Snapshots from week 9 - our 'week off' ministry here at the Oasis .....

Looking up the Salzach River, with Salzburg Altstadt (old town) on the right, dominated by the Festung Hohensalzburg (literally Salzburg High Fortress) Remember - if you click on any of the photos they will 'enlarge' for you.

Hi everyone! If you read our 'Week 8' blog you'll know that the Oasis has been closed throughout the past week. Although the main reason for this was to allow for some important meetings for full-time staff, it gave Neal and me a chance to 'down tools' for a couple of days and fulfil a long-held desire to visit the beautiful town of Salzburg.

So on Monday morning we jumped on the Westbahn train in Vienna for the two and a half hour journey from east to west across the pretty Austrian countryside. I must say the trains in Austria put our British ones to shame! We sat 'upstairs' on plush leather seats, enoying the coutryside through immaculately clean windows, with buffet service available at the push of a button, should we so desire. 

Taken from the Domplatz behind the cathedral with its huge golden globe sculpture and mamouth chess board, looking up towards the floodlit Festung Hohensalzburg.

Although it was raining and already going dark by the time we'd walked the 30 minutes or so from the railway station and (eventually!) arrived at our hotel, our first impressions of this ancient city were already 'wow!' We were truly blessed to have found a great deal online at a hotel right in the heart of the old town, so after quickly unpacking and changing into some dry clothes we headed out towards the famous Getriedegasse to find something to eat and start 'exploring.' 

At night the old cobbled streets were beautifully lit, and the window displays were amazing. High above, the impressive old fortress was floodlit, making a pretty spectacular backdrop despite the rain. 

Looking across Salzburg Altstadt towards the snowcapped Alps, from the path leading towards Monchsberg, one of the three mountains easily accessible on foot from the town.

The next morning, although there was still quite a bit of low level cloud we decided to hike up the Monchsberg, from where we had some amazing views across the old town and towards the Austrian Alps. We spent the whole day hiking along many interesting footpaths ("I wonder where this one goes...?") through beautiful old woods and passing by several monasteries, ancient forts and castles. 

By mid afternoon the sun had broken through and we sat on the mountainside, eating our sandwiches in warm sunshine - quite amazing for early November! We praise God for blessing us with an opportunity to breathe in some fresh, exhilarating  mountain air! (You may remember Neal's emergency appendix operation in June meant we had to cancel our longed-for holiday in Cumbria this year) 

Back in the old town we sat for a while at a little open-air cafe enjoying a mug of delicious hot spiced punch and marvelling at the sheer magnitude of the enormous, three-domed Dom zu Salzburg (cathedral), which although not as ornate as some buildings externally, certainly made up for this by its utterly spectacular interior. 

Unfortunatey we didn't have the time (or sufficient spare cash - everything here was super expensive) to venture inside to see for ourselves, but I've included a photo below so you can get the general idea. Magnificent, huh?

Inside the stunning Salzburg Cathedral

On our last full day in Salzburg, before another hike - this time up the Kapuzinerberg (on the 'other side' of the river Salzach) we spent the morning wandering around the newer part of the city. Here we found, despite the extravagent splendour of the architecture and the obvious wealth of its inhabitants, there were many refugees struggling to stay warm as they sat on street corners with little hand-written placards in German detailing their names and their needs.

We were particularly moved by one middle-aged man who sat uncomfortably on the pavement with a thin blanket covering the fact that both his legs had been amputated below the knee. His 'placard' informed us that his wife was dead leaving him with six young children to care for. Neal pressed some euro notes into his outstretched hand "Im namen Jesus Christus." We were so grateful that some of the 'compassion funds' so generously given us by our Corsham Baptist Church family, could ensure he and his children will get at least one hot meal.

The famous 'Mozartsteg' - one of many footbridges that join Salzburg Altstadt to the newer side of town. This bridge is famous for being featured in 'The Sound of Music' movie. It's used in the scene where Maria and the kids skip across while pointing during the song ‘Do Re Mi’. Along the grassy riverbank, the children also skip along during the song “My Favorite Things”.

Transformation of the 'old' Oasis staff break-out room!

From this .........

For many, many years, the small upstairs room which serves as a 'break-out' area or 'staff lounge' has looked like this! Crowded, mis-matched, disorganised, yet functional (just!) .........

This is where the team prays together, studies, prepares gospel talks, holds business meetings and 'entertains' any visitors that come along.

to this ...... Just one corner of the completely transformed staff lounge

While we were away in Salzburg and the full-time International Teams staff members were busy planning, discussing and praying over future plans, a small group of volunteers had raised sufficient funds to completely re-model this essential 'heart' of the Oasis life and ministry.

We walked in on them on Friday afternoon, just as the finishing touches were being applied! WOW ..... what a difference, and what a tremendous gift this has been. It's now a place of calm, peaceful serenity ..... I'll be sure to include a few more photos in future blogs!

Christmas Gift Bags ..... 'bags of blessings' for refugee men, women and children!

A couple of ladies from the Baden Gemeinde working on the children's Christmas gift bags on Saturday

On Saturday, I (Lesley) joined some of the ladies from the local Evangelical church for the second full day of Christmas Tote Bag making! A couple of weeks ago we made 100 bags to fill with 'goodies' and distribute to the refugee women who come to the next Ladies' Clothing Room day. 

Over the past few weeks Neal and I have been busy shopping for a hundred each of shampoos; shower gels; deodourants; hairbrushes; nail polish; nail files; compact mirrors; notebooks and pens; makeup remover pads and pocket tissues. On Friday a couple of our team mates joined us for the 'final push' and I can now happily report that we have bought in everything we need to start assembling the bags before the first 'hand-out day' on November 27th. 

Please pray that God will bless these gifts, that the ladies will not only find them useful, but they may see and experience the love of Jesus, which is the motivating force behind it all.

Just a few of the lovingly hand-made tote bags which will be filled with Christmas gifts for the refugee children

This week, we were making 100 more (slightly smaller) bags to fill with toys and gifts for the refugee children. I'm pleased to say that by the end of the day we'd reached our target. 40 little tote bags for boys, 40 for girls and 20 that could, in a pinch, be use for either sex. 

Little boys will receive dinky toys; torches; coloured pencils & pencil cases; crayons; sketch pads; fruit and sweeties. Girls will have similar items, but the dinky cars & torches will be replaced by little hairbrushes, hair elastics and pretty journals. Both boys and girls will get a bottle of bubbles and some balloons, both of which have been donated by our friends at CBC.

 Even the under-twos have been catered for, with every child receiving a little soft toy.

So, its been a very different week for us - wonderful to relax and see a little more of Austria, but we have missed our refugees hugely, and are really keen to get 'back to work' as the planning and preparations intensify towards Christmas.

We have much to look forward to. Our dear friend Joan will be visiting with us next Sunday for a few days, and straight after that we're hosting a young man from Australia for a week. In addition to all the 'normal' Oasis programmes, we have our team Thanksgiving Lunch on Saturday 25th November, followed by a busy week decorating the building for Christmas, and beginning the Christmas Gift Bag hand-outs. During December we have another Christmas Ladies' Night planned, and a special Christmas afternoon presentation, including a Nativity Play to which all refugees are invited on Friday 22nd December. 

Please, please keep us all in your prayers, that God will bless the team with good health, stamina, wisdom and patience in the weeks ahead. Its getting very cold here now, and the refugees are often from very warm countries. They don't deal with the cold very well at all. We still urgently need more men's and women's warm winter clothing, particularly coats and footwear. Which has reminded me of a very funny and totally true story from two weeks ago ....

A young German intern from a local church was visiting the Oasis on Thursday Coffee House Night. He soon got chatting with a couple of the young male refugees. They played some games together before they all headed off into one of the video rooms to watch the Jesus movie together. He'd left his warm winter jacket hanging up in the main hallway (not somewhere Oasis staff generally leave their belongings). I bet you can guess what happened next ......

A young refugee from North Africa arrived, shivering with cold, asking if we had a coat that he could take. One of our team took him into the clothing room to look, but could find nothing suitable. In the hallway outside the clothing room she noticed a coat hanging up that looked a perfect fit for him, he tried it on ...... and very gratefully nodded his thanks. Before long he left, warm and happy, to return to the camp. Our intern friend however, was rather surprised to end his first night at the Oasis frantically searching in the clothing room & basement to find himself a suitable coat to wear for his train ride back to Vienna. Fortunately, he took the experience in good spirits, being especially grateful that he hadn't left any personal belongings in his coat pockets! 

 Well friends, on that note I'll end this week's blog. I'm sure there'll be many new stories to share with you next week. We love and miss you all very much indeed, but despite the homesickness we're still confident we're where God wants us to be right now.

So until next time may our Lord watch over you all, comfort those who are hurting, inspire those who are searching, fill those who are hungry and encourage & strengthen those who are weary. Its all for Him dear ones, nothing else in this life compares to serving Jesus.

In His love always

Neal and Lesley