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You are Welcome Here!

Last week we had the privilege of hosting a large group from Ms. Fitcher’s and the Wiisanen’s home church in Florida. They came out to lead the students in a daily chapel and to be an encouragement to us all. Throughout the week you could see them making manipulatives for the elementary classes or helping small groups of students in the hallway. At the secondary level, there was a middle school activity after school where the students could get to know them better and have fun together. On Thursday evening, the high school students led those who desired to come during Praise Night. What a powerful time of worship we had together!

As they were getting ready to leave, the leaders asked members of their group to share a bit about their experience here in Vienna. One man said that he was so impressed with how our students are able to discuss their beliefs while remaining respectful of each other. Another woman shared that she wished that her own children had been able to go to a school like ICSV where staff and students come from 50 different countries and numerous cultural and religious backgrounds. As our theme for the year says we “Stand United.” As a community, we are exemplary in being able to unite around a shared mission.

This is not the first time that I have heard comments like these. I’d say that one thing that makes ICSV so special and a great choice for parents is our sense of community. Students feel that they belong here. They feel loved and appreciated. And in this atmosphere of acceptance, they are able to thrive. Yesterday a teacher stopped by my office. She told me that she had been walking around the school and just had to share with someone that she loves ICSV. That’s the way we want everyone that enters our doors to feel. I trust that you and your family feel this way, for you are welcome here!

Because of His Faithfulness,
Sharon C. Brobst, Ed.D.
Director

Why Can’t Everyone See?

It is so good to be back in Vienna! I had a wonderful time of meeting with prospective teachers, former staff members (Jeffrey and Lisa Schra send their greetings), friends, and family. At the very end of the recruitment trip, I was able to spend a whole day with my granddaughter who is now three. One of the lessons that she learned in preschool was about the miracle that Jesus performed to make the blind man see (John 9). She wanted to reenact what she had learned over and over again. Then she asked a really deep question – one that even adults struggle with – “Why can some people see and some people can’t see?”

Sometimes we can’t seem to find answers to the big questions of life. We almost have a deep-seeded need to understand everything that happens in the world. But we are not God. Our finite minds aren’t made to comprehend all of God’s mysteries. When the former blind man was asked who it was that had healed him and whether he was sent from God or was a sinner, his response was, “I don’t know if he is a sinner. But I do know this: I was blind, and now I can see” (John 9:25). Like the blind man, I am able to say that I don’t always understand why God has chosen to do things the way He has, but I can say that by faith I accept His promises. He is an all-knowing, almighty God that loves me and is working in my life to make me more like Him. Whether He uses illness or poverty or other struggles, I can trust Him. So why can some people see and some people can’t? God has a reason. In John 9:3 Jesus told them why He had healed the blind man: “This happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” God sometimes uses our weaknesses to show His strength.

Last night at Praise Night we sang “I Breathe You In, God.” Some of the words were, “And when I don’t understand, I will choose You… I will choose to love You, God.” The older I get, the more I am able to let go of things that don’t make sense from a human standpoint. I do know that because of His great love, Jesus came to earth to become a human being. That is why He is able to relate to our disabilities, understand our weaknesses, and identify with our pain. This is truly a God whom I can trust!

Because of His Faithfulness,
Sharon C. Brobst, Ed.D.
Director

Ponderings From Poland

I am still in the US, just finishing up my recruitment trip. This week, please read some thoughts by Mr. Bill Wiisanen, Bible Teacher, who was one of the chaperones on the Class Trip that went to Poland in September. He sat down to recount some of his impressions of the trip. They really will make you think.

Because of His Faithfulness,
Sharon C. Brobst, Director

In September, I was one of the chaperones on the school trip to Auschwitz with the eleventh and twelfth graders. History is a hobby of mine. I have studied both World Wars, and I am familiar with the Holocaust. I know enough about Auschwitz that I felt that I needed to visit the former concentration camp. Some things you do, not because it is fun, but because you should.

We stayed in Krakow and drove to Auschwitz early that morning. It was to be a long day. We started at Auschwitz 1, the head camp. The students were tired but somber, and anyone who has ever traveled with 40 to 50 teenagers knows there would usually be laughing and joking among them, but not on that day. We entered through the main gate to the camp and saw the sign ‘Arbeit Macht Frei,’ which means ‘work makes free.’ It is a mockery — there was no hope of freedom. A few people survived, but they were liberated by Allied troops. One did not escape Auschwitz.

Auschwitz 1 is a memorial to the Holocaust; it tells the story of those killed there. The Jews were told to bring their most valuable possessions, and rooms at the camp are filled with valuables left when the camp was taken. It is sobering. Shoes, brushes, pots, and pans are some of the things we saw.

One of the worst parts for me was the room full of human hair that the Nazis used to make horse blankets. I stayed and just stared, as did many of the students. It was numbing. There was, quite literally, over a ton of hair. If you looked closely, you could see the curls and the variations in color of the hair taken from the women who had been murdered there.

During our day there, we met with an Auschwitz survivor who told us her moving story. When she was finished, she asked if there were any questions. One of our students asked a bold question. She wondered if the woman had forgiven the people who did so much to harm her and her family. The answer was a flat “no,” with it being clear there was no room for discussion.

Later during the trip, my daughter forwarded me a video of another Auschwitz survivor that had been interviewed. This woman actually survived being experimented on by Mengle. Her experiences defied description. It is amazing that she and her sister survived when the rest of her family were killed. This survivor reached a different conclusion than the lady that we had met at the camp. In contrast, she publicly forgave those who had harmed her and her family.

The stories of these two women and their decisions to either forgive or not to forgive have really impacted me. It seems to me that forgiveness in this extreme is a choice. As a Christian, I know this level of forgiveness is required of me, as Jesus commanded us to forgive others as He has forgiven us. Even with this knowledge, I ask myself if I could forgive if I had gone through similar experiences to what these women endured. Honestly, I don’t know. I would like to think I could forgive and would do so, but I am not really sure. Perhaps this is where we depend on God’s strength when our own is lacking. I suspect this would be the case for me.

Mr. Bill Wiisanen
Bible Teacher

Greetings from the ACSI Recruitment Fair!

This week I am writing from the United States, as I’ve been on a six-day recruiting trip organized by ACSI, one of our accrediting bodies. I have met with prospective teachers, education professors, and directors from other international schools. I have gotten to tell everyone about ICSV and what a great place it is. I recounted stories about our students and details about our academics and extracurricular offerings. The trip will continue next week, as I drive all the way to Philadelphia for the final college on the list.

Prior to the recruitment fair, I was able to spend a couple of days with two of my children. I’m now driving to Pennsylvania to see my granddaughter, who is three. She is now enrolled in a Christian pre-school (similar to a kindergarten here in Austria). She is a lively, creative little girl, so she loves getting to play with her new friends twice a week. I’m so thankful that my son and his wife understand the importance of choosing a school where Christian character is taught along with learning how to read and write. We are very happy with their decision.

I want to remind you that next week you will have the opportunity to meet with your students’ teachers during our two days of Parent-Teacher Conferences. I hope that you will be encouraged by what you hear. As a mother of three grown children, I want to remind you that your children are works in progress. No one is good at everything; some subjects require more work and don’t come as easily as others. At ICSV, we are just as concerned about our students’ character growth as we are with their academic growth. We want to see students who are developing a solid work ethic, who show care and compassion for their fellow classmates, and who are growing in their emotional and social understanding. ICSV is the perfect place for your children to thrive as they learn more about themselves and about God each day.

Next week I’ve invited Mr. Bill Wiisanen to share some of his thoughts from the junior-senior class trip to Poland in place of my Eagle article. Enjoy. I look forward to seeing you soon.

Because of His Faithfulness,

Sharon C. Brobst, Ed.D.