This last week, we celebrated 10 years serving Iranian and Afghan refugees in Austria. Over the years, we have had the privilege to disciple over two-hundred believers who have a Muslim background. In the last five years alone, we had the honor of baptizing at least 100 of these brothers and sisters. It has been a wonderful, sometimes difficult ministry.
We have also seen how the group has grown to the point where they can teach each other and care for one another. We celebrate the Lord’s Supper each week with fresh baked Iranian style bread brought by two couples in the church. We worship with custom-made videos that our brother Sam edits on an old tower PC at his refugee home. The small groups are led by brothers who have completed our training courses. Many of our friends are active in evangelism, and our students have been in the inner circle of at least three church plants around Austria. Everywhere we look, we see people serving in their gifting. This encourages us as we look to the future.
In the summer, we began to hear God telling us that we had fulfilled our calling here. We came here to establish a Farsi speaking church that was able to evangelize, disciple and care for itself. By God's grace, we have been successful in that goal. We shared this with the leaders of the church and the with the Farsi leaders. Many of the Farsi leaders came to faith in our church and grew up with us. They are naturally somewhat unsure about the future and will be very sad to see us go. However, they also see that the Farsi community is ready to take the next step of responsibility and see that this is the right step at this time.
We came here to establish a Farsi speaking church that was able to evangelize, disciple and care for itself. By God's grace, we have been successful in that goal.
On Sunday, we announced this vision to the whole church, and so we are now free to share it openly with you. Our next steps are to assist the Farsi congregation to strengthen and prepare for the time when we will no longer be with them. Before we go the congregation asked us to help them to grow in fellowship with one another - we want to strengthen our small groups, help them with evangelism - this is actually a strength of the group, but they are passionate about sharing their faith and want more support and encouragement, and help them integrate more into the German congregation - this has been a challenge from the beginning but is crucial as we will no longer be the link between the two groups. We desire to finish well. It is our goal that this church will continue to serve one another, reach out to non-believers and support other Farsi congregations long after we move on. Please pray for them as they take on more responsibility and leadership of their own ministry.
We are so thankful for your partnership with us in the Gospel! Your generous support has made this possible. We have seen so many lives changed over the years, and you were a part of their story. Some of you have been with us since Gordy first left for Afghanistan at the end of 2002. Thank you for your faithfulness and your generosity! Please continue to pray with us in these next steps. Thank you all for your continued financial support. 2020 is dedicated to finishing our work with refugees well, and also to determining where and what our next ministry will be. We are open and grateful for any insights that you would like to share with us.
What will we do after we release the Farsi congregation to continue without us?
We don’t know exactly. This is at once both terrifying and invigorating, but we see that God is in this process. We are very aware of our need to hear God's direction.
One verse that has spoken to us during this time is Isaiah 43:19:
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.
Our first instinct when considering next steps was to look back to ministries we had done before. We loved our time in Tajikistan and Afghanistan and asked ourselves if we should return there. But through this verse, God seems to be pointing us to a new direction. More and more we are feeling called to the difficult ministry among the majority population of post-Christian Austria.
Less than .3% of the Austrian population attend an evangelical church, and the traditional churches are rapidly losing members and their influence in society. The few churches that are preaching the Gospel are not reaching the younger generation. While the Muslim refugees intuitively sense their need for God and are open to hear the Gospel. Too often, Austrians don’t see God or the Bible as relevant for their lives at all. We feel God is calling us to take what we have learned reaching and discipling refugees and apply it to ministering to Austrians. We dream of a new Christian community where young Austrians would see that Jesus is more than just relevant, he is the center.
With this new perspective, we suddenly have new energy to tackle the age old questions: How can we communicate the Gospel in new ways? How can we live out our Christian life incarnationally? How can we help believers to become more like Christ? Our need for prayer and for God’s power is also clear in this time, and it has given us a new urgency to get on our knees and pray for the harvest.We are prayerfully meeting with others who also long to reach unchurched Austrians and are asking God to give us clarity about what our future ministry could look like. We are open to moving to a new city, and we ask that God would open doors and show us where we should invest the next phase of our lives. Please pray with us. We would love to hear your feedback!