Sunday, April 24, 2011

He is Risen Indeed! A Cross Cultural Ostern / Easter

"Now he is talking about how fear and hope meet at the cross... now he is talking about...."
This was how we experienced our Easter service this morning at the Evangeliumsgemeinde here in Vienna.  It is day 10 of our vision trip and we were very glad to share an Easter breakfast, baby dedication, and Easter service with this community of believers.

We enjoyed a European breakfast (all different kinds of bread, cold cuts, ham, really nice bologna, all kinds of cheeses, hard boiled eggs, a few kinds of cereal, and some amazing jam and sweet bread!) and all sat around tables and talked.  The food was amazing and the conversation was good as well.  We tried in limited German to say who we were and where we were from.

Most often we either had someone that could help to cross the language barrier or the people we were talking with spoke some English.  It is great to see the fellowship times, that often last as long (and are as important) as the formal service.

We also got to see a baby dedication with many family members of the couple there.

While we miss our families, we know that God is leading us towards Himself.  It continues to stir my heart to hear men and women lifting their voices in other tongues to the Lord.

Along with all of this celebration, I am reminded of the need here.  Easter is a time that many people go to church, often those that don't have any communion with the God of the universe.  Seeing this gathering and realizing that there are so many others that need to hear about the transforming work of God in His gospel, we are further convinced that we are following God's leading to be a witness of the gospel in Austria.  Many Austrians know about God, but few have a personal relationship with him.

 What impacted you from the Easter celebration that you attended?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

It's Not You...It's Me

Oh, the classic break-up line... "It's not you. It's me". So well intended, but so overused. But this week, those words have taken on an entirely new meaning for me.

While on retreat with our WorldVenture team in Grundlsee, Austria, we watched the video of a sermon by Louie Giglio (here is the beginning of it) about how INDESCRIBABLE God is, as displayed in His magnificent creation. The universe and all that is in it - the moon, stars, planets, galaxies - are SO much bigger than we can comprehend! If our creator made them, He is clearly magnificantly indescribable!

The same day we watched this message, I was later listening to this sermon by Matt Chandler from Habakkuk. At one point in the sermon, he talks about how BIG God is and how SMALL we are. Do you see the pattern here?

Through these two messages, God has been reminding me this week that He is so big and I am so small. This is not leading me to get down on myself for my insigificance, but to rejoice in the fact that no task is too insurmountable for God. He made the heavens and the earth - how much more is He able to use me for His purposes, despite my failings! How much more is He able to provide for the financial needs of our ministry, that at times seem overwhelming. And how much more is He able to shine light in the darkness of Austria, where there are so many lost and hurting people.

In the end, any ministry that is accomplished through us in Austria or any provision that occurs to enable that ministry is not because of my gifts, efforts, talents, abilities, or personality. It is all from God. He is the creator and the source.

So basically, God is saying... "It's not about you. It's about ME!"

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Glimpses of God's Big Picture

Right now, Nate and I are in Grundlsee, Austria on a retreat with the WorldVenture teams from Germany, Austria and Slovenia. It has been a blessing to get to know our fellow missionaries. Through talking with them, we have been absorbing knowledge about living cross-culturally and what it is like to doing ministry in Western Europe.

We are meeting many missionaries for the first time. However, I met one of these missionary couples here back in 2003! The summer after my sophomore year at Wheaton, I had the privilege of touring Europe with the college's Women's Chorale and Glee Club and we visited Prague, Moscow, Vienna and Slovenia. It was my first time in Europe and the only other time I have been to Vienna. In Slovenia, we partnered with Mel and Patty Davis and put on some concerts that served as outreach opportunities for them in the community. It turns out that Mel and Patty Davis are WorldVenture missionaries and are now on retreat with us! 8 years later, it has been fun to reconnect with them and think back to my trip to Slovenia back in 2003.

When I went to Slovenia, I acted like a lemming... I did as I was told, sang many concerts in a variety of venues, and participated in all aspects of the 3-week trip, but I did not really know the impact we were making or the "big picture" reasons we were there. Talking to Mel and Patty this week, I now have a different perspective.

Our choir trip in 2003 opened many doors for the missionaries in Slovenia, allowing them to make new connections in the community and get a foot in the door in the local public school system. They were able to use our concerts as an important outreach and to follow up those connections and share the gospel with many new people. Now, the Wheaton choirs have been back to Slovenia 3 times and those connections have expanded.

It is neat to come full circle and see how God used our time there not just to praise His name through music, but also to strengthen the ministry there. I think the lesson I am learning is when we are faithful to serve and do what we believe God calls us to, He is faithful to use our efforts for his Kingdom (even when we don't know it)!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

We've arrived!

Here are a few photos from day 1 of our Vision Trip to Austria...

Nate going into the "Opera Toilet". It plays music while you do your business!

A statue of Mozart in downtown Vienna, with a floral treble clef.

Hit the 'Read More' link to see the rest of our pictures!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Video Blog - Austria Bound

We are excited to board the plan Thursday night for our two week visit to Austria! (Can you tell?!?!) We also just got some video editing software a few weeks ago that we've been practicing with. The result?

Here are our thoughts on our visit to Austria...

Vision Trip Thoughts from nate johnson on Vimeo.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Fighting the Wind

The seasons have been changing for a little while now. The weather is now finally to a point where we can get out our bikes and ride.

I love cycling. I love the freedom and the speed and the feeling of finishing a long ride.  Today, however, was one of those adventure days.  The wind was blowing.  It wasn't constant but there were moments when I rounded a corner and got blasted by a gust.  And it didn't stop there.  Head down and peddling hard, there were times that I would get hit by another shot that made me wonder how much longer I could keep this up.

I think there are many times that we feel as though we are peddling into the wind.  It is hard, but I know I am a better rider for taking it on.   Challenges in life breed strength. Even when it feels as though you are getting hit by a gust, thank God that he provides the stength to keep peddling and thank God for the things he is teaching you.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Vision Trip: The Real Reason

Nate and I believe that God has called us to serve in Austria. We have spent the last few years pursuing ministry there, applying to WorldVenture, learning about the country and the spiritual darkness that hangs over it, connecting with missionaries, praying for its people, training, preparing and sharing our story.

But…we haven’t been to Austria together.

Our two week trip to Austria (in 9 days!) will be a good time to connect with our team members, build relationships and cast a vision for our ministry. But I think deep down, what it’s really all about
is experiencing a culture in need and beginning to understand what that culture is all about.

It’s about asking questions and becoming learners…
  • What are their core cultural values, traditions and worldview?
  • What is the best way to connect the hearts of Austrians to the gospel?
  • What has led Austria so far from God?
  • What are some of the biggest challenges in ministering to Austrians?
  • What have the missionaries learned over the last few decades of ministry? What have they done well and what would they go back and change?

  • We have so many questions. I could go on and on. The moral of the story? We have so much to learn and so much for God to teach us. Our two-week visit is just the beginning of this amazing journey God is leading us on. God’s heart is for Austria and to see the gospel explode there. But right now, it is a dark place in great need. We need to experience that.

    Walking the streets, visiting churches, and spending time with the Austrian people will allow us to immerse ourselves in the culture and begin to learn. It may uncover even more questions…but isn’t that what learning is really all about?

    Friday, April 1, 2011

    Vision Trip Schedule

    In less than 2 weeks, Nate and I will board a plane for our Vision Trip to Vienna, Austria! We are so excited to finally visit Austria, after years of anticipating our ministry there and learning about our future mission field.

    The plans for our trip have been coming together over the last few weeks. To give you a sense of how our time will be spent, here is an overview of our current itinerary:

    Thursday, April 14
    • Depart Chicago at 10pm
    Friday, April 15
    • Land in Vienna
    • Travel to our team leaders' home (Peter & Celeste Persson), where we will stay throughout our time in Vienna
    Saturday, April 16
    • Spend the day visiting downtown Vienna with Celeste
    • Meet Wheaton College friends for a traditional Viennese dinner
    • Get over jet lag!
    Sunday, April 17 - Thursday, April 21
    • Attend church Sunday morning at the Gospel Church of Vienna, where Peter and Celeste serve and where we will likely serve during our first 4 years in Austria
    • Spend 4 days on the WorldVenture Austria team's annual retreat at this hostel, spending time in prayer, study and fellowship. We look forward to connecting with our future team members and throwing many questions we have about Austria their way!
    Friday, April 22
    • Visit the city and gather photos/video to share with supporters in the U.S.
    • Attend Good Friday services at Gospel Church of Vienna, including an exciting baptism service!
    Saturday, April 23
    • Travel to the other side of Vienna and attend an evening house church service with Tim and Mary Lou Tiner (fellow WorldVenture team members). This church could also be a potential place of ministry for u
    Easter Sunday, April 24
    • Attend Easter morning services and a fellowship breakfast at Gospel Church of Vienna
    Monday, April 25
    • Travel out of Vienna with a church member to go rock climbing and to learn more about the outdoor culture of Austria
    Tuesday, April 26
    • Meet with some missionaries with TEAM (another missions agency) and the leadership of an Austrian Evangelical Church Fellowship to discuss a 2015 church planting opportunity
    • Visit the future site of the 2015 church plant
    • Spend the afternoon visiting with the TEAM missionaries, getting to know them and their family
    Wednesday, April 27
    • Take final photos and video to add to our ministry presentation
    • Purchase food and items to bring home to share with family and friends
    Thursday, April 28
    • Fly back to Chicago

    We would appreciate your prayers as we embark on this adventure. Please pray for...
    • A renewing and restful spiritual retreat with our WorldVenture team
    • Great times of connecting with our future team members, including the opportunity for all of our questions to be answered
    • The Lord to clearly lead us in how to spend our time
    • Effective and encouraging ministry meetings
    • Safety in travel