Angol Tabor

Hello friends, family, and interested readers! (It’s a long post, and pictures are at the end. ;))

Since we last communicated with you so much has happened. We have felt God’s blessing and his presence in so many different situations. And we have loved our time in Hungary! Here are a few of the highlights:

God blessed our travels, and we only experienced some mild discomfort during our flights. (We experienced the non-parent side of the crying/screaming baby from Pittsburgh to Paris. Abby had some stomach pain when we got into Paris. And Stephen had sinus issues which led to some kind of severe pain on the descent into Budapest. And about an hour into our time in Hungary, we were totally fine. God is good. 🙂

We hit the ground running once we landed in Budapest. Our dear friend Anna picked us up from the airport, and then we joined her in serving at a refugee shelter. After Abby got to hold a Nigerian baby and Stephen was a jungle gym for an African-Hungarian boy, we continued on to Kecskemet. When we arrived at 9:30pm, our amazingly gracious hosts welcomed us with fresh fruit and sweet treats. Hungarian hospitality is the best! Rozsa and Peter have been a blessing from God in how they have welcomed us and cared for us.

On Friday, we went to Kecskemeti Baptista Gyulekezet. For Stephen, this was his first visit. For Abby, for me, I was coming to one of my homes. I got really excited when I began to recognize the street and when I saw the sign, “Baptista Imahaz.” I was beaming when we pulled up to the front doors. After 4 years, after spending only a total of 4 weeks in this place, it still felt so much like home. I was excited and eager to enter the building, and then we walked down into the basement, the lower level of the church where most of English Camp planning, performing, singing, dancing, testimony-giving, and Gospel-preaching happened in past years (and this year). I couldn’t hold back my tears. It was so beautiful and overwhelming to realize that God had brought me back. And then I was even more overwhelmed to have my wonderful husband and my dear friend both comforting me and offering shoulders to cry on. 🙂 Thankfully my tears didn’t last long, though: we had God’s work to do. 🙂

And we had an amazing team to work with! God miraculously provided just the right number of English teachers for this year’s camp. He even gave us some fellow Clevelanders—a family of four who has been serving in Hungary for four years—and a fellow African American who was originally from Flint, Michigan, and probably at SVSU the same time as Abby’s mom! Isn’t God amazing in how He works?! Our team was made even better with the God-ordained gift of cross-cultural unity. But we’ll get to that later. 🙂

Angol Tabor was an incredible blessing from the Lord.  We had approximately 60 students aged from 8 years old to 83 years old. (Zsuzsa-neni had been a teacher for about 50 years, and she was such a blessing!)  Here is what the daily schedule looked like:

  • 9:00-10:00 – staff prayer (Such a rich, blessed time with Americans and Hungarians. It is a taste of Heaven to pray in different languages with no translation. Our God hears and responds to us all, and we still felt so united.)
  • 10-11 – First class session
  • 11-11:30 – Big group time (worship music, testimony, encouragement from Pastor Samuel, sharing the Gospel)
  • 11:30-12:30 – Second class session
  • 12:30-1:30 – lunch
  • 1:30 – 4:30 – sports/one-on-one
  • 4:30 – 5:00 – snacks
  • 5:00 – 6:30 – Gospel sharing afternoon (worship music, a Gospel message, a testimony—one day, there was a skit from four Hungarian girls from the church. They dramatized the story of the Prodigal son, and it was so moving. Another day, we watched the movie Do You Believe? in English with Hungarian subtitles; a great movie, and a good way to learn more Magyarul!)

Of course, I (Abby) could go on and on about the blessings and the God-moments throughout the whole camp. And truly, I’d love to talk with you more when we get home—in Ohio July 8, and up in Michigan sometime later in July. Just let me know. 😉 For now, I’d like to share two important aspects of the camp that were impactful to us, and the students.

  1. One-on-Ones
    • One-on-ones were both a new addition and a key highlight of English Camp this year. The purpose was to have the teachers available to the students for whatever they would prefer, whether that be conversation practice, answering tough questions, simply practicing colors with a game of “I Spy” (that was Abby’s first one-on-one).  Anna created a schedule and students could sign up for 30-min blocks of time, with the teacher of their choice, to promote and stimulate more opportunity to grow. Stephen had some great conversations, but he spent most of his time outside playing foci (soccer) with the boys. Abby, however, had at least 2 days that were booked solid with one-on-one conversations, mostly with young women from the camp. I feel so blessed to have had these conversations. I had a couple of tearful ones. At least 2, maybe 3 times, we ended the conversation with prayer. God humbled me and spoke through me, and allowed me to follow the example of several women who have mentored and poured into me. It was a blessing to be sure.
  2. Stephen’s class
    • Here’s the best part about being “the writer” for us: I get to share Stephen’s successes without being the least bit embarrassed. 🙂 Stephen did an excellent job teaching his class. He had a rather challenging, but awesome, group of 13-14 year olds. His students were reluctant to speak English and very eager to chitter-chatter in Hungarian. There was also some friendship cliques in his class. After Monday, he was a bit frustrated that his lesson plans didn’t turn out the way that he had hoped. (#teaching) Stephen was so humble and persistent and creative in his lesson planning through the week, though. And by the end of the week, he had his students actively participating in charades, catch phrase, Pictionary, and Fishbowl, completely in English (or at least mostly). His class confirms what we all knew: Stephen is the best teacher of the world. 🙂

We would love to tell you more, but it’s so much more fun in person. So please ask us about any of these things when we return:

  • How Stephen learned to play soccer-four square
  • How Abby and Stephen got to lead a Girls’ Chat and a Man Chat—and how differently those went
  • How we survived the Kecskemet hail storm
  • How God clearly spoke through Stephen’s testimony on Tuesday
  • How Tunde and the kitchen ladies immensely blessed us
  • How the Holy Spirit told Abby to give her Bible to Mirella, and how Abby obeyed
  • How Anna then gifted a new English Bible to Abby
  • How Stephen impressed all the Hungarian women and men as being an excellent, godly man and husband. (Best quote, in hesitant English, from the lovely Eszter: “Abby, where did you buy this husband?”)
  • How Abby and Stephen practiced counting in Hungarian
  • How God blessed us with inspired connections and encouragement and His beautiful Church
  • And, best of all, how 8 students raised their hands to commit their lives to Christ!!

It is a little strange to realize now that English camp is already over. I hope that Stephen and I will continue reflecting back on all the ways that God blessed us and worked in and through us during those quick 5 days.


Since last Friday, we’ve had a lovely holiday. Friday evening, we went into the city center in Kecskemet for Kurtoskalacs (a doughy, delicious pastry cooked over coals so that the inside is soft and the outside is glazed—aka delicious!) and gelato and great company. Saturday we joined the Gateway Christian Fellowship church plant again to keep learning about Jonah and to worship with people from 7 different nations. Sunday, we attended Danube church, an English-speaking church in Budapest that reminded me so much of the Niamey English Worship Service. We even had a time for Hello’s and Goodbye’s! Sunday afternoon, we journeyed to Vac to spend time with some refugee men from Afghanistan and Iraq. Then Monday, we drove to Tihany and Balatonfüred, two towns on the lovely Lake Balaton, for our true vacation. We had some funny, some frustrating, and some blessed adventures there, all seasoned with lovely, deep conversation between Anna, Stephen, and me. And today, we spent time actually at the Lake (yes, Mom, it did get me excited for Pentwater), then went to an Adventure Park (zip lining and rock wall climbing!), and finally returned to Budapest for some ginormous burgers before crashing at a friend’s apartment.

So yes, it has been rather busy, but it has also been so good. And, unsurprisingly, Stephen is a boss at international driving. Our next few days will be in Budapest, then we’ll return to Kecskemet Thursday evening before leaving for France on Saturday. We’ll try to update more before then.

We so appreciate your prayers. Truly, we felt God at work at English camp. Thank you for partnering with us from across the ocean. One of our new favorite Hungarian phrases is Hala Istennek (pronounced Ha-la Eesh-te-nek). It means “praise God,” or “Thanks be to God.” And that’s how we feel right now: Hala Istennek.

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The Morrises go to Europe

Hello friends and family and interested readers-

To say that it’s been a while is a significant understatement. Hopefully most of you have stayed informed even while I have been off-line. For those of you who last heard from me in the summer of 2015, here are some quick updates:

  • Stephen and I had a lovely wedding day on June 18, 2016, and we are quite enjoying marriage. (Almost a full year!)wedding
  • Stephen and I now live in Cuyahoga Falls, OH, but I’m still a Spartan. Go Green!
  • By God’s grace, I completed my first year of teaching at the amazing Roberts Middle School here in Cuyahoga Falls.
  • In about 5 weeks, Stephen will start a new job that we are so grateful for and so excited about! (More details on that later. :))
  • In just over a week, we are going to Europe!

If you’re interested in Stephen’s and my love story, our wedding website is still up –though not updated– Morris Wedding website. And if you’re interested in pictures, check out either of our Facebook pages. 🙂

 

To Europe!

On to the exciting new news, though: God has provided a way for Stephen and me to go to Hungary and France this summer! In short, my Hungarian friend Anna contacted us earlier this year. She’s a strong believer with fierce faith who invited us to come teach at the English camp that her church is hosting in Kecskemet, Hungary, in June. Stephen and I prayed and hoped and received godly counsel. Through God’s providence and a nice refund from the US government, we bought tickets to Europe! We are so grateful and so excited for how God will work this summer. We would love your prayers in the following areas:

Please pray for…

  • open hearts and minds that are ready to hear and receive the Gospel. The English camp in Kecskemet is boldly evangelistic, and we’re excited to partner with Kecskemeti Baptista Gyulekezet (Kecskemet Baptist Church website). (Just hit “translate.”)
  • Stephen and me to seek God and to listen and respond to His Spirit. A good amount of this trip is fluid and flexible. We want to be a blessing and an encouragement to the Believers we spend time with. We want to draw unbelievers closer to Christ. And we want to bring honor to God throughout the trip.

 

As for our itinerary, here are the generalities:

June 14– We head to Europe!

June 15-18– Time with Anna and the church family, preparing for the English Camp.

June 19-23– Angol Tabor! (English Camp!) Pray for Gospel-transformation.

June 24-30– Touring around Hungary and joining Anna in ministry.

July 1-8– Staying in Strasbourg, France, and spending time with dear missionary friends of ours.

 

If you would like more details of our trip or how you can pray with and for us, please contact us! My new email is abbymorris16@gmail.com. We’ll try to update the blog during our adventure, hopefully with pictures! 🙂

We are grateful for your interest and your prayers!

~Abby and Stephen Morris

Settling back in

I think the biggest difference is that I’m no longer doing homework for Cedarville. I can’t lie: it is wonderful to not be doing Cedarville homework right now. 🙂 There are many other differences between my time at Sahel last fall and my time right now, but the lack of Cedarville assignments is definitely an obvious blessing.

The people have changed. This community will forever be a revolving door of comings and goings. I had the chance to say goodbye to many people last December, but there are friendly faces that left before I returned. The friend groups and dynamics have altered slightly compared to last fall. Certain students have switched classes or gone on home assignment, giving our discussions and conversations in class a different vibe. Beyond that, though, people just change. We mature and grow and digress and stumble along through various experiences that impact, affect, change us.

I’ve also changed. I can’t always tell the difference between “faking it til I’m making it” and genuinely having confidence in the classroom, but I’ll take either approach at this point. With no Dietrich to back me up on teaching choices (except that he’s still great about responding to my emails) and no Jenn to bounce ideas off of (again, save through email), I have to gain some independence in the classroom. I will say, I’m learning to enjoy having my own space to teach, to facilitate discussions, to encourage collaboration and learning. I love listening to and engaging in conversations about Persepolis and religion, Nervous Conditions and racial equality, Silas Marner and the complexity of human character. I still have so, so much to learn about teaching, but I’m deeply grateful to Sahel for trusting me to teach, prepare, instruct, educate their students. I missed the young adults that I get to teach, and I’m so happy to be reunited with them.

“Becoming more adventurous”

Last summer, when Stephen and I had only been dating for about 2 months, he gave me a remarkable gift. He presented me with a stack of envelopes and gave me instructions to open one envelope every other day for the duration of his time working at the Christian summer camp Skyview Ranch. Each picture included a chalkboard sign describing something that he appreciates about me. (I know, right? He’s so great. :)) Those even-numbered days were a constant highlight through last summer.

In one of my favorite pictures, Stephen is hanging upside down on a set of monkey bars, his legs hooked on one of the bars. He’s sticking out his tongue, his hair is listening more to gravity than to him, and he’s holding the chalkboard that says that I am “… becoming more adventurous.”

Granted, he was partially mocking me in this picture, referencing past conversations that we’ve had about risk-taking, being brave, and seeking adventures. But I’m realizing that for me, becoming adventurous connects closely with listening to the Holy Spirit. You see, I hate failure. I’m a recovering perfectionist, and I sometimes can’t handle not succeeding. It’s an issue, for sure. So for me, listening to the Holy Spirit, being willing to make a fool of myself, and trying something new are all intertwined.

Here’s what this means for me right now:

  • I used a sewing machine for the first time to hem a small headscarf—more like a big head band. (Kathy owns a sewing machine. :))
  • I went jogging—twice. The second time, I initiated it. I’m finally trusting God enough to ignore my non-constructive self-talk and just start working out.
  • I also attempted cartwheeling. I’m a 23 year-old girl who has never learned how to cartwheel. I’m still learning, but at least I’m trying.
  • I played volleyball in the pool with some boys at the American Embassy Rec Center. I’m assuming that they were Nigerien. They were probably middle school-aged and we passed and set the make-shift volleyball in the pool for a couple of hours.
  • This morning I ended up leading the teaching of a Kids’ Club in Kwarateji, a village just outside of Niamey. I was visiting with my friend April, another Sahel teacher, and the Nigerien believer leading the club asked if I wanted to teach the lesson in French and have him translate into Zarma. Talk about praying for the right words from the Lord! We talked about Cain and Abel and how sin requires a payment of death. Then we connected the Old Testament sacrifices to Jesus’ ultimate, final sacrifice for us. Why is it that I’m sometimes bolder about my faith in French than I am en anglais?

At least in the small things, I think I’m learning to be brave.

Sahel life

May is upon us, and school is getting busy. In some classes, I’m struggling to figure out how I’m going to fill every class that we have left. In other classes, I’m really struggling to finish up the units that we currently have going. Some of my students have taken at least 2 of their IGCSE exams. I have 5 more exams (papers) to prepare my students for. Each course has between 2 and 3 separate exams/papers that students must take. After next week, my 9th graders will be done with their English exams. Hallelujah!

Speaking of the amazing 9th grade class, they successfully completed their 4th Movie Night fundraiser last Thursday! They did an excellent job, and I’m so grateful for my co-sponsor Rachel and all of the 9th grade parents. We had a great time preparing and serving loaded baked potatoes while families from the missionary and Sahel community came to watch Big Hero 6. It does feel good, as a pseudo/stand-in class sponsor, to have this event over. More than that, though, it feels wonderful to have worked with such a great 9th grade class!

Another huge praise: we sent the yearbook to the printers!! Granted, I don’t have a hard copy yet, and that will make me feel much better when I can actually hold our finished yearbooks. But once again, I’m feeling so proud of and grateful for the yearbook staff this year. I’m also really grateful for Dietrich who helped them to get so much done during the first half of this semester! Thank you for your prayers for this task.

We have 3.5 weeks of school left. What?! How did that happen? Didn’t I just get here? Time flies when your “first year of teaching” is actually a fall semester of student teaching and then less than 2 months at the end of the school year.

Also, please keep in mind and in prayer the needs for Sahel Academy for this upcoming school year. We still need a 4th grade teacher, a high school English teacher, and math and science teachers for middle and high school. Additionally, the school really needs a new director so that the Administrative team does not have to carry that weight of responsibility. Thank you for praying with us and for us. We’re praising God and waiting expectantly to see how He is already planning to fill these needs.

God speaking

I’m trying something new in my journal. In a conversation that I had with Mrs. Morris a few weeks ago, she mentioned that sometimes she writes in a journal in one color of ink for her thoughts and prayers, then a different color of ink for what God tells her. I thought about that quite a bit. I’m relatively consistent with my communications with God in that I talk at Him a good amount. I tell Him my anxious thoughts. I praise Him from time to time. I tell Him my fears, hopes, concerns, petitions. But how frequently do I seem to really hear from Him?

I’m starting to write in cursive when I feel like I’m hearing God’s words. (Yes, my wonderful elementary teachers at Grace Christian School did teach me how to write in cursive.) I don’t mean to be pretentious; I’m not getting specific messages from God. I’m not hearing an audible voice calling to me in the wee hours of the morning. “Yes, Eli, I’m here.” I just mean that I’m trying to quiet myself a bit more than usual so that I can receive whatever passages or phrases from Scripture God is trying to remind me of. I’ve also been reading Passion and Purity by Elisabeth Elliot, which has been both encouraging and challenging, reminding me to truly wait on the Lord. It’s a slow struggle for sure, but I get the feeling this is one of those good struggles.

Prayers

  • Pray for 9th and 10th graders taking their IGCSE exams in the upcoming weeks.
  • Pray for 11th and 12th graders taking AP tests.
  • Pray for and end to the meningitis outbreak. Pray for quick, effective treatment for those who are sick.
  • Pray for my family back home, for good health and great time with the Lord.
  • Pray for Stephen and me, that we will continue loving each other well while also living presently where we are.

Praises

  • The yearbook is at the printers!
  • The Movie Night was a great success.
  • We’re making it through hot season. 🙂
  • God pursues us, and He is so, so good.