Friday, February 22, 2013

Serious Pictures, Happy Faces

Today is a very exciting day.

Today is the day that we were handed our visa cards to live in Austria.  

Today it is completely legal for us to live here, and we are so excited for God's provision. Today is a day of rejoicing at what God has done on our behalf. But today was also a day where we breathed a huge sigh of relief.

Yesterday, however, was challenging. Yesterday we weren't sure what would happen. Yesterday was a heavy day of stress.

The first reason had more to do with the situation at hand and the importance of our visas being processed. There is a special quality to an experience like this, knowing that it "isn't real until it is real." Even though things had gone along as best as we could hope for up until yesterday, we still hadn't finished the process. We still didn't have the visas in our hands. For me (Nate), this added an undercurrent of stress. Before this trip to Vienna, as we set up meetings to view apartments and evaluated online listings, there was this nagging fear or doubt in the back of my mind, because the visas weren't in our hands. We were doing our best to plan for a future that still wasn't 100% certain.

The second reason yesterday was stressful was a bit more challenging. In our meeting at the visa office Thursday morning, there were new questions being asked and a new document that needed to be provided up before we could receive our visas. As we rushed to find the needed parties and get the signed pieces of paper, there were serious questions about whether or not we would be able to receive our visas or if we would have to wait until next year to start the process again. This is why this morning was so heavy for us...why we walked out of the visa office with so much adrenaline in our veins and our hearts pounding. Because there is always the possibility that they will say, "sorry, you did this wrong" or "you broke that rule and we can't give you the visa." 

These last few days have been a roller coaster of emotions. I think this was a reminder to us that we are not in control, but we serve the One who is. We can think we are in control sometimes, but the reality is that we are only stewards of what we have.

I read a prayer last night I read a prayer from the Valley of Vision. A few of the last lines cut me to the core:

I do not crouch at thy feet as a slave before a tyrant,
but exult before thee as a son with a father.
Preserve me from the intoxication that come of prosperity;
Sober me when I am glad with a joy that comes not from thee.
Lead me safely on to the eternal kingdom,
not asking whether the road be rough or smooth.
I request only to see the face of him I love,

That last line caught me most of all. Any time we hold onto something more than our desire for Christ, it needs to be pushed back into its place. The question I asked myself last night, as we wondered what today would look like, was "is Jesus enough? If this dream or desire I have goes on hold or even goes away, is He still enough?" It is a question we all must continually ask and one that is not as easily answered.Even if we know what the answer should be, we need to examine our hearts to see if it's what we truly believe.

Thank you for celebrating with us and praising our great God! Thank you for praying for us! Now on to the next stage...

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Timeline!

Now that we have our visas, many of you are probably wondering if we are heading back to Austria soon. Receiving our visas this early was very unexpected and caused us to reevaluate our timeline for staying in England. We want to balance honoring our commitment to the missionaries here with getting back to Vienna, where we believe God has truly called us. We also want to be financially responsible. We've paid for our apartment here in Lichfield through the middle of March and that is not refundable.

In order to determine next steps and timelines, we spent time praying and discussed the situation with our field leaders in Vienna, as well as our teammates here in England. We then determined the following schedule:
  • February 20 – 23: Visit to Vienna to pick up our visas and begin our apartment search
  • February 23 – March 13: Finish out our time (and our apartment rental) in England
  • March 13 - 31: Return to Vienna and continue searching for an apartment. Stay with teammates (no rent!) and possibly meet with a language tutor.
  • April 1 – 5: Participate in the Austria WorldVenture team retreat in Grundlsee, Austria (we last attended this on our Vision Trip in 2011 and we're excited to be back!)
  • Sometime in April: Move into a long term apartment and have our household good delivered from the US! Begin language school at the end of April.
We are eager and excited about these next steps. The thought of having a home to “call our own” is very exciting to us, after nearly 2 years living a transitive lifestyle. I am so excited to have our container delivered - it will be like Christmas to see our of our household goods again!

Please pray for patience these next few months, as we walk through the final steps towards being settled in Vienna. I tend to be eager about planning and sometimes I push forward too fast. Please pray that I wait on the Lord and his timing for finding an apartment and getting settled. We want to land in just the right place, a neighborhood where we can reach out and stay for the next 3 - 5 years.

Exciting things are ahead and we're just one step closer to "home"!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Highlights from Ireland

We're back from our week in Ireland, and we are so thankful we had the opportunity to visit such a beautiful country. We stayed with friends there...actually, they were friends of friends! But there are friends now :) Getting kicked out of our apartment here in England ended up being a huge blessing. We really enjoyed getting out into scenic, natural places and getting out of our everyday circumstances.

Here are some photo highlights of our trip:

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Aim of Language Learning

I just came across an excellent post on "A Life Overseas", a blog written by missionaries around the world. The blog does a great job of tackling the tough questions surrounding missions, and it's writers are wonderfully and brutally honest.

In this particular post, the author wrestles with the reality that she has been in country for over 10 years and is still working on the language. To an outsider, this may seem like a long time. But in reality, this is a common story. It can take a lifetime to reach fluency and when there are other factors slowing things down, like stress, family, and multiple languages to learn, the journey is long.

When the language learning journey is extended, it can be difficult to deal with our own and others' expectations. Personally, as I enter German language learning, I am hoping to feel pretty fluent in a couple of years. But this may not happen, and I need to be prepared for that. Afterall, the aim of language learning, the blog writer says, is not just language fluency. "The point, the aim, is not fluency. The aim is to honor God, to be used by him, to become more like Jesus, to love well." 

I love what she says about the questions we should be asking ourselves:

"How does God want to change me and use me while I learn this language? How does God want to accomplish his purposes through me while I learn this language? How can I love people while I learn this language?"

I would encourage you to read the rest of the article here. It really paints a realistic portrait of the language learning journey, it's challenges, and how God uses it to mold and shape those of us who are on it.

What is the journey that God has you on, challenging you to be humble and dependent on Him?

Photo credit: ardelfin from

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

An Invitation

Yesterday a letter arrived at our colleagues'  house in Austria. It was something that we have been waiting for and planning for for a very long time. A very official letter from the government of Austria. At the top in big bold black letters it said:


which means "invitation." It said that we were invited to pick up our visas on Valentine's day in Vienna!

To be honest we were shocked! We were very hopeful that this day would come, but we were expecting this to happen in May, or even June. Not February. Our minds have been spinning for the last 24 hours as we have contacted family and team members. We have tried to figure out what this will means for our time here in the UK.

In short, we aren't sure yet. We have some tentative plans in place and we'll tell you more as things come together, but for now


Your prayers have been answered by a great, powerful, and good God. One who loves to give us good gifts. A God that does not deal with us as our sin would demand, but delights to bring us into communion with himself!

What we do know, is this means is that the road is clear for us to live in Austria and continue our language learning. It also means we get to attend our spring team retreat in Grundelsee (we attended this retreat as appointees on a vision trip in 2011, we get to go back as full fledged team members!). And it means that we are one step closer to an apartment and a bit of stability. It means more stability than just guest bedrooms and vacation rental apartments anyway.

We are so blessed to see God move in this way and so thankful for all of your prayers and support.

Photo credit: dieraecherin from

Packing up again!

Yes, I know. You're probably reading the title of this post and you're confused. "Didn't you just arrive in England? Why would you be packing up again?" Do not fret. Today, we're packing our bags because we have the opportunity to travel to Ireland for a week and because our apartment in Lichfield is being rented while we're gone.

When we first found our apartment in England, there was one caveat - we could have it for the entire three months we were here except a week in February. Since we couldn't find any other options, we decided to rent the place and use the week to travel somewhere. We figured if we were going to have to pay for another place to stay, we might as well make it somewhere interesting!

We're thankful that the circumstances pushed us to take a trip. Who knows when we'll have another opportunity to visit a beautiful country like Ireland, especially so cheaply. Flights from London to Dublin are outrageously cheap on Ryanair, and we found fellow missionaries to stay with in Dublin and Galway (so we didn't have to rent something!). We feel very blessed to have the opportunity to take this trip affordably and to be able to get to know some fellow missionaries working in a European context.

We'll post photos of our trip to Ireland very soon!

Photo credit: keeshu from 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Contextualizing with Tea

The tea station at our church here in England
If you've read about or studied missions, you've probably heard of the term "contextualization". It's a long word for a pretty simple, yet important, concept. Contextualization basically means looking at a culture and asking "how should and can the gospel be expressed here?".  When we take Christ's message of salvation into a new culture, we do not compromise that message...but what we do need to change is how it is communicated and expressed based on the unique cultural context. How Christians express and live out their faith differs from country to country, dependent on cultural values and traditions, and this affects what Christian community looks like.

For example, things like translating the Bible into the common cultural language, engaging in (non-sinful) cultural traditions, wearing traditional dress and playing culturally-relevant music can be ways that missionaries engage in contextualization. In Austria, it can mean allowing time after each church service for eating and socializing together, as relaxed time to develop relationships is highly valued in Austrian culture.
Tea is always served with sugar and milk.

Here in England, one way that the missionaries contextualize is by offering tea to everyone who comes into the church service. This may seem like a small gesture, but it carries with it an important message. In British culture, tea is a popular drink but also something that brings people together. Social gatherings always involve tea, and offering someone tea is a welcoming gesture of hospitality. When we offer someone tea at church, it invites them in to be a part of the community. It says "welcome" and it makes them feel comfortable, giving them something to enjoy that is comforting and familiar.

When we get back to Austria, we look forward to exploring the culture and discovering new and creative way to contextualize. Our goal will be to plant a church that is distinctly Austrian, so that when people walk into a church gathering or service, they feel at home and welcome.

How does the church in your country contextualize?