Monday, March 20, 2023

New Worship Space

 Life has been pretty crazy the last few months with adjusting to having a baby at home again. Alongside that big change, there has been another big event taking place in the life of our church plant - we found and began renting our own space! It was an incredible provision from God, truly miraculous, and we are so incredibly thankful. Most church plants here can go years, even decades, without having their own worship space, so we were shocked to have this door open for us so soon. This "re-birth" of the church coincided with Penny's birth pretty closely, so we'll always know and remember when God answered this prayer! The rental agreement for the church building was signed the week Penny was born and in early January, we began paying rent and renovating the space.

Nate has been hard at work, along with other leaders and church members (including members of the Macedonian Church we'll be sharing the building with) to renovate the space. It's truly a total overhaul, including the following:

- New floors and trim 

- Turning a small empty room into a women's bathroom

- Adding a urinal and removing a shower from another bathroom (to create a men's room)

- Tearing down and rebuilding a wall

- Closing up a large window

- Adding electric blinds to several large windows on the sun-facing side of the building

- Adding in lots of wiring for lighting and sound, then spackling and painting the walls

It's been an exhausting process but so exciting to watch the space transform! Here is what the space looked like when we first saw it last October:

Main Room (previously a clothing shop and tailor)

Back bedroom (will now be the nursery)

Bathroom (now the men's bathroom)

Second bedroom (now a women's bathroom)

Here are some recent photos to show how the space has been transformed (final photos at the end of the process still to come!):

Nate preaching in the new space for the first time on March 12th

Electric blinds on the windows and fresh walls and floor

Walls being painted

A photo from yesterday of the main room

This will soon be the baby nursery (was a bedroom before)

Men's bathroom with shower removed and new urinal and tile

Once the renovations are complete, we look forward to planning some special events to invite people from the community and to celebrate with others being in the new space. Praise God! We eagerly await what God will do in this building!

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Penelope Grace

On December 16th, 2022 our family grew! Penelope (Penny) Grace Johnson came into the world at 6pm in Vienna. Her arrival was less than ideal and also quite different than we imagined, but nonetheless we were and are thrilled that she is finally here. We had planned for a relaxed c-section on December 21st, but God had other plans! In the weeks leading up to her birth, we were all sick with the flu. Maya was the first to develop a resulting infection (pneumonia) and go on antibiotics. Then I (Bethany) developed a severe ear infection (with was accompanied by 1 week of very compromised hearing) and then Nate also got an ear infection. The same day Nate started antibiotics and 24 hours after I did, I unexpectedly went into labor (starting overnight with contractions and some bleeding). We were all already sleep deprived and depleted because of the sickness and coughing quite a bit. Nevertheless, it was apparently time. Since I had already had 2 c-sections before for various reasons, my doctor insisted that she did not want to risk trying for a natural birth, so when I went into labor and when they determined at the hospital that my water had broken, they prepared for a c-section just a few hours later.

Penny was born healthy and of course, that was the most important thing. But the week prior to the birth and the 2 weeks after were some of the most difficult I've ever experienced physically. Recovering from surgery while being sick and coughing was incredibly difficult. Add sleep deprivation, challenges with nursing, hormones and a painful sinus infection that developed a few days after we got home from the hospital...and the combination of it all was quite overwhelming. As I look back, though, I can see how God provided for us during that time. Although Penny arrived early, we were able to find friends to care for the kids and the dog for the weekend very quickly. Everyone we asked was able to say yes right away! A few weeks before the birth, my midwife asked if I would try to find someone else because she had the dates wrong in her calendar. God provided just the right person - a midwife specializing in c-sections who I clicked with right away. She really helped care for me during and after the birth and was a very compassionate, caring provider. Once my parents arrived a few days after the birth, they stepped in and took over so much at home - laundry, cooking, playing with the big kids, baby holding, dog walking...they took the load off so we could recover. And having the whole experience finally come to an end and resolve itself made me really appreciate my health and the energy I had afterwards. I am still enjoying it! After my parents left, friends have been bringing us meals since then and that really helped with the transition to doing life on our own. Overall, we have so much to be thankful for and reflecting on it now is a good reminder to me of that fact.

Here are a bunch of photo highlights from these last few weeks (not in chronological order...that was too tricky to figure out. Sorry!) Enjoy!

A photo of Penny today. After concerns about her weight gain at the beginning, things are definitely working great now because her cheeks continue to get bigger!

Penny is 1 month!

Penny and Loki - becoming friends

Nate with all of his little ones

Ellie is a great biggest sister!

Maya loves being a big sister!

Penny's first outing to a new year's market at the palace

Newborn snuggles...

"Best Christmas Ever"

The girls' first meeting at the hospital

Photos from our newborn photo session:

Saturday, October 22, 2022

Blog Update & Maternity Photos

One of our primary communication goals since moving to Austria has always been to communicate regularly with our partners, supporters, family and friends in America. When we were first raising support and preparing, this was pretty easy - we had no kids and our full-time job was getting ready to move to Austria. Then during language learning, we were still able to regularly set aside plenty of time for this task. But as family life and ministry have intensified over the years, it's become more and more difficult to maintain all of the lines of communication. I'm sure this is no surprise to those of you who have been through these transitions before or who have also gone from couple with no kids to a family life that involves children. The demands placed on us have increased, and we have had to get by with less communication. 

We have continued our monthly email newsletters and in all our 10 years in Austria, have only missed one month. This has always been really important to me, and I see it as our primary method of communication with our key contacts and supporters in the US. Writing these monthly emails takes priority over lots of other tasks. What's been more difficult, however, is maintaining our blog and Facebook page - aspects of our communication that are helpful but perhaps the impact is less concrete. 

Another challenge, however, has been about maintaining privacy. As we go further in ministry, many of our key stories and things we might blog about involve specific people with personal lives of their own. We see God working, but we also want to respect the privacy of the friends and neighbors we interact with and, as such, we are often hesitant to share personal stories or post photos of people on the internet. When we draw this line, it means that we have less stories to share publicly, and this limits what we can put on the blog.

All this to say, we will continue to post on the blog here and there, and we see it as an especially practical place to post personal/family photos. However, the blog will include less ministry-specific posts and more family-related or WorldVenture-related posts. Occasionally, you'll also get to read posts from us about something we are learning or mulling over. We apologize for the change, and if you are disappointed (I doubt anyone reading this has strong feelings on the matter, but you never know...), please be sure to subscribe to our monthly emails where we share more in-depth updates and prayer requests about our work in Austria. keeping with this new reality, here are some recent photos of a maternity photo shoot we did to capture the upcoming arrival of our third little girl in December. We are thrilled to be welcoming her into our family after nearly 4 years of secondary infertility. (If you want to hear more about this journey, feel free to message us personally). God is a miracle worker and we are so thankful!