Black Hills Reflection #standagain #comments4kids



Black Hills Reflections:

“Beautiful Creation”
I could reach the skies, feel the wind, see the beauty not only in the nature but in the friendship I’ve been blessed to receive, Mt. Baldy was a phenomenal destination. As I reached the top, the wind wrestled with me, yet the solid, sandpapered rock held me strong and kept me safe. I looked around and my eyes adjusted, I saw the hills, the rocks, the dirt, the trees, and the horizon that awaited much more. My crouched body made way a couple of steps; my eyes went along. There was clouds and skies that touched the heavens, but there was even more. Faces. Each face entered my mind, followed with thousands of stories. Peace. Every breath I took my lungs would fill with peace and let go of the stress that it held. Freedom. I was free, I felt alive. I no longer worried about, “I need to Instagram this!” because I knew any photo I took would never be as crisp as the memory in my mind. Any photo I took, would not come along with the smell of the fresh air, the pine trees, and the sweat shed while climbing the mountain. Photos couldn’t capture the warmth of love or the comforting trust that settled within the air. We were on top of the world; without my friends I wouldn’t have been there. I knew any person I reached to they would give me a hand and help me to the top. “It’s easier to go down a hill than up it, but the view is much better at the top.” (Henry Ward Beecher). This year there was times I climbed down, yet my friends always pulled me up to the magnificent view. Creation is not just the mountains or oceans, but it’s the people too. It was possibly my last trip with some of them, maybe even last van ride, but forever I will remember being with my best friends on the top of Mt. Baldy. Trust, love, peace, laughter. Beautiful creation.
–Megan Suedkamp

“Ride of Pride ”
“I see a time of seven generations when all the colors of mankind will gather under the sacred tree of life and the whole earth will become one circle again.” – Crazy Horse. Anyone can hear about ones effort to change the world, but when you see the imprint they left with your own two eyes it unlocks a whole new perspective. Crazy Horse was a man who fought against the whites with pride and encouraged his people to never give up. People compete to see who can have the highest tower and don’t even think about why they are building it. The Native Americans knew why they wanted to build this memorial. The Native Americans thrived for building this monument because they wanted to provide strength and pride to their people and show the rest of the world that Native Americans are just capable as any white person on earth. You may believe that you must get to the finish line first, but what you don’t realize is your only competitor is yourself. “Slow down. Take a deep breath. What’s the hurry? Why wear yourself out? Just what are you after anyway?” (Jeremiah 2:25). This relates to me because I run so fast in life only keeping my eyes pressed against the banner that says finish. Along the way I miss everything else around me and when I think I have reached the finish line in reality my destination just keeps moving farther away. Just observing the monument taught me that the journey matters more than the destination. The Native Americans do not care when the monument will be finished, but they care about what comes along the way. I observed that the builders were focused mainly on the appearance of the statues size and compared it to the size of Mount Rushmore. The size of what you are trying to leave behind doesn’t matter, it’s the impact you are leaving. I heard stories of Crazy Horse and what he was like, but I was clueless until I was in the presence of the legacy itself.

“Fun Size Devils Tower”
As I keep searching for God in my journey Fink takes us to the Black Hills. I was excited to be hiking Mini Devils Tower. The first hike that we went to was the biggest hike we went on and also my favorite hike. Jack, JP, Ricky, and I leave the class and run up Mini Devils Tower. As we get up to the top the rest of the class starts to come. Jack and I break off. Ricky and JP go to play Mafia with the rest of the class. I see Jack dangling his feet over this cliff and I go and do the same. We lay back on the crystal rock and talk about life in general. Now that I am reading this I begin to know how dumb it was because here we are my best friend and I sitting on Gods creation but still talking about “noise, crowds, hurry,”-(Foster) and drama. Then I closed my eyes, I pray that this end of the year will be great. There is a tense breeze that suffocates my breath and the sun comes out of the clouds. I say ,God, thank you, at that moment I have just a glimpse on how my journey plays out.

“Leap of Faith”
Cliff jumping in my definition is the leap of faith. Cliff jumping in the Black Hills was an unforgettable experience. When you see the rock when you drive up to it looks like two feet off the ground. As you climb up the rock, you begin to feel your heart beating faster and faster the higher you go. You finally get up on the top of the rock, you look down then quickly grab onto something because you think it is so high. One person after the other goes. Each time you hear a splash of water from someone jumping you think about how you are that much closer to making that sound yourself. It was finally my turn. Extremely slow I slither my way down to where you jump. Fink counts 3,2,1. It took me two times to finally jump. 3,2,1, I push off of the rock. You feel as if you are floating in the air. Then at the last second home girl over here does a belly flop. My head goes above the water, I gasp for air, I swim over to the rock that I jumped off of. Then I hit my chest on the rock. “Perfect timing” I thought. As I begin to catch my breath I hear people swimming over to me. Luke, Izzy, and Megan were my rescuers. Even though I was not smiling when they came I was smiling on the inside. After it all happened it made me think of how cliff jumping is just like life. You feel as if everything is going your way, but at the last second pain finds you. “For I know the plans I have for you”  (Jeremiah 29:11). God will come and help you catch your breath.
–Angelina Basso

“The Tower from all Angles”
The tower is an exploration, and every angle of the rock is a different sight. Say if you look at it from the front, then you went to the left front. Then you went to the right side. It’s different and it will be hard to recognize. The tower can be an exploration in anyway, maybe it’s going up and climbing on top of the tower and looking around Wyoming. Or maybe it’s looking at the rock 360 degrees and look at it from every direction. Also, maybe even going below to see what’s below the rock and see how it was brought to the surface. What would that monument be if the rock never came from the surface? What would it look like to not be the first national monument? Questions about the tower are answers humans may never know. The tower is 360 degrees around the body of it, but each boulder it takes to form it is 360 degrees. The tower in general, from the big rock to the rocks that fill in the gaps, the tower will never be looked at the same way that you looked at it the first time. In a community, a day will never be the same ever again, whether you think of the year that day came, or the time that happened and what happened, nothing will be looked like from the same angle or picture again. Sure, you may look at the front of a house the same as yesterday, but you did it the next day instead of 2 days ago, of tomorrow. Another day will stay the same, but another minute will be enjoyed. It just like what Anastasis talks about, joy lasts longer than happiness, if you enjoy the moment of today or tomorrow, then that is what people like to call, joy. Then joy will not come in the same way it did yesterday or next week, happiness maybe will, but joy will never in 1 million years be the same as tomorrow. That is what makes the tower a 360 degrees, everything comes in different angles, if you enJOY the moment.

“Black Hills trip”
During our trip Mr. Fink had a surprise for us. We went to a place called flags and wheels. It was a really cool surprise. It had go karting, Laser tag, bumper cars, and batting cages. It was so much fun. What I did most of the time was go karting. It was fun to race Miss Jamie Mr. Fink and my friends. Everybody went to laser tag. I stayed and I raced the person that was running the go cart and we were able to mess around on the track. It was amazing to go to flags and wheels I had so much fun go karting.

“Wild in Spirit”
Adventure lies in nature. The most exciting piece of South Dakota was camping in the wild, unknown, forest. I look over the thundering boulders to see the swirl of colors that is the setting sun. As the sun says goodbye for the day, and the shivers of the cold wind set in, I appreciate the natural beauty of this earth. My fear of bears and unknown creatures is swept away in the midst of the natural beauty of the setting sun, fallen trees, and tweeting birds. From the laughs of my friends, to the thrill of being in the middle of nowhere, (not really, more like 2 miles from a parking lot), I enjoyed every moment. The glimmering stars of the night sky spurred my curiosity of life outside of this world, and lit the colorful, laughter-filled stories being heard and told. Although they were quite random, My stomach hurt from all the laughter. As I fell asleep, my dreams were filled with curiosity, stories, and memories created from camping in the wilderness in South Dakota. “Wilderness is not a luxury, but a necessity for the human spirit.” (Edward Abbey) Although I am back in suburbia, I still stay wild in spirit.

“Pizza Runs”
When we camped up at Mount Baldy the 8th grade boys traveled down the mountain and back bringing up pizza. We ran down the mountain, not on the trail, but on a path that we cut through the woods. It was tons of fun jumping over rocks and logs, darting between trees. When we reached the bottom we waited for Luke to show up with the van. Luke doesn’t know how to start a car. We rolled down into the small, tucked away town of Keystone and pulled up to the pizza place. While waiting for the last pizza we all got cokes. Luke doesn’t know how to hold a drink. The pizza came and we headed back to the mountain. Walking up took much longer because we weren’t running and we were carrying grub. We reached camp just before dark delivering the pizza! The thing I enjoyed most about the pizza run wasn’t the running (I’m not a runner), or the pizza (still tasty). My favorite thing about the pizza run was spending time with my teacher and friends, growing closer in relationships. Running to go get pizza sounds like a chore, but it really wasn’t, we had good conversations and we got to grill Luke’s driving skills. I got to know people better. The pizza runs were an exciting interaction I won’t soon forget. The simple things are the most memorable. I could write about big things on a grand scale such as Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, and The Devils Tower. Those things are amazing, don’t get me wrong, but the simple things stand out just as much. I’ll remember times like the snipe hunt or running down a mountain and maybe tripping a time or two just as much as the things people travel cross country to see. The trips are so special because of the little things mixed with the big things, the all around memories. “It is the sweet, simple things in life which are the real ones after all” (Laura Ingalls Wilder).

“Dreaming of Rushmore”
Every year at my old school the 8th graders would take a trip to South Dakota. When they came back they would present to the whole school on their trip. Mount Rushmore was my favorite part. It just looked so magical. I would constantly daydream about going there. It was never a real thought that I was able to see the place of my dreams. After years and years of waiting, I moved schools. It actually never crossed my mind I wouldn’t see Mount Rushmore.
I tap my fingers on my desk and watch as we go through the trip to South Dakota schedule. I hide my excitement when I know we get to go to the place I have just dreamed of for at least 5 years. I attempt to explain to everyone why I’m most excited for the Mount Rushmore part, but they just nod their heads and take it as nothing. That’s when I realized maybe this was something that was just a little more meaningful to me than everyone else. I didn’t care, we were still going. Cliff jumping was our first stop before Rushmore. “Jump!” everyone called as I stand on the edge of a cliff. I totally forgot today was the day. I push my legs, close my eyes, plug my nose and jump. After a rush (pun intended) into the van Mr. Fink tells us we are changing at the camp, and we are going to Mount Rushmore. The time has finally arrived after 5 years of waiting.
“I want everyone to guess why I pulled over” Fink tells us before our stop to Rushmore. We all scramble out of the van and look around. No one seems to know why we are in the middle of a road.  Some girls slowly walk forward and scream. I can’t find what their looking at. Now everyone’s screaming and I have no clue what’s going on. Megan turns my head up to the sky. My eyes stop and my mouth stretches to a smile. It’s George Washington’s head! I join the screaming and jumping before we hop into the van. It was the most surreal moment of my life. I walk into the memorial. A goal I never thought I would achieve I just did. Tears of joy were streaming down my face, and when I looked at the beautiful memorial, I never wanted to leave the place of my dreams. This was a day I will never forget.
Without this experience I don’t think I would really understand what realizing your dreams felt like. Going somewhere and doing something you have always wanted to do is the best feeling in the whole world. Every day I wish I could re-live that moment and I’m sad I’m not there. “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened” -Walt Disney. I am definitely taking this quote to heart after that day.
–Angelina Hogan

“I can’t feel my legs…”
South Dakota was such a fun trip with so many awesome activities. One of those activities was Harney Peak hike. As we were walking up I got to talk and bond with my friends. It was beautiful but it was windy. Once we got to the top I looked out over the rock and it was breath taking, I felt a sense of peace. Love is a way of connection with peace and that’s what I felt on top of Harney Peak. We took pictures and put all of our layers back on because it was really windy and cold. I had shivers running though my spine then I felt the Holy Spirit brush over me and I was calm. As we started to walk down some stone steps to get to a lookout. Our class climbed on the rocks and we sat down and over the rock were three mountain goats. As we started to hike back down I saw prayer flags. Prayer flags are what the natives put on trees for symbolism. Over all I thought Harney Peak was so beautiful and I loved the experience.

“Faith, trust, and pixie dust”
This Black Hills trip was by far one of the best trips. On this trip there were so many highlights that I will always remember. My biggest highlight was rock climbing. I had never really done rock climbing before so it was fun to work my way to the top of the mountain and then to trust my classmates to keep me alive as I worked my way back down. As I was climbing the mountain it forced me to think and watch my every step. It forced me to use a lot of strength that would soon get me to the top of the mountain. It made me push myself to reach higher and that was one step closer to the top. There were some challenges where I didn’t know if I could go any farther but once I found a good spot I could take it step by step and go to the top. My favorite part about rock climbing was reaching the top of the mountain and to look out at Gods creation. This rock climbing experience put me in a place to truly notice and enjoy Gods creation. Even though the weather was not great I still loved rock climbing and trying something new. Being in nature helps me connect with God and enjoy his presence. “You won’t understand the power of community until you are apart of one.” This year I have truly been a part of a community that is so meaningful to me. The best part about this trip was being in a community laughing and crying and making new memories that will never be forgotten.

After the months and months of the memories we’ve shared together, it has started to come to an end. At the beginning of this year I felt like we as people all represented a color. Nothing to do with one another. In the end we all came together making a beautiful painting. That night of the campfire speeches the painting was completed. We became a true family, and that’s just going to make it harder to say goodbye. The night was filled with so many emotions. Everyone was in tears and I thinks it’s because we realized each others value. It’s tough to move on but our colors will continue, their stories going on to make beautiful new pictures and memories. That makes the memories we’ve shared that more important. The point was, our campfire speeches ended the chapter and began a new era. Our campfire speeches were a farewell to the other colors within our picture. “A picture is nothing without the colors on the canvas.” (Unknown) Anastasis was a family and it was tough to say goodbye, but I guess it’s time to start a new chapter and paint a new picture.



The baptism experience in South Dakota was truly astonishing. I feel now as that if I have truly become a Christian and now know what it is like to walk with God. Now the wrestle with God truly begins, there will be ups and downs. In Christianity every person believes in the same thing but in different ways, now I feel like I am forming my own opinions instead of just believing exactly what my parents or piers think. Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome”
(Genesis 32:28). We will be blessed after wrestling with God and struggling with him. Our ultimate blessing is to be his child, and be granted into heaven.


Being There: Student Post

Posted originally on Makayla’s blog January 13, 2016

I have a name. I want people to know it. I love being called by my name because that means that I am known. At school, If I fall down, I get picked up. If it’s by a friend, or a classmate, or a sibling, or a teacher. I get picked up.

I am like no other. And I’m not afraid to show it. Here, is where I am wanted. If I am having a bad day, I get encouraged. If it’s by a friend, or a classmate, or a sibling, or a teacher. I get encouraged.

If I’m struggling, I will have help. I will not get left alone. I will get help. If it’s by a friend, or a classmate, or a sibling, or a teacher. I get helped.

I used to feel ashamed of what I didn’t know. But now, I’m not. You have to embrace that you don’t know everything. And then you can learn and not be afraid to ask questions. If I need someone to help me get up the staircase of life, then someone will be there. If it’s a friend, or a classmate, or a sibling, or a teacher. Someone will always be there.

Learning Excursion Reflection: The Great Sand Dunes

Learning Excursion

Our Great Sand Dunes adventure was truly phenomenal!  The students were well behaved, and I was truly impressed with the depth of learning, sharing, playing, and building community.  What a blessing to be at a school that allows this type of learning!

Below are several quotes we shared, analyzed, and responded to the past few days. I hope you enjoy. – Lance
Nature Quotations
I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in. ~John Muir (1838–1914)

What humbugs we are, who pretend to live for Beauty, and never see the Dawn! ~Logan Pearsall Smith

Man’s heart away from nature becomes hard. -Unknown

Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in. ~George Washington Carver

God writes the gospel not in the Bible alone, but on trees and flowers and clouds and stars. ~Author unknown, commonly attributed to Martin Luther

Look at the trees, look at the birds, look at the clouds, look at the stars… and if you have eyes you will be able to see that the whole existence is joyful. Everything is simply happy. Trees are happy for no reason; they are not going to become prime ministers or presidents and they are not going to become rich and they will never have any bank balance. Look at the flowers — for no reason. It is simply unbelievable how happy flowers are. ~Osho

Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair. ~Khalil Gibran

I thank you God for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes. ~e.e. Cummings

In wilderness I sense the miracle of life, and behind it our scientific accomplishments fade to trivia. ~Charles A. Lindbergh

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike. This natural beauty-hunger is made manifest in the little window-sill gardens of the poor, though perhaps only a geranium slip in a broken cup, as well as in the carefully tended rose and lily gardens of the rich, the thousands of spacious city parks and botanical gardens, and in our magnificent National parks — the Yellowstone, Yosemite, Sequoia, etc. — Nature’s sublime wonderlands, the admiration and joy of the world. ~John Muir

Student Responses:

Sand  Dunes The  towering  dunes.  The  flowing  stream.  The  loud,  fun  van  rides.  The  awesome  prank.  The  gas  station  stops.  The  falling  tent.  The  warm  fire  with the  star  lit  sky  above.  I’d  say  this  trip  was  one  to  remember.  Friends. Community.  Determination  and  perseverance.  Nature,  solitude,  peace. Sand  Dunes,  had  it  all  for  us.  This  trip  was  amazing.  The  tight  knit community  plus  the  ineffable,  serene  location  was  absolutely  unique  and fantastic.  There  was  so  much  that  we  saw  and  did  there,  but  getting  to  the top  of  high  dune  definitely  was  remarkable.  “Forget  not  that  the  Earth delights  to  feel  your  bare  feet  and  the  winds  long  to  play  with  your hair.”  (Khalil  Gibran)  At  the  top,  the  dunes  felt  as  if  they  went  on  forever. The  winds  would  play  with  us  and  I  realized  how  worth  it  is  to  persevere. The  experience  to  do  this  was  phenomenal  and  I  hope  to  go  to  the  Sand Dunes  again someday, hopefully  with such a great  group. – Megan

This trip was one of my favorites. Some things that I liked were the Sand Dunes. We hiked up the Sand Dune and went sand boarding and sledding that was so much fun. Also the van rides it was fun jamming to music and laughing with friends. We also took a hike up to the waterfall. The waterfall was enviable. While we were up there we had quiet time that was so powerful to me listening to the stream and talking with God. It was fun sitting around the campfire as a community playing games and laughing. Over all I loved this trip hanging out with friends, laughing and being a community.  – Alli

I enjoyed coming on this sand dunes trip for many reasons, you may ask me “Luke what was your favorite part of the sand dunes trip” and you would probably hear an answer like sand boarding. That was my favorite part of the trip, but there was more to it than just that. God spoke to me in many ways on this trip, and seeing his beauty out in nature was incredible. That’s what I enjoyed about our sand dunes excursion. – Luke

I thought that this trip was the best school trip I have ever been on so far. One of my favorite parts were just camping and being with my friends, my other favorite part was playing a prank on the girls and Mr. Fink. I also thought being out in nature helped me reflect, and come to know god better. The sand dunes were amazing as well, the only bad part was that it was super windy and sand got in my eyes, but other than that my trip was amazing. – JP

I had such a fun week in the Sand Dunes. One of my favorite parts was the waterfall, the crashing water splashing on my face. The waterfall was so serene. I like how I can get closer to my friends and class. When we went to the Dunes I felt so accomplished because I went to the highest dune. It was also so fun when I went sand sledding. I crashed but that’s the fun of it. – Lauren

My favorite part about the camping trip, was running around in the forest. I felt like that it was so peaceful at night in there. Just the laughter and nature brings a whole new camping to the trip. It’s like the trees soaked up my worries and stress, and the grass cleaned it off. Stars seemed to be having a great time, shooting across the sky. Nothing that is man built could beat this appearance. No remotes to see this on Tv, no pictures from the past, man built resources that showed it, could still not beat the creation. – Jack

Nature is filling to the soul. The trip to the Sand Dunes was an amazing experience. Camping is refreshing and is an escape from everyday life and business. Hiking to the Sand Dunes was accomplishing. It was hard but the view was worth it it look like a painting of the museum. My favorite part of these trips are the nights. Pranking each other, talking, and getting to know each other are an essential part of these trips and will be memories that I will look back at. These trips help us become one with nature and each other. – Isabella

The trip we took to the sand dunes was remarkable in many different ways. I really enjoyed being out in nature, away from the classroom, experiencing the wilderness. I will never forget those moments in the outdoors, whether it was the view from the highest sand dune, or the canyon waterfall. The moments spent in community were also extremely memorable. I loved being with my friends sandboarding, in a tree, or even in the van ride. It is so awesome that we have the opportunity in our school to go on this amazing trip. Everything we did was super awesome, the Garden of the Gods was gorgeous, the sand dunes were wicked cool, the camping was fun, and the gator farm was epic. Overall it was an incredible learning experience. -Joseph

On this camping trip I felt in nature. There were only a few things we did inside. I felt like God was right with me the whole entire time. My two favorite parts of camping were the sand dunes and the waterfall hike. Reaching the highest sand dune was such a success for me. Seeing almost everything in Colorado was breath taking. I absolutely loved the waterfall hike. When I first walked in the cave and saw it I was amazed! The way the teachers put this trip together was great! I know I got closer to God in nature!  (Samantha )

One of the things that I really liked was the hike up to the waterfall and stream.I really enjoyed the walk up there for me that was the perfect amount of walking. When we got up there you could be one with nature. one thing that stuck out to me was when I got to talk to some of the new kids to the school like JP and Grace. I got to hang out with them some more. I loved stargazing.Where I live you only see ten or fifteen a night was really cool.I really liked hanging out with Ella,Kayleigh, samantha, Makayla and Grace. They always had a happy attitude and were ready to help and serve and they were all so sweet. (Gabby )

My favorite part of the trip was hiking the Sand Dunes! The reason why the Sand Dunes were my favorite part was because I was able to climb the tallest or second tallest Sand Dune. I had a huge open blister on the bottom of my foot but that didn’t stop me from hiking all the way up. Even though it hurt a little I wanted to succeed and I did. While we were hiking up the dunes I was able to hang out with friends and I also meet some new teachers and kids. I loved when the wind was blowing even though the sand hurt sometimes. You could feel the wind playing with your hair. It was phenomenal! I also liked sledding down the sand.  It was so much fun to fall off the sled.  Then I would get back on and sled the rest of the way down. A lot of people were extraordinary at boarding and sledding like Angelina Hogan, Dylan, Samantha and others. (Maddie)

We traveled to a beautiful camp ground where we set up camp… There was something special about it. Oh yeah, we’re right next to the Great Sand Dunes National Park! My goal was to get to the top of the second highest dune in the park. The dune is called High Dune. We rented sand boards and sand sleds to take to the top with us. Some of us went to the top of the dune. It felt really good to be up there except for the sand in my eyes. I felt so accomplished up there looking out to the other HUGE piles of sand. It was a great trip. After we sand sledded down from the dunes, we went on a hike to a great waterfall and took some time to think about how great our God is. He created the mountains that stand strong today. He created all animals that roam around in the grasslands or swim under the water. He made us so we can do all the things we do today. Thanks to Him we can climb to the top of the sand dunes or play sports with others. Also we can have a good time talking and hanging out with our friends. I’m so glad I got to go on this trip. It’s an experience I will never forget.    (Ben)

I thing the best part of the trip was the time we had at the waterfall to just listen. I know we learned that God can talk to us in a whisper or a loud voice, but I did not understand that it could be even smaller then that. I was sitting listening to the waterfall, when I decided to pray to God to ask him for a whisper. I wanted him to tell me something. Now that’s not bad. But when we started to get back together, I got mad because he had not talked to me at all. Then I got madder and madder. When realized that maybe he was not going to talk to me in plain English. Maybe he had tried to talk to me by giving me signs in nature. And I had not understood him because I thought that there was only one right way to hear God and because of that I missed him. My heart was not open enough for him to get in it a way that I would understand. I am sure that he wanted to tell me something, but my heart was not ready to understand it. So he gave me something to grow on and something to learn from so the next time my heart might be ready to hear him in the way he wants.    (Makayla)

The Power of Yet

|Kelly Tenkely|

I used to think that there would be an age where I would suddenly have it all figured out.  A certain age that I would turn and suddenly be “adult” and know exactly how to make investments, and do my job, pay taxes, change a tire, negotiate a deal, what to wear to a “business casual” event, what to say to someone who is hurting. I often observe others and find myself wondering, how do they have it all figured out? You know these people (maybe you are one), those who seem to know what to do and how to fit into any situation. The older that I get, the more I recognize that none of us really has it ALL figured out.

We are all in process.

There is freedom that comes with that realization and I find myself wondering how different the future would be for kids if they understood the power of yet.

We don’t know it…yet.
We haven’t mastered it…yet.

Yet is a powerful word. It allows for failure and mistakes, but it is a mistake with a promise. We will get better. It will become easier.

If kids recognize this as part of the learning process, failure doesn’t feel like an endpoint. It becomes part of the “yet” process.

Yet is a wonderful place to be. It is where possibility exists. It is where we find flow. It is the place learning happens. We shouldn’t be afraid of yet, but instead look at the hopeful optimism driven by yet.

So, when a child struggles, it isn’t because they can’t, but because they haven’t mastered it…yet.

At Anastasis we’re are declaring the last semester of school the “semester of yet.” We will challenge kids to think about what they will do to move their “yet” forward. How will they keep their “yet” from laying dormant or becoming stagnant?

Over the spring break, I’ve read two incredible books (both very much recommended): A More Beautiful Question by Warren Berger and the smartest kids in the world by Amanda Ripley
Both books emphasize the importance of this idea of yet. Both books note the power of questioning to move that yet forward. Anastasis is a school powered by questions. The more I engage in the art of questioning, the more I recognize the importance of being a questioner. Questioning isn’t taught at most schools, nor is it rewarded (only the memorized answers are). There is an enormous amount of research that shows just how important the ability to question [well] is. “Questions are the engines of intellect-cerebral machines that convert curiosity into controlled inquiry.” – David Hackett Fischer
Paul Harris, a child psychologist at Harvard, notes that children ask on average 40,000 questions between the ages of 2 to 5. These questions lead to a quadrillion connections (synapses) in the brain. This is more than 3 times the number of connections in the adult brain. Harris speculates that this decline is related to the decline of asking questions. Of recognizing the power of yet. Too often we begin to think of ourselves as experts. When you are an expert you stop thinking because you already know. Those who believe in yet know that there are always more questions, new angles and lenses to think about.

What makes Anastasis teachers unique among educators, is their understanding of the power of yet. They believe (with good reason) that your children are capable beyond a set of standards. They see genius in the yet.

As we enter into the last semester of the year, may you recognize the power of yet. It is what keeps us going as scientists, inventors, writers, artists, mathematicians, geographers, historians, and change makers. If you notice your kids running out of steam (it’s too hard, the expectation is too much, “I can’t”), remind them of the power of yet!

This year I’ve been reminded again and again by “experts” in education, parents, and visitors to Anastasis just how revolutionary what we do with your kids is. This is the school teachers dream of, reformers wish they could duplicate, and parents stretch to afford. Thank you for being such an enormous part of what makes Anastasis the amazing place that it is. We couldn’t do what we do without your support! As a school, we too continue to live in the power of yet.

Students Serving Denver: Student Reflections

Yesterday we went delivering meals to people who can’t get out of their homes or who need the help. We went to ten homes. My favorite one was a guy who had a puppy. It was an American Bulldog.

I had a few connections. It reminded me of Juárez. They are also happy which made me happy. We went to a cool grocery option called the Grow Haus. It was also a greenhouse. We had a lot of fun serving. It was a good experience.


Yesterday we delivered meals on the wheels. It was great! The people I gave the meals to where Hispanic. One person named Rosa was not even the one getting the meals, she was the neighbor. When I saw the the lady with a bent back I knew what I was doing was the right thing. When we went in the only fresh food store it was cool that this community was teaching how to cook fresh food. That trip was a great experience to learn about different communities.


I learned while serving at Meals on Wheels that some people live in small houses and they actually know their neighbors well.  I thought it was cool we could be a part of helping people who can’t get out of their house so we deliver food to them.

We also got to go to the Grow Haus and see where they shop because there is no grocery store. The Grow Haus grows all of the food there and bakes all the bread. We went to 10 houses and we met the people and we went in the houses. you would think the houses would be dirty, but they were not. They were clean and bigger than you would think.

I am helping other people and that is what you should do. The people are nice, but some people think of them as dirty people who have no money. I would go on this field trip every day and I would not get bored.


I think Meals On Wheels was an awesome place to go! I enjoyed it because you got to do what the Lord wanted you to do, SERVE! It made me think I want to be a missionary when I grow up because I love seeing their smiles on their faces and knowing how their lives been and some of their stories. They are so so sweet and nice and serving them felt great! I loved seeing where they grow their foods and also I loved learning how all the cycles go into place.

Yesterday, we helped with a service called Meals on Wheels, and we delivered meals to people who can’t always go out to get them or are handicapped.

When we where delivering them, I thought their houses were a lot different than our houses. When comparing them, their houses were a little run down and had a lot of things all over.

The people inside the houses you may think were mean, but when you talk to them, they are really really really sweet and nice.

It was also super super super nice because one of the ladies got the food for her neighbors.


Yesterday we delivered food to people’s houses through an organization called Meals On Wheels. We went to people who didn’t have a grocery store near them, so it’s hard to get food. The houses were little. Some of them were pretty nice.

Most people were very grateful for what they got. I was surprised about how nice they all were. Since there was no grocery store near them they had a place called the Grow Haus. The Grow Haus is a place where they grow food in a huge green house, then they sell it very cheep. Everybody there was so nice. They also teach the people how to cook the food into yummy meals. After that we went to a few more houses and then we went back to school.

This experience made me feel happy and good about myself. Mrs. Gibson also came that same day. She talked about her experiences with homeless people. One of the homeless people that was apart of her life was named Felicia. Although she was a drug addict, Mrs. Gibson still loved her. Felicia was so open to Mrs. Gibson and was willing to share her story. Felicia was like the people we met at meals on wheels. They were so open to share with us there story’s. They just invited us right into there house. Even though some of them are dirty houses. They didn’t care. I think the point of this was to try to open to more people in lower positions than us. They all have story’s and there all people.


Yesterday we helped serve meals on wheels. Meals on wheels is a program that helps the people that can’t get food on their own. My teacher was driving the school van with all my class mates in the van. We served to the people one hot meal and a sack lunch with milk. We went to ten homes. One guy that really stood out to me was well I did not know his name but he had a American Bulldog puppy and if you don’t know me that well I love animals, back to the little pup she had one blue eye and one brown eye and her name was blue because of her one blue eye. But something with Blue’s story really stood out to me, her mom and dad lived across from the owner of blue, Blue and her owner looked like they really cared about each other. The neighbors seemed like they were a family and they were not scared to let someone in there house.


On Monday we went to go to deliver food to people who can’t really get out of there house. I connected to this because we served.  I kind of made me a little nervous because I’ve never seen these people before and been to that area.

We delivered to lots of people and got to have very short conversations we stopped by this place called the grow haus.  They grow so much stuff there like tomatoes potatoes and had aquaponics to.

My class delivered to two houses. We delivered to ten houses.  We came back and ate these floweres we got from the grow haus.  We tried them and it was SO SPICY!!!!  My friend Samantha spit it out and drank lots of water.

We had a surprise guest who came it was my friend Charliegh’s mom.  She talked to us about these homeless people she met. the first one was her in California she was jogging on the beach and saw thins homeless lady she pretended to stop and tie her shoe and stretch.  She said hello but there was no response. she said hello again there was no response.  So she came back the next day and walked up to her this time Mrs Gibson said hello she said hello back.  They had a big conversation. Mrs Gibson walked back to her apartment. she came back the next day she was gone. Mrs Gibson ran to the police station and said have you seen this woman.  Do you know her last name. she said no we can’t track her down.  Mrs Gibson never saw her again.


Anastasis Academy

Anastasis Academy


Bring Me the Sunset- Student poem

Bring Me The Sunset
Morning Pages #48

By Katie Anderson

Bring me the sunset in a cup,
Fill it with pinks and oranges until it’s filled up.
Serve me a full moon onto a nice plate.
Some constellations on the side sure would be great.
Give me rain and snow into a bowl,
Some thunderclouds and lightning wouldn’t be dull.
I want rainbows and sunshine in my spoon,
Next to my fork with a little room.
These days come with weather, good and bad,
They can make you happy or drive you mad.
But at this moment, my life’s at halftime,
After all you always get rain before sunshine.

The Thin Places: Advent

Team Anastasis,

As we enter the Advent season, I’m reminded of “A Thin Place” (as the Irish call it): a spot where you feel closer to the spiritual world than elsewhere. Sharlande Sledge gives this description:
“Thin places,” the Celts call this space,
Both seen and unseen,
Where the door between this world
And the next is cracked open for a moment
And the light is not all on the other side.
God shaped space. Holy.

It is this “thin place” that we enter into during Advent as we celebrate a coming, we want to invite you to join us in this journey toward the “Thin Place.” Every morning during Metanoia, we will be focused on the advent. On the coming. This morning your children listened to some reading on advent, their insight into this “Thin Place” and season of coming was astounding. I wish that we had been recording their incredible words of wisdom, I hope they share them with you this evening!

In addition to becoming more intentional about the advent, it is our hope that we, as a community, can bring others into the presence of God by our actions. Each day, in addition to the Advent exploration, your kids are being challenged with a random act of kindness. These are very doable acts of kindness that all ages can engage. We hope that you will join us in these acts of kindness as a family. Talk about them, do them together, challenge one another. Let’s be the body this advent season.

“Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.” -Siddhartha Gautama

We want our community to be a place where happiness cascades, where we can share in serving others and bringing the light of a thousand candles.

December first is waiting for you… Please share with family and friends!

Check back every day for a new advent message and challenge. We will put a link on Facebook each day as well! Don’t follow us yet? You should!

Notes from KT: The Gift of Perspective

|Kelly Tenkely|
The gift of perspective is one that my mom helped instill in me early on. It is one of the most precious gifts that I can imagine. I haven’t always appreciated it (in fact, there have been moments recently that I have mostly hated it). This gift of perspective has made me dream to do the impossible, face trials head on, and believe that there is a silver lining-always.

As a kid, when I had an altercation or frustration with a friend (or enemy), my mom would point out what a good thing it was that the person was in my life. “It’s good for you! You are learning and practicing patience. Now you know how to deal with hard people.” At the time, all I wanted was for her to step in on my behalf and give that friend (or their parents) a piece of her mind. I wanted her to empathize with me and get angry with me. I thought that these kinds of gestures would demonstrate that she was on my side. Later in life, I’m seeing (even in those times of frustration) what a blessing the perspective she offered is. I do know how to deal with frustration. I know what patience feels like (even when I don’t like it). I rarely fall into the victim mentality and instead accept the challenge.

One of my many chores growing up was doing the dishes. I LOATHED doing the dishes. With a passion. When we moved into a new house my 5th grade year, one of the first things my mom pointed out in the kitchen was, “look at this view! You will have such a great view to enjoy while you are doing the dishes!” At the time I’m sure I rolled my eyes and mumbled something about enjoying the view without doing the dishes. But as an adult, I love cleaning…really! It helps me remember to be thankful for everything. As I dust, I am reminded of great memories, family, and love. As I vacuum, I’m reminded of how good a freshly clean house feels. As I fold laundry, I imagine new combinations of clothes that I can put together and have a moment to appreciate the incredible craftsmanship of the person who took the time to stitch my shirt together.

Even in disastrous situations, my mom shared the gift of perspective. One year, my family took a trip to France. We rode the Chunnel over from England, excited to experience Paris. It was late and stifling hot when we arrived (probably in the neighborhood of 180 degrees…there might be some hyperbole there). My little brother was whining about being hungry (we hadn’t eaten in hours) and we had to take buses and the metro all the way across France to get to our hotel. We were about as touristy as we could get. Millions of bags stuffed with us into teeny spaces with hairy arm pits as far as the eye could see. It was not ideal. We were lost. Could not find the hotel and it had now gotten dark. We were still tired, hot, and hungry in a place we didn’t know. We could sense my dad’s desperation as we wandered the streets of Paris.

Suddenly he barked at us to stay put while he figured out where we were. There, in the middle of Paris, not knowing if we would ever get food or shelter again, my mom started giggling. The kind of giggling where you start to get worried about the sanity of the person doing the giggling. My brother and I looked at her like she had lost her whole mind. “Isn’t it fun?! It’s like we are on a great adventure!” My mom was famous for the perspective of, “it’s an adventure!” (Which is a good thing because we tend to be rather Griswold on our travels and had had many “adventures”). Even now when I relay a disaster event to my mom she will say, “just think of the great story you’ll have to tell now!”

Perspective. It changes everything.

In our laundry room was a bulletin board. On it was the quote by Charles Swindoll that said: “The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude to me is more important than facts…we cannot change our past…we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent how I react to it. And so it is with you…we are in charge of our attitudes.”

My mom gave us this gift of perspective. The perspective of thankfulness, gratitude, and adventure. I haven’t always appreciated it, but it is a valuable, important gift.

Jesus seemed to have a similar perspective when he listed what we know as the Beattitudes. We find this unfold in Matthew 5:3-10:

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus seems to offer a different perspective, a different take on thankfulness. When I look at this list, at first glance I think the blessed don’t look all that “blessed”; they look more like real life and that doesn’t always feel “blessed” the way our culture defines it. I’m not sure that Jesus had the American dream in mind when he talked about blessing.

It seems like the American culture has been specially-conditioned to overlook blessing. We tend to focus on what has been frustrating (sometimes we even call them first world problems) instead of adjusting our perspective.

What would it look like to live a life of gratitude and thanksgiving, one that seeks out the beauty and good lessons in everything? What life will we make and encourage others to make? Whatever we look for, we will find. What can looking for gratitude and helping our kids seek out gratitude do for us?

I’m incredibly thankful for the gift of perspective, I may not always appreciate it in the moment (come on Mom, be outraged with me!), but perspective has made me a thankful person. It has caused me to look for goodness in things like cleaning, and being lost, and selling a house that is one disaster after another.

During this block we are working intentionally with your children on developing an attitude of gratitude. We are working to look at things from new perspectives and foster thankfulness. We are helping your kids strive for plasticity and a williness to see things differently and know that a different perspective is possible.

I want to invite you to join us as we enter this season of gratitude. Help us encourage this adjustment in perspective with your kids. Together, let’s build a culture of thankfulness.

6 Days and 78 Resources for Digital Literacy and Internet Safety at Anastasis Academy

|Kelly Tenkely|

At Anastasis Academy we are a 1:1 BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) school with EVERY student using technology throughout the day every day.  Internet Safety and Digital Citizenship are important topics for us because it is so integral to what our kids do while they are at school.  We know that we can’t assume that because our kids are fairly savvy when it comes to learning technology, that they will automatically pick up on digital literacy.  Digital Literacy isn’t a topic that should be relegated to school either, it is essential that parents learn about digital literacy so that they can echo and enforce good technology use at home.  This week we will have a week of intensive digital literacy training for our students.  Being a BYOD school means that these topics come up as we go through the year often, it is nice for us to have an intensive week to refer students back to throughout the school year.  So much of digital literacy echoes good safety practices in “real” life.  As such, we spend time discussing online and offline safety practices during this week and have our local school deputy join us.  Below are our favorite resources to use.

6 Days and 78 Resources for Digital Literacy Internet Safety- ilearn technology

Monday- Online Identity

Children tend to assume that if something is online, it must be true.  This is especially true of people they “meet” online.  Children believe that anyone on a social network, blog comments, forum, etc. are who they say they are.  It is important to help kids understand that not everything and everyone online is what they seem.

Elementary:  Faux Paw the Techno Cat: Adventures in the Internet

Faux Paw PDF book

Privacy Playground: The First Adventure of the Three CyberPigs

Cyber Cafe: Think UKnow

Child Net: Primary

Internet Safety Cartoon

Professor Garfield: Internet Safety

Jr. High: NS Teens Friend or Fake– a video that helps students realize that not everyone they meet online is trustworthy

NS Teens- RescueRun Game

Be Seen app (iTunes)  (Google Play)

 ThinkUKnow Teen

ChildNet: Secondary

CyberSmart: Unwanted Contact

Everyone Knows You Online

Do you really know who you are talking to online video

Tuesday: What to do

Every year I would ask my students how many of them had seen something they knew they shouldn’t have online.  100% of kids from kindergarten through eighth grade would raise their hands.  When I followed up with: how many of you told an adult about it? Only about 2% in the same age group raise their hand!!  When you ask students why they don’t report to an adult they list the following reasons: I didn’t want to get in trouble; Mom/Dad/Teacher would take the technology away from me if they knew, it was just an accident so I don’t tell; I was embarrassed.  This is a big deal!  Kids need to know that there is a trusted adult in their life who can help them navigate their online interactions without blaming them for accidental exposure.  After sharing these videos, we discuss appropriate responses to inappropriate material.  I ask kids to turn off the screen without shutting the device down.  This keeps other kids or siblings from seeing the inappropriate content before it can be reported.  If a student sees anything online that makes them feel scared, uncomfortable, confused or something they know is inappropriate they should report it to a trusted adult right away.  I always let students know that they will never be in trouble for reporting this to us.  It is a big help for us because then we know which sites to block so that other kids don’t run across the same material.  Empower your kids to do the right thing by letting them know that they are doing their part to keep a wider community safe.  If children do come to you with inappropriate content, take a deep breath, thank them for their help and report the URL to your content blocking service to be black listed.  No matter how shocking the content is, do NOT get upset with the child!  This will keep them from ever telling you about it again.  Do not punish kids for dong the right thing! Follow up as necessary to help the children properly navigate what they were exposed to.

Elementary: NS Kids: Bad Netiquette Stinks!

NS Kids: Tell a Trusted Adult

NS Kids: UYN game

Welcome to the Web

ThinkUKnow kids

CyberSmart: Offensive Content

CyberSmart: unwanted content

Jr. High: NS Teens: Mike-Tosis

Wednesday: Online Identity/Digital footprint

Children often separate who they are online with who they are in “real” life.  This is a mistake!  It is important for kids to understand that who they are online and who they are in person is one and the same.  Decisions made online can impact their real life in big ways!  Kids also need to know what information is okay to share online, and what information is private and should not be shared online.

Elementary: NS Kids: Be safer online

NS Kids: Be safer offline

CyberSmart: Digital footprint

Jr. High: NS Teens: Profile Penalty

NS Teens: Tad’s Profile Panic game

Top Secret!

CyberSmart: Digital Reputation

Thursday: Cyber Bullying

Cyber Bullying is becoming a big issue for kids all over the world.  Kids say things to each other online (or about each other) that they wouldn’t dream of saying to someone in person.  It is important that kids know what cyber bullying is and what to do if they encounter a cyber bully. Kids need to know that it is always inappropriate to cyber bully in all of its forms.

Elementary: Faux Paw Meets the First Lady: How to Handle Cyberbullying

Faux Paw PDF book

Communications level 2 mission: cyberbullying

Stuart and Scout: Cyberbullying

The Great Bully Roundup

Hector’s World: Cyberbullying

CyberSmart: Cyberbullying

Jr. High: NS Teens: Terrible tEXt

NS Teens: Cyberbully Zombies Attack

NS Teens: Stand by or Stand Up comic

CyberSmart Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying video

 Cyberbully virus video

Friday: Online Privacy

Here’s the thing about making online content private: it’s never really totally private.  Kids forget that even if they only share with people they know, the people they know may not necessarily keep online content private.  I always use the example of my mom who keeps many of her pictures “private” online.  However, I have access to those photos and nothing stops me from downloading them or taking a screen shot and sharing them with the world.  It is important for kids to know if something is digital, that it can be shared.

Elementary: NS Kids: Passwords

NS Kids: Password game

Google: Playing and Staying Safe Online

Disney Surfswell Island

Privacy Pirates: An Interactive Unit on Online Privacy

Safety Land

Communications Level 1 Mission: Personal Information

Hector’s World Personal Information

Do’s and Don’ts when using social networks

Jr. High: NS Teen: Post to be Private

NS Teen: Stop that post…again game

NS Teen: Stop that post! game

Google: Playing and Staying Safe Online

CyberSmart: Identity Theft

Online Safety bulletin board video

Do’s and Don’ts when using social networks

Every Day Learning: Online Discernment

Children tend to believe that everything they read or see online is true.  Obviously this is SO not the case!  Help your kids learn how to have discernment as they are surfing the net.

Elementary: Google: Detecting Lies

Co-co’s AdverSmarts: An Interactive Unit on Food Marketing on the Web

CyberSense and Nonsense: The Second Adventure of the Three CyberPigs

Passport to the Internet: Student tutorial for Internet Literacy

Using the web for research

Jr. High: Google: Detecting Lies

Allies and Aliens: A Mission in Critical Thinking

Jo Cool or Jo Fool

MyWorld: A digital literacy tour for secondary students

Using the web for research


Parent Resources:

Net Smartz: Includes an online safety education kit, teaching materials, presentations

Web Wise Kids: teacher resources, safety night, safety kits

iKeep Safe: Digital Literacy and Citizenship Curriculum

Media Smarts: lessons, resources, professional development

Carnegie Cyber Academy: lessons, game guides, printouts/activities

ThinkUKnow– videos, lessons, resources

Child Net- presentations, resources, lessons, videos

CyberSmart- resources, professional development

Google: Good to Know

Tree Octopus- Help Kids see that not everything that is online is true.  The Octopus Tree Frog site will put their critical thinking skills to the test!

Remember, as you go through these topics and resources for kids, it is crucial that you tie in the equivalent off-line behavior.  Think stranger danger, reporting inappropriate behavior, bullying, and critical thinking.


***Originally posted on

Reflections from Costa Rica…

photo copy 17

Some Costa Rican reflections from the 8th grade class of Anastasis Academy:

“Reciprocal Evangelism”
Missions, evangelism, spreading the gospel.  What does this mean?  Are we called to convert people or simply love people?  How should we witness? Christ associated with all, served humbly, engaged in conversations, and showed compassion and love. They will know we are Christians  by our love.  We are the hands and feet of Christ. St. Francis advised us to, “go forth and preach, and if you have to, use words”.  God, thank you for  Riana, Caleb, Edith, Camilla, Johnny, Jherson, Mario, Walter, Marco, Fiorella, Alan, Bianca, Melody, Christian, Eric, Caesar, Sebastian, Ruth, Alana, Krsna, Fernando. — and so many more Ticos who encouraged and loved us.  Perhaps they were the true evangelists. Our prayer is that we were able to encourage and love them back.

“Universal Language”
When I commonly think about people speaking other languages, a barrier comes to mind that lies between the different languages because we can’t ‘communicate’. Then again, does communication have to be limited to talking? My 8th grade class all traveled to Costa Rica together, and we were able to first hand experience the universal language. This language could even be soccer. While some of the Tico’s and our class played a game of soccer we all found a common interest and joy. This language could also be music. While in the car, the radio was playing the song, Titanium by David Guetta in Spanish. Although, our class all sang it in English and the Tico’s sang in Spanish. This single moment was extremely powerful to me because we didn’t need to have a translator or use our hands to get a point of joy across. Everyone just was jamming to the music and having a good time. After this trip, I go back to the thought of the barrier and why it feels like there is a limit to each other. One day we went to a school and played games, made crafts and just hung out. At this school I meet a boy named Marko. Marko sat away from the other kids, so I went and sat with him asking if he needed any help with the craft. Although Marko spoke zero English and he spoke way too fast for me to even kind of understand what he was saying, I just sat there as he made his craft. I could tell he was unique and special. He made me feel very happy while I was with him, the kind of happy that words can’t amount to. This was a sublime moment I don’t think I could forget. This universal language only consists of emotion, because that is something every single living thing shares. Communication doesn’t only consist of the words to say, but the attitude and openness you share, so truly there is no barrier.

“Costa Rican inspiration”
Over the week we were in Costa Rica there were many things that inspired me, such as the attitudes of the Ticos. The attitudes of the kids in both the schools we went to were amazing, the people on the streets we saw on the first day, and our new friends from Conexion where amazing. The kids had little to nothing, yet they still had such amazing attitudes. They always had a smile on their faces. One day we went to a school and we played soccer on a patch of dirt with an old torn up soccer ball and two broken off slabs of concrete for each goal, and yet the kids still had a smile on their faces. In the U.S., the ball that they were using would be considered garbage, but they didn’t care it made them happy so they played it. Some times I wonder if its bad to have life as good as we do with all that we do, because all it brings is greed and anger.

On the first day we walked down the streets and nearly every person we saw had a smile on their face. When you are in the US and you smile at some one a lot of the time you  don’t do it because you care, but when you are walking down the streets of Costa Rica and some one smiles at you, you can just tell it is genuine. I want that to be me when I walk down the street and smile at some one. I want that smile to affect their day. And last but certainly not least our Conexion friends. Specifically Jhairson, Johnny, Mario, Caleb and Jonathon. These guys specifically had the most impact on me because they were always so welcoming and willing to help. They always made and served us our breakfast and dinner no matter how early or late we needed it, they also did it with a good attitude. When we were playing soccer no matter how bad we were, they always made us feel like we were doing ok. The way all these people acted inspired me to have a better attitude and help people more with a good and joyful attitude.

“Enjoy Coca Cola”
Simplicity is bliss. While in Costa Rica, my class and I learned about the simplicity of life in the Tico’s point of view. Their way of life is one full of joy; seeing the world as a pleasure, seeking the Holy Grail. They find pleasure in not the superficial things but the in-depth view of life. When we first arrived, we had lunch at a family’s house. As we ventured out of the van, I was confronted with a group of young kids playing baseball. Not only was this baseball, but the bat was a coke bottle and the ball a dog toy. Most American kids would expect a great bat and a real baseball, but not these kids. They make do with what they have and don’t complain. I truly believe simplicity is bliss and we take advantage of the things handed to us; instead we should find joy in little things.

“An Orientation of Sorts”
The sun was shining brightly, and we all were feeling optimistic, nervous, and exhausted all at the same time (But mostly optimistic). The Costa Rican air held traces of the sea and the sun (and livestock) as we wandered around the ginormous marketplace. Everyone around us was speaking Spanish, however, it felt natural in a way. As we threaded through the crowd, we were feeling exhilarated and ready for anything. Eventually, we stopped at La Parque de Central, or Central Park, to eat some fruit that we had purchased earlier, and eagerly surveyed the bustling streets of San Jose. We stopped at a large market full of interesting items, and ended up spending a large percent of our day there buying souvenirs for our families. As we rolled away from the beautiful, busy city that was San Jose, we were deeply satisfied with our day, and were excited for our short stay there in the gorgeous country of Costa Rica.

“It’s the Little Things”
Mission trips are often misinterpreted. The ‘normal’ Christian mentality is that we are going to go hand out bibles and convert everyone we see. But what is it really? I believe it’s the little things, like holding a child’s hand, or trying to speak with someone who doesn’t know your language, or simply making the effort to be loving. It is encouraging others and taking the initiative, not necessarily converting others. During our trip, I felt the most encouraged when I was speaking to this little girl named Camilla in Spanish about her doll she was making. We quietly sat there together as I watched her draw the people she cared most about.

“God laughs and plays”
Edith, one of the older volunteers with Conexion, was an inspiration to our team.  She did not speak a word of English but the joy of the Lord and the fruits of the spirit overflowed from her.  She always had a smile, went out of her way to serve, and did the jobs no one else wanted to do.  She prepared the arts and crafts, she swept up the room after the activity, she painted by hand the places the brushes weren’t reaching, she sang, she played soccer, and she worshipped God through her actions.   I had a standing joke with her that if she spoke her Spanish ‘mas rapido’ (quicker) to me, I would better understand.  She would carry on with the joke, speak super fast so I would be clueless, and then burst into laughter.  I saw God laugh, play, and serve through his Costa Rican vessel.  Thank you God for Edith!

“Meeting Alana”
It was our fourth day in Costa Rica, and we were driving down to help out at a school. We brought our art for the nations bags and laid out different activities for the kids. Micah and I were partners, and we didn’t talk as much to the kids as I intended to. Our fourth group came and it was a group of four girls. Once they sat down,  I remember thinking to myself, “Ok I am going to talk to these girls”. Well it turned out that they knew some English, and they kept asking me questions like “Where do you live”, or “How many siblings do you have”, etc. As the more I talked to them, the more I focused on this little girl. Her name was Alana, and she was the cutest little girl ever. She had brown hair, straight across bangs, big green eyes, and the most vivacious laugh. I still have the vision in my mind of her waving her little hand at me saying hello or goodbye. Alana reminded me as myself when I was little, just the way she laughs and smiles when she sees someone new. How loyal and welcoming she was just kind of reminded me of myself. The moment I knew we were friends was at the end, and we were all taking a picture, and I kneeled right next to her and she wrapped her arms around my neck and held on as tight as she could. Till this day, I can still see her smiling at me and I will never forget her.

“The Conexion team”
During the whole trip to Costa Rica, we were with an amazing team called Conexion. Everyone that is on the conexion team are volunteers. Yet what made this team special was their attitudes. Some of the Ticos, couldn’t even speak the same language, yet there were the most outgoing and amazing people. For instance, Johnny was our driver and sort of our tour guide. No matter what time in the morning he would be there and he would do everything with us. The day we left, our flight left at 6:30AM, but we had to be at the airport by no later than 4:45AM. When he showed up at the compound at 3:45 he still had an amazing attitude.  Another example would be with Jonathon and Caleb. They did not speak the same language as us, yet they still became our friends and had a huge impact on all of us. They always played soccer with us and would joke around with us. None of us cared if we spoke the same language because we could use the language of the world. Never let a language barrier stop you from letting you connect with others.

“Nature through my eyes”
God works in mysterious ways in nature. My first time in Costa Rica, and I saw more vegetation than I ever have before. Costa Rica’s nature is so breathtakingly beautiful that you can’t even comprehend it all.  Sure there may be garbage and stray dogs, but if you look deeper, you see Gods array of colors and beauty. A couple of people from my class and I went to walk on the beach one evening, and a stray dog started to follow us around. At first we were obdurate towards the dog and tried to get him to leave, but when we noticed that he never intended to hurt us, we let him tag along. It turns out he was full of energy and was pretty good at making sure no harm came to us. These little things make you think differently about a lot of what’s going on in others lives besides our own. When we made it to the beach that night, I couldn’t see as much as I wanted to, but the smells and sounds made me feel at peace with everything. Humans never seem to live in the moment anymore and that really can cost us later. The one thing I regret from being in Costa Rica is not taking in everything and not continually ‘living in the moment’.

“Pura Vida”
The skyline gates, the dirt ground, the children in this school, and the sun shining so bright.  These kids can have their days lit up by a simple smile from my face. Their simple lives are inspiring, with such little they have, I was blessed to have the opportunity to even play soccer with these wonderful kids. A little girl named Melody and I were making beaded bracelets and I showed her how to braid the string with beads. She made my day with how every time she added a bead she would tap my shoulder to show me with her bright eyes and huge toothless grin. She inspires me everyday to be aware of how a simple smile can change a person’s attitude for the day or even the week. The second school I went to, I was making paper chains and a boy named Christian came up to my station and asked me to make him a flower. I tried my hardest to make the best flower possible. I later saw him give his paper flower to a little girl from a younger grade who was sitting alone and the smile on her tiny face was unforgettable. After that, children came up in dozens asking for flowers! It was amazing how a mere paper flower can make these kids, with near to nothing, smile. These experiences make me think how good I have my life as far as shelter, clothes, water, food, and family. God can do great things.

Thank you to Conexion, Impact, Sascha, our parents, and our school for supporting us and allowing us to do this unforgettable trip!  This opportunity gave us a great dose of “Pura Vida” that we will not soon forget.

Mr. Fink and the Great 8!!