Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Family Visits

We were so blessed to have both sets of parents visit us after Maya was born. This also meant, because of the timing, that we had family here for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Ellie's birthday! It was really special for us to celebrate all of these holidays with family, because these can often be the most difficult times to live overseas, when we have to be alone for a holiday. It was also neat to show our parents our new neighborhood and what our life is like, now that we have relocated outside of the city. They have a better sense of our everyday life and ministry now.

Here are some photo highlights from Nate's parents' visit ("Oma & Opa"):

Playdoh with Oma!

Visiting the Christmas markets, sometimes one need a break from all the walking

Baby snuggles

Oma and her girls

Baking Christmas Cookies

Raclette dinner with the Kosse family, here on a Vision Trip and now joining our team

Thanksgiving Dinner

Nate, Oma & Ellie hiking through vineyards

Here are some pictures from our time with Bethany's parents ("Grammy & Grampy"):

Grampy sitting by the presents and our "fireplace"

Playing Candyland

Walking to Schönbrunn Palace, with Ellie's doll in her baby carrier

At the mall

Our day trip to Bratislava

At a Slovakian restaurant

The view from the Bratislava Castle

At the playground

Maya's baby dedication at church

Dedicating Maya

Ellie's third birthday

Monday, January 16, 2017

Where the Ministry Began...

So here is an interesting story from a prayer meeting I went to recently. First, it requires a bit of history. The Austrian free church started here in Vienna in the late 70s and early 80s. It started as a student movement. Most of them were "high school" and college age students. It came mostly out of a prayer and youth group. I need to learn more about this story...but I recently learned about one interesting piece of the free church history: one of its key locations.

I attended a prayer meeting last week. I arrived a bit late, because putting kids to bed is never as straight forward as one would hope. I sat down at the closest open corner, apologized for the interruption, and took part in the prayer meeting. At the close of the meeting, we were encouraged to break into smaller groups and pray for each other. I prayed with the older guy sitting next to me. He is probably old enough to be my father. We are still new to our "gap" church (more on that later) so we end up answering similar questions over and over agai. We've gotten good at telling the short version of how God led us to Austria in both languages. I talked about the vision to plant a church close to where we live along the U1 subway line. I mentioned that the two closest districts of Vienna have the same population as the next largest city in Austria.

As I talked about where we felt God was leading, he got excited. One thing he mentioned to me stood out. He said that he was apart of that youth movement in the 70s and 80s, the one that had started so much of the gospel witness in Vienna. He mentioned that the youth group where much of this started began right where we are feeling led to start a new church. Some 30 years ago, God was working in our area in a movement of prayer. As the group grew and morphed, some of the members went into the city to be a part of the "Tulpengasse" Church (this is a street name, because most churches are named after their address). Others went to go plant the Floridsdorf church, which is where we have been attending since moving to the northern part of the city. Both churches are mother churches that have sent out vhurch plants over the years and contributed in huge ways to the growth of the church and the spread of the gospel in the city. As he told me all this, he made a comment that stuck with me. After awhile, all the people from the original youth group moved on to other churches and a church was never planted in our target area, where the movement originally started. At the time, he was excited to see how God was working, but now he wishes that a church had continued there.

We are praying for exactly the same thing. We know that the gospel is life-changing news, that when we encounter the living God, it can change hearts and lives. It transforms relationships. We also know the importance of prayer. We want to see God move in our town, just like He did 30 years ago. We want to see God do the same thing in the same area again. Continue to pray that God will bring the growth as we seek to faithfully serve Him. 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Dedicating our Little One

"Der HERR segne dich und behüte dich; der HERR lasse sein Angesicht leuchten über dir und sei dir gnädig; der HERR hebe sein Angesicht über dich und gebe dir Frieden."

"The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace."

With these words from Numbers chapter 6 our little baby Maya was dedicated on Sunday, January 1. This is a practice that we find very meaningful and important. It is something one only does a few times in life. It is a practice that finds its roots in Mark 10. The people are bringing their children to Jesus, and the disciples don't think that is a valuable usage of Jesus' time. The teacher is, after all, a very important and busy person. The Lord's response is to rebuke his disciples and to take the children in his arms and bless them. 

A baby dedication is also a chance for us as parents to recognize our role. We are not owners of the child any more than we own our own bodies. We are stewards, entrusted by God to raise Maya in a way that honors Him. 

This step also affirms our need not only for God and His gracious work in our family to transform our hearts, but we also confess our need to be in Christian community. It is the same in my own story, as well as in so many other stories I have heard from others. God uses the witness of parents and family members in childrens' lives, but He also uses voices out of his church to speak into young lives and hearts. Church isn't just important to "check a box", but it is a vital community that affirms and works alongside the discipleship that is happening inside the home. We need the examples of others around us and their faithfulness to strengthen our faith and bring the focus back to Christ. We will not be able to raise Maya in Christ without the church.

It was also wonderful to have Bethany's parents present for the dedication. My parents were there when Ellie was dedicated. Even though we live far away, we know the input, help and support we get from both sets of parents is vital. They have shaped us into who we are and continue to shape us. We are very thankful for them.