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!

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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!