spilling into spring. Pray for continued protection from the worst illnesses, and quick recovery from the colds that seem to keep coming back!
  • Transition. Pray for us as we continue to check off the many practical tasks associated with leaving the country, as well as the emotional process of saying goodbye to our home of almost a decade.

As we reflect on the time we’ve been here, we continue to be incredibly thankful for the prayer, encouragement and finances from our friends, family and churches, which have made this ministry possible. Please let us know if there are ways that we can be praying for you, or if you have any questions our life or ministry in Kandern.

Peace in Christ,

Timmy & Kristi Dahlstrom

March: News, Thanks, and Prayers

The BFA Boys and Girls Basketball teams, posing with their second consecutive championship plaques!

News and Dates:

  • March 2-4: High School Retreat
  • March 22: End of Quarter 3
  • March 23-April 8: Spring Break
  • March 23-28: English Department Trip
  • Curriculum for March: Modern poetry, Of Mice and Men

We’re Thankful For:

  • BFA Basketball Teams for a wonderful season, capped off by both teams winning the Division II DoDDS Europe championship! Timmy loved working with the basketball guys, and will miss basketball coaching.
  • Fiddler on the Roof, a wonderful opportunity for Kristi to brush up on the violin, play some excellent music, and spend time working on something cool with a talented group of staff and students.
  • Our Landlords, Rick and Mary Beth Holladay, who have recently sold our building and are also moving to Washington! We’ve loved living in the Art Factory, and have been thankful for their engaged, helpful presence in our lives.
  • Health in the midst of lots of sickness around here. We don’t take it for granted!

Please Be In Prayer For:

  • Travel Plans. This month sees Kristi head to England with the English Department staff for a few days, and Timmy serving at Spangdahlem Air Base. Pray for safety, health, and the details of travel to go smoothly.
  • Job Search. Pray for Timmy as he searches for a job in Washington, looking specifically for roles in the mental health area. Pray for the right job to open up, and for the details of applying and interviewing from afar to come together.

As always, we are overwhelmed with gratitude for your investment in our lives, whether in finances, prayers, or encouragement. This ministry is truly impossible without you! Please let us know if there are ways that we can be praying for you, or if you have any questions our life or ministry in Kandern.

Peace in Christ,

Timmy & Kristi Dahlstrom

February: News, Thanks, and Prayers

Students learn the Virginia Reel at the Sadie Hawkins Hoedown!

News and Dates:

  • February 3: Sadie Hawkin’s Hoedown
  • February 9-10: BFA Basketball @ Vilseck
  • February 10, 17: Fiddler on the Roof dress rehearsals
  • February 16-17: BFA Basketball @ Home
  • February 20-24: DoDDS Europe Basketball Tournament
  • February 23-25: Fiddler on the Roof
  • Curriculum for February: The Great Gatsby, research project, newspaper editing and layour

We’re Thankful For:

  • Ken & Delena Poe, dear friends from Virginia Beach who visited us on their way home from a retreat they were leading in Hungary. Such a blessing to spend this time reconnecting with them!
  • A New Journalism Class, who bring enthusiasm and a wide variety of skills and perspectives to the BFA Chronicle staff.
  • Basketball Coaching, which has given Timmy great opportunities to connect with a team of high school guys, providing mentoring and discipleship in the context of athletics.
  • New Schedule for Kristi, which allows her to be with Luci in the mornings, while Timmy completes his internship at the school.
  • Logisical Provisions for some of the upcoming moving conundrums that await us in the next few months. Details to come!

Please Be In Prayer For:

  • Busy Month! As you can see from the schedule above, there’s quite a bit going on in February. Pray for health and energy, and for connectedness in our family as we serve in several capacities this month.
  • Future Plans. Pray for us as we begin to make plans for the future, that we would be trust God for wisdom and discernment in the midst of many decisions.

We continue to be so thankful for the investment of friends, family and supporting churches in our lives and ministry here. Please let us know if there are ways that we can be praying for you, or if you have any questions our life or ministry in Kandern.

Peace in Christ,

Timmy & Kristi Dahlstrom

Thoughts From the Valley

“With every job when it’s complete
There is a sense of bitter-sweet
That moment when you know the task is done…”

Mary Poppins

Camping in the valley

February 2010. I’m crying in a theater in mid-town Manhattan.

Heeding the advice of one of my bosses from college, who regularly travelled to New York for business, I’ve taken this evening off from the International Baccalaureate (IB) conference I’m attending to see a show. During lunch I got myself to the Times Square TKTS box office, where I learned that my Broadway options included Mary Poppins, the clear choice for my evening of solitary fun. I got dressed up, went alone to a Thai restaurant and ordered food too spicy to eat, and then arrived promptly at the proper theater, ready for my first-ever (and last, at this point) show on Broadway.

The tears don’t come until the end of the show, which proves just as merry and quirky as the movie I’d grown up loving. With everyone else, I clap along to “Step In Time” and giggle at the escalating ridiculousness of the verses of “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!” The show ends, however, with Mary Poppins’s departure, as she sings the lines above and continues:

Though in your heart you’d like to stay
To help things on their way
You’ve always known they must do it alone

The valley

I’ve come to New York this week to learn how to be a better public school teacher, but I’m not sure I’ll be staying. In fact, I had an interview earlier this week with TeachBeyond, a mission specializing in global, Christ-centered education, an interview that is one more link in the long chain of events that could lead me not just away from public education, but away from Seattle, and the United States, entirely. Untethered by property, debt or a significant other, the timing is right to teach overseas. There’s also the nagging feeling of calling, the desire I once had to serve the children of those in ministry, who are trying to decipher God’s work in their lives and hearts in the midst of the details of a ministry-centered lifestyle. Children, if I’m honest, like me. I always wanted to teach them, and now I might have the chance, somewhere far away, like Germany.

As Mary Poppins bids Jane and Michael farewell, though, my eyes fill with tears, because I’m not running away. It’s been four years at my school in Seattle, and though we had a rough start, I’ve grown to love the multicultural, unpretentious, earnest place that is Ingraham High School. I love that my students know so many languages and teach me about the wide world beyond Seattle. I love that I get to show them that Shakespeare can be fun, or that Lord of the Flies is relevant to real life, or that a graphic novel can “count” as good literature. I love that we could celebrate together when America elected our first black president, and mourn together when I got laid off (and eventually rehired) at the end of my third year. It’s time to go, I’ve started to suspect, but I still love it.

Almost eight years later, the feeling is the same. I know it’s time to go, feel confidence in the strong, sweet longing for my daughter to grow up near her aunts and uncles and for Timmy to embark on a career in mental health counseling. I see the hazy outlines of good in the future, imagining unexplored delights and challenges. It’s misty and uncertain, imagined rather than assured.

Up to the pass we go!

I often imagine transitions as a mountain pass (a real, specific pass in central Austria, if you’re curious). We’re hiking upwards, unable to see or truly imagine what awaits us on the other side. We’re free however, to look back at where we’ve been, how far we’ve climbed. We can be thankful, or even a bit nostalgic, for the valley below us, a green meadow crisscrossed with streams and frequented by wild horses. Above us are clouds, rocks, sky, and the promise that if we keep going, a new 180 degrees awaits our exploration. I’ve never been disappointed by a pass, and I’ve never been disappointed by listening to God. It will be good, God promises, because I am good.

It’s not a guarantee, I know, that we’ll get to love all the places we leave behind, but that’s how it’s been for me, so far. I’ve never scrambled up the hill in retreat, thanking God for every step that takes me farther away. I’ve always been able to look back with gratitude, the bittersweet journey of moving from one well-loved home to another.

Today I’m savoring the valley, thankful. My students began the morning sitting on their desks, energetically reviewing for their final exam. “What are the influencing factors for realism?” someone almost shouts into the morning stillness. As they talk over each other, rushing to give the answers that they’ve memorized, I sip coffee and listen, amazed. Amazed that they care so much, that they’ve worked so hard, that I get to be their teacher. We have one more semester here, a semester I know will be full of details of packing, moving, job interviewing, and traveling. But I’m thankful for moments like this, too, times to look back with gratitude and ahead with expectation, keenly aware that God has been–and will be– very good.

For more concrete information about our upcoming transition, including ways you can be praying for us, see our most recent newsletter. Thank you, as always, for reading and journeying with us.

January: News, Thanks, and Prayers

Happy to have dear friends from Seattle here for Christmas!

News and Dates:

  • January 2: Timmy takes his counseling board certification exam in Frankfurt.
  • January 8: Classes resume
  • January 12-13: Basketball at BFA
  • January 16-19: Semester 1 Exams
  • January 19-20: Basketball at BFA
  • January 26-27: Basketball on the road!
  • Curriculum for January: Exam review, Journalism enterprise projects

We’re Thankful For:

  • Christmas Visitors from Seattle! Thank you to Ben, Susanna and Emily for spending your Christmas with us here in Kandern, sharing the quiet delight of a German Christmas with us.
  • Safety after a (thankfully) minor car incident this month. Our car is finished, but we are fine, and the circumstances were far better than they could have been. Thanking God for protection!
  • Rest, much-needed after a busy fall, and the time this Christmas break to slow down, sleep, and reconnect with friends, visiting alumni and each other.
  • Jordan and Larisa, two dear students from the class of 2014 (for which we served as sponsors for four years), who got married last week. Such a blessing to see you begin your lives together!
  • Financial Provision in the form of a generous gift from a fellow missionary, which will meet our support shortfall this year, helping to stabilize our finances and keeping us here in Kandern.

Please Be In Prayer For:

  • Travel. Our students and staff will return to Germany this week from all corners of the world. Please pray, as always, for safety and smooth connections as they pass through all manner of winter weather and strange airports to get back here before school starts.
  • Future Plans. Pray for us as we begin to make plans for the future, that we would be trust God for wisdom and discernment in the midst of many decisions.

We begin this year with gratitude, recognizing the incredible provision of God in so many different ways. One of the biggest ways has been the gift of so many friends and family members, along with our three incredible sending churches, who are involved in keeping us in ministry here in Germany. We thank God for you, for the opportunity we have to serve here, and for all that’s to come in the year ahead. Please let us know if there are ways that we can be praying for you, or if you have any questions our life or ministry in Kandern.

Peace in Christ,

Timmy & Kristi Dahlstrom

December: News, Thanks, and Prayers

Ninth graders racing their boats down the Kander River!

News and Dates:

  • December 1-2: First home basketball games against Stuttgart High School
  • December 8-9: Basketball travels to Wiesbaden
  • December 15: Last day of classes!
  • Curriculum for December: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, satire
  • Kristi will be playing violin in the pit orchestra for BFA’s late-February production of Fiddler on the Roof!

We’re Thankful For:

  • Timmy’s Small Group of freshman guys, who bring both laughter and depth to their times together on Tuesday nights.
  • The Ninth Grade Advisory Regatta (pictured above), in which BFA ninth graders built and raced boats down the river behind the school. Good times were had by all!
  • Satire, which always brings eleventh graders to conversations of depth, humor and inquiry about the world in which they live.
  • A Visit with Papa, as Kristi’s dad came to spend Thanksgiving with us last week before heading on to teaching commitments here in Europe.

Please Be In Prayer For:

  • Rest and Recovery. Pray that Christmas break is a restorative time for our family, and for the staff and students of BFA as a whole. It’s been a particularly stressful autumn at the school, and we could all use prayer for health and calm during the quieter weeks ahead.
  • Financial Need. Due to a decrease in giving over the last few months, we’re about $250 below our monthly support needs. Though we’d previously asked for an increase in support to cover hospitality expenses, this is a more urgent need as it concerns our basic living expenses. Please pray about joining our financial support team, which allows us to serve here in Germany. $50 or even $25 a month would go a long way towards supporting us in ministry at Black Forest Academy. If you’re interested in helping to support this aspect of our ministry, please visit our Getting Involved page or our online giving page with TeachBeyond.

We are so incredibly grateful for the encouragement and support that our friends, family and churches are to us in this ministry. Please let us know if there are ways that we can be praying for you, or if you have any questions our life or ministry in Kandern.

Peace in Christ,

Timmy & Kristi Dahlstrom

November: News, Thanks, and Prayers

Speaking on faith and vocation for BFA Chapel
Photo: BFA Communications

News and Dates:

  • November 13-15: Basketball tryouts
  • November 23-26: Richard Dahlstrom (Kristi’s dad) visiting!
  • November 26: “Cozy Cabin” Christmas Banquet
  • Curriculum for November: Transcendentalism, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
  • With basketball season just around the corner, Timmy is excited to return to his role as assistant coach for Boys Varsity Basketball.

We’re Thankful For:

  • Mentorship Opportunities with students and staff here in Kandern, a sweet and humbling reminder of the reasons for which God has called us to this place.
  • Great Healthcare, both insurance and doctors, who recently provided some advice and reassurance for these first-time parents of a toddler with a nasty cough.
  • Speculoos Cookies and Braeburn Apples, heralds of late fall and some of our favorite seasonal treats here in Germany.
  • Spangdahlem Air Base Chapel, through whom Timmy serves part time as a Reserve Chaplain. Thankful for the friendships and unique ministry opportunity this place provides!

Please Be In Prayer For:

  • Health. As we enter a colder, wetter season, pray for health for our family, as well as the community as a whole.
  • Financial Need. Due to a decrease in giving over the last few months, we’re currently about $300 below our monthly support needs. Though we’d previously asked for an increase in support to cover hospitality expenses, this is a more urgent need as it concerns our basic living expenses. Please pray about joining our financial support team, which allows us to serve here in Germany. $50 or even $25 a month would go a long way towards supporting us in ministry at Black Forest Academy. If you’re interested in helping to support this aspect of our ministry, please visit our Getting Involved page or our online giving page with TeachBeyond.

In this season of thankfulness, we reflect often on the encouragement and support that our friends, family and churches are to us in this ministry. Please let us know if there are ways that we can be praying for you, or if you have any questions our life or ministry in Kandern.

Peace in Christ,

Timmy & Kristi Dahlstrom

Of Exile {In The Library}

Speaking on faith and vocation for BFA Chapel
Photo: BFA Communications

Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and become the fathers of sons and daughters, and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; and multiply there and do not decrease. Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.’

Jeremiah 29:5-7

After thinking about exile all week in preparation for my Chapel talk, it makes me smile a bit when I realize that I’m speaking in the Library. Today’s Chapel consists of six faculty members offering seminars on the intersection of our vocation and our faith, so students have some choices to make. As we have few large rooms on our campus, and I’m the English-teaching lover of books, to the Library I go. This means that I’m precisely the farthest away from the Auditorium, where the students have gathered for worship, and that they’ll need to really commit to walking up a bunch of stairs to get here. But that’s fine; I’m not the biggest fan of large crowds, anyway.

I’m speaking on Jeremiah 29 today, expanding on the story of the prophet’s letter to the Israelite exiles in Babylon. It’s not a new chapter to me, having encountered its oft-excerpted eleventh verse as a seventh grader at North Seattle Christian School almost two decades ago. We mulled over those words, back then, zooming in on the “prosper” and the “future,” because those seemed most relevant to us when we were twelve. God must want us to be rich, right? That’s cool. Let’s play basketball, prep for the spelling bee, check on our Tomagotchi pets; God’s got this covered. Starting way back then we lost the context, the story, the bigger picture into which God promises this future, and the wholehearted seeking God asks in return. As a professional teacher of books, I’m a huge fan of context, so today is a bit of a storytelling day.

Despite the cliche factor, I picked this passage for a reason, not for the promises at the end of the letter, but for the commands at the beginning, which have both comforted and haunted me at several points in my young adulthood. Since the speaking prompt had to do with vocation, I’ve chosen too speak not about literature, which I do pretty much constantly, but about teaching as a profession, specifically my first two years of it. I tell them that I almost quit multiple times during my first two years, and my sweet students, the ones who trudged all the way up the stairs to hear me, scoff. “No really,” I said. “It was hard.”

For a while, we’re in a different school, with a younger Ms. (rather than Mrs.) Dahlstrom. I tell them about the library conference room where I taught remedial reading to students who had failed the state reading exam, some of whom weren’t literate in any language, let alone at a tenth-grade level in English. I tell them about the fall I taught 180 ninth graders, and the period that had 30 ninth-grade boys, two ninth-grade girls, and a tenth-grade mother-to-be in her last trimester. Though I’m careful to distinguish my loneliness and discouragement from the suffering of geographic refugees, both ancient and modern, I tell them that for me, then, this was a sort of exile. That I would have seriously considered giving it all up for a quiet office and a pair of nice tall shoes, if not for the words of Jeremiah 29, a small piece of God’s insistent voice of calling on my life.

“‘Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens and eat their produce,'” I read aloud to the assembled students and faculty in the Library. “This is a long-term arrangement. Gardens take time; houses take time. Also, families take time. Look what else he asks them to do!”

I keep reading the passage, telling them of my crestfallenness, in those bone-tired first years as a teacher, at realizing that God had called me, specifically, to Seattle and to my classroom and to the individual students I taught. I could go work for a magazine, keep my clothes clean and hands un-markered, but it wouldn’t change the calling. Instead, God had planned for the calling to change me. That was the hope, the future.

Sometimes we get to choose the “end” of the stories we tell about ourselves. Today, I choose not to take the story all the way to Germany, to the fruition of one of the fantasies that I spun for myself in the difficult years. Because that particular exile ended two years sooner. It ended when Ingraham High School became home, when in its welfare, in this city in which I’d been placed for that season, I found welfare. Yes, eventually I moved on, but I left that school happy, satisfied enough that I knew I was leaving home, a part of my heart, behind in Seattle.

I know that for some of our students, the exile is geographic, far closer to the Israelites than I’ve ever been. Though Kandern has its charms, they’re not where they’d like to be. For others, like for me, it’s more complex, dissatisfaction with situations and circumstances still (and perhaps always) beyond their control. “I told a story about a while ago,” I tell them, “But that wasn’t my last exile. The point isn’t always to leave exile. Sometimes the point, like Jeremiah reminded the Israelites, is to meet God there. Because God is everywhere. If you seek me you will find me, if you seek me with all your heart. Exile is a great place for seeking, for looking around and paying attention to what God wants you to be doing here.”

We reset the chairs and tables in the Library with our last few minutes before the bell rings for lunch. I chat with the students, most of them ones I’ve taught or know some other way, and the teachers, most of them friends, who made the trek up the stairs. I think about how this has become every bit as much home as Ingraham ever was, perhaps even more, how I’ve literally settled down, set up a house if not built one (Keeping a basil plant alive is the same as planting a garden, right?), married and started a family in this place. It once seemed like the far corner of the world, and now it’s the center of it. I leave the Library asking God to reveal my places of exile, which clearly don’t include this cozy village I call home, knowing that He’s there, too, in the shadowy corners of my heart, asking me to lean in, to listen, to keep learning.

October: News, Thanks, and Prayers

Enjoyed a wonderful visit from the Roes!

News and Dates:

  • October 6: Ninth grade class party
  • October 21: BFA Staff Recital
  • October 30: End of Quarter 1
  • October 31: 500th Reformation Day
  • Curriculum for October: The Scarlet Letter, American Romanticism
  • Timmy is leading a ninth grade boys’ small group this year! He’s excited to get to spend time time investing in these guys each week on Tuesday.

We’re Thankful For:

  • Visiting Friends in September, BFA alumni Joe Leavitt and our friends from Seattle, GM and Holly Roe. Such a delight to catch up with old friends in our little town!
  • Journalism Class, with six hardworking students eager to read and report the news, seeking ways to engage our community in meaningful learning and conversation.
  • Autumn in Kandern, which turns the hillsides into vibrant shades of yellow, orange and red each fall.
  • New Staff at BFA, who bring vitality and excitement to our staff.

Please Be In Prayer For:

  • Future. Pray for wisdom and clarity as we pray about our future, seeking to honor God with our vocation and family.
  • Financial Support. We currently have about $4215 pledged monthly, and we continue to pray for a bit more support to facilitate the hospitality aspects of member care. If you’re interested in helping to support this aspect of our ministry, please visit our Getting Involved page or our online giving page with TeachBeyond.

As we gear up to begin a new school year, we’re continually thankful for the encouragement and support that you are to us in our ministry here. Please let us know if there are ways that we can be praying for you, or if you have any questions our life or ministry in Kandern.

Peace in Christ,

Timmy & Kristi Dahlstrom