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David

    Children’s Day

    Every year on April 23, Turkey celebrates National Sovereignty and Children’s Day (Ulusal Egemenlik ve Çocuk Bayramı). For this holiday, “schools participate in week-long ceremonies marked by performances in all fields in large stadiums watched by the entire nation” (turkishnews.com). We had the day off, so we walked to a nearby Turkish school with some friends to check out the festivities.

     

    Turkish balloons

     

    This boy, dressed in traditional clothing, saw me taking a picture and posed.

     

    Boy wearing traditional Turkish clothing on Children's Day

     

    The morning was filled with groups of kids performing in front of their parents and community members. One group even performed Gangnam Style!

     

    Children's Day Celebration

     

    Children's Day

     

    The day had some of the best weather we’ve experienced this spring. Leah and I decided to go for a walk and we both found four leaf clovers! Leah even found a five leaf clover.

     

    Leah holding a 4-leaf clover

     

    David holding a 4-leaf clover

     

    The trees and flowers have been in bloom and Ankara is filled with new life and color. We had such a fun time on our day off and enjoyed the sunshine, performances, and flowers.

     

    Pink blossoms on the trees

     

    Tulips

     

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    ActiveWater 5K

    I teach a class for seventh and eighth graders called Personal Management. The purpose of this class is to help teens establish life skills and develop healthy habits. As a class, we have been studying and just finished Sean Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective TeensOne of the chapters focuses around synergy (a term my class insists I’ve overused). The basis of synergy, according to Covey, is working together to achieve more.

    As a follow-up project, I helped my class organize a 5K race to raise funds for ActiveWater. According to their website, “ActiveWater is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that uses the athletic lifestyle and grassroots campaigns to bring clean water and sanitation projects to needed communities throughout the globe.” ActiveWater focuses on installing wells and bio-sand filters, while also training individuals to repair them.

    I thought this project would give students a chance to step out of the Oasis bubble and participate in something that would help them learn about the needs of others. In the weeks leading up to the 5K, my students prepared forms, posters, and presentations. Several of my students designed games for the fifth and sixth grade classes to help communicate the difficulties people encounter every day in order to get clean water.

     

    A junior high student tells the elementary students about the water crisis.

     

    My students had so many great ideas. One suggested setting up a water carboy for donations. Another student came up with the idea to pass a smaller jug around at lunch to collect spare change. We received several donations through these two ideas and both were a major part of our fundraiser.

     

    The ActiveWater donation jug

     

    Another way we earned money was by selling t-shirts for the 5K. One of my students had an idea to hold a Blue-Out day to raise awareness. On the day of the race, students could pay 1 lira to wear blue instead of dress code requirements. Several students wore their race t-shirts.

     

    Students wore blue shirts on blue out day

     

    I split my class into different committees with different roles. One group worked the registration desk on the day of the race. They did a great job representing Oasis and ActiveWater.

     

    Registration table

     

    It was the first time I had organized an event like this, so I was a little nervous. However, with the help of several friends, my concerns were put to rest. I realized most of the people at the race were happy to run and make a difference. They were not concerned about technicalities.

     

    5K ActiveWater race in Turkey

     

    Although you can’t see them all here, there were over 40 participants in the race. There were several who even made it a family event. Elementary students, high-school students, and adults all lined up at the starting line.

     

    At the start line of the 5K race

     

    And then they were off!!!

     

    ActiveWater 5K Race

     

    First and second place runners

     

    We had three age categories: fifth through eighth graders, high schoolers, and adults. Winners from each age division were given a gift card to a local athletic store.

     

    Age division winners

     

    I was so proud of my personal management class. It was a lot of fun to see the students get excited. I hope it will have a lasting impact on their lives.

     

    Personal Management class

     

    Through all of our efforts, we raised over 1600 Turkish Lira (close to $950!). But most importantly, the students, runners, volunteers, parents, and I got to be a part of something bigger than ourselves.

     

    Counting the ActiveWater donations

     

    On a personal note, I learned a lot through this experience. I toyed around with the idea several times before sending an email to ActiveWater. This project helped me become more passionate about helping those who are less fortunate than myself, something my Christian faith calls me to do. The support of the students, teachers, and administration was amazing and made me wonder why I ever doubted if it could work.

    Many thanks to Amie at ActiveWater for the encouragement and many ideas she passed along during the planning process. She even took time out of her morning to Skype with my class. And many thanks to my students for their ideas and ambition to make a difference in the world.

    Learn more about ActiveWater and how you can get involved at www.activewater.org.

    I Fell in a Hole

    I usually look forward to getting rest during trips. However, once we’re actually traveling, I find myself restless and ready to explore. I think my curiosity is to blame as I’m always looking for an adventure. So, needless to say, I rarely catch up on sleep during breaks.

    During our recent trip to Istanbul, I went out for a walk while the others took naps. I spent some time along the shore sitting on some boulders by the Sea of Marmara. I was having a good time and was enjoying taking pictures.

     

    Istanbul Coast

     

    Sea of Marmara

     

    As I made my way back to the hostel, I stopped at a bakkal (convenience store) to get candy bars. I was looking around the store and reached up to grab something off of a shelf. As I did, the owner called out to me. I turned around to see what the owner had to say. I didn’t notice the big gap in the floor. As I turned around, I stepped back and fell right into the hole. Luckily, my back, head, and thigh hit the metal frame so I didn’t fall all the way down immediately.

     

    Bakkal hole in the floor

     

    Next thing I knew, I was stumbling up a ladder with the store owner. He sat me down for a few minutes and gave me water. After he was sure I knew where I was, I paid for my candy bars and left.

    I’m still a little bruised and scratched.

    Moral of the story: Watch where you walk.

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    Guilt

    Moving overseas has changed my life in so many ways. In some aspects, living in Turkey is similar to when Leah and I lived in Virginia. Our families in Michigan are not physically accessible, but they are only a phone call or video chat away.

     

    The Benedict family

     

    However, something I’ve struggled with since I first moved away from home was my longing to still be an active participant in the lives of my brothers. Being home-schooled first through eighth grade, I interacted closely with my four brothers. Whether we were chasing each other around with sticks, pulling each other into a fort with a rope to depict the Ascension in our “Easter Play,” or making a roller coaster by riding Mom’s baking pans down a ladder, there was always a level of appreciation and companionship.

    Being away from my brothers has had a major impact on me. I often wonder if there’s more I could be doing to encourage them in their spiritual and personal endeavors. It is an uncomfortable feeling, but one to which I’ve become accustomed. I’ve missed many concerts, musicals, and sports events. It’s left me wishing Leah and I could be beamed home to Michigan at any time.

    Lately, this feeling has been much stronger.

    The birth of Joe and Brittany’s son, Jonah, is something that has brought joy to my heart. I am so happy their family is safe and happy. I am very excited to meet my new nephew. While I’ve seen him through Skype, my heart aches to hold him and let his tiny fingers latch onto mine. Joe and I used to be roommates at home, and I have fond memories of our relationship. He and Brittany will be great parents. I’m excited to be Uncle David.

     

    Joe, Brittany, and Jonah

     

    I miss being at home for Sam’s high school years. I have followed his athletic stats online after every game. One of my favorite things to do when I’m at home is to watch Sam play baseball and basketball. His knowledge on and off the field and court amazes me. I miss joking around with Sam. He has a great sense of humor and a great personality.

     

    Sam playing baksetball

     

    I also miss my interactions with my youngest brother Benny. Although I am 14 years his senior, we have an interesting relationship that is constantly developing. With him, it’s the little things I miss – the “funny” jokes he comes up with, his crazy brain and its academic achievements, and running around the house during Nerf wars.

     

    David and Benny

     

    I have enjoyed Daniel’s time with us in Turkey. Ever since we were little, we have been great friends (whether we wanted to admit it or not). I am sad I will miss his graduation from Liberty. Other than last semester, we have never lived more than a 40 minute drive apart.

     

    David and Daniel on the 2nd floor of the Hagia Sophia

     

    It’s not just my brothers that I miss. I miss being able to talk face-to-face with my parents. I’m almost 25 years old, and I still think my Dad gives the best hugs. Those hugs have embraced me during some of my most difficult and exciting moments. He and mom have always been a solid support system. I miss my grandparents and Leah’s family. I wish I could see Mary run cross country for her college team, and I wish I could see Leah’s mom at her various award ceremonies. I miss my close friends and my aunts, uncles, and cousins.

     

    Hugging my dad

     

    Grandpa and Grandma Wilcox

     

    I think these feelings of guilt have spurred from a lack of trust in God’s plan. Lately, God has been teaching me something valuable. Who I am and the level of influence and support I give has nothing to do with my physical presence in the lives of those I love. God has placed us in different places of the world for a reason; my responsibilities lie where God has placed me. I pray that by following His will for my life, I will be an example of Christ. Rather than being bogged down by guilt, I can praise Him for the relationships we have. 

    I’ve wallowed in self-pity because there were events I could not attend. I have realized this kind of thinking prevents me from being effective in my current career. I am surrounded every day by kids who look to me for guidance. As a teacher, I have an opportunity to display forgiveness and other character traits to my students.

     

    My sixth grade class

     

    I often take for granted the relationship I have with my wife. Leah is my best friend. She does so much for our relationship and constantly devotes herself to loving me. I am so thankful God brought us together. I want to to focus on being a better husband and communicator.

     

    Izmir sunset on the water

     

    While I may never get completely accustomed to missing important events in the lives of my family, I can rest assured my hope and my contentment lies in my devotion to Christ. My underlying fear has been that I am not fulfilling my responsibility as an older brother. I choose to redirect my thinking so I am measuring my life’s value not by my physical presence in the lives of my family, but by my obedience to Christ.

     

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    I Am Most Alive Among the Tall Trees

    One of my favorite places to be is in my parent’s maple woods. When I’m home, I’ll often walk or take my dad’s Gator back to enjoy the peace and quiet. It is something I’ve missed while in Turkey.

     

    METU Forest

     

    I recently took a hike in the forest with a friend of mine. It was a fairly clear day and it had been a long week. We decided to just take our cameras and see what we could see. As we walked, I slowly began to let go of the week’s tension. Just to be away from the noise and civilization for a couple hours was refreshing.

     

    Hiking in the METU forest

     

    As we moved farther down the trail, the city became more visible and soon we could see all of Ankara and the mountains beyond, but we didn’t have to hear the noise. The scenery and the outdoors were beautiful and I continued to see God’s presence in nature.

     

    View of Ankara from the METU forest

     

    View of Ankara from the Metu Forest

     

    Being outside reminds me to take time to appreciate that which he has surrounded us. I’m positive that nature and quiet will always be a comfort to me. Whether I’m in Ankara, Turkey or Vermontville, Michigan, I am sure that I will always take moments to enjoy the beauty and serenity found in God’s creation.

     

    METU Forest

     

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    100th Day of School

    Last week included the 100th day school has been in session this year. To celebrate, the lower elementary dressed up like 100-year-old men and women. I was excited because it was my day to teach the K4 (Preschool) and K5 (Kindergarten) Bible class.

     

    Elementary Bible Class

     

    When I went to pick up the K4 and K5 students, I came around the corner to a number of ancient looking boys and girls. We had a lot of fun in Bible class. I made a Psalm 100 coloring page and we sang it as a song. “Shout for joy to the Lord!”

    I enjoyed acting like an old man and tying in a Bible lesson to the 100th day of school activities. I have so much fun with all my Bible classes. I am often humbled by the faith these little individuals have in their Creator.

    But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 19:14 (ESV)

     

    Coloring in Bible

     

    100th Day of School in Bible

     

    100th Day of School in Bible

     

    100th Day of School in Bible

     

    Leah took a few pictures of 100th Day of School festivities, too:

     

    100th Day of School glasses

     

    100th Day of School Sign

     

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