A Busy Couple of Koois (Continued)

Last week we wanted to hit the big time highlights of this month, but now we need to fill you in on everything else!

OC students singing at Grillfest.

OC students singing at Grillfest.

To begin, we must mention the arrival of the OC Summer Euro students. What an incredible group of people. The students arrived on June 4th and we met up with them later that night at one of our favorite restaurants, Pizza Bizi. We walked with them to our favorite gelato place, Zanoni & Zanoni, and I was able to direct everyone towards the best gelato flavor in the world – Biscotto. I think 18 out of the 22 took my suggestion. It was a proud moment for me and my gelato knowledge. On the following Sunday was Grillfest which we described here for those of you who aren’t sure what Grillfest is. We had a wonderful time of worship then heard a beautiful testimony from Daniela. While the guys got the grill ready, we spent a little while longer singing worship songs that we love to sing in the States. This group has plenty of talented singers which made singing all the more of a moving experience. We ate together, answered the questions the students had for us during our Q&A session, then closed with a prayer walk around the neighborhood. The students have of course been very busy themselves with travel and class, but we have been extremely blessed by their willingness to help plan our End of the Year EKC Carnival as well as new games for Sports Kids Club when they are not studying or traveling. Students have taken turns visiting June in the nursing home, and they’ve done some babysitting too. We love it when the students are here!

IMG_5799

Bart working in the kitchen

Then earlier this month we were presented  with an amazing service project opportunity. Hermine, the elderly woman who visits our office every morning and was baptized this last February, has lived in the same nearby apartment for years and years. Though her apartment is cleaned by a cleaning woman every so often, there has never been any kind of an apartment touch up. The walls desperately needed a paint job, so that’s what we did. Our congregation split into teams, one team in the living room and one in the kitchen. After several hours of chipping away the old paint and painting on the new, Hermine was left with a newly painted living room. Due to the amount of work the kitchen required, it wasn’t able to be finished at the same time as the living room. Some of the men went back last weekend and finished it up, and now Hermine has two freshly redone rooms. We’re praying God will direct our congregation towards more opportunities like these in the future.

Clayon and Jeremy!

Clayon and Jeremy!

We’ve also been blessed by having quite a few visitors come our way this month. The first to drop in were Dale and Vicki Hawley. They were scheduled to be here with us the first week of June, but due to the floods in Germany they were delayed a week. Fortunately we were able to sit with them and the team one morning and spent a wonderful time together sharing stories about where we were when we all first decided to move to Vienna, how we’ve been blessed by Vienna, and what has/is keeping us here. Though our time with them was short, we very much enjoyed their visit and look forward to more in the future. Next came friends Clayton and Jeremy, both students at Oklahoma Christian University who are currently involved in a missions internship in the Czech Republic. The guys wanted to see as much of Vienna as possible as they only had a couple of days with us, and I’m one hundred percent sure we made that happen. We took them all over the place and by Saturday evening we were completely exhausted. We thoroughly loved having them here, and can we just say we love having visitors in general? It’s so much fun; you’re all invited!

Enjoyed the company of the Hensals one evening last week.

Enjoyed the company of the Hensals one evening last week.

To close, we’d like to ask you to join us in prayer over the city of Vienna for the 2013-2014 year. Last Wednesday, we got together with Jake and Amanda and did just that by stopping at various locations in the city for a moment of prayer. We prayed over districts, people, businesses, programs, congregations, and eventually the entire city from the top of the Donauturm (Danube Tower) where we were able to see all of Vienna.  This is something we’d like to do more often as the power of prayer is incomprehensibly strong and beautiful, and we want as much prayer pouring into this city as possible. So continue to keep the city and its people in your prayers, as well as the sweet Hensal family who now have under two weeks left with us before they head to the States.

Hope everyone has a fantastic week!

Weekend In Croatia

Jelacic Square

Zagreb’s Jelačić Square.

Last weekend was a blur, but in a good “We’re on trains and buses and have our hiking backpacks again!” sort of way. Due to a fortunate technicality of our residency status at the moment (we’re basically tourists), we must leave the Schengen Zone of the European Union every three months. The Schengen is all the countries with open borders, meaning no border controls or passport checks every time you go from, say, Germany to France or Switzerland.

This used to be a fairly simple procedure. When the Vienna team first came here five years ago, they only had to travel 45 minutes away to Slovakia, which was not part of the Schengen at the time. Now, with the expansion of the EU, this is harder, but makes for a more interesting and and exotic trip for us. The closest non-Schengen country: Croatia.

St. Mark's Church

St. Mark’s Church

Croatia is part of both the Balkan peninsula and the former Yugoslavia. Its language is Slavic and its people are heavily Catholic (one of the main reasons for continued tension with its Eastern Orthodox neighbor Serbia and the Muslim Bosnia, as well as the 90’s war). The south part of the country is renowned for its coasts, islands and Mediterranean feel in its cities, food and people. Many Northern Europeans (Germans, Scandinavians, Austrians) travel to the Croatian coast for holidays. The north part of the country seems more Eastern European than Mediterranean, but still has a more relaxed vibe than, say, Hungary or Slovakia.

Plitvice Lakes National Park

Plitvice Lakes National Park

Our trip was fast and consisted of only a short visit to the capital Zagreb and a quick jaunt down to Plitvice Lakes National Park (a must-see). Zagreb is a bustling and trendy city, without any sign of being in a major war less than 20 years ago. We greatly enjoyed our time there, but I won’t go into much detail about the travel aspect of the country (I’ll cover that in my personal blog very soon). Since this is a mission blog, I want to talk about getting to visit the church in Zagreb on Sunday.

We met with missionaries Tom and Sandra Sibley early Sunday morning for breakfast and to learn a little about what they do. Tom has been instrumental in starting a Bible institute in Zagreb that has seen a lot of success the past 14 years.

Worshiping in Zagreb

Worshiping in Zagreb

They currently have about 40 students from around the world. The Sibleys took us to church where we met the preacher Mladen Jovanovic and his wife Dragica as well as many other members of the church. They are numerous, joyful and full of energy. Holly and I got a kick singing familiar songs in the most exotic language we’ve ever tried singing songs in. After church we went to lunch with the Sibleys, Jovanovics and another young Croatian couple who works for the church. We explained what we do and hope to do in Vienna, they did the same about Zagreb and we all walked away feeling like friends (and more importantly, like brothers and sisters).

Food

Croatian food is delicious.

We are hoping to see most of them again at an all-Europe retreat in November. If not, we will definitely be back in Croatia at some point. It is a beautiful country and we only skimmed part of it. We have to go back in November for the same residency reason, and I’m hoping we’ll be able to visit the coast that time.

Zagreb from above

Zagreb from above

Video Blog 1

Here’s our first video blog, detailing our first couple of weeks here in Vienna, including settling in and getting to know the church and team, as well as showing off some of the scenery. There will definitely be more in the future.

Incidentally, this was shot with my iPhone 4S, hence the sometimes sporadic shots (even though I have a mini tripod for it). I’m trying to learn how to use it better as my main video camera. I’m also looking for suggestions for a good microphone that would work with the iPhone.

Hier At Last

welcome

Our welcoming party

Well, we made it. After an exhausting layover in London, we landed in Vienna about 6:00 p.m. Vienna time yesterday. We were greeted at the airport by the Vienna team and a couple members of the church (as well as what seemed to be a hundred kids). It was so great to see everyone and be welcomed in that way.

Apartment

Our apartment street

Thankfully, they all recognized we had extreme cases of jet lag, so they took us straight to our temporary apartment. The team set us up with this extremely nice, fully-furnished, two-bedroom apartment to house us this first month while we look for a permanent place to live (unfortunately, this one is out of our budget). We settled in and pretty much went right to sleep.

lunch

Carson and Jake at Napolean’s

Today we picked up Tobias from the airport (more on him below), ate a delicious Austrian lunch with the team (I had Wienerschnitzel and Holly had asparagus cheese noodles), and ran some errands to pick up things we needed. Then Holly and I took a trip downtown to both the 1st District and Memory Lane. Since both of us have spent entire semesters in this city before, it was like coming home to come up the U-Bahn escalator at Stephansplatz and see the majestic Stephansdom towering over us. Everything was there: the smells of street food, the hordes of tourists, the living statues, the guys dressed up like Mozart and the intense sense of history. There’s nowhere else like it.

We got old favorites like Pizza Bizi and Zanoni & Zanoni’s gelato. On our way back to our apartment in the 22nd district, we stopped by the Donauinsel – an island in the middle of the Danube river – to watch the sunset. I’d never noticed the mountains just to the west of Vienna before, but they sure stuck out this time.

Zanoni's

Zanoni’s at last

These next couple of days are full of mundane but necessary things: registering with the government, setting up a bank account, getting service for our phones and buying transportation passes. Once all that’s done we begin searching for a permanent apartment. We don’t know how long that will take, but hopefully as little time as possible. When that’s done, the real work can begin.

Keep following us here and on Facebook and Twitter (we do most of our updates on Twitter). Keep us in your prayers as we try to settle in and do all we can do become actual Austrians.

Danube

Donauinsel

Update on die Katze: Tobias the cat is here and fine. Because of some customs problems, he had to wait in London an extra night and came in on another plane this morning. We picked him up in the cargo area of the Wien Flughafen, next to huge pallets and towers of boxes and meowing enough that the whole warehouse could hear him. When he saw us, it was like a combination of relief and “Why the heck did you leave me in this cage and put me in cold and dark and loud places for two whole days??” He wasn’t happy. But he’s at the apartment now and getting settled in. He’s also not mad at us anymore.

die Katze

Us as we speak

Until we move him again in just a couple of weeks. But we’re not telling him.