Wednesday ..... the story of just ONE wonderful day here at the Oasis!

I'm sure I only just blinked .... and yet another week has quite literally flown by. Here we are at the end of our tenth week in Austria. We've started to feel so 'at home' here now that I have to squeeze my eyes tight and concentate quite hard to picture our little house way back there in Bathford!

Its been back to earth with a bump since we returned from our little mini break in Salzburg. Another seven days of emotional 'ups and downs' as we've shared a little more of our lives and hearts with the refugees - crazy, chaotic, challenging, hilarious, heartbreaking, heartwarming - what we've come to accept is a 'typical' week here at the Oasis. 

So I thought I'd change things up a bit for this blog, and instead of trying to cover the whole week, I'll 'zoom in' on just one wonderful day  ...... Wednesday.

But, before I start recounting stories from the morning onwards - I want to share this little video with you - filmed during the very last moments of the day. In just under a minute it pretty much sums up the atmosphere of the whole week! 🤪

Neal's  been officially adopted as 'Granddad Oasis' by the refugee children this week!

Exactly how much hilarity can be produced by just half a dozen simple balloons? Well, these precious little boys from Kurdistan showed us how much enjoyment was possible as they launched an all-out 'balloon attack' on Neal at the end of our Wednesday Night Programme.

The boys, from two Kurdish Iraqi families, had come from the camp with their fathers. They'd already spent all afternoon with us, arriving with their mothers for the 2:00pm 'Chai Time' women's programme (more of that later). We invited both families back for the evening event, but because the children were so young (all of them under 10) we didn't really hold out much hope of them returning, much less with both their fathers in tow!

But return they did! And they arrived very early too! We were still setting up the room, but of course we welcomed them in out of the cold, and to keep them occupied we blew up a few balloons. They played together happily as we finished putting out the chairs and organising the sound equipment. Then as some of our team went out onto the local streets to pass out invitations to any refugees they met, the rest of us joined in the game with them.

The room soon filled up and the programme started, as it always does, with music and singing, Stephanie quickly found a Christian worship song in Kurmanji to play for them. The boys obediently sat down with their Dads on the front row, their balloons relegated quietly to the floor beneath their chairs.

And for the next hour and a half they were as good as gold! I'll tell you about the rest of the evening later .......

Neal's Notes

One of my weekly duties here at Oasis is to host the Wednesday morning beginners and advanced German Classes. I arrive at around 8:00 am to set the rooms up, prepare the huge urn of spiced chai and get the coffee machines going. Then, as refugees begin to arrive for the 9:00 am start, I welcome them in and try if possible to engage them in a little conversation before they take their seats at their desks.

This week I got chattng to a man from Syria who told me, amongs other things, that he had eight children who were back at the camp with his wife.  It was at this point that I introduced him to our programme of activities for the week and specifically highlighted the Wednesday afternoon 'Chai Time' - a social/craft event especially for the refugee ladies.

His response was a sad little smile of acknowledgement at Oasis' interest in refugee women, and he once again explained that he had eight children. My suggestion that he could take care of his children for an hour or two that afternoon to give opportunity for his wife to come along, produced what I can only describe as a 'Manuel from Fawlty Towers' moment! You might recall his 'Que?' response, and the confused almost incredulous look on his face ......?

Well, the look on my new friend's face at the very thought of me suggesting he might take care of his children to allow his wife some 'time off' was a picture of stunned, bemused puzzlement! He then decided that the idea was so completely ludicrous that I was obviously joking!

Slapping me on the arm with a loud guffaw, he left to join his class, chuckling at the ridiculous humour of this crazy Englishman! 🤪

Chai Time - an afternoon of chaotic, colourful and creative companionship

One of the craft tables full of happy refugee mums and children

The Wednesday afternoon women's programme (affectionately known as 'Chai Time') is rapidly becoming one of the busiest and most spiritually 'fruitful' of all the Oasis programmes.

This week was no exception. We counted 25 children and between 20-25 women (Its hard to be accurate as they keep coming and going!)

This week I sat at the pictured table, spending the majority of my time chatting with the beautiful family in the foreground. They are living in the camp, and come from Ukraine. They've been coming to the Oasis for several weeks. The Mum 'S' is heavily pregnant with her seventh child.

One of the girls, 14-year-old 'R,' is quite severely disabled and has to use a wheelchair. 'R' and I have built up quite a close relationship over the weeks. Her understanding of English is good enough for me to tell her a little of how much Jesus loves her. Please keep 'R' and her growing family in your prayers.

Meanwhile, on another table a group of Arabic speaking ladies and children from several different middle-eastern countries were happily making paper-bag hand puppets, twisting coloured pipe cleaners to make curls, using little glue-on eyes, tiny coloured woollen pom-poms for noses and all manner of sparkly beads and sequins to complete the decoraton.

As they relaxed together, some of the ladies demonstrated how creative they could be by making a variety of pretty hair ornaments using pipe cleaners and pompoms, for both themselves and their daughters. 

Sitting at the table with them was Ruth, one of our fellow 'short-termers' who was patiently teaching some of the boys to count in English and Deutsch. 

By 3pm the room was absolutely packed out. As you can see from the photo, in addition to several babies, toddlers, kids, teenagers, mothers and grandmothers, we had quite a number of wheelchairs, prams and pushchairs to accomodate . 

The rug in the centre of the room was donated a week or two ago by a former refugee family who now have permanent residency in Austria. Its wonderfully encouraging to witness people who've been helped by Oasis in the past, coming back again and again to do what they can to help others.

So after a quick spruce-up with the vaccuum, the rug was put to good use as a 'toddler play area' (although our original intention was to encourage the Afghan ladies to sit on it with cushions, as they often do back home in Afghanistan). Hopefully that will happen in future weeks!🤭

When a couple of the ladies asked if we could bring down the ever-popular nail polish box, every table in the room was already filled, so we had to quickly think 'out of the box' eventually deciding to utilize the Coffee Bar's chess table to set up a makeshift 'beauty salon.'

Women the world over love a bit of pampering, don't they? And some of these ladies were exceptionally skilled at nail art, fashioning all sorts of pretty designs for one another, all the while laughing, sharing their life stories and slowly building precious new relationships with us and with each other.

Meanwhile, back on my table we had started to sing. I have no idea why, but I started quietly, almost absent-mindedly singing "Yes Jesus loves me" as we coloured in little cardboard bookmarks, and continued working on our hand puppets. Suddenly I realised the girls had stopped chattering and were listening to me. I explained it was an old children's song that followers of Jesus have sung for many years in England.

One of 'S's older daughters pulled out her mobile phone (or 'handy' as they call them here) and found a Ukrainian childen's song on YouTube. She played it quietly and all the girls joined in, laughing, doing the actions and clapping their hands. Even though our little 'sing off' only lasted a few minutes, it was a really special time.

Organised chaos ....

And then they were gone ..... it really was the strangest thing. One minute we were packed out, every corner filled with noisy kids and their chattering mothers and grandmothers - the next we were saying hurried goodbyes and turning around to start clearing up the mess. The evening meal at the camp is served promptly at 5pm, and if refugees are not back in time they have to find another way of filling their hungry tummies.

So off they all trundled, some blowing us air kisses as they left, others hugging us with genuine affection and gratitude for an afternoon where their trauma and troubles had been momentarily forgotten. And as always, we somehow managed to get the room looking neat and tidy again, with enough time left to grab a quick bite to eat before the evening programme began. 

Relaxing in our newly refurbished staff  lounge/break-out area

Christoph, Jeremy and Ken watching a teaching DVD

What a blessing our new, comfortable staff room at the Oasis is! In between programmes on busy days we now have somewhere warm, stylish and comfortable to kick back and recharge our batteries.

And what I just love about God's timing is that this week we had a phone call from 'H' and her children asking if we could help her find a much needed coffee table and shelving unit for her sparcely furnished little room in Vienna.

Well, guess what? We were able to say "Yes, of course! You can  have our 'old' staff room coffee table, and last week someone donated a nearly-new shelving unit that doesn't fit anywhere at the Oasis - that can be yours too, if you want it!"

She was thrilled, and on Thursday afternoon, both items of furniture were loaded into the team van and delivered to Vienna for her!

Don't you just LOVE it when God steps in?

On the other side of the room, Stephanie, Ruth and Bob are equally engrossed. I actually took these photos on Tuesday during our staff devotional time. We've been watching a DVD series called 'Tactics' by an Amerian Christian teacher called Greg Koukl.

It's a really excellent set of teachings on how to share Christ with all kinds of people, not just refugees. He outlines a strategy he calls "The Columbo Method.".... just using a few simple questions to ascertain what a person believes and why. Way too much to go into here, but its a series we would both heartliy recomend to anyone who wants to become a more effective witness for Jesus.

One of our favourite Wednesday night meetings so far ....

Our new Kurdish friends sitting very patiently and respectfully as the Gospel is preached in languages they don't understand!

On Wednesday evening, Bob taught on the parable of the sower. He'd prepared slides to illustrate the different types of ground the seed fell into. 

As always, we'd prayed together as a team before some of the guys went out to invite people back for the programme. By 7:30 the only people we had in were six young Kurdish boys with their fathers 'A' and 'G,' and a couple of Armenians who've been coming for some time.

Then, just before 7:45 Ali and the other guys from the team returned with a group of Farsi speaking men from Afghanistan and Iran.

But we had a major problem! Ali of course could interpret into Farsi, and faithful Leila had arrived to translate into Armenian, but we had no-one who could speak a word of Kurmanji, the native toungue of Northern Kurdistan.  We eventually discovered that both families also spoke Arabic, but the only person we know who speaks Arabic hadn't turned up either!

Well, we did what we could. If nothing else, we could find the scripture passage about the sower in our Arabic bibles for them - they could at least read the parable, and look at the illustrative slides Bob had prepared.

So Bob preached in English. Ali translated into Farsi. Ken quietly whispered the German translation into Leila's ear so she could translate into Armenian for her little group. And all the while, the two Kurdish families sat quietly listening but not understanding, until after about half an hour Bob asked us all to bow our heads in prayer.

Lahzy explaining the meaning of the parable of the sower to 'A' and 'G'

At that exact moment, the door suddenly  burst open and in walked Lahzy - a larger-than-life regular volunteer who lives in Vienna. Lahzy speaks Arabic! He doesn't understand much German, English or Farsi, so couldn't have interpreted the message, but he is a skilled evangelist who loves Jesus very much, and could certainly 'run' with the parable of the sower!

We later learned that Jeremy, one of the Oasis team members, had phoned him with the simple, urgent request "Lahzy, please come now - we need you". 

Hallelujah! Lahzy immediately grabbed his bag, put on his coat and jumped on the Lokalbahn for the hour's journey to Traiskirchen, arriving quite literally just in time to pray with these guys and explain the meaning of the parable to them!

So, by now you'll understand the setting for the little video at the start of this week's blog. 

I the background of this photo you'll see two groups of men sitting in circles, earnestly discussing the scriptures together. Nearest the piano, Lahzy is explaining the Gospel to 'A' and 'G.' In the other group, Ali is encouraging and preaching Jesus to the group of Farsi speaking men.

And Neal - who unfortunately speaks neither Farsi or Arabic was fulfilling the vital role of keeping the children occupied while the Lord worked on the hearts of the grown ups.

Oh - and for the record, I (Lesley) along with the rest of the Wednesday night team, was in the kitchen, washing up the chai and coffee mugs as we all quietly prayed God's blessing on the conversations taking place in the main room.

That's what true team work is all about! Each one of us playing our part, and each part equally important to the ministry of this very, very special place!

Well folks, as I'm writing this its now  little after 10:00 pm on Sunday evening. We've had a busy day travelling to the airport to meet our friend Joan from Corsham who's going to be staying with us for the next few days. No doubt next week's blog will include news of what she's been up to ..... and who knows what else will happen in the coming week? 

You'll have to watch this space to find out!

Until next week, may you all know God's loving, comforting, encouraging and faithful presence in your homes, your places of work - blessing all you do and say to further His wonderful kingdom.

Our love, as always, to you all

Lesley and Neal