Wednesday, February 9, 2022

90s Europe Trip - Vienna

My second overseas trip was to Europe.  Many of my friends had already been to or lived in Europe in some form or fashion and I had heard all of their stories and was itching to get there myself.  I had several reasons for going:

  1. My main motivation for the trip was to go to Poland and meet the family of my girl friend, Ewa.  I needed to know if I could live in Poland as I was considering marrying her.  Consequently getting exposure to the culture and language was pretty important to me.
  2. I wanted to spend some time with a great friend of mine, Kevin,  in Holland.  I had met him in Texas, and he had been working and living in Holland for close to a year and I wanted to catch up with him.
  3. I had some graphic arts film negatives to deliver to an organization in Austria.  They were translating some Christian discipleship tracts into various eastern European languages and the art work for these tracts was on the film I was delivering.
  4. I wanted to accompany a professor of mine and visit our mutual friend Janis, in his home country, Latvia.  I had worked and gone to school with him in Texas for a while and I wanted to see him in his home country.
May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.  2 Thessalonians 2:16,17

My trip lasted from the middle of December 1993 to April 1994.  In February, Ewa and I travelled by bus from Poland through the Czech Republic to Vienna, Austria.  I was delivering the graphic arts film for translations to an organization called Operation Mobilization in Spillern, a suburb of Vienna.  We had also arranged stay there for a week.  It ended up being quite cold that particular week and we were mostly using public transportation to get around.  I was glad I had packed the warm clothes I did, but we'd still return to our dorms with numb hands and feet. 

In a square in Vienna
Several things happened on that trip that were memorable and highlighted God's faithfulness to me...

The Couple from Brazil

Unfortunately, I'm having to recall these details from memory because several years of my journals were lost to mold and mildew in storage.  As I mentioned above, one of the main reasons for this trip was to discover if Ewa was to be my 'forever partner.'  I had proposed to her earlier on the trip on New Year's Eve, but life happens and I was beginning to question if getting married then was a good idea .  One of the reasons for my hesitation was Ewa is almost 7 years older than me.  

While Spillern we met some of the staff working with the Operation Mobilization office there.  We had an engaging discussion with a married couple that were from Brazil - and it turned out she was also older than he was.  Unfortunately I don't remember their names now, but they invited us over for dinner one evening, and shared their story with us.  Hearing the story of how they met and their encouragement, I felt God encouraging me that this relationship with Ewa would have His blessing and work out.  God provided the confirmation I needed on that significant life decision!

Ewa's Surprises

Ewa had come with me on this trip because she hadn't been to Austria before and she had time available.  I had limited contact with the people at the Spillern OM office before arriving, so we weren't sure what to expect.  Ewa knew no one.  My only acquaintance there was my contact, and as it turned out, I didn't know him as well as I thought I did.

We finally met my contact in the middle of our week there (he did a lot of travelling).  In talking with him, we discovered that the name I knew him by, 'Charles', was actually a pseudonym (for safety and anonymity) because he spent most of his time smuggling Christian literature into communist countries.  This was a bit of a surprise to me, but immediately reminded me of Brother Andrew and one of my favourite books - God's Smuggler.

Charles then proceeded to ask Ewa if she knew any pastors in Poland.  Ewa actually knew quite a few pastors in Poland because of her previous years working as a liaison between the Polish Baptist Union and the Southern Baptists of North Carolina.  It turned out that Ewa and Charles knew several of the same Polish pastors.  He asked Ewa if she remember times when a truck would arrive in the middle of the night at her church in Czestohowa with a 'delivery', which she recalled.  He said 'I helped drive those trucks to that church!'  Talking further, we discovered that Ewa's first Bible, and much of the edible provisions that she received from that church during her time at college in Czestohowa were from those truck deliveries from the OM office in Austria!  This was very encouraging 'devine appointment' for both Charles and Ewa.  God's provision of encouragement.

Even back then, Austria was expensive and we were both on budgets.  Ewa was quite concerned about how much money she had left.  Towards the env of our week there, Ewa came back to her room after we had been out and found a note with money for her on her bed.  She was so happy and thankful for this, God's provision again.  We were so encourage in our trip to Vienna.

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