What is a trainee? One definition is: ”Someone who receives practical training in all departments within a business and is thus prepared for his future occupation.” That is exactly what happens at the Building Bridges team in Linz/Austria.
A normal week in the Building Bridges team? Is there such a thing? Not really! Yet our week does have some consistant activities. In our weekly team-meetings we stress fellowship and prayer. Team togetherness is important. “It means that I am not alone in this work. Sharing and praying together is a big encouragement for me!” says Seline*, from Switzerland.
Theory and practise
Every Thursday we receive training in different topics: ‘What does hospitality mean?’, ‘Evangelism in everyday life ‘, ’Why are rules important for children?‘. We quickly learn to put in to practise what we learn – whether by drinking tea with Iraqi neighbours, helping with homework and playing UNO in iPunkt, or discussing the rubbish problem in the building with the Turkish caretaker.
The team involves itself in different intercultural projects in Linz and the surrounding area; there are house visits in refugee homes, conversations in the ‘International café’, faith study courses for immigrants, games, crafts and cooking with the children in iPunkt, German courses etc.
A highlight during recent months was the children’s musical, ’The Prodigal Son‘, with children from different nationalities and religions taking part. The parable shows how much the Father loves us, a new concept for many of the children. Forgiveness is an important theme – the forgiveness of God helps us to forgive others.
The work is not always easy. The people with whom we have become friends have suffered much. Many have fled from war and are now trying to build a new life. Some have lived a long time in Austria but still don’t speak much German. Some have recently arrived but don’t know if they will be able to stay. Their daily lives are characterized by insecurity and fear.
”I have learnt to expect more from God than just the small daily things for which I trust Him, and am beginning to learn how God can change bad things into good!” says Katie*, from Wales. She experienced God working in an Afghan family. The daughter dreamed about Jesus. Her mother told her friends that Allah hears the prayers of the Christians, and asked Katie to continue praying for her family, even breaking off her own ritual prayers for this. It is wonderful to be able to pass on the hope that we have in Jesus.
Besides the intercultural ministry, we also emphasise the personal, spiritual growth of the trainees. We read the Bible together, have small group discussions about God and the world, and each team member meets regularly with a mentor. “I am part of a family. I can say anything, be totally honest and also cry without being judged!” is how Chloe*, from Wales, describes her time on the team.
Each trainee takes his own experiences from their time with Building Bridges with him or her. Cathi*, from Germany, says: “I have learnt how to build contacts with my neighbours from different cultures. Despite similarities within a culture, one must get to know each family personally. No two are the same.”