It feels like spring is just around the corner here in Austria as the sun is actually out for a change and the snow is finally melting. Not everyone is ready to fully let go of winter here, however. Winter sports are a very big deal here. EVERYONE is following the Olympics and you can hardly turn your head without seeing some news paper headline about Lindsey Vonn (who spends extensive time here training) or the fact that Austria finally struck gold in the Olympics. Liz and I had quite a cultural experience watching the Men’s super G with a group of Austrians. All eyes were glued to the TV and everyone cheered when the an Austrian was up gasping at every falter or missed turn. You would have thought it was the Superbowl. After it was over they all sang songs about skiing…who knew there was such a thing!
It seems ever Austrian knows how to ski. It’s no surprise since not only do they get a week off in the winter so that families can go skiing (with the excuse that they are saving on energy by not heating the schools that week giving rise to the holiday’s name Energiewoche –Energy week). Not only that but starting around Jr. High age all of the kids take a field trip to the slopes each year with their school. A minimum of two solid weeks of skiing per year…not too shabby. Liz and I both having grown up mostly in flat country are at a decided disadvantage. Not wanting to be left out when our church offered an opportunity for a ski retreat this weekend Liz and I took some snowboarding lessons earlier this year. We aren’t in our twenties anymore, so we’ve got just about every kind of protective pad you can think of, but if you think about it an extra prayer or two wouldn’t hurt either.
Aside from learning about Austrian Ski culture, we’ve been working at getting our visa. Everything went smoothly on the first day. We showed up at 6:45 am to stand in line for the doors of the visa office to open up at 8:00. After that we rushed in with our forms and grabbed a number and waited some more. I was prepared for a long day of waiting, but we were out by 11:00 so I was pretty pleased. Now more waiting as they process our documents. It’s a long ordeal and we still have to occasionally travel out of the E.U. to keep our tourist status, and bring in more documentation when they ask for it, but I’ve been encouraged with how things have gone so far. We got a very nice case worker and she seems to genuinely want to help us out which a pretty rare quality in a government worker.
Ministry has been going strong as well. Liz is still in full-time language. I’m not taking any classes right now, but I hope to start taking a part time class and then find a language partner to get some more practice in. I just started helping with a Bible study for some Nigerian Refugees a couple of weeks ago. They are all young guys who are helping out with a Children’s ministry in the area. They are all faithful guys and have been a real joy to get to know.
We also still go to the refugee center once a week and do the worship there and I’m still preaching there once a month. I preached last week, in fact, on the Philippian Jailer in Acts 16. There was a lively discussion afterwards with many of the men from Afghanistan. I’m curious to find out what was said. I talked with a young man from there who speaks English. He asked me about St. Valentine and lent and told me about his two year journey to Austria (much of it on foot!) It is heartbreaking. He seems curious and open yet holds very fast to his native religion and beliefs.
We will be leaving to go down there soon so I’d better cut this short. If you think about it, pray.