Our Summer Months

IMG_5845Our Vienna summer has gotten off to a great start. Mendy’s long-awaited arrival finally came in mid-May, and soon after that, Dale and Vicki Hawley joined us for a few days. If you don’t know Dale and Vicki, find a way to make it happen. This amazing couple is well-known among missionaries because of their years of experience in counseling and missionary care. They’ve been with the Vienna team from the beginning, and now that we and the Haskews are finally in a place of stability, we thought it a necessity to have a thorough visit with the Hawleys in order to evaluate ourselves as a newly formed team.

Our time with them was an enormous blessing and the four of us learned so much about ourselves as a team and as individuals. We discussed each other’s gifts, work habits, perceptions, and stresses. We looked at the past and talked about how to build on it and move forward in the future. As a team and as friends I’d say we were close to begin with, but this particular time with the Hawleys brought us so much closer. A lesson I took away from this team building experience is how crucial it is to have a healthy team. It’s like in 1 Corinthians when Paul addresses the parts of the body in Christ and says, “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it.” The same is true for the health and well-being of a team – if an issue arises or a conflict created, the team as a whole is affected, thus as a whole, we all have to work together to first locate the ailment, treat it, and tend to it for healing so that we can then experience part 2 of Paul’s point, “If one part is honored, then every part rejoices with it.” Jake may be an ear, Amanda a hand, Will a kneecap and I an eyelash, but we’re all part of the same body of Christ and the same team in Christ. (1 Corinthians 12:12-31 below)

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In recent weeks we’ve hosted several visitors but not yet “tested” the space in our living room for hosting big groups. That changed when 12 girls from the OC Study Abroad group came over for treats and coffee. We sat in a big circle and talked about their cultural observations and comparisons, and talked about every day life here in Vienna from my perspective as a mom. To end our time together, the girls sang a couple of worship songs which sounded so beautiful and did my heart good. I always love a chance to sit in on an OC devotional, but this time the devotional was brought to me. Thank you, girls!

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About two weeks ago we were joined by Lynn and Joy McMillon, as well as Will’s dad, Chip. How good it is to see familiar faces in our neck of the woods. Lynn and Joy’s presence was a great encouragement to us all. We had several fruitful conversations over dinners, breakfasts and coffees. They were even able to worship with our house church on a beautiful (but toasty) Sunday morning. Though their time with us was much too short, it was good to hug them and introduce them to our Vienna family.

During our visit with the McMillons, Chip and Mendy hopped over to Istanbul for a few days to celebrate their wedding anniversary. They came back to Vienna and had little time to recover and repack before the entire Kooi gang left for a family vacation in the Austrian Alps. The views and Austrian towns were lovely despite the rainy and cold weather. But honestly I think it could’ve snowed 10 feet and Chip and Mendy wouldn’t have cared as long as Elliott was there. He had an excellent time with his grandparents and was especially sad to see Mendy leave for the States yesterday. Chip is still here and will be until July so Elliott’s still getting lots of grandparent love, and I still have someone who will willingly change Elliott’s grossest diapers. (Yes!)

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As for the summer months ahead, we’ve got a lot planned. We have a church picnic next Sunday immediately followed by a youth group outing to a miniature golf course. This year is the Haskew’s furlough year, so they’ll take off right as Kinderlager (kids camp) kicks off. Will is going but Elliott and I are going to stay here. There will be 32 kids attending camp – which is completely awesome – it’s just a bit much for a little guy who doesn’t have a place to crawl and stand up without a kid or two or ten accidentally bumping into him in Schwarzwaldeckahus. But we won’t be idle. For the whole month of July, we’ll be hosting a former OC Study Abroad student while she works on her German immersion course. The 3 of us will stick together while Will is away and work on any last necessities for preparing our house for house church in the fall. Also during this time, our neighborhood is hosting its annual community BBQ. My hope is to meet many new neighbors and in doing so, begin many new lasting friendships.

In August, Will will be attending a conference in Switzerland called History Makers. This is a brand new (to us), recently heard of opportunity that was sent our way by a friend who helps in the organization and execution of History Makers. The goal of this conference is to focus on the capabilities and spiritual gifts of upcoming workers in missions and ministry and help those individuals utilize their capabilities and gifts to the benefit of God’s Kingdom. You can learn more about this conference here.

That’s what’s going on and that’s what our summer holds. Thanks as always for your prayers and encouragement. We love hearing from you.

Unity and Diversity in the Body

1 Corinthians 12:12-31 (NIV)

12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty,24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31 Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.

Starting Fresh

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.

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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.

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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!

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Can you tell there was a sleepover at my house?

Can you tell there was a sleepover at my house?

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.

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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.”

James 1:2-4

In Loving Memory of Daniela

For Daniela: Our brave, strong, loving, faith-filled friend

Will and I met Daniela our first day in Vienna at the airport. She was part of the welcoming committee who surprised us with a giant, colorful “Willkommen in Wien!” poster. She was quiet but smiley. I remember thinking she had a gentle spirit with a surprisingly firm handshake.

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That same day, Will and I arrived at our temporary apartment to find a basket of goodies from the Vienna Team and a homemade chocolate cake from Daniela. It wasn’t until the following day that we actually tasted the cake, and it is no exaggeration to say it was one of the best tasting cakes I’d ever eaten in my life.

Shortly after our arrival, Daniela volunteered to drive Will and me to house church which was taking place a little outside the city. The three of us couldn’t communicate at the time, but we certainly tried. She would ask a question in German, and Will and I would list a mixture of German we knew and English words she may have known in an attempt to give the correct answer. Ultimately we’d just end up laughing then go silent until one of us was brave enough to start up the conversation again.

Daniela also volunteered to help us move into our first apartment. She was a carpenter, an awesome one at that, and was able to borrow a large van from work that was normally used to haul around her equipment. She picked us up from IKEA and our dance with words began again, this time with a little more success, but with the same amount of hilarity included. My jaw dropped when she picked up a huge box and walked it up a flight of stairs and into our apartment like it was nothing. The woman was a beast. In fact I’m certain she was stronger than any of the men in our church. She could lift anything heavy and build anything needed. She even helped with the kitchen in our office and directed Josh and Jake as to how to mount the display case on the side of our building. When we did get around to mounting that display case, she was in the middle of chemo, but had she been able, she would’ve mounted the thing herself. She was that good.

Daniela was just plain good with her hands. While she could certainly build and lift, she could also bake and create. That chocolate cake she made for Will and me was a staple dessert in our church. Any Fellowship Sunday with that cake present was a good Fellowship Sunday. Another fan favorite was her unbelievable Tiramisu. Her fruit-filled desserts made their appearances in the summer, and it’s because of her that I’m now open to the idea of eating fruity desserts, whereas before I was strictly anti-fruity desserts. Her baking was magical. Sometimes she would bake something for our Kreativer Frauenabends, another opportunity to see her wow and amaze others with her talented hands. She could carve the most spectacular pumpkins at Halloween or put together the prettiest cards at Christmas. I loved the masterpieces she came up with, and while myself and others complimented these masterpieces a thousand times over, she always simply smiled, said thank you, and that was it. Daniela was one of the most gifted women I’ve ever met, as well as the most humble.

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Some of my favorite memories of her have to do with language. She always helped Will and me with our German, and because of her kind and gentle persona, we weren’t afraid to make mistakes in front of her. For example, I will never forget the difference between the verbs “verpassen” and “vermissen”. Both mean “to miss”, but the first verb means to miss as in “I missed the bus” and the second verb means to miss as in “I miss you”. She taught me that on a Sunday in the kitchen of our office, and ever since then when I use one of those verbs, I think of her. On the English side of things, we had the pleasure of helping her add to her English vocabulary during our English For Adults class. It was in these classes that Will and I really got to know her. We learned so much about her – her favorite food, her favorite vacation spot, what she was like as a kid, who she looked up to… She told us stories about her two boys as well as a story involving her grandmother and a skateboard. Sometimes we taught her English using an actual lesson book while other times we read the Bible together. We so thoroughly enjoyed that time with her and will forever cherish those memories.

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And then there’s Daniela’s mountain-moving faith. Even now, as my own faith is tempted to waiver because of losing her, I look to her as an example of someone whose faith stood firm through and through. She was baptized a few months after Will and I arrived in Vienna, and from that moment on, it was clear for whom she was living. She radiated faith, trust and love. She shared her love for the Lord with so many of her friends and family. Above all things she was a servant for the Lord, as well as a caring mother and loyal friend. Daniela was a pillar in a our church. She also loved our time of worship. She frequently had song requests, and often wanted to sing her favorite song “Ins Wasser Fällt Ein Stein”. She drew upon this song and others for peace and strength throughout her battles with cancer. Although she dealt with much pain in her last days with us, it was evident the Lord was with her as Will, Kim, Tamika, Edda, Amanda, Jake and I sang to her by her bedside.

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The day we sang to her was the day before she died. It was a difficult time for all of us, but God, because he is so good, provided Will and me with our own special, beautiful memory that we’ll always remember.

When Will and I first walked into her bedroom, she immediately wanted to see Elliott. They had only seen each other a couple of times before her lengthy stay in the hospital. Will and I sat in the chairs right next to her bed and I put Elliott in my lap to face her. I took his tiny hand and placed it on hers, thinking I’d need to do this a few times so she could feel his companionship. But he left his hand on hers without my help. He patted her hand and played with her fingers. He gurgled and cooed and gave her some really big smiles. On this day, Daniela couldn’t say much, and when she did speak it was difficult to understand. But when she spoke to Elliott, her speech was clear. “Hallo, Schatz. Hallo. Du bist so süß. Hi. Hallo. Hallo, Schatz.” Elliott fell asleep while we sang to her but woke back up to say goodbye. We sat him down next to her again and they looked at each other for a long time. He babbled some more and soaked her fingers in slobber as he nibbled on each one. She didn’t mind. She smiled.

That was our last moment with sweet Daniela. And though I know Elliott won’t remember her or the time we spent with her, I’m looking forward to the day Elliott’s old enough to understand how wonderful she was, how much she impacted his mom and dad, how important she was to our church, and how in a time that seemed shrouded in darkness, he was a light.

We miss you, Daniela. We love you. And we can’t to see you again.

Vienna Easter Celebrations

Easter is a huge time of celebration around here. Schools take off for 1 or 2 weeks, Easter markets open all over the city, Easter decorations hang in the windows of shops and people’s homes, families hit the road for vacation or to spend the holiday with loved ones. It’s a big deal. Naturally our programs take a pause for 2 weeks since everyone’s on break which feels a little strange, but we use this time of quiet to refocus and reenergize for the last weeks of programs that are just around the corner. As far as our own celebrations and reflections go, we gathered together with church members once on Thursday – the night of the Last Supper – and again on Easter.

Thursday’s “Nachtwache” (or Nightwatch, traditionally known as the Easter Vigil), was held at Chuck’s apartment. This night is a representation of the Last Supper in which we attempt to do as Jesus and His disciples did at and after the Last Supper. Throughout the night, we read scripture in accordance with what we were doing. We began our night in prayer at exactly 7:48pm, the time of sundown. We then shared a meal together, talked and story-swapped, then moved to the living room for a time of worship. We first took turns sharing what the Lord’s Supper means to us. We then prayed over the bread and fruit of the vine and took the Lord’s Supper. We also took turns sharing encouraging events that had taken place during the week and praised God for giving us those moments. We spent time in song, scripture, and prayer. When midnight arrived, we read Jesus’ arrest and again spent time in prayer before we left for home.

On Friday, Will and I visited our first Easter market out at Palace Schönbrunn. The market had a similar vibe to the beloved Christmas markets but was nowhere near as good. We walked around the various stands but mainly enjoyed the sunny atmosphere by sitting in egg chairs and drinking coffee.

Then came Easter! Sunday was absolutely fabulous and celebratory with the sweet spirits of 9 Lipscomb students and some of their parents and family members joining us in worship. Several from this group read scripture or lead us in prayer. Our church sang all of our favorite songs plus a few new ones. We think the Lipscomb group really enjoyed the challenge of singing in and listening to others read scripture or pray in German. After our time of worship came to an end, we opened the kitchen for lunch: ham, deviled eggs, scalloped potatoes, rustic garlic potatoes, veggies & ranch. The students were thrilled to finally have a home-cooked meal and were especially thrilled when Amanda broke out her Strawberry Rhubarb and Coconut Cream pies. If there were any disagreements during yesterday’s celebration, it would have been over the pies.

We hope you all had a wonderful Easter spent among friends and family. Keep our interns, Daven and Vivian, in your prayers this week as the girls arrive next Wednesday and will be here for 6 weeks.