Wednesday, August 28, 2013

And the verdict is...

We got some big news at the doctor today!

Exciting News for the Evangelical Churches in Austria!

For the first time in the history of Austria, the evangelical church here is being recognized as an official faith!

Yesterday, this ruling became official and the news is now public. Being fully recognized by the government is something that that has been in process for years and brings with it many benefits for the church here.

Before the church became recognized...
  • Many Austrians saw evangelicalism as a "cult", rather than a legitimate faith
  • Evangelicals pastors who worked on Sundays were technically breaking the law because of labor laws in Austria (though the law was never enforced)
  • Religious worker visas were not available for missionaries or church workers coming here from other countries, as they are for other official religions (which is why we endured our complicated visa process)
  • When Austrians are born and registered for the government and their parents wanted to mark their religion on official documents (which is standard here), evangelicals had to check the box "other" on the form
  • Financially, evangelical churches functioned as "clubs" here, required to follow some regulations that really didn't apply to them (for example, having regular leadership meetings that had to follow format and voting rules)
Now that the "free church" is recognized...
  • It will be considered a true, rather than half-way recognized, faith by many Austrians! It joins a group of 16 other state-recognized religions (to which Jehovah's Witnesses, for example, already belonged)
  • It will have easy access to missionary/ministry worker visas!
  • Austrian evangelical churches will get the same tax benefits as other churches in Austria
  • The news has gone public and talking about this new reality can open up new opportunities to share with Austrians about the evangelical church, what we're all about, and what distinguishes us from other religious faiths in Austria
  • The free church now has the right to teach religious education in public schools here in Austria. (I'm not sure of all the nuances of this, but I know it will open up new doors! But it will require the church to provide teachers, so we need to start recruiting.)
Join us in praising God for this amazing answer to prayer. This is a historical day in the history of the evangelical church here and something we've been praying for for a long time (and many have been praying long before we knew about it!).

To read more, you can see an article here. Use google translate to read, if you can't speak German, of course!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

B1 Test (AKA Saturday Morning Adventures)

Today we took the B1 German competency exam at our language school. Here is the explanation of the levels. It went pretty well, and we felt good coming out of it, even though it was a formal test. We won't know how we did for another 10 days or so. Here are some thoughts from today and an explanation of why we decided to take this formal exam.

The first reason we took this test was because we needed it for our visas. I think we have between two and three years to get to this level of German to meet the visa requirement, but we figured that it would be good to get it out of the way while the grammar nuts and bolts were firmly fixed in our heads. This leads into our second reason for taking the test. We wanted to get a bench mark for how far we have progressed in the language. Language learning is something in life that is hard to pin down. Often times you grow and grow and don't really notice the growth that has happened. There aren't that many times that we have something like this to take the pulse of our progress and so we jumped at the opportunity.

Last fall, I wrote about speaking like a child and preparing for our A1 exam. That feels like so long ago and it is amazing to see how we have grown in the last nine months. Like any student studying a subject, the further we go into German, the more we realize how much we have yet to learn. 

Ultimately, language and culture are tools that we use to effectively communicate the gospel cross-culturally. We really love German and Austria, but we are not here just to learn the language and culture. We are here because we have a loving and good God that wants to have a relationship with Austrians in German*. And we believe wholeheartedly that the time we are investing now in language learning will bear fruit in the future as we seek to be a witness to Christ's message and to encourage Austrian believers to do the same.

*I am still blow away at the language diversity on this planet. The fact that communion with God is had through so many different languages and variety of cultures completely astounds me.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Capture Video Training

These last couple weeks, we had the privilege of hosting in our home a good friend and fellow WorldVenture missionary, Drew Hayes. Drew and Nate attended Moody together, and we were excited to learn a few years ago that Drew had become a mid-term missionary with WorldVenture. But Drew's ministry is a bit different from ours. Drew is a professional video shooter, editor and producer, specializing in the telling stories of what God is doing around the world in documentary-style short films. Drew is highly skilled and his work is a great gift to missionaries, enabling them to better share their stories with churches, supporters, friends and family back home. You can check out some of his videos here.

While Drew was in Vienna, he spent most of his two weeks utilizing the fast internet connection he doesn't have in Africa to edit and upload videos he'd been shooting over the last few months. But we also took advantage of the opportunity and asked him to teach a workshop called "Capture: Video Training for Missionaries".  We got together a group of four missionaries interested in shooting and editing their own videos, and Drew facilitated 2-1/2 days of training to give them the tools necessary to create their own videos. Drew was an excellent teacher and the missionaries came away better equipped! Nate and I served as planners/facilitators in setting up the workshop, getting the word out, and finding a place to meet. Overall, we were so thankful that this training came together.

Check our Drew's monthly update video below, where he talks about teaching the seminar here in Vienna.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Work Hard, Rest Hard

Yesterday, we picked up our puppy, Mozzy. It's been an interesting and fun 2 days, as we've been learning Mozzy's personality and attempting to train him. Neither of us have had a puppy before, so it's a whole new experience! (Case in point: Mozzy was up at 4am this morning ready to play...Good practice for a baby, I suppose.)

One thing that has become quickly clear: Mozzy takes his job very seriously. As a puppy, Mozzy's job in life is to play. So when he plays, he plays hard! He throws his whole body into his work, whether he is gnawing on a chew toy, running after a ball, or climbing into a pile of pillows. He has very little fear and doesn't hold back.

Another important part of Mozzy's job, though, is to rest. As a growing puppy, he needs more sleep than most dogs and because of his energetic play, he wears himself out. So after an intense play session, he goes and takes an hour nap! Just like Mozzy plays hard, he also rests hard.

I was thinking about Mozzy's "life philosophy" today and realized I can learn some important lessons from him. First of all, we should take our work seriously and put 100% of our effort in every time. For us, that means working diligently on language learning while we're in this phase of ministry and earnestly seeking out opportunity to live out (sometimes without words!) the gospel with the people we meet. But just like we need to work hard, we also need to rest. Like Mozzy, we need to take the time to sleep, take care of ourselves and do the things that give us rest, so that we are ready for the next challenge. We also need spiritual rest - times with the Lord in prayer and studying his Word, so we are spiritually prepared for the work ahead. Without the proper rest, we are ill-equipped to completely the work God has laid out for us in Austria.

So, may we be more like Mozzy - working hard and resting hard, throwing our whole selves into the tasks God has given us!

Panting on the couch in between play sessions.

Working hard to destroy his chew stick (which he devoured in 24 hours).

Resting in his "house" in the living room

Fast asleep on the couch after a tiring hour of "work"

Asleep in the bathroom, where the tiles can keep him cool and he can sniff Nate's sneakers!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Our First Family Visitor!

Lately, life has just been chugging along. We're wrapping up this month's German class next Friday and we've been spending most of our time outside of class doing homework, meeting with language partners and going to church. Hence the lack of blog posts recently! Not much to report.

However, a welcome interruption to all of this normalcy was our first family visitor - Nate's brother! For the last 7-ish years, Neil has spent time volunteering at English camps sponsored by Josiah Venture in the Czech Republic, and this summer was no different. After two weeks there, he decided to pop down to Vienna for a quick visit before heading back to the States. It was really fun to show him around the city and take him to a few favorite places and authentic restaurants. (Anyone who knows us well knows that food is really important to us, so of course this was a big focus of what we shared with Neil.) Nate also was able to skip a day of class to spend more time with his brother and they visited a few museums in the downtown area.

Thank you, Neil, for coming to visit!

Sadly we didn't take very many photos, but here are just a couple...

Having Vienna's best apple strudel at Cafe Landtmann.

Nate catching Neil in some of his more pensive, thoughtful moments.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013


When we started this language learning process, I was unsure about the middle stages. To be fair, I still am pretty unsure. I had a sense of the beginning...I knew what it was to start. It is easy to envision learning (or relearning, as was my case after a few years of high school German) basic verbs and nouns. I could envision learning basic sentences about dogs jumping and people running or cooking. But I have been amazed and encouraged at the other milestones we have encountered along the way. Here is a brief recap, in no particular order, of those spots along the way.

I clearly remember my first conversation when I felt like I spoke mostly German for an evening. I was at a restaurant with a few guys and celebrating Reformation Day. I remember the conversation was about language learning, and I was so amazed as I walked home that day, thinking that I actually had a conversation in German! The interesting thing about that memory is that later, I got together with the guy I talked with that night and his memory of the evening was the opposite of mine. He remembers that we spoke mostly English that night! I think it reminds me that this process is just that - a process. 

Today, I went into a climbing store because I wanted to look around. I mean come on, it's a climbing store and I like climbing. So I wandered around for a little while and finally someone looked at me and asked me if needed help. I asked a few questions and laughed with the guy behind the counter (most climbers are laid back and willing to chat about stuff). Later on in the afternoon, I was talking to a fellow language learner and I realized that I hadn't done something earlier. I hadn't rehearsed. One stage of language learning involves a lot of mental rehearsal before a social interaction, especially with a stranger. To be honest, it is emotionally draining. You think through exactly what you are looking to get out of the conversation and then what you expect them to say, or what questions you expect them to ask. So the fact that I went to the climbing store without mentally rehearsing anything, had a comfortable conversation and had no stress was an important milestone.
I would definitely not say that I am through the woods regarding language learning. I still have a long way to go, but it is great to look back and see times that were once difficult are not so hard today. It is great to see growth. 

Photo credit: Seemann from