Not as refugees, but as friends

Timotheus and Jessica recently joined OM Austria’s Building Bridges team with their three small children. There was a long time between God originally calling them into missions and this move to Graz in southern Austria.

In the summer of 2008, Timotheus and Jessica met at an evangelistic outreach in Graz which eventually led to their getting married. Although both from Germany, they spent their first married years together in a different town in Austria, where Timotheus worked as an IT-systems assistant and Jessica studied nursing. They felt in need of theological training and moved back to Germany to enrol at a Bible School for four years. During this time Amy (6), Aaron (4) and Elea (1) were born. “They enrich our lives, make us laugh and sometimes also weep,” shares Timotheus.

Now the family is back in Austria where OM–through its Building Bridges Team–has been working among refugees in partnership with local churches and organisations. As part of the initiative, a house called ‘Peace and Hope’ has been provided for Christian asylum seekers and converts. It is something special for these people to be able to live in freedom and without fear of hostility.

“We want to help them grow in their faith, get integrated into Austrian society and be involved with a local church,” explains Timotheus. “I am involved in the International Café and in the Arabic speaking Bible study but also help with administration and organisational things.

"A lot of the work is about relationships. Next to being a mother and caring for the home Jessica is part of this as well. After the first very busy weeks of settling in, we now have more time to invest in the people we came for. We want to share our lives with them. We want them to experience that there are people in Austria who do not primarily see them as refugees but as friends. When this happens, integration will work differently, and the gospel can be shared quite naturally.”

Even before their wedding in the summer of 2010, God seperately drew the couple's eyes and hearts towards the multitude of Muslims who do not know the God of the Bible or who have never heard about Him. Jessica spent a year in China. During Ramadan she saw the streets filled with Muslims praying in front of the mosque. But where do their prayers go to? At the same time God led Timotheus through a dream to think about those Muslims who have come to faith in Jesus and he regularly started praying for them. Since then, they have the desire to serve these people; bringing the gospel to those who possibly have never heard before.

Timotheus explains: “In Romans 10:14 Paul states: ‘How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?’ I myself lived about 20 years without knowing Jesus. Nobody told me about Him either. Once I had heard the gospel, and observed the people who lived it, I knew: that is what I am missing. It just needed someone to tell me about it. In the same way, there is big openness for the gospel among Muslims, but because of fears and prejudices, there are way too few people who share it with them.”

Nearly 10 years lay between Timotheus and Jessica's call to serve among Muslims and their start with OM. The biggest challenge during this time was not to lose sight of God’s calling. Timotheus says he likes to tackle things quickly and directly. But God sent them on a longer way of preparation. In hindsight it proved to be a very valuable time: finding their way as a married couple, growing in faith.

“Sometimes it was frustrating,” Timotheus admits. “I wanted to quickly get into the actual ministry, waiting is not one of my strengths. Jessica takes things a lot easier, which helped us during the process. That and the fact that God had given both of us this mandate. It helped to cope with the long preparation, and to concentrate on serving God in the work He has called us to.”

Please pray for the small OM team in Graz as they grow together as a team. For God’s leading in how to do and develop the work, for God to use them, for blessed relationships and that His Kingdom is built among immigrants and refugees in Graz.

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