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Unity and Love

Periodically I receive a copy of the ACSI magazine for Christian School Educators. This month, I opened up to an article called “Unity, Not Uniformity” that was written by Joel Westa, the president of CSI (Christian Schools International) which is another organization that supports Christian schools. The only basic difference that I am aware of between ACSI and CSI is that CSI members usually come from a more reformed background. This means they tend to lean more toward Calvinism than some of the other schools. (That’s a whole topic in and of itself – but I won’t go there now.) CSI has been in operation for almost 100 years and ACSI for 40. For all this time, the two have operated separately, even though they have had the same basic mission and goals of supporting Christian schools.

When I saw Joel Westa’s name, I ran over to see my husband. I said, “is this ‘is this our Joel Westa?’” You see, Greg roomed with Joel at The King’s College 40 years ago. What’s also interesting is that the president of ACSI, Dan Egeler, was also at The King’s College with us at that time. Joel said in his article that Dan was even in his wedding party. God brought these two old friends back together to be able to put aside the differences in the two organizations so that they could sign a joint membership agreement that will benefit the schools that support.

This reminded me of the school where my husband and I served prior to coming to Vienna. We began our teaching career at a Christian school in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Over 20 years later, we returned to Lancaster to a different Christian school in the area. This school was founded by a charismatic church, while our first school was much more along the reformed line, as is CSI. Over the years, the two had begun to have more similarities than differences. While we were there, these two schools merged to form a united Christian school that could better serve the community. It took the putting aside of minor doctrinal issues and letting go of some dearly-loved traditions for the sake of unity within the Body of Christ.

It excites me when I see unity carried out through mergers and joint agreements. It also saddens me when I see divisions among believers. Maybe I should save that topic for next week.

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

The Tackle Hug

A couple of weeks ago I stopped in the hallway to greet Frau Deisenberger and a group of her elementary students that were heading upstairs for German class. After a brief conversation, and I turned around and WAM! I was tackle hugged! One of their elementary kids simply grabbed me for a big, happy hug! It was wonderful! Now, granted, if I hadn’t been standing by the wall, I probably would have fallen right over. It was quite funny, actually, because I wasn’t expecting it.

Aren’t happy surprises one of life’s great pleasures? Just about every day, I run into a student or group of students that is simply enjoying being here and with each other. This is one the many things that I love about ICSV. Our students are just awesome! So many times I am encouraged by their smiles and laughter. They are respectful and polite. You are raising a wonderful group of kids. As a staff, it is our focus to want to share God’s love with our students. Last week, a parent came and shared with us during our Staff Devotions time. He encouraged us by saying that even when his kids don’t always want to do the work given to them, they have always felt the love that the staff has for them. Our high school principal shared Titus 2:7-8 with his teachers last week. It says, “In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.” This is a wonderful reminder that we are here as role models of godly character. We acknowledge that we are fallible human beings, but we truly do want to interact with our students and families with integrity.  

That one tackle hug just made my day. Why don’t you try a tackle hug on someone that you know? My guess is that you will be rewarded with a big smile and a heart of appreciation. Have a wonderful weekend!

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

So He Squeezed an Entire Orchard into one Tree!

I’m a Facebook lurker. That means that I love to see what other people are doing, but I very rarely comment on anything. And I never post anything on my own page. I must admit that sometimes friends post so many things that I wonder if all that they do is post on Facebook all day! Well, about six months ago I received a message from a lady who was a middle school kid when we were first married. She lived across the hall from us when our oldest daughter was just an infant. She would come over almost every day to play with her. She found my Facebook page and wondered if we were the family with the cute baby, Bethany. It has been fun reading her posts and seeing the woman that she has become over 30 years later.

Well, this morning she had shared a video about a crazy tree that grows 40 different kinds of fruit. When I watched the video, I saw this most beautiful tree that blooms in pink, white, and crimson every spring. It produces plums, peaches, apricots, nectarines, cherries, and almonds each summer. Amazing! What had happened was that an art professor learned that an orchard that was growing heirloom and antique fruits was closing down, he didn’t want to lose all of those special varieties, so he combined them into just one tree. He used the process of grafting to attach branches from 40 different kinds of trees to just one. Ten years later, this tree is producing wonderful fruit of all different kinds.

This story reminded me that as Christians we are really grafted into one tree – God’s tree. Ephesians 1:5 tells us that God “predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will.” God has adopted us into His family as a true son or daughter. Then in the fifteenth chapter of John, Jesus refers to Himself as the true vine, with His Father as the gardener who prunes the vine so that it will be even more fruitful. Verse 4 says: “Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”

This beautiful picture of a tree with “adopted” branches made me think of the Body of Christ, with people coming from every tribe and nation around the world. As long as we abide in the vine (stay attached to the tree), then we produce lovely fruit that brings glory to God. I’m so glad that Dena found me on Facebook so that we could continue a friendship that started so many years ago. And I’m thankful to all my Facebook friends for sharing inspirational articles and videos with me. The picture of this tree will stay with me for a long time.

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

Happy New Year!

Happy 2018, and welcome back to ICSV! I trust that you had a relaxing and enjoyable time with your family and friends over the holidays. My husband and I spent Christmas in Prague and then took a short trip to Barcelona, Spain during the first week of 2018 to enjoy the lovely, sunny weather. We had a wonderful time, but we are glad to be back at school and to see you all.

It is hard to believe that we will be halfway through the school year next Friday. Already, families that are leaving Vienna have moved on or will be doing so during the next few weeks. Having to say goodbye to dear friends is one of the hardest parts of living in an international community. Even though it is exciting to welcome new and returning families to ICSV, it is sad to see others leave. This can be especially hard for our students, who would be classified as Third Culture Kids (TCKs). Because they either live or go to school (or both) in a community that is not similar to their home country, they have to adapt to a new way of thinking and communicating. In reality, ICSV is basically a “third culture.” It’s not completely Austrian, even though we are located in Vienna, and it’s not American, even though we speak English and follow a curriculum that corresponds somewhat to what is done in the United States. Instead, we are a mixture of cultures, for everyone that comes here brings a bit of their homeland with them.

TCKs are known for forming deep friendships quickly. This may take people a bit off-guard, as they may share their private thoughts and feelings much more readily than the non-TCK who takes time to develop a close relationship. Because of this, it often hurts more when a friend leaves, even one that has only been here for a short time.

So if you are leaving ICSV this month, please be assured that you will be remembered fondly and that we will continue to pray for you wherever God takes you. If you are coming new to ICSV, be assured that you are welcome here and that we want to do everything possible to make this time of transition a positive one. If you are staying at ICSV, please reach out to the new families so that they can become quick friends with your children. And remember that it is okay to grieve the loss of a friend while making a new one. TCKs say that even though all the goodbyes are difficult, they would never trade the chance to meet people from all over the world for anything. Going to school in an international environment is super special and an opportunity that we shouldn’t take for granted.

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

We Wish You a Merry Christmas!

Christmas is almost upon us! The high school students are finishing up their first semester final exams, and we will be heading off for two weeks of rest, time with family, and celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I wanted to take this time to thank you all so much for your support and encouragement over the last 2 ½ years that Greg and I have been in Vienna. We can hardly believe that we are halfway through our third year at ICSV. It is truly our privilege to serve you and your children in such a wonderful school. We wish you safety in travels, joy in homecoming, and love to you and yours. We look forward to seeing you all again in January, 2018!

Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled
Joyful, all ye nations, rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With th’ angelic host proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem.”
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”

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

Martin Luther and Christmas

When we were in the United States recently, my husband bought a book that was just published about the life of Martin Luther. Sounds exciting, right? Well, actually, it is. Here was a devout monk and priest who really struggled with his faith. Luther actually admitted that he hated the righteous God because he could not keep the law, no matter how hard he tried. Luther spent hours and hours every day in confession. He became angry that God would expect him to be able to live the life of faith that he found described in the Bible.

And then one day, God opened his eyes, and he saw for the first time what the Good News of the Gospel is all about. Luther finally understood that Jesus’s birth, death, and resurrection accomplished for all humanity what he could not do on his own. He understood man’s sinful nature and totally embraced the fact that Jesus left His home in Heaven to become a human being in order to give us the gift of grace.

Eric Metaxas (2017, p. 97) cited Luther as saying:
God reached down not halfway to meet us in our vileness but all the way down, to the foul dregs of our broken humanity. And this holy and loving God dared to touch our lifeless and rotting essence and in doing so underscored that this is the truth about us. In fact, we are not sick and in need of healing. We are dead and in need of resurrecting. We are not dusty and in need of a good dusting; we are fatally befouled with death and toxic filth and require total redemption. If we do not recognize that we need eternal life from the hand of God, we remain in our sins and are eternally dead. (italics are mine)

As we celebrate Christmas this year, I encourage you to focus on the immense sacrifice that God made for us by sending His perfect, holy Son to this earth to die for our sins. I can’t even begin to comprehend what that must have been like for Jesus, the Son of God, to become a helpless baby, born in a filthy stable. This is not the quaint Christmas Pageant story that we picture when we think of Christmas. This is the Almighty God humbling Himself and coming to this broken world so that we might experience eternal life with Him. Wow!

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