Saturday, June 29, 2013

Chatting with Church Planters

Nate and I sharing about our strengths and goals
 Last Monday, we attended a cookout with a group of missionaries, internationals and Austrians interested in church planting on the northeast side of the city. It was an exciting time to meet others with a passion for church planting in Vienna and an opportunity to discuss vision, strategy and goals.

There was one other American missionary couple there, one Austrian/Australian couple and many Austrian couples who already live in the northeastern district of the city. They are excited and eager to start something new and passionate about thinking outside of the box. They want to ask questions like, "what should church look like and what does it need to look like? How do we create a church environment that is welcoming to non-believers?" They want to limit the amount of church programs and activities, so that Christians are freed up and have enough time to actually meet and socialize with non-Christians outside the church. They expressed a desire for practical Bible teaching and creating a place where it's less about the music and style and more about community and doing life together.

Chatting about vision over coffee and dessert
At this point, Nate and I are unsure what all of this means for us. We are still very early in our journey and not ready yet to join a church planting team. We need to set aside more dedicated time for language and culture study, as well as some time serving in an existing church. We have a lot to learn still. But we are excited about where God is leading this group of people and curious to see where they are in their journey when the time comes for us to switch our focus to church planting. A few years down the road, this could be the team for us. We're not sure, but we want to keep communicating and praying.

Please pray for this passionate group of church planters. Pray for unified wisdom and vision. Pray that God would be preparing the way for them in the Aspern neighborhood. Pray for the Holy Spirit to lead them in what steps to take and when.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Explaining Language Learning

I came across a guy named Mickey Mangan, and I thought his story was worth sharing with all of you. After completing 7 years of high school level Spanish, he was dissatisfied with his complete lack of Spanish speaking ability, so he did a semester abroad in Chile. He was blown away, not only by what he learned in that time, but also by the relationships that he formed. He wanted to try this again, so he moved to Germany for a year to learn German. The video below explains the project that he worked on while he was there. 


This is what it looks like to learn a language in one year. from Mickey Mangan on Vimeo.

This video really resonated with me for a number of reasons. First of all, it reminded me how organic the language learning process is. I can't snap my fingers and learn German. It is a daily process of learning small pieces of information that come together to learn how to speak in this language. No one single construction or set of vocabulary cards will mean that I am there. Each part comes slowly and subtly. 

But there are also these moments of clarity and focus. Usually, it is after an especially good conversation. I walk away and think, "WOW, I just got through that experience and understood what was happening" or  "They asked a question, and I knew the answer!!!"

The most important think that I resonated with in this video was his consistent failures and willingness to keep trying. If you watch him talking to people, there are these moments of silence. He is searching his brain for a word or phrase. Some of these moments are really funny when he tries to put concepts together and hope that it makes the correct word. The subtitles help to show that he is often incorrect. These moments are some of the most humbling in the language learning process. It is the time when you are staring at someone and they are staring at you and you are trying to say something incredibly simple, but the words just aren't there. 

But, amazingly enough, people are patient with him, just as they are patient with us. And he grows! You can see it even in the short intro how he moves from simple, child-like sentences to more complicated thoughts. This is the reminder that is helpful for me in the minutiae. Growth is coming. It may not be at the pace that I would want or would try to expect of myself, but it is coming. 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Learning From Colleagues

Yesterday, we helped some friends pack a container as they head back to the States to start a new season of ministry. It has been a bittersweet time to watch them go through the heart-wrenching stages of saying goodbye to friends, co-workers, and the city that's been their home for the last few decades. 

I am often unsure whether it is harder to say goodbye to your home country and previous identity, or to leave the place into which you've poured decades of sweat and love. As we have watched our friends process this change, I have made a few observations. Mostly, these are things that I hope can be said about me in the future. They could even be called "ministry goals," though they are probably too general to be considered that. So here we go... (to see the panoramic image full screen just click on it.)

1. Grieving is a skill - like sharing, grieving is not something the we are born being able to do well. Our hearts mostly shrink away from loss. It is messy and painful to grieve, but it brings our heart to a place of health that can't be found any other way. Loss that is not acknowledged and processed will continue to weigh us down. It has been wonderful to watch our friends weep tears of pain and tears of joy. They have celebrated the work that God has done through them and the stories of lives that God has changed. But they are also mourning the separation from people that they love and care about. Both of these are important.

2. Where you start is rarely where you finish - Over their time in ministry here, their role and ministry vision has changed. They have even changed missions organizations along the way. As we have talked to more and more people about their journeys through ministry, we have found this is more and more the case. God moves us through different seasons of life and ministry as we grow and mature. This is not to say that we should constantly look for the greener pasture. I see our plans more as a child's coloring book that is loosely sketched but waiting for a creative color-er to come and fill in the details of a given moment or time of life. 

3. It is worth it - Life in general is full of change. Any of our friends that are expecting or recently have had a child can affirm this. We aren't the person we were last week or last month. Crossing oceans and cultures adds another level of change and transition to life. One of the temptations as relationships change, people come and go or life situations change, is to say that it is too hard and then to disengage. The challenge with this is that it insulates us from the community and connection that we can have through Christ. As we have gone through the transition process coming here, God has taught me that it is worth the risk and pain to engage and dig into relationships. The people we saw coming out to help our friends was a reminder that relationships are worth it. The pain of saying goodbye is worth the blessing of friendship.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Church Retreat

May 30 - June 2, we traveled south to attend our church's annual retreat. It is a longstanding tradition in many of the evangelical churches here to have an annual retreat where the whole church is invited. It's a wonderful opportunity to go deeper in relationships, build community, and be challenged together by a speaker. It was a wonderful four days, filled with sermons, worship, game playing, meal times together, hiking, and lots of rest in between!

It was our longest experience in German to date and, therefore, quite exhausting for us. But a huge blessing, as well! It helped us to feel more a part of the church community and to meet many new people. And of course, it was a wonderful opportunity to practice German. We look forward to continuing these relationships throughout the year!

Breakfast time with new friends

Mealtime discussions

Worship time

Our speaker, Tom Hoppel, was also a talented musician!

As soon as the rain stopped, we ventured out for a hike!

Chatting in the coffee area of the hostel


Scenic overlook

This photo is hilarious. We were obviously not ready to be photographed!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Hiking Adventure

A few weeks ago, we have the opportunity to go on a hike with a group from our church. Hiking is very popular here, because of the beautiful landscapes and hiking trails available. The outing was open to the whole church and a substantial group joined us, despite pouring rain for the first few hours! It was a great way to meet some new people and have an extended period of time to talk with new friends. (Sundays are always a difficult time to really connect with people.) Needless to say, we were exhausted afterwards, both from hiking and speaking German for 6 hours! But it was a great experience.

Here are some photos from our outing:


The view from the top of a tower

Scenic overlook tower

Group photo