Our daily walking route through the local vineyards
Well, we've been in Austria for just 4 days as I'm writing this, and already there's so much to tell you!
Our introduction to Vienna could hardly have been more dramatic. We arrived in the skies above the city during an intense electrical storm and were forbidden to land for fear of lightening strikes. After circling over the storm for around 20 minutes we landed safely (scary!) but had to sit on the tarmac for a further 30 minutes before it was considered 'safe' to operate the steps for disembarking. Not the blue skies and warm sunny welcome we'd envisaged, but hey, we were safely on the ground! Before long we'd collected our luggage, met up with Dan and were soon happily chatting in the Oasis van as we sped down the drenched autobahn towards Traiskirchen and our apartment in the nearby village of Tribuswinkel.
Our apartment is basic but comfortable, and we're enjoying the process of making it feel like 'home.' Its part of a huge former luggage factory that now houses the Baden Evangelical Church. Each morning, a beautiful 25-30 minute walk through the local vineyards takes us past the Lager to the Oasis Centre.
In our last blog we asked the question "why are we going, and what do we hope to achieve?" I suppose we can best answer that by quoting directly from the Oasis handbook:
"We walk alongside refugees in the midst of their suffering. We value them as people God dearly loves. We welcome them into the Oasis, our homes and our lives. We offer them a safe place where they can come to share meals, stories and celebrations. We visit them, we want to know their names. We pray for them, we seek to help provide hope, food, clothing and other basic needs they may have."
These refugees are ordinary people just like us. They have a home, family, friends, skills, possessions, traditions, culture and dreams. They are people who love their country, but not what is happening within its borders. Because of persecution, war, famine, natural disasters or other factors, they've felt forced to leave it all behind. And their stresses don't end when they leave the borders of their country behind. The paths refugees travel are often filled with unforeseen and sometimes tragic dangers. Beginning life anew in a foreign land is a daunting task that requires Herculean effort. Often, everything is different - language, food, culture etc. The problems they face are many!
Our first 'taster' of the work Oasis do among the refugees was on Monday, when we spent around five hours sorting through a huge pile of donated clothing, shoes, blankets and kiddies toys in readiness for the next 'clothing room day.' Every available space at the centre is crammed full with donated items, all carefully stored in boxes and labelled mens' womens' childrens'; summer, winter, all seasons etc - ready for the refugees to come and choose what they need. It was exciting work and a great way of getting to know other teams members, but also very tiring, especially considering the temperature indoors was over 28 degrees with no air conditioning!
Tuesdays are especially set aside for team prayers, business discussions and general 'team building.' And tomorrow? Tomorrow (at last) we'll have our first opportunity to meet some of the refugees face to face!
It will be a long day: German classes start at 9:00 in the morning; womens' and kiddies' craft and social time follows after a short lunch break, and the day is rounded off with the 'Wednesday Night Outreach.' This generally includes live music; Bible teaching, and personal conversations over tea, coffee and cake. Attendance, we're told, can range from 20-70 people, and it's often around 11:00pm before the last visitor has left, the last coffee cup washed and put away, and the meeting room cleaned and prepared ready for the next day's activities.
So keep us in your prayers dear ones .... they are truly appreciated! We'll blog again in a week or so, with hopefully more photos and stories to tell!
Our love to you all
Neal & Lesley