Monday, May 27, 2019

Wheaton College Women's Chorale

When I was a student at Wheaton College, I sang in the Women's Chorale for 3 years. It was a really memorable experience singing in such a talented choir and getting to not only perform concerts but also go on tours as a group. In 2003, my first visit to Vienna happened on a European tour with the Women's Chorale (along with the Men's Glee Club). We visited Slovenia, Prague, Moscow and Vienna. I loved my time in Vienna, but had no idea that God would lead me back here someday!

Over the years, I stayed in touch with my choir director, Dr. Mary Hopper (whom I try to call Mary now, but most of the time, only "Dr. Hopper" comes out of my mouth!). She stayed up to date on our ministry and really displayed a heart for ministry in Europe, cultivated by quite a few trips she'd taken to Europe working with missionaries in various cities. The concerts performed in Europe would often be used as outreach opportunities by the local missionaries Mary was in contact with.  About 18 months ago, Mary wrote me and said the choir would be coming to Europe again for a tour and asked if they could come to Vienna and be used strategically by us for some outreach concerts. Of course, I took her up on the offer and began planning concerts for May of 2019!

This month, the weekend finally arrived and the choir performed at a variety of venues - a women's fitness center (owned by a Christian woman from our previous church), two churches on Sunday and even our kids' kindergarten! Their performances were really amazing and everyone who attended gave incredible feedback on the quality of the music. But what we hoped would really make an impact on the listeners were the words shared by several students in between songs, testimonies of how God had been working in their lives and how those experiences tied to the meaning behind the songs they were singing. It was very moving to hear and many people heard this message that don't have a relationship with Jesus. We are praying that these concerts bear fruit!

Here are some photos from the performances. It was such a special time, and we look forward to having them back again someday!

Singing at a Mrs. Sporty Fitness Center

Performing at our church, Evangelikale Gemeinde Floridsdorf

Singing at the International Chapel of Vienna

Posing at the Kindergarten with their mascot stuffed animals (which they gave to the kindergarten kids)

Saturday, April 20, 2019

2019 WorldVenture Team Retreat

We just got back from our annual Spring Getaway, a 4 day retreat for our WorldVenture Team Austria. We were blessed with several special guests at our retreat this year...

  • our speakers for the week were former missionaries to Austria. They were a big surprise for our supervisors, who are retiring this year!
  • a visitor on a vision trip who is considering long term service in Austria
  • a couple who works at WorldVenture headquarters in CO but was travelling Europe visiting community centers. This couple also used to serve in Germany and attended the Austria Team retreat!
  • a couple from Ireland who will be our new supervisors when our other team members retire
It's a tradition for our team to keep the schedule light, so the week is truly restful for everyone there. We spent the mornings hearing from our guest speakers and then taking turns sharing with each other about our previous year and praying for each other. Afternoons and evenings were free for outings and games. The weather was beautiful, and it was truly a wonderful week together. I am so thankful for our WorldVenture Team!

Here are some highlights from our week together:

Joe and Calla Jean Wright, our speakers for the week

Team prayer times

Our sharing time

Playing near the lake

The girls loved just throwing rocks into the lake over and over again!

There's a special bond between these two!

My favorite little people being themselves!

The whole group!

Mütternander 2019 - Changing the World

After 9 months of planning and preparations, this year's 2019 Mütternander Conference was a huge success! This year's "Mama's Day Out" brought together 250 moms for a day at a church in Baden. The theme was "changing the world" and the main speaker, Jill Savage, how we can influence the world through our relationships and parenting. It was truly a blessed day, and it was a privilege to watch women connect and be encouraged. I am especially thankful for the chance to work together with 7 other amazing moms in putting this day together. I'm so thankful for our team and the great way we collaborated together on this conference, as well as the friendships that have come out of it!

Here are a few photo highlights from this great day!

Friday, March 29, 2019

Photo Update

It's been hard to keep up with life and blogging recently. We apologize for the hiatus! Here are some photos highlights from the last two months of life and ministry:

Sledding at a ski hill - a fun family outing!

Sledding fun

Biologist Wolfgang Palme giving a lecture about vegetables. He talked about the Creator behind a diverse creation. It was a great way to reach out to friends and neighbors and make new contacts.

Skye and Ariel, celebrating "Fasching" (Mardi Gras)

Jill and Mark Savage, teaching a marriage workshop during their visit to Vienna. Bethany planned three weekend workshops while they were in town and 75 couples attended!

Ice skating date night

Our small group prayer time. Our group had added new members recently!

The precepts bible study course that Nate has been co-teaching at church

Nate attended a church planter training event and was really encouraged by the creative new ideas they shared!
Thanks for your prayers for us and the work we are doing here!

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Who Are You?

One of my great joys with our daughter recently has been starting the Chronicles of Narnia. It has been so special to introduce her to these beloved characters and stories. We experienced the creation of Narnia. We heard Aslan sing Narnia into being. We watched with Lucy and Susan as Aslan sacrificed himself for Edmund's treachery. Now we are on to one of my favorite stories, A Horse and His Boy. As we were going, an interesting small conversation popped up. Shasta is traveling with Bree the horse, and they meet up with a young girl named Aravis who is also running away. Aravis is a "Tarkheena" which means she is a part of the noble class in the land of Calormen. 

The book uses the word as though we would know what it means, and our five year old didn't understand it right away. She didn't really understand what a Tarkheena was so after a few mentions, she asked. I explained that it was a part of who she was. Here is where I made a mistake. My response was something along the lines of "she's Calormen, just like you are an American." Now most people that have connections to third culture kids are probably cringing, because her response was "Papa, I'm not an American, I'm Austrian." Immediately I knew that we didn't have time to get into it completely, and also that I'd stumbled into a conversation that we will continue to have for a long time into the future. 

For our kids the question "who are you" and "where do you come from" will be tricky questions to answer. There are often not easy answers for them, and the best answers are usually in-between. They are in-between in many ways. Our home is a place where we do many things "the american way". Most of her friends are mono-cultural, though we do know some multi-cultural families for sure. There are some Austrian cultural practices we have adopted, some things that we absolutely love and embrace. But there are other things that we will probably never practice, or even things that we are just ignorant about. Everything from how we pack her lunch to what holidays we do or don't celebrate. We live between these two cultures.

Another piece to this is faith. Because of the realities of this country, faith plays a different role in our lives than it does in those around us. An Austrian friend illustrated this to me very clearly recently. He told me about how he explains family decisions to his kids. He says, "we believe different things than most other people." I think growing up in a Christian family here has given him a perspective that we need to have, as well. We are between two different worlds related to faith and worldview. Whether that is a nominal Catholic, Islamic, or secular humanist worldview, most of the people we connect with are not coming from the same perspective we are. We are in-between. 

Ultimately these questions lead to something that many Americans are wrestling with, as well. Many key questions in the culture right now come down to identity. Who are you? We throw labels around and claim them for ourselves. Some try on labels for a while and then discard them if they don't seem to fit. The secular humanist worldview of the culture tells us that we need to discover our identity, or decide for ourselves who we are. You have to go find yourself or listen to your inner child. Who you are is inside you waiting to be identified. This message isn't just from one side of a political isle. It permeates both sides of the proverbial isle, and is usually just a different set of criteria by which that identity must be discovered. They may start at different points and end at different conclusions, but ultimately the basis is the same. You must discover it for yourself, and it lies in you.

Here is the challenge - the gospel gives us a different way. It starts at Genesis 1 and says that we are not our own to discover, that the answer is not inside of you the whole time. Our fundamental identity does not lie in passports, group membership or claimed identities. The gospel says that basis of our identity is as creatures created by a holy God. We are image bearers who reflect God's creative glory and beauty. But that image was broken by sin. That sin takes beautiful things and twists them. It elevates creation over the Creator and makes us worship other things. This fundamental identity transcends all others and comes before them. Everything else is subjective to this reality, nationality and culture, physical and emotional. 

This is the answer to the question, "who are you?" This is also the bridge that brings us together. This is the foundation for human identity. We are image bearers of God and his creatures, created to glorify him. All other questions of identity flow from this and are shaped by it. The question for many of us is which identity am I trying to put down as my primary identity? What is the most important to me? Am I focused on my local sports team? My political team? Or even my passport identity?

What would it look like for me to focus on my identity in Christ as his child above all other identities? What would it mean for me to subordinate all of my other identities to that fundamental identity? It means allowing those other parts of me to be transformed and influenced by my position in Christ. It means we hold to other identities looser than we hold to our identity in Christ.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Ellie turns 5!

I can't believe Ellie's been in our life for 5 whole years already...sometimes it seem like only yesterday that we were terrified new parents bringing bringing a newborn home! In other way, though (as it is with many things in life), it also seems like she's been here forever, since I can hardly still imagine what our life was like without her. Ellie, we are so thankful for your sweet spirit, creativity, joyfulness, singing, dancing, silly-ness and caring heart. We can't wait to watch you grow and mature in the coming years! Happy birthday!

Here are some photo highlights from Ellie's several birthday celebrations earlier this month.

Chocolate chip muffins for breakfast

Posing with a favorite gift

Having cake as a family, after a long day at a water park

Ellie's birthday party with friends from Kindergarten - Paw Patrol Themed!

Craft time at the party

Opening gifts with friends

Ending with a pinata!

Monday, January 14, 2019

Teach me to be Teachable

Our men's small group has been going through a topical study of the book of Proverbs. We have several passages organized by topic, and we've been moving slowly through the list. Our study has led to some great conversations. We will often hit these single verse statements of wisdom that are the best kind of a slap-to-the-face. One of our group members remarked recently how astounding it is that the phrases can be so condensed and to-the-point. One such Proverb we encountered was 12:1 which reads:
"Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,
            but he who hates reproof is stupid."

The word "discipline" has a couple of different meanings in English. It can be what an athlete requires to train hard; they require discipline to focus on training. Discipline can also be what a parent does with a child when they are off course or doing things that are not right. The parent disciplines the child.

This second meaning is what the author meant here. When we understand that, the statement takes on a pretty arresting quality. Who loves to be corrected? Who loves to be called out for doing something wrong?