Monday, December 31, 2012

Gearing Up for the Big Day!

As many of you know, January 2nd is an important day for us.  

It's the day we apply for our Austrian visas! 

We will begin waiting in line in front of the Visa office on January 1st (tomorrow) in anticipation of submitting our visa applications the moment the office opens for 2013. We anticipate being outside on the street for at least 18 hours. It is crucial that we are one of the first 60 people to get in line, and that is why we are willing to wait outside for so long. We must get a good spot in line in order to stay in Austria!

We are gearing up for our "big night" with some important supplies...

Over 100 pages ready to submit as our complete visa application!

 A full bag of snacks and goodies!

Hand warmers - a "must" (for me, at least...Nate is a furnace!)

Four sleeping bags and 2 camping chairs, borrowed from teammates

Thick socks and warm clothes
I'm ready to jump in and begin this crazy on-the-street adventure!

If you think of it, please pray for us during this time (We will be waiting to apply from approximately 8am ET on January 1 to 2am ET on January 2): 
  • Pray for stamina as we wait outside overnight
  • Pray that we would line up early enough to be two of the first 60 people to submit applications
  • Pray for favor in the eyes of the Austrian government
  • Pray that we would receive our visas in a timely fashion, at least by the end of June. Pray that we would be surprised by receiving them early!
 P.S. If you're reading this and you live in Vienna, come visit us! The office address is Dresdner Straße 93, 1200 Wien.  

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Celebrating with our Team

We have the privilege of enjoying a Christmas party with our WorldVenture team yesterday. We ate delicious food, played games and had a fun-filled white elephant gift exchange! (And Nate and I are proud to share that our gift was awarded the prize of the "best gift of the year".)

We're so thankful for our team here and the support they provide. They're welcomed us in!

(And if you're wondering why there are so many people in this photo...almost the whole Schneider family was in town. 6 out of the 7 kids were here for Christmas!)


Friday, December 21, 2012

December Video Update: a Christmas Transformation

It is amazing to watch Vienna be transformed to celebrate the holiday.

But what Vienna really needs is a deeper transformation. Watch this month's video blog to find out how you can pray for our city.



Wednesday, December 19, 2012

We Passed!

At the end of November, we took a "ground level" German exam. Although we were told the test would not be too difficult, we were still nervous! If we didn't pass the test, we could not stay in Austria! A passing score was required for our visa application.

And yesterday, we received the official word...we passed with flying colors!

We both got high marks on our tests and received formal paper certificates AND plastic cards to go in our wallets! (Not sure what to use these for yet...).

Praise God for a huge answer to prayer!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Getting Acquainted with Failure



Language learning has been a great experience for us so far. We are having a lot of fun, and it is amazing how quickly we are progressing. It is encouraging to look over the last two months and see how much we have grown in our language skills. I still remember what it felt like to have an entire conversation in German for the first time. I didn't understand everything, but I was able to express my ideas and understand the gist of what the other person was saying. Cool! But here is the thing. Even in the face of all this learning, we have also become close friends with failure.

We fail all the time. We make mistakes in class, when we are doing our home work, when we write anything or speak to anyone. We can't get away from it no matter how much we try. If we were to completely form all of our sentences and check them against every grammar table and dictionary, we would never say a word. One phrase has really stuck with me from our language training in Colorado: "You have to destroy the language on your way to mastering it."

Failure has become a close friend as we continue to live with the language barrier...but pressing into our failure also brings about humility. In our language class, there are lawyers, architects, and micriobiologists - all highly educated, highly competent people. And in class, you find us all speaking at a kindergarten level about zoo animals and going to the super market. We are being humbled. We know that we need to make 1,000,000 language mistakes on our way to mastering German, and so we have decided to start now and get as many as we can out of the way! We want to make accepting failure a step towards success, and this is the perfect testing ground to work out that idea.

Photo credit: lyns from morguefile.com

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Worshipping in German

We had a great morning at our new church today! After arriving to the service late last week and having to leave early (not a good combination...), we made sure to get to church early today so we would have time to meet some new people and chat. We survived quite a few German conversations and met the pastor for the first time. We saw some familiar faces after the service and connected with people we knew. It felt comforting to be there and see ourselves progressing in terms of feeling "at home" in this new community.

One of the highlights for me was getting to sing some new songs in German - familiar melodies that we sing in English but with new words! Singing a song I'm already familiar with in this new language really helps me to understand the meaning and connect with the message I am singing. One of those songs today was "You are the Lord, the Famous One" by Chris Tomlin. Just to give you a taste of what the song sounds like in German, and to show you our church, I took a quick video. Enjoy!

video

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Learning to Wait



Waiting is tough. When Nate and I first got married, we waited for a year until we felt it was wise to apply for missionary service, though we were eager to start. Then, we waited to get accepted. Then we spent 18 months raising support, waiting for the day when we would be ready to launch. Now that we are here in Austria, we are waiting to apply for our visas and, eventually, be able to stay here and find a place to live.  It is hard to wait.

No matter our life circumstance, we are always waiting for something. Whether it is the next stage of life, the next stage of ministry, our next competency level in German...we (especially I!) have a tendency to look forward and impatiently wait for the next phase to come. And we have many other people in our life right now that are waiting for important things - friends waiting and hoping to get pregnant, teammates waiting on important documents from the Austrian government, others waiting for acceptance letters...the list goes on. So lately, my thoughts have drifted to the idea of waiting...and what it means to wait well.

I struggle to wait, but I also believe that God does some special things in the hearts of His people when they wait. In times of waiting, we learn to trust in the Lord's timing. We learn to be patient. We are reminded that life is truly not in our control. I depend on God more when I wait then when everything "goes my way" and "according to plan".

Yesterday, we were studying Isaiah 42 in our WorldVenture team prayer time. For centuries, the Israelites were waiting for a savior to come and make things right between God and man. They heard prophesies and waited expectantly for them to be fulfilled. They also waited for the Promised Land, wandering for 40 years in the desert. How much harder must it have been for them to endure these long periods of waiting, sometimes for things that would not come to pass in their lifetime?

As I contemplate the arrival of Christ, the savior of the world, during this Christmas season, I hope I can continue to meditate on the work God is doing in my heart as I wait on Him. May I learn to trust in God's ultimate plan, rather than impatiently demanding my own. God is true to His promises and He sent His Son at just the perfect time. Our plans may not happen in my timing, but they will happen in His.

What are you waiting for? What is God doing in your heart while you wait?


 "Behold my servant, whom I uphold,
    my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my Spirit upon him;
    he will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice,
    or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break,
    and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;
    he will faithfully bring forth justice.
He will not grow faint or be discouraged
    till he has established justice in the earth;
    and the coastlands wait for his law."


- Isaiah 42:1 - 4



Photo credit: paulabflat from morguefile.com

Friday, December 7, 2012

Transformed...but still needing transformation

It has been amazing to watch Vienna be transformed over the last few weeks to celebrate Christmas. The city goes all out, with Christmas trees and lights on every corner and store front! And there are at least 10 - 15 Christmas markets scattered throughout the city selling delicious food and handmade crafts.

On the one hand, it's amazing. I love how beautiful the city looks right now, I'm enjoying visiting the many Christmas markets, and I appreciate all of the history and tradition tied to how Austrians celebrate. Nate and I have had fun taking walks in the city at night and looking at the lights. And we've already visited at least 6 different Christmas markets, some multiple times, buying gifts for family and friends.

But on the other hand, some of this saddens me. Like in the United States, for many people here celebrating Christmas is about family, tradition, presents, food and special times. But it is not about Christ and the reason He was born on this earth. For many Austrians, going to Christmas mass is a tradition that brings them into a Catholic church for probably only the second time this year (Easter is typically the first). So as I walk around and look at the decorations, I am reminded to pray for a  nation who may celebrate Christmas and call themselves "Christian", but don't live their lives transformed by the gospel of grace. Although it's a "transformed" city physically this Christmas, it is still in need of real transformation.

Here are some photos from how the city has been transformed:









Sunday, December 2, 2012

Adventkranz - An Austrian Tradition

On Friday night, I joined about 30 women at New City Wien (a bilingual church in Vienna) for Adventkranz binden. Translated, this means "Advent wreath making". It was a fun time of meeting new people, learning about Austrian advent wreaths and getting to know the two girls I had invited better. One friend was from our German class and the other was the girlfriend of a fellow student.

Now that we have an Adventkranz at home, Nate and I will be lighting a new candle each Sunday of Advent and reading passages from the bible in English and German. We're excited to start this tradition in our family!

Verena, Dora and I working on our wreaths


Verena and I posing at the party

All of the ladies getting instructions on how to make an Adventkranz

The supplies!

My finished product

Monday, November 26, 2012

Speaking Like a Child

Last Friday marked the end of our first level of German classes. Here they call it the A1 level (here is an explanation of the language levels we plan to go through). We were really happy to hit this milestone. It is amazing how much you absorb in the beginning. It feels like you learn so much each day. Every night we go to bed very tired.  

I am sure I sound like my nephew. The last time we visited, he was learning how to use the phrase "of course." He said that phrase every few moments as he learned when how it fit into normal speech. From directly translated English expressions to odd word combinations, I am walking a child-like path of language learning.

We talked a lot in our training about a loss of competency. It is not as though I am mentally back on the same plane as a little child, but in terms of words, expressions, and nuances of meaning, I am on the level of a first or second grader.

I have felt this most acutely in our language classes. It is our teacher's job to take us into new territory. I feel often that we wander back and forth across the imaginary line of my personal competency in German. This "fish out of water" experience is a source of stress for living here. Even when I was in college, I rarely felt as though I needed to intensely concentrate on the class to track along with the professor. Some of this is my slightly ADD personality, but also we rarely covered ideas that we hadn't read about the night before. Even when the ideas were new, there was a familiar framework to work through and a common language in which things could be explained. It is an interesting paradox; our brains are designed to absorb language, but it also is such an emotionally resource-intensive experience.

It is a humbling feeling to be on the end of competency. Our whole class is feeling it in one way or another. We have many professionals and educated people in our class, and we are talking about the simplest things and forming the simplest sentences imaginable. It is a huge test of humility and one I hope I am able to meet head on. It gives me so much respect for the foreigners I have encountered in my own country and those that have earned degrees in a second language.

Question: When have you felt a loss of competency in your life? Birth of a child? New job? Moving to a new area?


Photo credit farmer64 from morguefile.com

Saturday, November 24, 2012

A New Perspective

The Augarten on a foggy morning run
Our temporary apartment in Vienna is right next to a gigantic park. I have absolutely love being so close to a green space full of paths and trails where I can run a few times a week. Since arriving here in October, I quickly got into the habit of heading over to the Augarten regularly and running two times around the perimeter, always running counter clockwise for some reason. I suppose I'm a "creature of habit".

But this week, I decided to switch it up and run the opposite direction. It changed my world! I noticed things about the park that I had never seen before, like interesting plants, buildings I hadn't seen, pathways, and hidden nooks and crannies. I felt like I was running through a completely different space.

As I was running, I began pondering this new perspective I had on the park and how it often parallels my perspective in life. When facing new challenges, I tend to harken back to old habits and approach them with the same opinions and perspectives I've had before. I make assumptions and follow routine. But there is so much value in stepping back and allowing space for a different perspective, even on a situation or challenge that seems familiar.

God is faithful to His promises and character - this we can depend on. However, I believe God is not a God of habit. We see throughout scripture that He works in the world and in people's lives in a LOT of different ways; He takes people of all shapes, sizes, colors, perspectives and ages and uses them to accomplish His purposes here on earth. God is not predictable! So when I assume that I know what He's doing and take on the same perspective I always have, I don't leave room to see how God might be working from a different angle this time...or trying to teach me something new.

Sometimes in order to hear God speak or move ahead in a difficult situation, you need to step back, turn around or head in the opposite direction to see things from a new perspective.

What situation do you need to look at from a different angle?

Photo credit: Alex Gewessler

Monday, November 19, 2012

Want to Hear Us Speak German?

Here is our most recent video update! We decided to do it in the little German we know (with subtitles of course.) Enjoy!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Feeling Settled

Exploring Schonbrunn Palace in the evening
Having been here for 6 weeks, I am beginning to really feeling settled in Vienna. We know the neighborhood here well, we are enjoying exploring the city, and we have a routine to our life again. We are progressing in the language and each day, I find more confidence to speak to people with the little German that I know. The feeling of being settled in one place is comforting and it's something I had missed while we were on the road this last year.

But with the feeling of being settled here also comes some angst. The more we feel drawn to Vienna and the more we fall in love the with city and the people here, the sadder we are to depart in January for 3 months. When we first started talking about going to England awhile back, I was excited to experience a different country and I thought being in a place where English is spoken would be refreshing. But now that we are here and finding some momentum, it is hard to think about leaving. I'm afraid of losing the German I've learned and I'm weery when I think of starting over someplace new. Plus, we like our neighborhood here in the 20th district, and we know that we'll have to start over in the spring when we return to Vienna, learning new streets and a new routine.

I know that God has a plan and that it includes 3 months here and 3 months in England for a reason. And I am truly confident He will use our internship opportunity to help us grow and give us opportunities to serve. Plus, it may be good for us to focus on studying the German we've learning so far, letting that sink in for a bit before continuing on with more difficult grammar. But I am praying that my heart follows along with my head on this one. Instead of trying to shut off the emotional attachment I have for this city and neighborhood, I am instead praying that God grows my heart for Vienna more each day here. And that coming back to Vienna will be that much sweeter when April comes.


Saturday, November 10, 2012

Reconnecting with the BEG


Reinhold, Nate and me at church last Sunday
When we visited Vienna in the Spring of 2011, we had the privilege of meeting Reinhold Eichinger. Reinhold is a leader in the BEG (you may have heard us mention this before...it stands for Bund Evangeliker Gemeinden or Association of Evangelical Churches). During our meeting last year, we got to hear Reinhold's story of how the BEG came to be, the birth of many evangelical churches in the '60s and '70s, and where they have come over the years. We clearly saw his enthusiasm for ministry and for seeing more Austrians come to know Christ personally. We discussed our involvement in church planting with the BEG, and he was excited about our arrival.

Fast forward to last Sunday. We joined fellow missionary friends at a BEG church up in Floridsdorf (a community north of Vienna). And we ran into Reinhold! Not only did we get to see Reinhold, but we ended up being blessed with an hour of his time after the church service. We spoke mostly German (hooray!) and Reinhold was able to confirm a few important things for us:
  • There is still much work to be done here
  • There are several communities or "pockets" in Vienna with a high population density and NO evangelical church
  • Reinhold is eager for us to get started, but he understands the important of us focusing on language study until we are ready

We were so encouraged by the surprise meeting with a visionary leader of the association we'll be working with.  We talked about meeting in the coming months to pray and continue to discuss future plans. We look forward to working with Austrians and missionaries, under his leadership, to plant churches in the spiritually needy country. Thank you, God, for this encouragement!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Photo Journal

Today after class, I went on a walking tour in the main part of Vienna with our German teacher. She is very knowledgeable and pointed out a lot of information about the areas we went to. We saw Judenplatz, Maria am Gestade, Schottenkirche, and quite a few other places along the way. Some were streets that I had walked before and never knew the history of and other places I had walked near but never seen. Maria am Gestade is a church that used to be on the bank of the Danube. During the Napoleonic wars, it was used as a horse stable and armory by the government.  Here are some photos from the adventure.
Schottenkirche was pretty stunning inside
The ceiling of  Schottenkirche
A Holocaust memorial in Judenplatz

Judenplatz facing the other way

Maria am Gestade (a church that used to be on the bank of the Danube)
This is a bust of a saint that is venerated in Maria am Gestade




Sunday, November 4, 2012

Little Victories


Language learning is about making LOTS of mistakes...and along the way, while you make them, you also have little victories that keep you going. Since our language learning journey began in Vienna last Monday, that has been my focus. Every time I have a language learning victory, I try to remember it, recount it and celebrate it! And that way, I don't focus so much on the times when I didn't succeed.

Here are a few little victories from last week...
  • We were standing at the bus stop, and a young woman approached us with a question. She asked us the fastest way to get to the U2 ubahn (subway) station. Not only did we understand what she was saying, but I successfully told here where to catch the bus and where it would take her.
  • I took my watch to a jeweler, because it needs a new battery (looking up the word for "watch battery" beforehand). I was able to tell the clerk what I needed and ask how much it would cost. I also understood when they told me that the watch repair man would be in on Monday and they would call me when it was ready.Yay!
  • Last Tuesday night, we went out for drinks with a few people from our language class and our teacher. I thought if we spoke German the whole time, I would never survive. But we enjoyed the experience, communicated successfully, and our heads didn't hurt at the end!
  • So far, our relationship with our landlord has been in English. A few days ago, I needed to email him because we have a package at the post office from Amazon.com (he needs to get the package slip out of the mailbox and get it to us so we can pick up the box). This time, I emailed him in German. In his German response, he said "It pleases me that your language knowledge is good enough that you can write me in German. Thank you!" Hopefully our relationship will be in German from here on out!
These are just a few of the stories I can share. There have been many more, and I am convinced it is because people are praying for us and our ability to learn German. God is working!

When I think of these "little victories", a song by the same name by Matt Nathanson keeps popping into my head. In it, he says "I'll learn to get by on the little victories". I hope I do!


Photo credit: jdurham from morguefile.com

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Kürbis Fest

Last Sunday, some missionary friends here took us to a pumpkin festival just outside the city. It was a cold day, but we fixed that by having hot wine and warm pumpkin donuts! Harvest time is definitely celebrated here and it was fun to explore this cultural tradition.

Nate eating fried dough with pumpkin, garlic sauce...bigger than his head!

I decided to help him eat it...delicious.

An entertaining pair - the festival announcer and a quirky musician.

Our friend Eric and his two boys, dressed like pumpkins! (Sadly, his wife was sick and couldn't come.)

A man shaping iron into small horseshoe-shaped pieces. Very cool to watch.

The view from Kahlenberg, a nearby town overlooking Vienna.

Posing at Kahlenberg

Another great view!


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Exploring the City

We spent most of our first two weeks in Vienna running errands, buying household items, setting up cell phones...you know, life stuff. Then one night we were at a Bible study and someone asked us "have you enjoyed doing some of the touristy things here during your free time?". We hadn't! This week, we finally decided to take advantage of some of our free days before school starts Monday, and we began exploring our beautiful city. Here are some photos of the buildings, places and views we've seen...

In front of Karlskirche

Nate's favorite place - the cheese store at the market

Some intricate graffiti near our apartment, along the canal

Stephanskirche - a beautiful cathedral in the city center

The winter palace, with a historical excavation in front of it

The gardens of the Schonbrunn Palace

A panaramic photo of the Schonbrunn Gardens

The canal path near our apartment where we've been walking and exploring