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

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 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 (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

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!