Highlights of our first few days here:
1. River Walk: Around the campus, in the woods, there is a beautiful stream to which trails lead and encircle.
The paths take you to the river side, through shady woods, and past old stone walls covered in ivy. Rachael took us kids down there our first full day here in Ellel. We traipsed all over the paths, familiarizing ourselves with the area. The next day, Elise, Kimry, and I went down there and picked big, juicy blackberries that grow everywhere in the woods. We look forward to the quiet beauty of that river in days to come.
2. Cedars (the dining hall): Despite the warnings we had received about British food, the meals here a highlight of our day. Breakfast is at 8:00 every morning (we sometimes have breakfast at our house since we have food in our kitchen), lunch is at 12:45, and dinner is at 5:45. Since there are a lot of Chinese, Taiwanese, and Singaporean people on campus, Asian food is often served whether in the form of a whole meal or a side dish at the salad table. The food is plentiful, delicious, and we always leave Cedars full and impressed.
3. The Main House: The Main House is composed of some of the most important places on campus. The Great Hall, which was originally a dining room, is where my parents have a lot of their classes. It is one of the most beautiful rooms around. The children’s movie “The Wind in the Willows” was filmed there. Coffee/tea lounges are scattered here and there. Prayer and counseling rooms can be found. Offices and bedrooms are there as well. The Library used to be the ball room! It is a combination of a library, book shop, and sitting areas if you need a good, quiet place to read. Lastly, the Creativity Room is a personal favorite of mine. This room is lined with shelves full of bins containing everything from glue and construction paper to material and sewing machines. A large, paint splattered table sits in the middle, inviting everyone to dream up a creation on it. We plan to make great use of this room!
4. Saturday’s Social Mixer: Saturday night, all the NETS 33 students and staff members joined together in the Great Hall for a social mixer. Ellel is a very international community with over 25 different countries represented. This year, a new Chinese translation has been offered with the courses. Thus, there are about ten Chinese students who don’t speak English and will have headphones on during the classes so as to hear the teaching through a translator. Only a handful of people are from America and the UK, all the others are from all over the world and represent so many different cultures.
Anyways, during the social mixer, several games were played that involved our different nationalities such as “get in a circle where you are organized alphabetically from the country you are from”.
At the end, they wrote in big letters on a large easel “JESUS IS LORD”. Since most people at Ellel are at least bilingual (I know someone who is fluent in seven languages), the staff member had different students, one by one, come up and write under “JESUS IS LORD” the same phrase but in a different language. We all pronounced it in that dialect, the main house ringing with our voices proclaiming the Lord in over 35 different languages (plus several different versions of sign language). It was an amazing night.
5. Community Living: From our first day here, it was apparent that Ellel was a tight-knit community – everyone helps everyone and things are done together. Laundry is accomplished in a large room with many washers and dryers; it’s a common place to talk with someone! Smiles, “hello”’s, and “how are you”’s are exchanged with almost every person you pass. Sweet gestures of kindness are offered at any time of day. This morning, my family and I slept in late so we decided to eat eggs and toast for breakfast from our fridge instead of going to Cedars. A knock sounded on our front door and Tim, a young man on staff, stood there with a plate of croissants for us. He was like, “These are one of my favorite things that they sometimes serve for breakfast. Since you all weren’t there this morning, I brought you some.” Small gestures of kindness.
So many other things contribute of this community mindset – lounges located around campus where anyone to congregate, a room named the Boutique where former NETS students leave the clothes they decide not to take back home with them for current students to use whenever, constant fellowshipping whether with one other person or ten other people, sharing small things like nail polish with some of the older girls, and the list could go on. Although all this is amazing, we do have to remember that “family time” still needs to occur and be treasured.
As each day passes, we are grafted into life here. This morning, as a family (when I say “family” I am including Rachael) we prayed together, thanking God for… everything. Without him, none of this would have been at all possible.
Thank you again, Father!