Snapshots from weeks five and six here at the Oasis

Marzia & Lesley serving a very tasty Afghani meal of chicken and rice to refugees after the Sunday morning service.

Where, oh where do I begin? Its hard to believe that  two more weeks have passed since my last blog. There's so much to tell you about, I think rather than blogging 'diary style,' I'll just pick out some of the major highlights for you.

On Sunday 8th October we joined Ali and Marzia for the weekly meal and Farsi-speaking service which always follows the regular morning service at the local evangelical church. Marzia never ceases to amaze me. She has the most wonderful ministry of hospitality. Week by week she faithfully prepares a delicious Afghan/Iranian meal for between 20 - 30 refugees which she serves in the huge church foyer after the morning service.

Ali's been asking us to join them every week since we arrived here. Two Sunday's ago we were finally able to accept his offer - and were so glad we did. We counted 28 men and women sitting either side of the long table, all of them happily engaging in animated conversations with one another. Some we know have already accepted Jesus as their Messiah, others are still navigating that crucial journey into faith. But all of them grateful for a loving welcome, a warm nourishing meal, and the opportunity to get out of their cramped room in the refugee camp and start making new friends.

After the meal we all trooped back into the main sanctuary where we sang several worship song in Farsi (with great gusto and varying degrees of musicality) and heard a simple Gospel talk from Christoph, interpreted by Ali.

When Neal and I made an 'early' exit shortly after 4pm, the group were thoroughly engrossed in a movie about the life and teaching of Jesus, dubbed into Farsi. Despite being there since 9am, it was way past 5pm before most of them finally left the building.

Please pray for Ali and Marzia, that God will strengthen, encourage and supply their every need as they reach out to minister to refugees locally and throughout Austria.

Preparing gifts for Christmas!

Ladies from Baden Gemeinde and some volunteers from the Oasis cutting, pressing and sewing tote bags for the refugee women and children

For Christmas, each man, woman and child refugee that comes into the Oasis is given a Christmas gift. This year we've decided to present the men with backpacks filled with various small gifts. The women and children will receive handmade tote bags also filled with useful, personal and fun gifts. We've already purchased 100 good quality backpacks for the guys, and the ladies at the Baden church are hand-making 200 tote bags for us - quite a huge undertaking!

So last Saturday one of the church halls was kitted out with nine sewing stations, several irons & ironing boards, two large tables for cutting out the cloth and handles, and a huge mountain of suitable donated fabric. 

Measuring and cutting ...

I walked up through the vineyards to join the sewing group for a couple of hours during the afternoon. What a great hive of activity it was. Its so encouraging to witness how God is moving on the hearts of the Austrian people to get more involved in this wonderful and so needful ministry to refugees. Please pray that God will bless this church and its members for showing such love and compassion to those whose needs are so great.

Brainstorming for Christmas Gift Bag ideas

Of course, purchasing 100 backpacks for the guys, and being given 200 beautifully hand-sewn tote bags for the women and children is only half the story! We also need to decide what to put inside them all.

I've been co-opted onto the Oasis 'Christmas Bag' committee! Our brief is to source and purchase gifts to fill the bags with. So for an hour or so last week we met together in one of the upstairs video rooms to do a bit of serious brainstorming.

This photo demonstrates 'phase one' of our project. Next, we individually scoured a host of internet shopping sites for products, and later that day Neal and I spent a few hours walking around our local shopping centres taking photos of anything that looked remotely like a good bargain.

Our next job? Well, it involves carrying lots of big shopping bags as we go out to purchase hundreds of things like mugs; nail polish; shampoo; conditioner; moisturiser; colouring books & pencils; notebooks and diaries; chocolates; torches; hairbrushes and hair elastics; cuddly toys for babies and toddlers ..... you get the picture!

Another very special birthday celebration

'D' excitedly blowing out the candles on his birthday cake

During our women's 'Chai Time' this week we discovered another one of our 'regular' refugee children was celebrating a birthday. This time it was our sweet little autistic friend 'D' who always thrills us with his passionate love of music and dancing.

One of the team rushed out to the nearest grocery store and returned with a chocolate cake which we adorned with candles and later shared among everyone present. There was hardly a dry eye in the house when 'D' literally jumped up and down for joy as he realised the cake and candles were especially for him!

I ran over to the piano to play, and as we all sang 'Happy Birthday To You" and clapped our hands, this precious little child gently blew out his candles and just danced and danced with sheer exuberance and joy! ❤❤

A wonderful visit wth 'H' and her children in Vienna

Playing UNO with 'H' and her children

Those of you who followed our blog  last year will remember the harrowing story of 'H,' a beautiful young Iranian widow and her four children who arrived at the Oasis in the most traumatised, griefstricken state imaginable.

During the past year Neal and I have kept in regular contact with this young family via social media. They've been rehoused in a single room on the sixth floor of a huge apartment block in Vienna (though they're still waiting for a 'positive' to their application for asylum in Austria) The children are all settled in school and doing well, and H is attending regular German language classes.

Over and over again since we've arrived, 'H' has asked us to visit her. She wanted to cook us a 'proper Iranish meal' and show us her new home. Last week we were finally able to organise a visit along with Stephanie and Jeremy from the Oasis team.

Oh what a rapturous welcome we received! 'H' hugged me so tight I could hardly breathe. She literally picked me up off my feet and swung me around. What a joyous afternoon we all had together. 

We were treated to not one, but two absolutely delicious meals - firstly a very tasty traditional Afghan meal of lightly spiced rice and beef with a delicious side salad;  then an exquisitley flavoured Iranian dish with huge hunks of wonderfully tender beef in a delicate stew flavoured with a gazillion different herbs and spices and whole lemons! Oh my word - it truly had to be tasted to be believed! 

After we'd eaten enough to burst, we all sat together on the rug to play a hilarious game of Uno and catch up on all that's been happening since we were last together.

'H' and her beautiful daughter 'S' with the picture we had framed for them in England.

When we first met 'H' and her family at the Oasis last year, you may remember we were very concerned about her eyesight. An Oasis volunteer took her to see a local optician, and following several tests there was talk of a tumour of some kind behind her eyes.

Its a relief to report that there is no tumour, and no life-threatening condition. Sadly however, 'H' has been diagnosed with an irreversible eye disease which means her sight will gradually deteriorate over time. We believe it to be some form of macular degeneration.

'H' has told us that she truly believes in Jesus and prays to Him every single day. Please remember her and the children in your prayers. They've come a long way - but there are still mountains for them to climb before they are fully settled in Austria.

We plan to see them again soon, having invited them to come to the Oasis 'Christmas Party' in December, and to have a 'sleep-over' with us in our apartment here in Traiskirchen.

Great times at the Oasis Coffee Bar and 'Jesus Film' night

Many a meaningful conversation takes place over a game of Jenga, Chess, Backgammon, Draughts or Connect 4.

We've had two busy and very successful coffee bar evenings since my last blog. In addition to those who just come to relax, enoy a game and cup of coffee there were many who eagerly accepted the offer to watch the Jesus Film in their own language, in one of our four video rooms.

We've seen Iranian, Afghani, Nigerian, Somali, Chechnyan, Russian, Armenian, Gambian, Nepali and Chinese people come through the doors in the past weeks.

And its interesting to note that the Oasis team and volunteers currently include Austrian, American, Australian, Afghani, Iranian, Canadian, British, Czech, Swedish, Armenian and Arabic Christians, all coming together to share the love of Jesus with those who don't know Him - yet!

Neal and Emmanuel - I'm not sure which one is laughing the loudest!

Part way through the coffee bar evening last Thursday, a group of eight Afghani men asked if they could go upstairs to watch the film. Ali went with them, to answer any questions they might have during or after the movie.

So while his Dad was upstairs and his Mum was busy serving drinks and snacks downstairs, Neal kept little Emmanuel amused with an obviously hilarious game of Connect 4!

Don't know about you, but I adore this photo! ❤

 

All four of our video rooms have been in action during the past two weeks. The notice board in the main meeting room is chalked up to show which language is playing, and where ...

I must confess I'd never even heard of Tigrinya - but I've since learned that its a Semitic Afro-Asiatic language spoken by the people of Eritrea.

So - although I hadn't realized it at the time, we obviously had some Tigrinya speakers at the coffee bar this week.

Even the Oasis 'staff' get the opportunity to enjoy a game of Jenga every now and then! And Jeremy is certainly taking it very, very seriously indeed ......

 

An opportunity to personally meet one of the modern day heros of our faith!

Neal chatting with George Verwer

Its not often you get the chance to meet one of your heroes, but last Sunday morning we had the privilege of not only hearing George Verwer preach, but of spending a few moments chatting with him after the service.

For those who dont know, over 60 years ago George Verwer founded Operation Mobilisation (OM) a Christian organisation that distributes Bibles and Gospel literature all over the world. I'd encourage you to look him and his organisation up on the internet - its an exciting and challenging story!

Now almost 80 years young, this man is still full of energy, passion and a hilarious sense of humour - just look at that jacket he's wearing!

We managed to buy literally the last copy of his book in English on the book table, and he very kindly signed it for us!

Neal's snapshots ....

Well dear ones, I could go on, but reading all this must be getting pretty tiresome now .... So I'll leave you with a couple of little anecdotes from my beloved husband:

"I thought I might lighten my heart somewhat this week by sharing with you a couple of 'little peoples' tales.'

Last Monday was our ladies' clothing distribution day, and I suppose around 80 ladies and innumerable children came along to see what we could supply. The waiting room was crowded with women from many nations drinking chai and chatting. A wee Arab girl around three years of age I'd guess, came to me, took my hand, and as she led me towards a pile of plastic building blocks, she prattled away in Arabic.

She proceeded to hand me the bricks one by one with what I took to be instructions on how to assemble a tower. We spent a precious half hour chatting and building, neither of us understanding the language of the other, but we did construct a very satisfactory tower .... well, I think that is what she was saying as her mother gathered her up and left!

Soon afterwards I decided to go and sit outside to cool off on the bench by the front door. The obviously Muslim lady already sitting there made what I can only decribe as 'a quiet fuss' as she re-seated herself as far from me as she could, with her back towards me. I guess she was giving me 'the cold shoulder.'

Anyway, this meant that the baby she was holding was now facing me. The wee one looked at me the way only little ones can - all the wisdom of the ages in their eyes. For a long moment he seemed to be saying "Sorry about that mate, Mums can be an embarrassment at times. They don't always appreciate how things are supposed to work." My nod of understanding brought such a warm smile to his little face - a comradery, a secret friendship!

I'll end with a sweet story George Verwer told last Sunday: A 7-year-old visiting with her Granddad, was alone in her bedroom when a tremendous thunderstorm developed. The grown-up, realizing that the little one could well be terrified, ran up the stairs expecting to find the child hiding under her bed. Instead, he was surprised to find her standing at the window, smiling, her arms outstretched. "Granddad, I think God is trying to take my picture!"  

 

As always, we both want to thank you all for your prayers, your letters, texts and emails. Trusting you will enjoy the blog, and remember you can 'click' on any of the pictures to enlarge them.

Until next time, may you know God's wonderful love, joy, peace and abundant blessings in every part of your lives.

In His love, and for Him only

Lesley and Neal ❤