What does it take to be a missionary?
If you had asked me that question one year ago, I would have told you prayer, knowledge of the Bible, and a little courage. I have now learned from experience that it takes lots of paperwork, more paperwork, and some more paperwork!
It probably depends on where on the globe God calls you, but for us, the paperwork to live in Austria has been our biggest challenge and faith project so far. Obtaining visas to legally live here has been an adventure to say the least. We have spent hours filling out applications, obtaining and turning in apostilled documents, waiting, waiting, and more waiting. I think I now dream about birth certificates, marriage certificates, a meldezettel (Austrian address registrations), proof of income papers, passports, student cards, public transportation cards, e-cards (Ausutrain health insurance), and well, the list goes on.
Oh and did I mention that we moved to the mission field in the middle of a world-wide pandemic? COVID-19 has thrown a huge “wrench” into our plans. In March 2020 it was determined that Americans could not even enter Austria. The paperwork that we already had to do was multiplied due to COVID-19, including multiple medical tests proving we did not have the virus.The fact that we are here is truly a miracle of God, and there is no doubt in our minds this is His will for us.
Josh and Sydney had to learn and pass an A1 level German course in order to get their visas. These two had never spoken a word of German before entering Austria. I watched as they went to a class at a local college 2-3 times a week at night for hours at a time. They studied, practiced, and laughed – laughed at themselves making mistakes or saying something incorrectly. They faced the challenge of learning the basics of another language, and they overcame! As our friend and missionary, Jim Puhr, said to Josh, “The hardest language to learn is the one you are trying to learn at the moment!” Sure some languages are probably harder to learn than others, but when you have to pass a language test to get your visa, the intensity definitely increases. While most of the time learning a new language is for fun, or for a school class, learning a new language for Josh and Sydney was tied to obtaining visas and the ability to stay in our new country. That fact multiplied the pressure a hundred fold. Josh told me that before he went in to take the test he read a text sent to him from a beloved mentor and prophet. The text said, “this is God’s will for you and do not despise small beginnings.”
While the paperwork and language class seem so insignificant compared to what God has called us to do here in Europe to reach souls with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we know that it is part of the process. We have to put our faith into the paperwork and into learning the language in order to be here to reach those in need. While it doesn’t feel very “spiritual” to fill out applications, get an apostille, or make another appointment at the immigration office, it truly is our worship right now. We are honoring God by giving effort to do what He has called us to do. We are not despising these “small beginnings,” but rather seeing every moment and everything we do as an opportunity to bring glory to God.
By the way … we now ALL have two year visas to live in Austria! Praise God for His faithfulness!