Celebrating Thanksgiving Day, and  looking back over a very blessed week!

Our contribution to the meal - some good old British staples! Enough honey-roasted parsnips, sprouts and carrots to feed an army with quite a bit left over for 'bubble and squeak.'

Its been an exciting, busy & challenging week here at the Oasis - such a lot has happened to be thankful for, so in this blog I'll attempt to share just a few of those things with you.

Amidst all the activities we've been blessed to have Joan from CBC visiting with us. Later in this blog she'll share some of the highlights of her time here.

In addition to all the 'usual' weekly programmes, we've been busy putting up the Christmas tree & decorations in the main meeting room, assembling 100 Christmas Gift Bags to give out to the refugee ladies, and on Saturday we celebrated Thanksgiving Day together with a meal fit for a king!

 

The beautifully decorated tables with seating for 26 Oasis staff, short-termers and their families

We've been firming up plans for our Christmas programmes, including a special outreach afternoon on Friday 22nd December. You'll be thrilled to hear it includes a nativity play in which Neal plays both a shepherd and a temple-goer. There'll be some humourous photos to follow I'm sure!

So here are some recollections of this week's blessings, starting first with yesterday's festivites .......

The main meeting room at the Oasis has been used for many different things over the years. On Saturday afternoon it was the setting for the annual team Thanksgiving Meal. 

 

Tucking in ......

As ever, I'm impressed with the way everyone here just 'mucks in' when there's something important to be done. And what a fabulous feast our combined effort produced!

Despite some major issues with both the Oasis ovens (we won't even go there!) the entire building was soon filled with the aroma of roasting turkey & vegetables,  and a huge variety of American-inspired hot & cold side dishes.

We'd planned to eat by 3:00 - 3:30pm and despite one or two moments of panic we actually achieved our goal! Twenty-six hungry adults and children fellowshipping together over a delicious dinner, followed by home-made pumpkin pie & whipped cream, and other assorted desserts.

A quick peek at our ladies Christmas bag assembly line .......

Before turning it into a 'temporary restaurant' on Saturday, the main Oasis meeting room doubled up as a 'production line' for assembling the ladies' Christmas gift bags.

Each pretty tote bag (all handmade by the ladies from the Baden Gemeinde) was filled with 12 little personal gifts for the refugee ladies. 

The task of purchasing the ladies gifts had been delegated to me some time ago, and Neal and I had spent many hours over the past few weeks searching the local shops & supermarkets for special little personal things we felt the ladies would enjoy. With a budget of only 10 euros per bag it was quite a challenge - not to mention the number of shopping trips required to purchase 100 of each item! (and you all know just how much Neal LOVES shopping!) 😀🙃🤪

But praise the Lord, we managed to find 12 suitable items, squirreling them all away week by week into empty banana boxes ready for the big 'bag assembly day.'

Here's a photo to show you what we eventually decided on:

A bottle each of shampoo and showergel; a ladies hairbrush; a bottle of nail polish, a nail file and nail polish remover; a pretty compact mirror; a packet of paper tissues; a roll-on deodourant; 100 makeup remover pads; a little jewelled notebook and a ballpoint pen.

Not too shabby for just 10 euros each, huh?

Our wonderful 'Christmas gift bag assembly crew!'

On Friday evening the little town square right opposite our apartment here in Traiskirchen was host to a really quaint little 'Medieval Fayre.'

The tiny church and square were beautifully lit, and there were stalls selling all manner of 'olde worlde' gifts and produce.

There were live puppet / marrionette shows for the little ones (although we couldn't understand much of what was being said) and a huge 'spit' where some unidentified meat was slowly turning and roasting, sending a wonderful hunger-inducing aroma into the night air.

 

We wandered around for an hour or so, enjoying the atmosphere, and as the loudspeakers pumped out some wonderfully authentic medieval lute and lyre music, madrigals and haunting old plainsong chants, we sampled the orange, clove and ginger mulled wine - which was gently simmering, along with several other concotions, in large cauldrons over charcoal fire pits. (A great way to keep warm as the weather here has turned decidedly chilly of late!)

So - all in all it was a very enjoyable and unexpected end to the day!

Joan's jottings ......

Before she left us to return to the UK on Friday morning, I asked Joan if she'd like to jot down one or two highlights of her five days with us here at the Oasis. This is what she wrote:

"What a privilege to be back at the Oasis once again. Change is always apparent here. Team members, volunteers, new programmes/classes. So, edited highlights:

- The mums and kids who came through the clothing room. Lots of warm winter things given to about 75 kids, including toys.

- Decorating the main meeting room and displaying the nativity scene for the refugees (I'm now very competent in affixing hangers onto Christmas baubles)

- A new programme, 'Ladies Chai Time.' Snacks to eat, drinks, nail painting, lots of chatter, birthday cake with candles for a one-year-old (photographs and Chechnyan dancing followed) The room was buzzing with chatter. What a real joy to see these ladies spend a couple of hours in a happy, safe environment, just being ladies. The stresses and problems in their lives had not disappeared as starting a new life in an alien culture is so difficult we cannot imagine it, but for a short time all the trauma they have faced could be left behind.

Stand out changes? Team now supported by plenty of volunteers, and the Oasis building is newly decorated and has a new kitchen - all looking smart and modern.

Its been an absolute pleasure to visit Neal and Lesley once again and witness first-hand their ministry here.

Neal and Joan enjoying a meal at our apartment with 'F', 'M' and their little four-year-old son 'R.'

On Thursday afternoon we invited a family from Iran to share a meal with us. This little family have been living at the refugee camp for two or three months, and have been coming to the Oasis regularly.

Their story is harrowing and complicated, and for their safety I cannot share much of it openly on this blog. But in brief - 'F' gave his life to Jesus, secretly, in Iran after being witnessed to by a friend at work. He started attending an underground church and soon his wife 'M' joined him and also committed her life to Christ.

They're both highly educated (both have masters degrees) and speak excellent English. They had very good jobs and were living a comfortable life with their young son.

For reasons I cannot divulge they left Iran, intending to fly to the UK, but were arrested by Italian police as they were boarding a connecting flight in Italy. They managed to find a way over the border, arriving in Austria a couple of months ago.

'M' has been hospitalised several times since arriving at the camp and for a time was on 'suicide watch.' She is suffering from acute PTSD, depression and anxiety for which she takes a cocktail of 15 tablets every day. 'F' is doing his best to take care of his wife and son while struggling to make a 'home' for them out of a tiny, cramped and dingy room at the camp.

This lovely couple have lost everything since accepting Christ, yet 'F's greatest wish is to study and learn more of the scriptures. He is a brilliant academic, having written several research papers and thesies in his particular field of study.

 'M' has a masters degree in art and is a very talented multi-media artist, yet in the camp she has no access to any artist materials which might help her regain a little of her dignity and self-respect. 

It was a privilege to have them over to our apartment for a meal, and we're planning to spend much more time with them in the coming weeks. They've been regularly attending the Farsi Bible study group at the local evangelical church, and often meet to discuss life as a Christian with our dear friends Ali and Marzia.

Please pray for these dear ones - your brother and sister in Christ - that God will heal their fractured emotions and broken hearts, restoring to them the joy of their salvation. Pray that they will be treated favourably by the authorities here, that they will not be deported back to Italy, but will be issued their white cards soon. Also that they will not be transferred to another area of Austria, but will be allowed to stay close to Traiskirchen so they can continue to be ministered to at the Oasis and build relationships with other local Farsi-speaking Christians.

Neal's notes ......

On Wednesday night, Jeremy's Gospel talk was based on the story in the Book of Acts, about the healing of the lame man outside the temple by the apostle Peter ..... "Silver and gold have I none ......"

Although the cold weather had restricted the number of refugees out on the streets, by the time we started playing our opening worship songs (courtesy of YouTube) we had several nationalities present, including Iranian, Afghan, Kurdish, Chechnyan and Armenian.

As the preaching came to a close and we handed out hot drinks and snacks, those present divided up (as they always do) into language groups for further discussion. A group of Farsi-speaking young men and a young lady went up to the 'upstairs room' with Ali and me to ask questions and discuss what they'd heard. The majority of them have been coming to the Oasis for quite a while and several have been to the Farsi group at church on a Sunday morning.

We had a really good time discussing, among other things, the need for believers to perserve in prayer as outlined in Jesus' parable of the unjust judge, but finished our conversations early because they'd spent the day being interviewed as part of their asylum applications. They had not slept much the night before and as a result were very tired. We prayed together that God would strengthen and encourage them before heading back downstairs.

By this time the other groups had disbanded, and as the rest of the team were stacking the chairs and tidying up the room, someone had put on a CD of one of our favourite Farsi worship songs "Allelujah." It was such a joy to watch these tired young believers suddenly come to life and join enthusiastically in the singing. 

Chai Time ...................

Happy birthday to a very sweet little one-year-old

Joan has already told you a little bit about our Chai Time programme this week, so I'll keep this short and sweet...... It was, as always, pretty amazing! 

During the afternoon we made personalised wall hangings, had our regular manicure table, made beaded necklaces, Almendra was back (after being off poorly last week) with her trusty sewing machine, working her 'magic' on all manner of clothing brought in by the ladies, and we celebrated three birthdays!

The little Chechnyan girl in this picture was celebrating her first birthday. Michi had baked a her a gorgeous cake and I'd found a photo we'd taken the previous week which we colour-copied and put in a frame for her delighted mother.

If you look very closely you'll see me and Joan hovering in the background .......

And the highlight (I hope it loads up OK) was a little video I took of her big brother and two of her sisters doing a traditional Chechnyan folk dance in her honour. Absolutely adorable ❤❤❤

How beautiful is this? Moments like these are so precious to us all, but to this dear mother it must have been truly special. Please pray for this little family who have not yet become believers. They are so attracted to the love of Jesus they receive here at the Oasis and we are praying they will acknowledge Him as Lord very soon!

Well dear friends, there is more I could tell you about what happened at clothing room on Monday, and our Oasis 'decorating day' on Tuesday this week, but to be truthful I'm very tired - been sitting at this laptop literally non-stop for almost four hours, so I think its time to call it a day!

I'm sure there'll be lots more to share with you next time, but please remember to pray for all those we've mentioned this week, and also for us - as we do for you all.

Until next week, stay safe and secure in His abundant love, and be blessed in all your comings and goings.....

We love you all

Neal and Lesley