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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Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

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.

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Day By Day in Vienna

Hofburg

I’m not really sure if we’ve delved too deeply into what our day to day life is like here. We’ve given broad updates on things we have going on, but haven’t given a good picture on what we actually do on any given Monday (or Sunday).

First of all, it should be noted that every week is different and no day is the same. One of my favorite parts of this job is that it’s not really a 9-5 affair. We have an office that we’re based out of, but sometimes our work is going to a Bible study in the evening, or meeting someone for lunch, or going to an event on Saturday. One of the things I had to get used to – after coming from a regular office job where we logged our hours by the quarter-hour – is that a lot of different things can be considered “work”, and “work” is not just sitting in an office until 5:00. “Work” could be helping someone move, or designing a poster, or having coffee with someone, or buying supplies for an upcoming program, or giving someone a tour of the city. That’s one aspect of ministry that threw me off at first. In the beginning, I couldn’t believe that some things counted as my work, and Jake and Josh had to tell me not to come in the next morning because I had gone to an event the night before. But I have since grown to love the randomness and variety.

So, I’m going to attempt to use an actual week from our lives, but know that this is not a “typical” week, since those don’t actually exist.

Sunday

10:00 – Church, in our office. It takes us about 20 minutes by subway and tram to reach our office. We start off with half an hour or so of coffee, cake and fellowship before the actual service. The service usually lasts about an hour and a half and is very informal. Depending on the week, someone may preach, or we may just all have a discussion based on the topic we have for the month.

1:00 – Since we have the rest of Sundays off, Holly and I usually go home, have afternoon naps, make dinner and prepare for the week. Sometimes we have a date night on Sunday nights, where we go find a random restaurant downtown, or maybe see a movie.

Monday

8:30 – We get to the office by 8:30 to see Hermine, a woman in her 80s who was baptized in January and has been coming to our office every day for about 4 years now. As part of her regular schedule, she comes for coffee after shopping every morning, and we talk and read the Bible for about an hour and a half. Afterwards we help her carry her groceries to her apartment.

10:30 – Holly and I go to the store or the mall to get last second supplies for the next day’s English Kids Club. We’ve written about EKC on here before, so I won’t delve into too much detail.

6:00 – We meet up with one of our language partners, Thomas, for dinner at a random restaurant somewhere in the city. As is typical of a language partner meeting, we speak all in German for an hour and half while Thomas corrects us, then we speak all in English while we help him. Becoming fluent in German is very important to the ministry here, as our church services are completely in German and many people that we meet only have a basic grasp of English.

Tuesday

8:30 – Meet with Hermine

10:30 – Spend the next couple of hours preparing for English Kids Club

3:30 – Oklahoma Christian students arrive for EKC. As part of their missions credits, the students help put on a specific activity or center at each EKC.

4:00 – EKC starts. A typical EKC consists of songs, games and crafts based around a theme for that day. This semester, every week is based around a different part of the world, like the jungle, mountains, or desert.

5:00 – EKC ends. We clean up and prepare for our English for Adults class.

6:00 – EFA starts. This free course is still being crafted and perfected. We use a combination of TEFL materials, Let’s Start Talking materials and the Bible to teach English to anyone who wants to learn. Right now we only have three people, but we’re hoping to grow it in the fall.

7:30 – EFA ends. We go home, and grab a pizza on the way at our favorite Turkish pizza place. Since Tuesdays are our busiest days, we don’t have time to cook, so we’ve made Tuesday evenings our pizza night.

Wednesday

9:00 – Once a month on a Wednesday we have our team meeting. This used to be at the Hensals’ house, but because they’ve since moved, it will now probably be at the Haskews’ house or the office. During this meeting we talk about upcoming events, new plans and ideas, and spend some time in prayer for the ministry.

12:00 – We maybe go to lunch with a church member or a language partner.

2:00 – Office time. On days when we’re in the office, I will usually work on advertisements, blogs or video, while Holly works on plans for our programs or the OC missions, or helps organize the office.

7:00 – Bible study at Chuck’s apartment

Thursday

8:30 – Meet with Hermine.

10:00 – Private English lesson with a local woman, who can’t come to the regular class

12:00 – Office time. Maybe lunch with a church member

3:30 – OC students arrive for Sports Kids Club

4:00 – Sports Kids Club starts. This is a free weekly program designed to give our office exposure in the neighborhood and give neighborhood kids something to do once a week. We play games and any sports with about 10 – 15 kids for 1 1/2 hours, with the help of the OC students.

6:00 – Go home, cook something delicious

Friday

Fridays are a lot more flexible than the rest of the week. Sometimes we go into the office to see Hermine, sometimes we’re running errands around the city, sometimes we’re meeting with people, sometimes we’re working from home on plans and other things. Fridays are our days that are most different from week to week.

6:00 – On Friday evenings we try to have a date night when possible, by eating in the city or going to an event or music festival. Sometimes we meet up with Thomas, or Holly meets up with her friends, or sometimes we stay home, make homemade pizza and watch a movie.

Saturday

Saturdays are technically our off days, although sometimes we do also work, sometimes by doing service projects or meeting with someone. If we’re free, we either try to do a day trip somewhere outside of Vienna, do something touristy like visiting a museum, or (Holly’s favorite thing) we stay home and clean the apartment. Bleh.

That’s a rough view of our day-to-day here. Like I said, every day is actually very different, an aspect I have grown to love. Not many jobs have so much flexibility and variety. We’re very thankful for this opportunity we’ve been given.

The Koois Are Back In Town

airport

Getting ready to come back at last

Well, after 3 months of being in the U.S., after pages and pages of emails and many conversations with lawyers, embassy employees and Memorial Road staff and elders, and after hours of prayers and waiting, we are back in Vienna at last.

And we couldn’t be happier. In some ways, it’s like we never left. Our apartment is still here, complete with half-finished projects we abruptly left behind (and our cat). Our friends are here, as well as everyone in the church. Some things are different, like the snow, the lack of Christmas decorations and the knowledge that three months have passed by in this city without us, but in reality, we’ve jumped right back in like there was no break. You can read about some of the things we’ve gotten back into right away in some coming blogs.

ice skating at the Rathaus

Ice skating at the Rathaus

We’re sure most of you are aware, but our situation is not yet resolved, although it is somewhat close to being so. We are here in the EU as tourists again, leaving us 3 months before we have to leave again. We’ve had a couple of meetings with our immigration lawyer here and will be applying for a 1-year social worker permit very soon. We hope to have our permit before we have to leave again in May, but it is much more likely that we will have to leave and wait outside of the EU for our permit to be issued, which could be anytime from May to August.

However, if we do have to spend time away from Vienna, we do not want to spend it in the US like the last three months. We’re working through a couple of possibilities for us to visit another mission field during any forced time away from Vienna. Instead of feeling like we’ve essentially wasted 3 months of our 2 year commitment, we’re excited to be useful and help out another mission field in any way we can while we wait for our permits to be issued to us.

Holly reading

Holly reading to the EKC kids

In the meantime, we are so thankful to be back, as well as thankful to everyone who thought about us, prayed for us and supported us these last couple of months. On that note, please continue to pray that our residency permit application goes well and is filed quickly, and that we receive the permit in a timely manner so that we ideally do not have to leave Vienna again in May.

will teaching

Will teaching English words

Like I said, we’ve jumped right back into our work like we were never away. Part of the work we did while in Oklahoma was plan English Kids Club’s curriculum for the remainder of the spring semester, which we have now launched into action. So far the kids have learned about the solar system, mountains and the rainforest, going off of this spring’s theme: “Our World – Air, Land, and Sea”. English For Adults (EFA) began (again) March 5th, and was very successful. This spring is kind of a learning semester for us, where we will see how our class goes and the best ways for it to work before we hopefully expand to even more students in the fall. We returned to Vienna with very helpful materials and are looking forward to not only teaching English, but getting to know our wonderful students as well. Please pray for this new project that we are trying to grow.

Well, Vienna is a lot more like Oklahoma than I thought. 3 weeks ago it was snowing, last week it was about 60 degrees, and today it’s snowing again. So, something familiar for us, I guess? Whatever – we’ll take whatever we get, as long as we’re back here now. Plus, it’s beautiful.

Vienna in snow

Downtown in the snow

Inside EKC

EKC

Six EKC’s down, six more to go. These past weeks, we have fallen in love with this time spent with kids who want to play and learn English. As you know, our theme for the semester is “All About Me”. When Holly, Kim, Amanda and I sat down to brainstorm for a theme back in the summer, we all agreed that the best way to learn a new language is to speak it as much as possible. So, we wanted a theme that would get the kids talking for the entirety of each EKC session. What better way to get kids talking than getting them to talk about themselves?

EKC

Each EKC session follows a simple schedule. First, Jake gathers the kids together for a few minutes of songs. This helps to get the kids out of playground mode and into class mode. Following songs, we introduce vocabulary words. Sometimes we do this by using a Word Wall, or we use puppets (a big hit). After the vocabulary is introduced and each child has used one of the words in a complete sentence, we divide the kids into 3 groups for stations, including crafts, games and snacks.

To demonstrate a typical EKC:

EKC

Our latest EKC was about clothing. We started the kids off with a funny puppet show with the puppets wearing different clothes and naming them all in English. We then had a game where the kids were given a list of clothes and had to race to put on their specific pieces from a huge pile. We then split into stations, where they drew clothes on a self-portrait, made a snack while having to answer questions like “What are you wearing?” or “What color is your shirt?”, and played Simon Says with regards to clothing. Each week and theme are different but largely follow the same pattern.

EKC

We’re very happy with all the kids and they seem to love it as well. Not only do we have kids from the church involved, but many children from the neighboring school and neighborhood come. In fact, we recently had a man walk by with his son while one of the programs were going on. He stepped in, asked what was happening, and asked his son if he’d like to go. The next week, he was there having a blast. We’ve been so glad to see him come these last couple of weeks.

Pretty soon, we’ll start planning for the spring semester. As this semester winds down, please continue to pray about our program and the kids involved. We appreciate it!

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

Guten Morgen Wien

ViennaWell, here we are. It’s just about a month and a half before we leave for Vienna. Half our furniture is sold, our plane tickets are bought and we know about 1/128th of the German language. I’d say we’re just about ready.

These last couple of months have gone by so fast. It seems like only yesterday we were actually deciding to go. Ever since then, we’ve started our HIM (Helpers in Missions) class, began learning German, and started our fundraising. Of the 60% of funds that’s our responsibility to raise (Memorial Road Church of Christ helps with the other 40%), we’ve raised about 35% of that – a good start. Please continue to pray for us as we raise the other 65%. We’re leaving May 16th, so the deadline’s coming up fast.

A brief rundown of what we’re actually doing: Holly and I are participants in the HIM program, which sends out young couples to established missionary fields all around the world. We will be joining two young families who have been in Vienna, Austria for over four years now, planting a church in one of Vienna’s growing districts. As Holly and I have both visited Vienna as part of study abroad programs, we’ve always had a special affection for the city and its people. Vienna has one of the highest quality of life ratings in the world, which means its people are well off; but at the same time, it is the very definition of a “post-Christian” Europe. Only 54% of Austrians in 2005 said they believe there is a God – above most Scandinavian countries, but far below countries like Portugal, Poland, Italy and Ireland, and especially the U.S.

The current Vienna team has been very successful, with a body containing two separate house churches and over 30 members. Because of the growth, the two families – the Hensals and the Haskews – requested some HIM workers to help with some of the work…and here we are.

While we don’t know every facet of what we’ll be doing, we do know we will take on a lot of the responsibilities of English Kids Club, a great outreach tool. We’ll also most likely start an adult English program, as well as focus on outreach for high school and college students as well as young adults, all missing demographics in the church. And basically, we will just help the current missionaries in any way we can, hence the “Helpers” part of HIM.

Holly and I plan to take turns updating this blog, both in the lead-up to leaving and over the next two years. Please, follow us to hear more about the ministry. This isn’t just the efforts of a few of us over in Europe; this is also the combined efforts of all our friends and supporters back home. Please continue to pray for us and the church in Vienna.