Thursday, January 23, 2020

Ellie turns 6!

Our little girl, the one who made us parents, turned 6 a few weeks ago! We can't believe she's getting so big and is getting ready to start school (first grade) this fall. We had our school sign-up interview last week, and she impressed the teacher with her vocabulary and German language skills, enthusiastic sharing and fine motor skills. She has grown up so much in the last few years and is now confident, bold and creative, always coming up with new games, crafts and imaginative projects. She loves ballet, drawing, singing and playing pretend. She's not afraid to go off on her own and meet new people (which was not the case a few years ago!) and people are always complimenting her on her sweet and caring nature. We love you, Ellie!

Celebrating at home after a day opening gifts and swimming at the thermal baths.

Friends party at the play area of a local furniture store

Opening gifts

Another "spraying candle"

Unicorn theme!

Highlights from Malta

Over New Year's this year, we had the privilege of travelling to Malta for WorldVenture's Hope Malta Conference for all of the workers in Europe and the Middle East. It was an incredibly encouraging 5 days for us. They had a team come in from Texas to plan a great program for the kids and while they were having fun, we had the chance to worship, listen to great teachings from Mark Young (President of Denver Seminary and former WorldVenture missionary), attend helpful and practical workshops and spend time with other missionaries. We also heard updates from the home office on policies, training and health care, had important in-person meetings, and reconnected with friends with whom we'd attended training years ago. A highlight was a talent show and party on New Year's eve, where I (Bethany) performed the "Who's on First" skit with our teammate and friend, Beth, and performed a song with Nate. We came away from the week exhausted but also rejuvenated and encouraged.

Here are a few photo highlights from our trip:

Beth and I performing Who's on First

The full video of our shortened version of "Who's on First"

Nate and I performing a duet at the talent show

We had a free day and went to the island of Gozo. We got to go climbing there with some others

Pub Quiz night with our "hosts" (These are our direct supervisors! haha)

Worship in English - a huge blessing!

Friday, December 20, 2019

Confusing Cultural Christmas Adventures

So this is just a quick story from a recent sermon I preached that I thought would be fun for you all to hear. It is a reminder that no matter how long we live here, we will sometimes forget things we've learned or not always connect the dots.

As we are preparing for the church plant, we are serving in an existing Austrian church. I preach there on occasion to keep my skills up and to serve the church. We've been in a sermon series talking about Christmas songs, where we look at the scriptures that are quoted or alluded to in the verses and see how they are preparing us to celebrate Christ's birth.

I personally love Christmas music. I worked enough retail while in high school and college to be inoculated to the pop music side of things. But I am deeply affected when we sing about the simple and old truths of our faith. These songs refresh my faith and remind me of the core of what I believe.

My text was Oh Come All Ye Faithful. It is a truly great song. It is an invitation to come and see the child, the baby king and savior of all. The invitation is to respond to the incarnation with worship.

So here's where I goofed up a bit. One of my points of application was that we should set aside our worries and hurrying and make our Christmas celebration more worshipful. For example, as a family we do readings together that go along with taking ornaments out of a box and putting them on the tree. Each ornament has a picture on it that reminds us about the story connected to it. It is a great family tradition that leads us to think about who Christ is and what happened in that stall. We talk about the incarnation and celebrate Christ's arrival together.

So this was my encouragement to the congregation in my sermon: to grab something like this and move Christmas from worry and hurry to worship. To try out something like putting ornaments on the Christmas tree throughout December that remind us of Christ.

Here's the problem: Almost everyone in that room listening to my sermon didn't have a Christmas tree up yet.

Some of this depends on the family and background, but Austrian tradition regarding Christmas trees is pretty different to how I was raised. Austrians put their tree up usually at Christmas eve. The kids are sent out of the room, and the parents decorate the tree, and put out the presents. Then the kids come in and open their gifts. The tree usually stays up until January 6th (Three Kings Day). This marks the 12th day of Christmas.

To be honest, it wasn't that big of a deal...mostly because people understood the point. They understood the application and the basic point still stands, even if the specific suggestion doesn't quite fit. But thinking about this error, it was a good exercise in humility and reminder that I still need to work hard at learning this culture and always keeping cultural norms in mind.

We pray that you have a worshipful time this Christmas. We pray that you find times of stillness where you can connect with the creator and sustainer of the universe. The same one born as a small child in the middle of nowhere.