Saturday, October 22, 2022

Blog Update & Maternity Photos

One of our primary communication goals since moving to Austria has always been to communicate regularly with our partners, supporters, family and friends in America. When we were first raising support and preparing, this was pretty easy - we had no kids and our full-time job was getting ready to move to Austria. Then during language learning, we were still able to regularly set aside plenty of time for this task. But as family life and ministry have intensified over the years, it's become more and more difficult to maintain all of the lines of communication. I'm sure this is no surprise to those of you who have been through these transitions before or who have also gone from couple with no kids to a family life that involves children. The demands placed on us have increased, and we have had to get by with less communication. 

We have continued our monthly email newsletters and in all our 10 years in Austria, have only missed one month. This has always been really important to me, and I see it as our primary method of communication with our key contacts and supporters in the US. Writing these monthly emails takes priority over lots of other tasks. What's been more difficult, however, is maintaining our blog and Facebook page - aspects of our communication that are helpful but perhaps the impact is less concrete. 

Another challenge, however, has been about maintaining privacy. As we go further in ministry, many of our key stories and things we might blog about involve specific people with personal lives of their own. We see God working, but we also want to respect the privacy of the friends and neighbors we interact with and, as such, we are often hesitant to share personal stories or post photos of people on the internet. When we draw this line, it means that we have less stories to share publicly, and this limits what we can put on the blog.

All this to say, we will continue to post on the blog here and there, and we see it as an especially practical place to post personal/family photos. However, the blog will include less ministry-specific posts and more family-related or WorldVenture-related posts. Occasionally, you'll also get to read posts from us about something we are learning or mulling over. We apologize for the change, and if you are disappointed (I doubt anyone reading this has strong feelings on the matter, but you never know...), please be sure to subscribe to our monthly emails where we share more in-depth updates and prayer requests about our work in Austria. keeping with this new reality, here are some recent photos of a maternity photo shoot we did to capture the upcoming arrival of our third little girl in December. We are thrilled to be welcoming her into our family after nearly 4 years of secondary infertility. (If you want to hear more about this journey, feel free to message us personally). God is a miracle worker and we are so thankful!

Monday, April 25, 2022

WorldVenture Team Retreat

Every year the week before Easter, our WorldVenture Austria team escapes the city and spends 5 days together in the mountains. After 2 years of cancelled retreats due to Covid and after several new team members arriving or joining us, this year's retreat was especially important and blessed. We've known for a long time that one factor in helping missionaries stay and thrive on the field is a supportive team, and our goal is to foster that amongst our missionaries. Our time together really helped us all to grow closer, and we were blessed by times of teaching, prayer, games, outings and meals together. Our speakers for the week were Dougg and LeAnn Custer, former long term missionaries to Austria who were able to encourage and challenge us, as well as share meaningful stories from their time serving here.

My (Bethany) parents came for a visit and were able to attend the retreat and do the childcare for the 4 youngest kids. They had a blast and so did the kids! Many special memories were made, and we were so thankful for the rest and meaning time we had together.

Here are a few photo highlights:

Meals together - so many great conversations!

Praying over each missionary unit together

The kids enjoying time by the lake with their special friend "Cookie", the swan

Playground fun

Riding the funicular up to the salt mines in Hallstatt

Enjoying the Hallstatt view

Ready in our jumpsuits to go into the salt mine!

Posing with the mountains

The kids performing their bible verse and song from the week

E-bike excursion

Our crazy crew!

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Hosting Refugees

 Life has felt very busy since the beginning of the year...hence the lack of blog posts. Ever since we launched the church plant in the fall and moved into our home, it has felt like we jumped from one busy task to the next! On Christmas day, I (Bethany) broke my wrist and that really slowed me down for a few weeks. Shortly after, we had family visits. In March, we hosted a vision trip for a potential new missionary. Then, the war broke out in Ukraine and refugees started coming to Austria. We put ourselves on a list to host a family and a family of 3 moved in with us in the middle of March. 

It has been a blessing to host them and get to know their story a bit. In order to respect their privacy, we won't share too much. They come from a suburb of Kyiv and decided to flee very quickly after hearing that a friend was organizing a bus to transport people to the border. The 26 year old daughter was accepted to the University of Vienna last year to study music, but hadn't been able to get a visa yet to enter the country, so they agreed that they would all travel to Vienna so she could begin her studies and they could resettle here together. The mom of both girls (the sisters are 19 years apart - ages 26 and 7) doesn't speak English or German, but we can get by with a few English words and google translate and the 26 year old translates between English and Ukrainian or Russian very well.

Starting over in a new place where you don't know the language and don't have any community, let alone no resources, is very difficult. Add a traumatizing experience and coming from a country that is currently in a war and being bombed by a neighboring country, where you still have loved ones, makes it even harder. We have seen the family experience a lot of ups and downs since arriving. But we are also thankful that we've been able to offer them a safe and comfortable place to stay (albeit a bit cramped for 3 people) and the 7 year old has begun school and is enjoying making new friends with her limited language skills. They are eager to get their own place and are just waiting every day for an important document to arrive so they can begin working. 

Thanks to many generous donations, we've been able to take them on a few fun outings (the zoo and the circus) and provide them with necessary essentials, including groceries, clothing, sim cards/phone credit, etc. We have received so many donations that we should be able to assist them significantly with a security deposit and furnishing for an apartment. 

Please pray for them and for us as we continue on this journey together. We are learning new things every day and taking things one step at a time. Navigating bureaucracy in Austria is never easy and this is a whole new process for us to learn. Pray for provision for them and that their important documents would arrive soon. Pray for jobs and the right place to live with a kind landlord who is willing to negotiate. 

Thank you!

The 26 year old with her cat, Toska...who has had to be kept separate from our dog. The two are not interested in being friends with each other!

Playing "Just Dance" on the Nintendo Switch

Visit to the Zoo

Zoo visit