Thursday, October 20th, 2011
The very first Unterwegs game - with built-in advertising.
Who says a degree in Computer Science isn’t directly applicable in campus ministry?
As we went out onto campus and advertised for Cafe English, I went out into the electronic frontier of the internet to do the same. I wrote this little game, based on Shalynn’s true-story experience of running across the street to the Jet gas station to buy last-minute eggs for Cafe English cookies.
It has worked to build interest among students – people have been posting their high scores to Facebook for some time now. Still others have walked in to an Unterwegs event with their latest score in hand, ready to compare.
That’s Unterwegs, building better Christian community through better programming and better online content! And that’s something worth supporting.
Click here to play.
Sunday, June 26th, 2011
Just Lunch kicks off the week, every week at Unterwegs.
It’s hard to imagine that there was a time in which the Unterwegs house didn’t have students in it.
Now, even on weekends, the four-square court is busy, people are hanging out in the kitchen, and coffee is being made (we had to spring for a more expensive coffee grinder to keep up with student demand). There is an event every day of the week – if not at the Unterwegs house, then with the Unterwegs community somewhere in Tübingen. With so much going on, blogging time has been hard to come by :)
There is a verse in the German text of Acts 2 that captures something missing from the English version: “Die Gläubigen lebten wie in einer großen Familie,” or translated, “The believers lived as if they were in one big family.”
This past Donnerstagabend, I talked about how Unterwegs is a symbol of God’s grace. Unterwegs, I said, “is not something that can be earned, and it can’t be paid for. All you have to do is to come, exactly as you are.”
That message is hitting home with our students, especially those preparing to leave the country for a semester – or for longer. For all our students, Unterwegs is as a house where there is always something to do. For many, Unterwegs has become a family where everyone is loved and welcomed. And for some, Unterwegs has come to represent God taking an active role in their lives.
“Unterwegs is unique. Nobody does what we do in the Unterwegs house,” I said in my talk. You’ve never seen a house come alive like the Unterwegs house, and that’s worth supporting.
Wednesday, March 30th, 2011
Because that's how the pros do it.
Making the Unterwegs house into a campus ministry building has always been something of a compromise. Our ability to put together a workable space has been largely based on what was doable with balancing a lack of (1) money, (2) knowledge, (3) time, or any combination and permutation of those. After two years in the field, during the semester break, those last two factors are less of an obstacle. So here are some things what we’ve done recently:
- Putting a projector on a flimsy tool shelf strapped with zip-tie to a heater? That’s busch. Here at the new, more professional Unterwegs, we not only mount our projector to the ceiling, we hang our screen from ceiling mounts, as well – instead of from curtain hooks over the window.
- Seating tends to get a little crowded for our big events. That’s why we streamlined the yellow room with bench seating along the walls – hand-made bench seating from repurposed wood from old furniture. We try to follow Jesus’ example and do some carpentry now and then.
- Walls with solid colors are just walls that haven’t been finished yet. That’s our opinion – our professional opinion. What used to be a blank, blue room downstairs is now a beautiful, horizontal gradient of shades of green. What used to be a wall with a mural upstairs is now with a different mural – of a tree, a poem, which some poets say, is not only lovely, but competitively so.
- We installed new lights in the yellow room. The old ones were terrible.
Professional quality communicates credibility – that’s why we aim to make the house incredible. A growing, maturing, space helps create a growing, maturing ministry, and that’s worth supporting.
Friday, February 18th, 2011
Hi-ho, stone's throw: it's off to work we go.
We were living responsibly before. Now we’ve out-German’d the Germans. Let me explain.
Life in Germany is on a much more micro scale than life in the United States. There are no back yards – just the neighbor’s shared wall. There is no free parking – just on the Monopoly board. And there are no cars for those of us on a budget.
That means that one must put a lot more thought into getting around: going to the store is a commitment, going out for the evening requires developing an exit strategy, and getting to work… well, you live as close to work as possible.
That’s why we’ve moved just across the street from Unterwegs. Forget near campus, this is campus-on! Our previous apartment was 15 minutes to Unterwegs by foot – the new one is 5. Perhaps it is an exaggeration to say that our new place is a stone’s throw away from the campus house – but with a strong arm and a running start from our kitchenette on the fourth floor, you could definitely get within a couple meters.
Are there other benefits? Sure. We save a couple hundred bucks a month on rent. That’s just fiscally sound. We’re right around the corner from the grocery store. That saves us time as well as money.
But our new place keeps us on the scene, easy to reach and ready to react. Campus ministers available 24/7: that’s worth supporting.
Saturday, December 4th, 2010
Big news comes at Christmas.
Well, it’s a regular Christmas miracle… kind of. Our prayers to get to Germany in January have been answered in a big way: we are greenlit to fly to Stuttgart as soon as January 2 to begin our work as a married couple at Unterwegs; but here’s the rub: we are going severely underfunded.
Chris and Stef Coleman, two of the three teammates currently in the field, are moving back to the States for good six months earlier than originally planned. With the two of them gone, Beth, our remaining teammate in the field, needs extra bodies to handle the workload that, at one point, required five full-time staffers. We are those bodies.
And currently, those bodies fall significantly short of our financial needs. Wedding gifts have put us simply over the top for our Outgoing Budget, but we are currently only at 30% of our Monthly Budget.
SOOO… this Christmas Season, why not share the gift of an incredible Christian experience with students in Germany and support us monthly? We are willing, we are able, we are excited, and we will soon be a quorum of the team in the field (at least for a couple months).
In fact, file this post as Reason #20.
Wednesday, October 20th, 2010
Chocolate Coffee. It's not MJE. But it's alright.
Ever since the sudden demise of Mighty Joe Espresso, we’ve been looking for a new place to set up forward base for Support Raising, “an escape from the house, a sanctuary with an internet connection”. Today we have made steps towards completing that goal by buying a membership card at Chocolate Coffee on Shallowford. But let me be absolutely clear*, finding a replacement for MJE will be like mastering guitar, ending a war in the Middle East, or paying off student debt – you never ever get there, you just always get closer.
* “But let me be absolutely clear” quote is a registered trademark of President Obama.
And what are we doing at Support Raising HQ today? Why, fleshing out our presentation to EES. Our focus: the house. It truly is fantastic. Our campus house is the greatest thing since sliced bread, which is good, because sliced bread hasn’t really caught on in Europe so much.
The house is our center for much of our activity and all of our major events: Just Lunch, Cafe English, and Thursday Nights. More than that, students are finally, after much encouragement and telling and selling, coming to see the house as a sanctuary on campus. Unterwegs is a place where they can come to chill. There is always food. There is always a friend there, all day and even some nights. You can come to play games, to socialize, to drink coffee, or to sleep and do nothing. There’s no other public space anything like that in Tübingen – and nothing close that doesn’t require you to purchase something.
It’s hard to find something like that anywhere in Germany, actually. That’s probably why it has taken so long to convince students to use the house like we intended. But now Unterwegs is the place students come to be home in Tübingen.
Two of our students flew back from Semester Break and arrived at the Stuttgart Airport at 6:00. By 7:00, they were at Unterwegs. That’s awesome, and that’s worth supporting.
Please forgive the lack of updates for the next little while. I’m getting married.
Tuesday, July 20th, 2010
Gas is expensive. Why not crowd surf to work?
With the economy still in the doldrums, one should look to save money where possible. One easy way to save some cash is changing your routine for the commute to work. One possibility (totally hypothetical, here) is to ditch your Corolla for a bike – a tuneup at Bikeways of Tucker will run you less than a tank of gas – but perhaps a better solution is to not have a commute at all.
The modern miracle of the internet allows you to virtually be virtually anywhere from the comfort of your butt at home. You can be working at the office – from home! Vis-a-vis, I can be working in Germany from Mighty Joe Espresso in Tucker, GA.
Even though I may be Stateside, I am currently keeping contact via email, Facebook, Skype, YouTube, et. al. with many of the Unterwegs students in Tübingen. We continue to exchange music, we check in on how exams are going and how work is, how personal lives are progressing (or degressing… or digressing), and we get to know each other even while half a world apart.
As one student wrote: It’s a pity that we met only a few weeks before you had to go back. I really liked talking to you. Maybe we can stay in contact via email and get to know each other a little bit better.
I know I’m less than impartial on the subject, but if you ask me, a campus minister in Germany who can continue to work in Germany while in the United States is one heck of a deal, and is definitely someone worth supporting.
Wednesday, March 10th, 2010
beauty is in the eyebrow of the beholder
I am a lover, not a fighter. But don’t second-guess me: I’m also a fighter.
There’s a lot I do in my line of work to share Jesus with German students that one who is unfamiliar with campus ministry might not associate with that line of work: for example, I wash dishes. Lots of dishes. I drink coffee – not out of necessity, mind you, but in order to meet with students. It’s not unusual for me two have two latte machiatto’s and three to four mugs of some Mighty Joe in the course of a day in which I am sitting down and talking with students during the semester.
But going to the hospital to get an open wound stitched up is a new one, even for me. It’s a scar I earned at frisbee practice in my continuing ministry with the ultimate frisbee team. It’s now official: I have shed blood for glory of the kingdom of God – even if the injury was the inglorious result of tripping clumsily over my teammate in a no-contact sport and hitting my head on the floor.
Well, when you invest in this campus minister, you get your money’s worth in durability. The only break I’ll need from work is a return trip to the hospital to have the stitches pulled out. That, and a couple bathroom breaks. I’ve been drinking way too much coffee.
Wednesday, February 10th, 2010
Better mileage than a Prius, smaller chance of malfunctioning accelerator pedal.
Allow me, if you will, to fawn for a minute, if you will, over my bicycle. If you will.
My carbon footprint has become something of a small marvel in my time here in Germany. My electric bill at the apartment runs 15 bucks a month. I recycle like you wouldn’t believe. I hang my clothes to dry after a run through the eco-friendly wash cycle. Also, I ride a bike – everywhere.
When I first got to Germany and was handed a freebie, off-brand, second-hand bicycle, riding the thing felt downright childish. Years of driving a car had jaded me and relegated the riding of bicycles to something I did from the ages of 6-15, and then only when the weather was optimal. Well, such is no longer the case.
A bicycle, as I have come to realize, is your passport to a larger, more wonderful world of transportation. Forget waiting on the bus for 8 minutes (which is still pretty darn convenient) – you can hop on your Huffy now and be there in 8 minutes! You can pedal right past the Jet gas station and laugh at the people paying 1.20 Euro per liter to fill up their tiny cars (although your max speed on the Autobahn may not earn you the envy of your friends – probably better to avoid major highways on your bike altogether). Insurance is not required. In fact, accidents in general are much easier on your budget with a bike. A slip on the ice in your car, for example, may run you $600 for a new bumper and the cost of a new mailbox (hypothetically), while a slip on the ice on your bike will cost you no more than a cold butt until you get back on and pedal it off.
On top of all that, I have developed these incredible quadriceps whose form would – if weather here allowed for shorts – inspire drivers and pedestrians to greater levels of leg-based fitness. I’m the muscular envy of my teenage self.
I never thought I would be riding my bicycle in sub-freezing temperatures as an adult, but here we are. My bike is good stewardship – it allows me to do my campus minister job with less money – and that’s something worth supporting.
Wednesday, October 14th, 2009
yes, you heard right: *real* americans!
“Everyone is born creative; everyone is given a box of crayons in kindergarten,” writes Hugh MacLeod. Feh.
When I was a child, I was not just creative – I was the five year-old da Vinci of my time. I drew, I painted, I glued macaroni in thought-provoking formations to contruction paper before having a qualified adult spray-paint the entire thing gold. My pipe cleaner sculptures put the shallow, pedantic pipe cleaner sculptures of my classmates to shame. I was the Matisse of finger paint. I was the Rembrandt of the Number 2 pencil with extra-thick grip for persons with small hands.
I’m not saying other children weren’t born creative – I’m just saying that I was imbued with the kind of creativity that put all the other children with similar crayon boxes to shame. The kind of creativity that got awards for the comic strips in the high school newspaper. The kind of creativity that survived four and a half years of cybernetic hybernation while I was at Georgia Tech.
And now, that incredible, undying, and unyielding creativity that started with a box of crayons is at work for you in the field.
Only now instead of crayons, I use Photoshop. Instead of producing macaroni art, I produce vector-based Web 2.0 graphics. And instead of home-made, VHS-taped sock puppet shows with stuffed animal cameos, I now put out network-quality multimedia of our time and events at Unterwegs.
In 1989, as a smaller, cuter version of me sat in my kindergarten classroom, painting a blue horse in front of a red house with a green rocket ship flying overhead, I had no clue that in twenty years I would be living in Germany working as a missionary, using those same skills to help share a life-changing Christian experience with university students. But here we are. That’s a creative effort worth supporting.