You guys know I love to write, especially about our work and life in Vienna, so I hope you don’t think I’ve forgotten about you or about this particular form of communication. The Vienna Team has been busy, Will and I have been busy, Elliott has been extremely busy which keeps me extremely busy… It’s been a whirlwind of action over here. A hefty amount of that action has consisted of us, the Kooi family, trying to find our footing and rebuild the foundation that we felt had been so shaken when we returned last December. But an equally large amount of that action has consisted of new beginnings, deepened friendships, big dreams, and a fresh view of the future.
A very new beginning for Will and me has been our move from our old apartment in the 2nd district to our new row house in the 22nd district. We absolutely love our neighborhood and neighbors. I don’t think we could have asked for a better landlord, and his wife has taken me under her wing to do yoga with me and Elliott on Wednesday mornings! We’ve been working on the layout of our living room as our goal is to have our house “house-church-ready” by the fall. We’re thrilled to join the house-church rotation and can’t wait to open our home for worship. There’s still some tasks here and there we need to finish before the big day takes place, but we’re nearly there.
We had a wonderful, blessed time with the Jones family – our MRCC >> Vienna country coordinators. It was so good to hug on them and talk about everything under the sun. (At least the girls and I talked a bunch, can’t speak for the guys.) They were able to experience another Gemeinschaftsonntag (Fellowship Sunday) and meet a few new people in our church. Their visit was much too short but we treasured all the time they were able to spend with us.
In April our family and the Haskew family took a short trip to Budapest. It was there that we really nailed down our new team identity and spent many sessions in discussion and prayer over the work in Vienna. We talked about each other’s spiritual gifts, analyzed current programs, dreamed up new ones, and set goals for the future. When we weren’t working together, we were enjoying each other’s company by the pool or while playing a board game or drinking a coffee. This retreat was huge for us both as a team and as individuals. The retreat seemed to breathe life back into us and we felt the Lord’s presence throughout its entirety. I think we all returned to Vienna with a renewed sense of purpose and a goofy grin on our faces as we thought back to that time when our train hit the emergency breaks while Will was in the bathroom. If for some reason we hadn’t bonded over our work sessions or board games, I’m sure we would’ve bonded over Will’s bathroom story. Hilarious.
Not too long after our retreat, our interns, Lindsey and Daven arrived to work alongside us for 6 weeks. Lindsey and Daven are former study abroad students so Vienna is a home away from home. The girls jumped right in and helped Will, Jake and Amanda finish out the remaining English Kids Club sessions. The girls even planned the End of the Year Party for us which was a hit. Since EKC is now on its summer pause, the girls have been spending a lot of their time focusing on the church. I think my favorite activity they’ve put together is the teen girls slumber party. Will and Elliott were kind enough to camp out upstairs for an evening so our house could handle teen girl talk (*thumbs up*) and teen girl music (*thumbs down*). Three of our girls from church came and the 6 of us had a blast. We ate pizza, baked cupcakes, watched a movie, decorated pillow cases, and then of course, ended our evening with pillow talk. Lindsey, Daven and I turned in around midnight, but I heard a rumor that the other girls, well, took their time going to sleep. The next morning we all piled around my kitchen table for pancakes and we sent the girls home with new pretty pillows and tired eyes. It was a fantastic time. Sadly, the 6 weeks are nearly over and Lindsey and Daven head back to the States this Saturday. They’ll be missed!
Elliott is 8 months old which is crazy talk. He’s so stinkin’ big – he’s wearing clothes for 1 year olds. He crawls everywhere, pulls up on everything, and eats anything and everything within his reach which is surprisingly long. He’s got two bottom teeth on their way and seems to be handling it pretty well. Still not a lot of hair, but I guess I should expect that given both of his grandpas are lacking in that department. The kid’s a ham for the camera and for people. Currently, he loves having Oma Mendy here and can’t wait for Opa Chip to join her. We love our Elliott.
As for us? We’re good. We’re so good. Sure, the new year rang in more difficulties than triumphs, but we learned from those days and months and we’ve grown stronger because of it. You know that well-known passage in James about having joy in the midst of trials? I think I get that now, at least better than before. I know another trial will come and I’ll raise my eyebrow at this passage in James and learn this same lesson all over again. But for now I can look back at the craziness of December, the uncertainty of January, the heaviness of February… I can look back and be filled with the joy of the Spirit.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”