Saturday, June 30, 2018

Summer Home Assignment Highlights

Oops! Another blogging hiatus from us - we are so sorry! Our last few months in Austria before boarding a plane for the U.S. were quite busy and Nate also came down with a very bad case of tonsillitis that zapped him of energy for about 3 weeks. He was just trying to keep up with what he could during that time. Then, on June 17, we all hopped on a plane and flew to Atlanta to begin our 2-month summer home assignment in the U.S. It's been a whirlwind adventure so far and will continue to be! We have been having a great time and feel really blessed to be here. Here are a few highlights from our time so far!

On the trans-atlantic flight from Frankfurt to Atlanta. Lots of screen time for all :)

Attending VBS for a day in Atlanta with Ellie's cousin, Meg

Driving from Atlanta to my parents' house in SC

Grocery shopping with Grammy

Maya goes for a walk with Grampy

At the Veerman family reunion in NC. Maya plays piano with her cousins

Beach time!

My dad and his siblings and spouses at the reunion

The next generation down

Grampy and Maya snuggling

We've arrived in MN! Beach time at the lake!

Ellie gets to go fishing with Opa!
Many more memories to come! We will soon be sharing with churches and small groups about our ministry in Austria, as well as spending time with family. We'll keep you updated!

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Bringing Moms Together

Mütternander Planning Team
 Last Saturday, I (Bethany) helped plan a daylong conference for Christian moms in Austria. The conference has been going on for about 15 years already and was originally started by an organization called "Hearts at Home". When the organization left Austria, the women planning the yearly conference wanted to keep going, so they founded their own non-profit so keep this great event going!

I was in charge of registration, so a lot of the time I invested was before the event even took place. On Saturday, I then had the joy of greeting all the moms as they arrived. It was amazing to see such a diverse group of moms from different backgrounds and ages come together to learn, encourage and worship. The day consisted of two main sessions, two breakout session, a lunch and free-time to chat, visit sponsor booths and even visit a wellness area with nail painting and massages. The conference was designed to be a free day for moms to relax, learn, enjoy and be encouraged.

I was incredibly grateful to be on the planning team and to be a part of this great event. I can't wait for next year!
Breakout Sessions

Afternoon Cake and Coffee Break

A Full Main Session

Morning Session

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Where the Cool Kids Are

Like many people of my generation (I'm barely a millennial), I have a complicated relationship with street evangelism. We can all easily conjure an image in our minds of the aggressive street preacher screaming at everyone or the poorly done puppet show just trying to draw a crowd. 

With this in mind, I was invited by a friend from church to go help him with a book table down in the city. They have a small table where they give away paper back books that are short biographies of lives transformed by the gospel or books like Josh McDowell's "More Than a Carpenter." The thing that got me intrigued with this was how they were doing it. Other street witnessing I've heard about here happens in pedestrian zones in the city during the day. But those areas are usually only occupied by tourists. This was in an area where a lot of people were going out to clubs and bars in the area. We definitely saw a fair amount of intoxicated people, but there were plenty of people that were just curious what we were doing. We explained what some of the books were about and tried to recommend some of them. We answered questions and started discussions with anyone that was interested in talking.

In the midst of all this talking two guys came up to us. In the beginning, one guy was clearly trying to play "stump the theist giving away books."  I'm not a big fan of arguing about stuff, at least not like I used to be when I was in college. I tried to just have a conversation with him instead. We kept talking, asking each other questions and discussing various arguments for God or why people would believe. I talked about the things that had convinced me, and also areas where I've struggled with doubt. I talked about the fine tuning argument for God. It talks about how many different parts of our physical universe generally but also our solar system in particular are perfectly tuned for human life. We talked for a long time, almost two hours actually. It was a really good conversation, one that I don't think is had enough both in America and here in Austria.

Part of me was pretty surprised that it was possible. I came into this evening pretty skeptical that people would be open to having this sort of conversation late on a Friday night. To be honest, there were plenty of people that either wanted their free book or didn't care at all. My friend who invited me had a bunch of smaller conversations with a variety of people. I was, however, really surprised at the openness that many people displayed to ask questions or take a book. That isn't the same as what I've seen from people on the street in this country up to this point.

Dialogue like this is also important for me in terms of taking many things that I've only every studied in detail in English and translating them into German. There is a whole set of "Christian" vocabulary that we had to learn in the church when we arrived. Learning to pray in German took a lot of time and listening to how others pray before we were able to do it. Sharing your faith is the same way. I think often times we as non-native speakers have an advantage where we have to use simpler words, because we don't know all the terminology. But it is still a muscle like any others that needs to be trained a bit. Every Christian should be able to quickly give their testimony, and this was a chance to learn how to talk about these things.

This was a good experience, and I'd be interested to do it again, but I'm still convinced that relationship is the most effective way to share about Christ. The gospel is best communicated in lives transformed by grace.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Kendra's Thoughts

Our 6-week spring intern, Kendra, has been enjoying her first two weeks with us serving in Austria! We would like to share her recent newsletter, as it provides a great overview of what she is learning and how we've been spending our time the last few weeks. Enjoy!


First off, THANK YOU for taking the time to follow me along during my time in Vienna. The fact that you wanted to be on this newsletter list really touches my heart. Knowing that I have friends and family across the globe praying for me is the most encouraging thing!

Since Austria is stereotyped as the land of Schnitzel, Lederhosen, Sound of Music, and Mozart, I want to give you guys a deeper look into the needs and culture of this amazing country ;)

As most of you know, I was born in Salzburg, Austria, so the fact that God opened a door to go back to Austria to serve the people in Vienna and practice my German was an absolute dream! I arrived in the city the Saturday before Easter, and since then, it has been a complete adventure with many ups and downs. I have seen beautiful architecture, tried incredible food, and meet such beautiful people...but I have also gotten lost more times than I care to admit (in forests and the city), gotten frustrated with my German language skills, and experienced deep bouts of loneliness and sadness. However, God has been using this time to teach me about REST and what it means to rest in him throughout the day. Even when I am working or volunteering, I am learning that nothing has to be perfect as long as I am trying to do everything for HIS glory...and let me tell you that is the most relieving concept in the world.

My hosts, the Johnsons, are a missionary couple from the US, who have two sweet little girls and a crazy cute pup. They have not only made me feel extremely welcome in their home and community, but they have already taught me so much about what it looks like to serve as a missionary in Austria! In Austrian culture, it takes a long time for people to warm up to new ideas and strangers. Because of this, missionaries might have to live in a community for years before they see progress in their ministry. It was so encouraging to see their perseverance and trust that God had placed them in this culture for a specific purpose, even if some days it seems hopeless.

So much has happened in the short 10 days that I have already been here, but a short list of my activities have included:
  • Meeting other Christians in the community
  • Working with refugees at a Christian outreach center
  • Ministering to prostitutes and their children in the center of Vienna
  • Attending German class
  • Discovering the city and going on prayer walks
  • English tutoring outreach at an international church
  • Rediscovering my Austrian roots

Although there is incredible sadness in the stories of the refugees and prostitutes we come in contact with, it is such an honor to be able to be God's hands and feet and serve them in any way possible! 

Prayer Request:
I want to ask you to please pray for the people of the city of Vienna. Many have completely rejected the idea of religion or are very ingrained in old, cold traditions that are very far from a personal relationship with the Lord. Please pray that they will be open and given the opportunity to see what Christ's love really looks like.

Also, please pray for my emotional health while I am here Austria. Going back to the country I was born in has brought up nostalgic and sad memories I thought I had dealt with long ago. I am so grateful to have the Johnson's to mentor and disciple me during this short time in Vienna, and I have already experienced incredible freedom in understanding what happened in my past to help me learn and grow for the future. 

I hope you all have an amazing rest of the week, and if I can be praying for you in ANY WAY, please send me a message!

Monday, February 26, 2018

Meet the Kosses!

Many of you may remember the Kosse Family. They visited in the fall of 2016 for a vision trip, and then began raising support to join our team with WorldVenture here in Austria. They recently had the video below put together to communicate their vision for ministry and how/why God has called them here. We are excited to share this - it not only allows you to get to know them, but also so clearly communicates the needs here in Austria. Take a look and pray for the Kosses!

Meet our New Intern!

We are very excited to have a spring intern joining in April and May this year! She will be a very unique addition to our team, coming to Austria not only with cultural understanding but also German language ability! Praise God for His provision! Take a look below to get to know Kendra!

"My name is Kendra and I will be interning with the Johnsons this April and May! 

A few basic facts about me are:
- I am 20 years old
- I have one younger sister who is 17 years old
- I am a dual citizen of both Austria and The US
- I study Fashion Business and International Marketing in New York (I want to use this degree to pursue a career in Ethical and Sustainable Fashion)

As you might have guessed, I come from a bicultural household, where my Dad is fully Austrian and my Mom is fully American. My sister and I were both born in Salzburg, Austria, but we all moved to the States when I was 7 years old. I was blessed to be raised in a Christian household, and I first began to realize my passion for missions as I got more involved through volunteer organizations at my high school, in my youth group, and even as a Young Life Leader in college. Everyone I volunteered or came in contact with was searching for something, and many were looking in dark places. Specifically, my family and friends back in Austria each have had issues with substances such as alcohol, nightlife, black magic, or simply believing they are completely self-sufficient. Over the years, it has broken my heart to see the disconnect between the "religiousness" of Austrian culture and actually developing a relationship with the Living God. 

I have felt God put a burden on my heart for Austria all of my life, but especially this past summer, when I was doing a two-month missions trip in Bulgaria and Romania, I very clearly knew God was calling me to come back to serve in Europe. Through a great deal of prayer and trust, I found this amazing opportunity to serve with the Johnsons in Vienna. I am already extremely expectant and excited to see the type of work I will be able to do with the refugees and locals in the city. I know that no matter where God takes me, he will provide a way for me to reach my people either through direct mission work or just being a living example among them.  "

Please pray for Kendra as she prepares now to serve in Austria by raising support and preparing for her various ministry opportunities here. She will be with us March 31 - May 20. We are excited to see how God uses her here and what she learns through the experience!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Visas and Health Insurance

The last few months have been a journey, and we thought we give you guys an update. (We apologize for the long blogging hiatus...) I'll do my best to keep the story compact, because I feel like it could get away from me.

Recently, I had heard from some other field leaders and workers here that visas were becoming more complicated. There were questions about health insurance and coverage and needing to provide additional documentation. We knew of people still waiting on their visa renewal applications to be processed, and it seemed like we could also face these challenges. We took a "we'll see" sort of attitude because living in the "land of worry and what-ifs" is not a great place to be.

Last fall, we had our first new worker come to Austria since we have arrived. We were so excited to have her here and get her settled in. She started German classes, found an apartment (something needed for her visa) and started to figure out cross-cultural life. We started to get an idea that things could get complicated when she received a letter asking for more documents. One of the issues mentioned in this letter was about health insurance. Bureaucracy is a regular part of life here, and so gathering documents and submitting them has become a normal part of our life. First, we made sure we were reading the documents correctly, because legal German is a whole other language. After that, we gathered the necessary documents and brought them back to the office.

In the meantime, we also were facing a visa renewal. We now live half a mile from the Vienna city limits, which places us in a different province. We went to drop off our documents at a local office and received similar questions about our health insurance coverage and the need for more documents. We submitted everything and waited for a response from the office.