Monday, December 8, 2014

Missionary Myths Debunked

Hey y'all, I know you're thinking that a missionary is some super-human who can bring thousands of converts to Christ per year with a smile on their face and joy in their heart. Well, sorry to burst your bubble, but that isn't true. I am here today to debunk a few myths about missionaries, a fog which seems to hang around the minds of some people who have never seen the mission field for themselves or heard the nitty-gritty of service abroad. 

1. Missionaries do not take vacation

2. Missionaries do not drink alcohol
3. Missionaries are busy 24/7 with ministry opportunities
4. Missionaries have no savings or retirement accounts
5. A missionary's success is defined by how many converts they have

Now, I know you are probably thinking, I don't think ALL of those are true. But there is probably at least one on that list that you would expect to be true. So for the sake of time they are numbered and you can jump down to the one you'd like to hear about.

1. Missionaries do not take vacation

It is part of life to work hard and then take a break. And the cost of traveling to other countries in Europe is about the same amount as traveling to other states in the U.S. So, it does not take a huge amount of financial planning to save up for a weekend trip to France or Hungary. In fact, I took one last week.

I have been afraid to post online the places I've been going for fear that people will think I'm spending money frivolously. In truth, many people I work with take trips all the time, and it is de rigueur for someone to travel to a foreign country on a 3-day weekend. It is way more expensive to travel home, and I know missionaries who travel to the U.S. twice a year! 

No more fear. I am posting the places I go and people I see. Last weekend I went to France to visit a friend there, and the flight cost about the same as gas money for a 6-hour trip across Texas. 

I had my first French crepe! Delish.

2. Missionaries do not drink alcohol

Question: What was Jesus' first miracle?

A. Causing lots of fish to be caught in a net
B. Turning water into wine
C. Casting out a demon
D. Healing a leper

For those of you who chose B, great job! Jesus did in fact turn water into wine as the first sign of his ministry. He even got nailed for this by the Pharisees. Jesus said in effect, 'What do you want from me? John's disciples didn't drink and you complain, and mine do and you complain.' 

'For John the Baptist has come neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, He has a demon. The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, Behold, a Man Who is a glutton and a wine drinker, a friend of tax collectors and notorious sinners.' -Luke 7:33-34
Creating beer is a huge source of pride for the Germans, and the Austrians love their young wine. They do not eat and drink frivolously. It is a past-time that's part of their culture and they have a different attitude towards drinking than Americans. Many, and I repeat many, missionaries in Europe drink. And yes, I do too. 

3. Missionaries are busy 24/7 with ministry opportunities

After being legalistic most of life, I have learned the value of sitting back and waiting for God to show me what to get involved in. I am surrounded by busy bee teachers who do tons of ministry and have little left for themselves or family at the end of day. I don't think that's ideal, and I have the rest of my life to figure out what to do with my evenings. I have gotten involved in a bible study at school with some 6th grade girls on Tuesdays and that's great, and I do the Starbucks bible study with Max on Thursday nights. And for now, that's enough for me. 

A teacher I work with has battled with sickness for weeks, and he said the doctor told him if he could take it easy he would get healed. But this teacher has been stressed and was talking about that and then he said, 'Who isn't stressed?' Secretly I was thinking, 'Me.' I don't wanna say that their work isn't important because it is, but I don't feel called to give up my evenings for the sake of the school or to look good. God has given us what we need for life (if we allow him to) and godliness without us trying to earn it ourselves. 

For His divine power has bestowed upon us all things that are requisite and suited to life and godliness, through the full, personal knowledge of Him Who called us by and to His own glory and excellence. -2 Peter 1:3

4. Missionaries have no savings or retirement accounts

Now, I'm not saying missionaries are rich, but they are usually good stewards of what God and others have given them. It is wise to save for the future, like the busy ant saves its food in Proverbs. There may not be much to work with, but to give up and decide to spend all you have is simply foolish. The verse below shows that is God's blessing for a man or woman to enjoy the possessions and money he/she has, not longing for more. 

Also, every man to whom God has given riches and possessions, and the power to enjoy them and to accept his appointed lot and to rejoice in his toil -- this is the gift of God. -Ecclesiastes 5:19

In talking with older missionaries, I have found it's not uncommon for them to have savings plans and retirement accounts. Some of them even play the stock market with their savings in order to boost it since they don't start out with much. After seeing how the Austrian government takes care of its citizens so well, I wish the U.S. government could do the same. But unfortunately that's not the case.

5. A missionary's success is defined by how many converts they have

I have felt the pressure since I started sending out support letters to have some type of results for the work here in Austria. Three converts this year! But to be honest, that's not the type of results I see. And Europe has been described as a missionary graveyard. That's because people have already seen it, heard it, and don't want much to do with Christianity (which can't be that different from the Catholic church, right?). They also value longevity, and it takes a long time to break down people's walls here. I'm talking years and years.

So, I am finally learning to relax. The work I do here is valuable even if I don't see immediate results. After all, if the soil is bad then the seed won't grow. I feel like I'm a planter or toiler in the soil, maybe a waterer, but not a harvester. Not yet, anyway.

And now for some pictures! 

I had the chance to visit my friend in Toulouse, France. Here are some pics from the city.

I also had the chance to go to a Christmas market near the Mondsee (moon lake) near Salzburg, Austria. 

They had great places to warm up. It was about 35 degrees. 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Year of Jubilee

As anticipated, this school-year is going great. Having a visa and an apartment and job security really are factors that contribute to peace of mind. Add to that, the kids I teach aren't hostile to the Good News or those who believe in it. That helps too. Or maybe it's just that junior high kids haven't become jaded yet.

I titled this post 'Year of Jubilee' because that means a year of celebration, and the Israelites in the Old Testament were supposed to hold a year of celebration every 50 years. In that year slaves were set free, debts were forgiven, and the land was given a chance to rest. Unfortunately they didn't observe it as God ordered, but I feel like this year is pretty much along those lines. God has given me freedom and rest.

Along to pics! This is my K-Pop class before a performance of 'Fantastic Baby' by Big Bang.

Final pose - 'Fantastic Baby' by Big Bang (I don't dance with them) For those curious, these kids are from Africa, Austria, America, the Philippines, and Australia.

These are pics of the K-Pop dance class I teach at school, and 2 weeks ago they had a performance at our middle school chapel. They did an awesome job! As you can see, there are more boys than girls. The moves are gender-friendly and easy to pick up for beginners, so the class is going great even though only one kid has had dance lessons before.

Things with Max are going great. We are moving into a more normal point in the relationship where we won't die if we don't see each other every day. I have joked that I feel like I'm in high school again. He makes my heart flutter! **Sigh** We had lunch with his parents last Sunday. His dad Harold took these pics for us.

I have also been taking a German class, intermediate level. Here's a picture of the book. It's 3 hours every Monday and Wednesday for 10 classes. It's slightly brutal, but I think it's important to learn the language of the culture I'm living in, and now that I am with Max it's extra important!   


And a little shout-out to Vienna. I went to a coffee shop today and a Mexican goods store, and it just struck me how beautiful this city is. I love the juxtaposition of the new and old. The big building is a museum. 


Saturday, August 16, 2014

School will be back in session soon. It begins on Tuesday, August 19, actually. This year in many ways is much better. I already have my visa (good until December and then it'll be renewed), I have taught 7th and 8th grade before, the last period of the day will be K-Pop dance, and I have a feel for the city and culture of Vienna.

Also this year will be relaxing in other ways. Since I began teaching, I have tried to fit in with other teachers and be a part of the group. Teaching in South Korea was a bit secluded, and it was hard to meet other English-speakers so we hung out together after hours quite a bit. Here in Vienna, the situation is similar for many teachers. It's hard to break out of the English-speaking community, and so many people have formed tight friendships that extend beyond work.

Being surrounded by these types of close-knit relationships is a bit intimidating for an introvert like myself. I prefer to keep work at work, and to see the same people all day every day is difficult, no matter how amazing or hilarious they are. The beauty of growing older is the maturity that comes along with it, and I am finally seeing that it's okay to not be best friends with everyone I work with. I just happen to have worked in tight groups of foreigners so far.

To reiterate a bit of what was in my newsletter, I was extremely blessed in so many different ways by friends and family in Texas. Thank you to those who were able to host me (and Max sometimes). Thank you for open homes and hearts. And also thank you for all the special gifts that came in different ways -- a visit here, a meal there, clothes, cash, a rental car, etc. My love language is gifts, so thank you for them. 

One of my favorite things I did this summer was visit an ice cave with Max. We went to visit his family in Salzburg for a week after I arrived back in Austria in July. The cave is called the Eisriesenhöhle. We had to climb up 700 steps, which was a breeze since I work out so often (NOT), but it was so cool, literally. It reminded me of Ice Age. 

Max and I also went for a walk around this lake, Fuschl See. Max's dad says you can drink the water straight from the lake because it's so pure. (I didn't try it though.)

Friday, June 13, 2014


This April, I had the opportunity to serve on my first mission trip. Although I’m a missionary, ironically, I’ve never been on a mission trip before. The group from ICSV went to Romania, where we served the ministry River of Life ( by pouring concrete for a driveway and teaching ESL lessons for the kids there. The place is a shelter for moms and children who have hit rock bottom and have nowhere else to go.

One of my jokes is that if I get sick it will be God’s will, since I haven’t had to take a sick day all year. But the day we arrived in Romania, my nose started running and I had a migraine headache. The whole week my nose was clogged up, I had a wad of tissues in my pocket, was cold at night, and smelled like smoke from the bonfire we had. Even so, through God’s strength, I was able to teach ESL lessons with patience and give my best on the work projects in the morning before lunch every day. I really had the sense that because I was in the right place (being in Romania instead of hanging out with Max in Vienna like I‘d rather do), God was able to use my weaknesses for his glory.

School has gone pretty well, but it’s been an exhausting year and I’m thankful that summer break is here. Next year I will be at ICSV again, but I’ll be teaching 7th and 8th grade English instead of 6th, 11th, and 12th grades. I will also be able to teach a dance class!

Hamza helping with ESL lessons

I'm flying to Texas this Sunday for a month, and I'm looking forward to seeing family, eating some Mexican food, floating the river with Jill, shopping at Wal-Mart, and being in MURICA! 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

And the mystery man is...

As I mentioned in my last blog post, I've been dating someone since January. Yes, he's Austrian (half-Austrian, half-German technically). Yes, he speaks German. Yes, he also speaks English (I'm not that good at German yet). He studies computer programming and project management. As Jill says, I could probably use a computer programmer in my life, but he's definitely cool to hang out with for more reasons than his computer skills. Oh, and his name is Max. 

Here we are at the Augarten, a park near my apartment.

Wearing 3D glasses over our own at the Desolation of Smaug.

After Easter Sunday in Salzburg

I love you babe! 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Stay Put and Grow

I was blessed last month to have my sister Jill visit during my school’s Energy Break from February 16-22 and we had a great time in Salzburg, Munich, and Vienna. I was able to be a somewhat decent tour guide since I know the ropes and can speak a little German now. Our favorite part was the Third Reich Walking Tour in Munich, Germany where we learned a lot of history on how the Nazis came into power.

At ICSV I have been given the opportunity to serve as a chaperone on the school’s mission trip to Romania in April. I’m in charge of the skits so please pray that all goes well with that. We will be doing 3 to 4 skits about Christ and Easter and maybe a dance.

Since the fall I’ve been blessed to co-lead a bible study with four girls from school and I’ve included a picture of them at the top posing with a bag of candy for Valentine’s Day. They are all juniors and seniors. Please pray that our time together is well spent.

Adjusting to life in Vienna is going well, and now that I’ve been living in my apartment since November, I feel pretty settled in. I used my birthday party in January as an opportunity to finish all the little details missing from my apartment like paint, shelves, hanging a couple pictures, and finally getting rid of extra boxes lying around.

I turned 26 this year, and it feels great to be on my way to 30 and hopefully a little older and wiser. I joke that I’d rather not round up to 30, but actually it’s not as scary as other 20-somethings make it seem. God has blessed me and I give him all the praise.

I feel that the verse below is true for my life at the moment. Not everything is easy, but sometimes it’s necessary to stay put and grow, like a tree. A tree cannot become big and strong unless it stays in one place. Teaching and being in a foreign country and making new friends isn’t always easy, but, like the tree, I have to daily choose to get my source of strength from God (water).

Psalm 1:3
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither-- whatever they do prospers.