Hello again dear friends and family!

Well - first things first! This week's blog is going to be much shorter than the one I wrote last week. There are two reasons for this - firstly because 'spare time' this week has been in very short supply and secondly because much of our time has been taken up with ministry situations that for various reasons are not appropriate to share here. So I trust you'll forgive the brevity, and pray all the harder for us, that God will continue to strengthen and enable us to fulfil what He's called us here to do, that we will be sensitive to the leading of Holy Spirit and be granted wisdom in all we say and do for the cause of Christ in this place.

On Saturday morning Neal and I walked down to the Oasis to wave goodbye to Martin, Chris, Paul and Andy - the wonderful building team from CBC. Everyone here is thrilled with the transformation they've made to the archaic and delapidated restroom facilities on the ground floor of the building. Wow, what a difference a week has made! Although time constraints meant they weren't able to complete the 'finishing touches', ninety-nine percent of the job is done and it looks fantastic, praise God. Despite a 'little blip' at the ferry crossing on their long homeward journey, the team arrived home in Corsham safe and sound, albeit totally exhausted! Big rewards waiting in heaven for you guys for sure!

 

The new disabled restroom facilities installed by Martin and the CBC building team last week. A mirror is still be added above the sink, and there'll also be a new baby-changing table and bathroom cabinet

For the rest of Saturday morning and early part of the afternoon we all mucked in to get the main meeting room ready for clothing sorting day on Monday. Although we'd tried to protect the various items of furniture in the room from dust and dirt by covering them with dust sheets, towels and the like, it was still quite a major task to return it to something like normalcy. We rolled up and 'dumped' old bits of protective carpet and carried endless tools and building materials back down to the basement. We tidied, dusted, swept, mopped and mopped again .... and eventually, hallelujah! It was done.

The main meeting finally returned to 'normal' with tables in place ready to start sorting donated clothing on Monday.

A monumental sorting day!

Donations of clothing and assorted household items for the refugees arrive at the Oasis on a daily basis. The bags and boxes are all stored in the basement until the monthly 'sorting day' when everything is carried up, piled in a huge heap on the meeting room floor, from where its carefully sorted into labelled boxes ready for distribution to those in need.

During the past month a larger than usual amount of clothing has been donated by local churches. Add to that the dozens of bags brought over from CBC, and the pile we had to sort through was pretty impressive to say the least! Thankfully we had many volunteers this week and by mid afternoon every last piece of clothing had been checked and consigned to its appropriate storage box.

A new heart!

On Tuesday evening Ali and Marzia phoned to ask if they could bring a young woman to our little apartment for prayer. Of course we said 'yes' and a few minutes later we were introduced to Mary (not her real name), a young Iranian lady, probably in her late twenties. She'd only been in the Lager for 2 weeks and Ali and Marzia had just met her on the street. She was alone, frightened and desperately unhappy. 

We welcomed her with tea and biscuits, and as she began to relax a little, she opened up to us about some of the horrific trauma she'd endured since being a small child. She was completely overwhelmed with shame, pain and anguish, convinced it was impossible to ever feel 'clean' again. We explained the beautifully simple Gospel truth that Jesus came from heaven to this earth because He wanted to rescue us from darkness. He carried all our sin, shame, sickness, regret and pain on the cross, so that we would not have to bear it any more. That if she opened her heart to receive His love, He would wash all the sin, pain and sadness away and give her a brand new start. He would make her clean, fresh and new on the inside, and would be with her always.

When she said 'My heart feels like a stone' Neal was able to quote that wonderful scripture from Ezekiel 36:26 which says "I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh." 

Before she left that night, Mary said she believed what we had explained to her from the Word of God. She read aloud several passages of scripture, and asked if we would help her to ask Jesus to be her Lord and Saviour. Neal led her in a prayer of repentance in English, and for good measure Ali led her in prayer in Farsi. We prayed that she would begin to feel true peace and be able to sleep that night for the first time without fear. Ali drove her back to the camp, and she waved 'goodbye' with shining eyes and a look of new-found joy and peace on her face. Thank you Jesus! Nights like this make the heartache of being away from friends and family back home so worthwhile!

UPDATE: We didn't see Mary again until the following Monday at ladies' clothing room day. She rushed across the room to hug us both and after exchanging phone numbers so we could keep in touch on WhatsApp, I introduced her to Stephanie, one of the full time Oasis staff. After she left, I shared with Stephanie a little of her backstory and some of the trauma she's endured. Stephanie has been trained in using art therapy to help trauma victims, and offered to meet up with her if she was willing. That evening Mary messaged me to say she was being transferred to a refugee house around 40 mins drive away, the next day.. I was SO glad we'd exchanged phone numbers! I asked if she'd like to meet up with Stephanie and she immediately said 'Oh yes, please!' Plans have been made for their first art therapy session to take place on Friday. Please pray that Mary will be open to what the Lord wants to do in her life, and for Stephanie to know God's strength in her weakness, as she bravely steps out in faith into this 'front-line' battle. Pray that God will use their time together to bring healing, recovery and restoration to dear Mary's wounded heart.

Asylum interviews .....

On Wednesday, Jeremy, one of the full time Oasis staff spent the whole day at court offering moral support to A and M, a married couple who are believers from Afghanistan. They were having individual interviews for their asylum case. A and M have been in Austria for around three years, and the result of this hearing will determine whether or not they will be allowed to stay. It was late afternoon before Jeremy returned and by the expression on his face we could see that the interviews had not gone as well as they'd hoped. Now begins the long wait - it could still be several more months before they get confirmation of the judge's ruling. Please pray for this dear couple, that God will keep their faith strong and their 'joy levels' up as they wait on God to guide them through the next season of their lives.

Neal and I were particularly impressed later that evening as the weekly outreach programme was underway in the main meeting room, to see our dear brother A quietly pick up a paintbrush and set about painting the walls and ceiling of the new restroom!

Straight after returning from an arduous asylum interview, 'A' offers to paint the new restroom walls and ceiling.

Neal's Notes .....Thursday Coffee Bar Night

On Thursday evening a good crowd turned up for coffee bar and games night. As always, several nationalities were represented. It always thrills my heart to see people from different cultures building relationships over a game of jenga, chess or dominoes, knowing they all share a common bond - they are all refugees, here in Austria because life has become dangerous or unbearable for them in their home countries.

Unusually all the Farsi-speaking people there on Thursday were already believers! Ali and I took the group (between 12-15 men and women) to the upstairs video room, but instead of showing the Jesus Film, we tuned the TV to 'Sat7' for some rousing Farsi worship songs, a sermon in Farsi (that I obviously couldn't understand!) We rounded the evening off with a programme showing a dramatised testimony which fortunately had English subtitles. All in all a different, but very encouraging night of fellowship and fun!

 

 

 

A very busy women's clothing room day!

On Monday around 75 ladies turned up for clothing room day. It was a joy to see so many of the ladies clothes and shoes we'd sorted the previous week being quickly claimed, 'tried on' and stuffed into plastic carrier bags by ladies from countries as far apart as Georgia, Chechnya, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Iran and Syria (to name but a few!)

A Nigerian lady we'd met at children's clothing day three weeks ago who was very heavily pregnant at the time, came bustling through the door with her beautiful new-born twin daughters - just ten days old! Before she left, we gave her two pre-packed 'baby girl' baby bags, filled with a good selection of brand new baby essentials.

Just a few of the large crowd of refugee ladies that came for clothing on Monday

But my absolute favourite moment from Monday afternoon was when I looked up to see Leila, (a volunteer who was herself once a refugee from Armenia) proudly escorting a wheelchair-bound lady to use our brand new disabled restroom facilities! I honestly don't know how this dear soul would have managed had she come to the Oasis a week or more ago. I managed to grab this quick photo as a record - so thrilled and grateful to see the ministry here catering so well for everyone's needs!

Even though there's still a little bit of work left to do, the disabled restroom is already being put to use!

Well, dear friends I'll leave it there for now. For those of you that pray for us, please know that we value your prayers SO much. None of this would be possible without them! The spiritual battles are definitely tougher right now. It can only be that the Kingdom of God is advancing and our adversary is not happy that we are taking ground!

 

Until next time

 

Neal and Lesley