Thursday night gave us an experience we have never had before. Most of you know that a big part of the reason we decided to live in Austria for three months is to aid the refugees here in practical and spiritual ways. Austria's largest refugee camp is in a little town near us. Right outside the camp, there is a place where the refugees come for various kinds of assistance. On Thursday nights, they offer a free coffee and tea bar. Men, women and children come to hang out and play games in the cafe. We had great fun joining in.
Steve found that, in Russia, they play by completely different checkers rules. Watch out when he gets back ... he now has new powers. [After proofreading this with Steve, he says he still doesn't quite know what those rules are]
Somehow, I taught two seven year old boys (Eli and a new friend from Kosovo) how to play chess .................. in German. I never thought I would be relieved to know that someone spoke German, but even the little German I speak gets me a lot further than my non-existent Chechen.
We could hear different languages everywhere as people interacted. We met people from Mongolia, Iran, Israel, Russia and primarily Chechnya. We have been told that there is very little to do inside the camp. That would explain why that was the first time I had ever seen a table surrounded by teenage boys putting together a Winnie the Pooh puzzle. The tea was wonderful and we enjoyed ourselves immensely (well, that is, until a Russian and an Israeli cornered Steve and tried to talk politics ... boy, they picked the wrong guy).
We have been very impressed. This ministry loves and respects these people and their cultures and children and languages. They are not on a crusade. They aren't playing a numbers game with Christian converts or seeking to Westernize or alter cultures. They seek to love people with the love of Jesus in the short time the refugees are here - and if the opportunity is there, to share with them something most have never actually had the chance to hear.
We have no pictures of this time we spent. It wasn't exactly a tourist activity. Perhaps, as time goes on, we will have some - but just know that we sure wish we could show you what we were able to join in on!