Overlooking the town of Linz in Austria: the centre with  several churches.

Building bridges

Audry met Sarah in a language learning class. The two began meeting outside of class to practise and soon were talking about more than the weather and how to greet someone.

Audry Thurman grew up in the USA. As a child, she was fascinated by stories of believers who shared their faith around the world, but it wasn’t until she was 21 and studying at a Bible college that she fully realised the Lord was calling her to missions as well. After completing her degree in Biblical Studies with an emphasis on Cross-Cultural Communication, she joined OM in Austria where she serves on the Building Bridges team. Audry and her teammates work among Muslim refugees by meeting practical needs, building friendships, leading Bible studies and sharing the good news of Jesus.

During my first year in Austria in 2022, I became friends with a young Syrian woman named Sarah*. We met in an introductory German class for women and, because we were seated next to one another, we were often partnered for speaking exercises. Sarah had moved to Austria one year before to join her husband, who had already settled into an apartment. Even though she said her life was much better in Europe, Sarah quickly began to feel overwhelmed by the language and cultural barriers she encountered in Austria. While her husband went to work, she spent most days at home with their two small children. As a result, she felt quite isolated and stressed by the daunting task of learning German. I was able to relate to a lot of what Sarah was experiencing; at the time, I was also struggling to learn German and felt overwhelmed by moving to a new culture. 

Sarah and I began to meet at her house once a week; at first, it was merely a chance for us to practise our language skills while we played with her kids or cooked together. But before long, we were opening up and sharing our struggles with one another. We invited a young Austrian mom, Natanja, to join us, and the three of us began to pray with — and for — one another every week. Because Natanja speaks English and German fluently and even studied Arabic, she could communicate clearly between us or translate as needed. Natanja is also a believer and has a strong heart for sharing the gospel with other young moms. She gifted Sarah an Arabic Bible and offered to begin reading it with her. Sarah accepted gratefully and before long, our weekly language sessions had transformed into an impromptu Bible study! 

Now Sarah and Natanja study their Bibles together in Arabic while I play with their children, who have become quite good friends with one another. Having the opportunity to read the Bible in her native language has impacted Sarah in great ways. She says that she looks forward to those times because she knows she will see the world a bit differently afterwards. These hours in Scripture have prompted many interesting discussions during the past few months. 

For example, at the end of 2023, Sarah and Natanja were reading through the passage in Matthew 2 where King Herod kills the young children in Bethlehem after Jesus, Mary and Joseph have fled. Natanja later shared with me that she had felt a bit nervous to read through this passage with Sarah, who is not yet a believer. Nevertheless, she asked Sarah what she thought about the verses. Sarah responded that it helped her understand and respect God more! She could see how much God condemned and despised the evil actions of a man like King Herod and how God also protected a lowly girl (Mary) and her young family from Herod’s wrath. She also said she related to the fear and anxiety that Mary and Joseph must have felt as they fled to another country with their small child. In this simple passage, Sarah was able to see God’s grace and justice as well as relate to the people in the story! 

It's been so humbling to see the Holy Spirit at work in the hearts of Sarah and her family! Please keep them in your prayers as we continue to read the Bible together. 

*name changed

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