Monday, November 24, 2014

Learning and Growing!

As a general rule, I try not to be a professional conference-goer. Ministry conferences are always taking place and the option is there to attend conference all year round.  This past weekend, however,  I was so thankful to attend a special conference and witness a wonderful example of the body of Christ active.

When we talk about Austria, it is often easy to be focused on the need here. There are many people in our beloved country that have little or no access to the life transforming gospel of Jesus. To many, he is a fable hanging on a crucifix or a name that is invoked to make people feel bad about themselves. However, we often don't highlight enough the fact that God is living and active in this land! He is at work and lives are being changed!

This last weekend was a reminder of that. We had the yearly meeting of BEG (Bund Evangelikaler Gemeinden in Österreich). It took place in Bad Aussee, which is the geographic center of Austria. The delegates came from all over the country, and are either elders or leaders in their respective churches.  Here is a quick summary of some things we talked about or observations that I picked up.

1. This Country is Beautiful and Diverse

We live very much in a concrete jungle that is the city. We have some green spaces, but it is nothing compared to the natural setting outside of Vienna. It is amazing how quickly things open up. The edge of the city is far more pronounced and it is clear when you are no longer in the city. I drove up with an Austrian pastor and two other guys from our church, and i was amazed by their knowledge about the areas outside of the city. They knew names and had stories for the peaks as we drove by them or were able to share a memory of a special family time "just over that mountain top there." The beauty is there, but it is accompanied by stories and a collective cultural memory. Once we arrived, I was also struck by the diversity of accents and dialects I heard. "High German" is the formal Germany German, but the regions of Austria each have their own dialect. From Tyrol to Carinthia, Styria or Upper Austria, each province sounds different. There were even times where I either had to really focus to understand someone, or just completely missed what they would say. It was a fun test of my comprehension, and I was so glad to be able to join in on jokes and laugh with many new acquaintances.

2. The Mix of Topics was Astounding

In two days of meetings, we cover a ton of ground! We left Vienna at 11am and arrived just after 2:30 pm and jumped right in. We talked about the new church recognition in Austria and their ability to offer religion classes in schools for "Free Church" students. We celebrated the two new supported church plants, one of which is the Aspern project that we had talked about previously, the second one is in Eisenstadt, down in Burgenland (the south eastern most province of Austria). Supported missionaries from the BEG reported on ministry all across the globe and the delegates voted on budgets and accepting two new independent churches into the association. They could not have packed more into that time... it was go go go!

3. God is at Work in Austria

I hope that everything above has showed this last point to you. I was blessed by so many of the conversations that I had and the dear people I met. These are men and women that faithfully serve and love the church in Austria. I was so encouraged by how God is at work in new projects and new ideas, as well as churches that have been around for a while.

I posted photos after the break!
Click the photos to bring up a photo stream.