I wouldn’t have thought that our international Christian school with a US-based curriculum would be a place for me to feel culture shock, but it has, as a parent.  There are so many differences from a US public school situation.  Not better or worse, just different

Well, as our US counterparts enjoy a few more weeks of summer vacation, we here at Faith Academy started school today, August 1st!  After more than a year of anticipation, we are actually experiencing what we came here to do!

This week involved meetings and classroom set-up galore.  



All four kids helped Kyla’s 5th grade teacher, Evangeline Tam, who is a TeachBeyond missionary as well, set up her classroom for 2 full days!  She said they were a big help!  A major difference here is that the school supplies are provided by the school here for elementary kids!  So, the kids sharpened a couple hundred pencils and organized erasers, notebooks, and folders.  Image

Christopher also helped in his 2nd grade classroom!  Get this…three days before school began (Monday), the enrollment showed that instead of needing two kindergarten sections, there were 30 2nd graders, so one of the kindergarten teachers was willing to switch to 2nd grade, making 2 sections.  So, the boys found out on Tuesday, at new student orientation, that they wouldn’t be in the same class after all, but isn’t it amazing how God provided the teachers they needed at just the right time?  Yea!!






Like in California or Florida, all the hallways are outside, but if it is raining, which it has for part of most days in the last 2 weeks, there are covered hallways to make your way around school…it just might be more out of the way!  Coming into the school, a fence topped with barbed wire greets you, as well as 3 security guards, so we are quite safe.  

The funny-feeling part, being a mom who has only experienced US schools, is the freedom you have on campus once you get past that.  I can drop off and pick up my kids right at their classroom doors, where I can look into the class windows to see what’s going on.  This was definitely new territory for me!  🙂




All in all, it has been a very successful first day of school!  Maddy had a few locker padlock issues, but that is to be expected, and who knew?  She holds the class record for arm hang time (and for being the lightest and shortest)!  

So thankful to be here!  What other school could my kids help their teachers set up for class, have friends from Australia, Canada, England, Kenya, and Korea all on the first day, and is surrounded by prayer warriors all around the world?  

Definitely worth any culture shock experienced today.  🙂






We visited Great-grandpa Ehman and Uncle Tim and Aunt Donna in Alpena, MI.  The same wagon that brought Leighton and his siblings so much fun as kids has been a special treat for our kids as well.  Here, they set up boxes as an obstacle to aim for and demolish…job well done!



We visited Jennie’s parents’ new home in Crossville, TN.  It is gorgeous!  We also enjoyed getting out into nature and exploring the beauty of God’s creation surrounding their home!



On our way to Manila, we stopped in Portland, Oregon to visit Leighton’s sister Eva’s family.  We had so much fun hanging out with this wonderful family!



We ended our time in the USA with a treat.  We were given a gift of going to family camp with Jennie’s brother’s family, in Yelm, WA.  Through some serious finagling of luggage and many gracious, generous folks at my brother’s church, we got all our stuff up to camp and had all the gear we needed in order to enjoy 4 beautiful days in the beautiful Northwest!  We were also blessed and challenged by the preaching of Eugene Cho, a Seattle-based preacher who doesn’t beat around the bush!  



What a special month it was.  There were days where we didn’t know if we could cry any more tears…saying goodbyes is HARD!!!  BUT, those same days brought us much joy and laughter.  We have never felt so loved and encouraged by our family, friends, and church family as we did this June.  It will always go down as one of our favorite months ever!  Thank you!!!  God knew just what we needed in order to have GOODbyes and fareWELLs!

Take the 10 minutes to watch this well-made video about how Third Culture Kids (of which missionary kids are a part) feel about the impact their upbringing has had on them.

Would you be in prayer for us this week?  We have a number of things going on which we need God to work through, and we would be grateful for your friendship in bringing these before our Father.


  1. We are heading out to Erie, Illinois on Sunday to Erie Evangelical Free Church.  This is the first church we are not personally connected to that we are sharing our presentation.  Would you please pray for good driving weather, for happy kids (we need to leave at about 6:30AM), and for clarity and genuine hearts as we share our hearts for missionary kids?
  2. The Faith Academy recruitment team sent us an email last week saying that they couldn’t help notice that Jennie is a music teacher.  Faith needs 4 music teachers (full or part time) next year, three of which Jennie could possibly teach:  elementary general music, middle school choir, or high school music theory and choir.  Would you please pray for wisdom for us to know what to do?  We really don’t know how the transition is going to go, and Jennie really wants to be available for the kids as they adjust to this new culture and life.  But, she also desires to use her gifts at Faith.  SO, decisions!
  3. We are applying for all of our passports this week.  Would you please pray for not-too-long delays at the post office, for friendly, helpful staff to assist us, and for patience through all the paperwork?
  4. We are at 58% of our career level goal.  We would love to see some more movement in our monthly support commitments.  Do you know someone who has a heart for kids and missions who we should talk with?

We are acting on faith that we will be able to leave this summer and be able to help out next year at Faith.  They need 25 positions filled for next year.  Our God is faithful, both to Faith Academy and to us, so we know He will see us through!

Advent—the season observed by many Christians where we wait expectantly for the celebration of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, both when He came as an infant in order to grow up as a perfect man to save us from our sins, and when He will return as our glorious King. 

Expectant waiting—we are experiencing that right now, not only as we observe Advent, as our family treasures doing each night, but as we wait for God to provide what we need in order to embark on our journey to Faith Academy.  This will definitely be a winter of waiting.  It is odd to think that this might be our last winter for many years, but as we watch the plant life patiently wait for spring to return, we pray that we will be patient as we wait for God to provide for our needs and spring this journey into action.

But just as the plants and trees may look like they are inactive, we know that there is a lot of activity going on where we cannot see it, underground.  We also are actively preparing ourselves for the ministry God has in store for us.  We are praying; meeting with individuals, small groups, and missions committees at churches; reading book after book on cross-cultural interactions and ministry (Man, are learning a lot!  Who knew people and cultures were SO different!  No wonder we don’t understand each other on so many levels so often!), getting vaccinations, and sorting through belongings.

As we wait, we are growing ever more excited about the opportunities we will have once we are in Manila.  Leighton cannot wait to incorporate all he has learned over the last few years into a classroom setting, and teaching science from a Christian worldview; the kids, especially Maddy, cannot wait to be part of a Christian school; Jennie cannot wait to connect with other missionary moms and kids, to learn from and encourage each other, and to find ways to serve both the Faith Academy and local Filipino communities. 

Would you please pray that our waiting would not be in vain, but that God would use it to strengthen, teach, and prepare us, and that God would lead us to the people He has in mind to partner with us?  If He has been nudging your heart, use this Advent season, not to “wait it out”, but to take part in that “underground”, invisible activity of getting us ready to go to the Philippines.  We would be thrilled to share the details of what God has placed on our hearts, and how He has prepared us to serve missionary children, and why that is so needed!  Email us at:  lhelwig@teachbeyond.org, jhelwig@teachbeyond.org, or call us at 630-551-1572. 

May God draw you to Himself as he reveals how He identified with us as humans, and became “one of us”, in order to reconcile us to Himself.  Merry Christmas!Image

Preparing to go on the mission field while maintaining our current lives sometimes feels like we are living in parallel universes.  With all the frenetic buzz of a new school year (not just for the kids, but both of us as well!), homeschooling Maddy for the first time, and getting back into church activities that have taken a break for the summer, it can be easy to forget that we hope to leave the country to embark on a new journey in 10 months!!!

WHAT?  In 10 months, we plan to move our family across the entire globe, leaving family and comforts behind, and enter into the realm of a tropical mega-city?  Are we ready to face the heat, humidity, cockroach infestations, culture shock, and loneliness?  

It’s definitely strange to be going about our normal days and suddenly remember that our lives are about to drastically change.  We are still talking with families, on nights and weekends, about what God has placed on our hearts.  He is still confirming our desire to follow this path.  It’s just a weird place to be in, going about what has been “normal” for several years now, and preparing for what is to come.  

Then, there is the whole, “what if we don’t leave by next summer?” thought that goes through our heads.  What if the funding doesn’t come through in time?  What if God has another plan?  We pray that we can trust Him no matter the timing, but we still are trying to plan for a 2013 departure.  It feels odd to plan so extensively on something that might not happen at the time we hope, especially for us who are planners and like to be in control.  What a lesson in faith, though!

Stay tuned to see how God uses this metamorphosis in our lives.  🙂

Did you know the Philippines is made up of over 7,000 islands? Located north of Indonesia and west of China, Vietnam, and Thailand, this archipelago is strategically located for reaching our world for Christ. As the Philippines is open to the Gospel, there are many Bible training centers training individuals to go back to their native lands, spreading the Good News.

Look at the surrounding nations of the Philippines which need Christ so desperately!

At the heart of the Philippines lies Manila, its capital city, and Faith Academy sits on a hill overlooking that city. As Matthew 5:14 says, we, as Christ-followers, are a “city on a hill” which cannot be hidden. God has rekindled the desire in our hearts to be a part of the missionary school community as teachers, particularly at Faith Academy. As the world’s largest missionary school, Faith comes alongside missionary families, educating the children, preparing them to not only continue their higher education wherever they call home, but also training them to become future ambassadors for Christ throughout the world. With over 20 countries represented in the student body, Faith has a far-reaching impact for Christ.

Due to the size of the school, Faith has a great need for teachers. Since it provides education for missionary families who are supported by individuals and churches, Faith is run by volunteers to keep costs low. Teachers, then, are also required to raise the funds they need to live and work in the Philippines. In 2013-2014, a 7th-grade life sciences position is opening up. Faith is also longing to begin more formal professional development with its staff. Leighton’s heart for teaching lies in two areas: middle school science and professional development of teachers. God has definitely been putting the pieces together to bring us to Faith.

Here is a link to a video highlighting who Faith is and what they are all about:

Stay tuned for more details of our exciting faith journey to the Tropics of Asia and Faith Academy!