Residents At Last

IMG_4989My hands are still excitedly shaking even hours later. When I think back to last night, my eyes pool up with tears of inexpressible joy, which is actually kind of surprising because I totally thought I had cried out all of my joy-tears before I fell asleep. Maybe having an endless amount of tears is a superpower…? We’ll go with that.

Last night, at 11:17pm, we received an email from our lawyer titled “Stay Permits for Social Workers Granted” – the 6 most important and wonderful words we have been waiting for. As a refresher, here’s a short timeline of what’s taken place in our life the last 6 months:

November 10: Kicked out of EU for accidentally overstaying our Tourist Visa. Not literally kicked out, but we were left by the side of a highway, so almost literally.

November 14: Went back to the States for what we thought would be only 2 or 3 weeks.

November 15-February 10: Worked frantically to fix our troubles. Spent a lot of time with best friends and family. Toured the US for 3 weeks visiting family. Experienced boredom of the truest kind. Never really fixed our troubles. Ended up staying 3 months.

February 11: Flew back to Vienna on Tourist Visa. Alles Gute.

March 21: Successfully applied for a Social Worker Permit which would allow us to stay in Vienna for 1 year. Excessive nail biting. Celebration-Gelato for dinner.

March 22-April 22 – No word from anyone about our permit. Began making arrangements to leave the EU again. Stress and anxiety started to move in.

April 23, 6:00am-10:30pm – Resigned ourselves to knowing we would more than likely have to leave the EU. I fell asleep with a heavy heart, Will read in bed but he’s manly and not emotional so I won’t say he read with a heavy heart because then he’d read this and be like, “Really, Holly?” So… he read with a normal feeling heart.

IMG_2146And the timeline brings us to now. At 11:17pm, Will shouted my name until I woke up. Instantly I assumed something was terribly wrong, like Kendrick Perkins not being able to play in the NBA Playoffs or something. I flipped over to face Will and he said, “We got them! We got our permits. It’s over.” Because I A) was sleepy, and B) am convinced that the older I get the more emotional I become, I immediately burst into tears. Will’s words took a second to sink in, but once they did there was no stopping the waterworks. It felt like hundreds of pounds of weight fell instantly from my shoulders. We forwarded the email to our team with “WOOHOOOOO!” and “Praise God!!” at the top. We announced it all over Twitter and Facebook. We called our parents who rejoiced with us. It was an amazing half hour.

But THEN our night got even better. After all the phone calls and status updates, we bought tickets to see Paul McCartney – my lifelong heartthrob (Will is more of a George Harrison kinda guy as far as Beatles heartthrobs go). We’ve known about this concert for a few weeks and under normal circumstances would have bought tickets immediately. However given the uncertainty of our future whereabouts, we held off and prayed the tickets wouldn’t sell out in case we received this exact news and were able to stay. Truly, when we got the news from our lawyer we thought two things: One, WE HAVE TO TELL EVERYONE and two, PAUL MCCARTNEY! So we will be IN HIS PRESENCE on June 27th. I’m anticipating happy tears when he first walks out on stage, and I’m anticipating lots of happy tears if/when he plays Hey Jude and Let It Be. Will is anticipating happiness but no tears.

We somehow managed to get a little sleep last night despite our excitement along with our phones vibrating almost non-stop throughout the night with text messages full of exclamation marks and smiley faces. Today is the first day since November 10th that we were able to wake up free of worry, free of stress, free of complicated questions. We can finally breathe easy and concentrate fully on our purpose here in Vienna, and that is the best feeling in the world.

P.S. – If you don’t have any summer plans, come visit us in Vienna. WE’LL BE HERE!

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Pray For Our Permit

view from our German teacher's apartment

View from our German teacher’s apartment

This is an important week, because we could possibly receive our residency permit. Our lawyer told us when we applied that he wouldn’t be surprised if we received it within 3 weeks, and the 3 week mark is this Thursday. We haven’t heard anything yet, but we’re eagerly awaiting word.

Legally, the permit can take up to 6 months to be issued, but we’re obviously hoping that’s not the case. Our lawyer said most permits of this type are issued within about 3 weeks, and they’ve had even more complicated cases than ours where the permit was issued within that time. So, we are hopeful, and are trusting that God can make this happen.

We are asking all of our supporters and followers to pray for us at least once this week, and perhaps more if you feel like it. Pray that we hear from the authorities soon, that we are accepted, and that we receive the permit quickly so we don’t have to leave the EU again in May once our tourist visa is finished. We appreciate any and all thoughts and prayers, and we’ll let everyone know once we’ve heard from them!

Spiritual Growth Retreat – Crikvenica, Croatia

Crikvenica, Croatia

*Pronounced (tsrek-venitsa)

Will and I were fortunate enough to spend an entire week in Crikvenica, Croatia for the annual Spiritual Growth Retreat. We were supposed to be in Croatia by Monday and leave Friday, but due to a crazy amount of snow that fell on Monday, the retreat was postponed a day. Everyone made it safely to the hotel on Tuesday and all was well through Friday and Saturday. Because so many wonderful things took place throughout the week, we’d like to highlight three of our favorite retreat takeaways:

 

Fellowship with new and old friends: 

Croatia is becoming our second home (in Europe). The moment we saw Mladen, the preaching minister at the Zagreb Church of Christ, he gave us both a hug and exclaimed, “Welcome home!” Wow – we have not one, not two, but three different countries where we can hear and believe the words “Welcome home”. Amazing.

We were reunited with our beloved friends from Zagreb (in a non-panic, non-stressful way!), as well as with our good friends, the Wilguesses, from the States. We rode down to the retreat with new friends from Vienna, and met a former Australian HIM Worker, Barry, who’s from the States and now works for World Bible Institute. We hung out with friends from our church in Donaustadt, and met people in other churches from all over Croatia. We all ate together, worshipped together, prayed together, and enjoyed Crikvenica together. Many long-lasting relationships were made on this retreat.

Small groups:

With Barry from Montana.

With Barry from Montana.

After morning worship came to a close, everyone divided into small groups. Those of use who don’t speak Croatian were put together as the “English-speaking Group”, and would then be led in a discussion over the chosen topic for that day, such as the importance of unity in God’s people, the differences between Godly wisdom and human wisdom, and the content and actions of our lives before and after our faith was found. Nearly everyone in our little group had something to share everyday, allowing us to get to know each other even better. Stories of faith experiences were shared, and some were harder to fathom than others. Mislav, a Croatian who works in the Zagreb church, joined our group the day we talked about unity and told us about his journey as a war veteran in essentially “loving his enemies” after the Yugoslav War. Those he once considered enemies, he now considers brothers. An incredible story, and we were only able to hear a few minutes of that journey. Hearing stories such as Mislav’s as well as others from the group enabled us to see how God has worked in the past and how He is currently working in our group’s lives, and we’re closer now because of it.

Worship: 

One of our favorite moments in worship came Friday night. Quite a few of our number left earlier in the afternoon, and because of the coming preparations for church on Sunday, the projector and translating equipment were packed up and taken back to Zagreb. Those of us who spoke German or English now had no way of joining our Croatian brothers and sisters in song in their language. We attempted to hum to a few unfamiliar tunes until the song “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus” began. Suddenly the German and English languages joined alongside Croatian and we all sang to God together in our native tongues. Ja sam odlucio slijediti IsusaIch bin entschieden zu folgen Jesus. I have decided to follow Jesus.

IMG_2112If you need one more reason to travel abroad, make it “worship experience”. The intensely moving experience of worshipping with a people who speak and worship in a different language than you while praising the same God as you will change you forever. You’ll flip through a song book and find what appears to be consonants and vowels slapped together with spaces after every 5 or 6 letter groupings, or someone will pray and the only thing you’re able to understand are the fluctuations of their voice and the final “Amen”. You’ll feel a little frustrated and perhaps like you’re missing out on worship. But eventually it’ll dawn on you that God needs no translator.

We loved this retreat. Praying that we’re still here at this time next year, we hope and look forward to going again. And if you should come across the opportunity to attend this retreat yourself, do it! You’ll be blessed, and you’ll be changed.