Now it has been a while since we saw each other and so we would like to give a brief insight into our lives. In July 2016, my mother, 95 years old, went to Jesus. At the grave I was able to be glad for her passing happily over the finish line, but on the other hand I miss my parents. It is also startling to think that now we are the next generation to say goodbye to this earth. Yes, I have my parents in soothing memory. I am also happy when I look at the fruits of their devotion to Jesus. Together they have led hundreds, if not more than a thousand people (mostly indirectly) to Jesus. My mother had started with her husband. Pastors and missionaries came forth from 9 children, 34 grandchildren and 27 great grandchildren. For example, in 1992, I led a young man to Christ. Today, he is serving in prison ministry. Beside many others one of his converts was a South American. He has been deported and now leads a church of over 200 souls in his country. The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, when it reaches good soil, it will bring forth fruits and become great. I am proud of great people like my parents, may our children experience the same with us. I would like to tell you about our life in the family and the church. Our Lord Jesus is very good to us and we can be grateful to him with all our heart.
As with you, not only are we getting older, but also our children. Nathanja lives with her family in Hagenbrunn and expects our third grandchild. In the picture on the right you can see Samuel and Hanni. Emanuel lives with his Ramona in Wichtrach and is studying in Bern International Studies – he wants to become a diplomat. Gabriel is a social worker in Schwäbisch Hall D and is also a member of “Passion” in Gailenkirchen. Yes, he is in love with a pretty German lady, Janina.
Well, our David is a faithful soul and helps us as youth and worship leader valiantly in the CGWN. In Vienna he is a part-time kindergartener. In addition, he studies for a bachelor’s degree in music production.
Now, to our two boys remaining at home: Robbie has grown eleven years old on 11.12, a tough guy – and still wild, but has a loving heart. At school he shows, according to the teacher, a pronounced social competence. He is a Son of God! In the autumn, he will probably go to the middle school in Strasshof. He does not like to study, but he plays nicely the clarinet and piano. His best friends are our two chickens. Eric has become a friendly boy, nice and smart. The teacher loves him, he too is a child of God, a great joy. He loves to play with perseverance his flute. We are very grateful to God for his physical and cognitive development. From his origins, he carries only a certain disorder of sight.
To our church life. After the evangelical congregation in Strasshof (the city we live) closed down in 2013, now in October 2016 we started the association Christengemeinde Marchfeld. As long as there was a church here, I did not feel compelled to be spiritually active. I was fully covered with my job, the churches and family life, and I did not want to add anything else. However, I had no peace to live in an area with 50’000 people without the possibility to attend a local evangelical church. Now I am very happy that we worship the Lord every Friday in our living room with folks of all the neighboring towns. This is a great beginning of church planting. In these suburbs of Vienna we have mostly families with children. Brigitte’s heart is moved seeing the suffering that often occur in these families, because the parents no longer know how to deal with their children, or divorces cause major catastrophes. Now we are planning for the first time a children’s camp in July 2017. The CGM is supposed to grow and I ask God for a couple to take over the leadership of this community.
Our mission continues to bear fruit in Vienna. The CGWN has become a fairly stable community. Our membership grew to about 50 people. The Bulgarian BCGWN with about 120 members has emerged from it. Because of the Bulgarians, we are currently intensively looking for a bigger building. For about a year they had church services like the “sardines.” But they are “beautifully oiled from heaven.” This work makes a lot of fun.
On Sunday afternoon the Turkish TCGWN meets. Vienna has about 200,000 inhabitants of Turkish descent and I would like to reach them. God loves the Turks! We are currently experiencing a headwind in this group, as an American missionary couple, who has accompanied, has to return to the US in June for seven months because of the visa. Mustafa, the leader died last week because of stomach cancer. There is no church offered in Vienna in Turkish language and with a commitment to reach the Turks. Dear God help us with another leader and give us a breakthrough in reaching Turk Muslim.
Our youngest child is the Kurdish KCGWN, which meets on Saturday afternoon. When a Turkish conflict against Kurds took place in Vienna, my thoughts came to my heart: “Dear Jesus, the Kurds need a church.” This people always comes under the wheels of history. A great nation without land, always strangers in a foreign country. I moved these thoughts further before God. One day a Jordanian from Graz called me and said, “I know Nashat Smo, he is a Kurd and wants to start a church.” We met the family and got to know their precious hearts. They have already built up a community in Syria. They told us a very moving story of how they were saved by Jesus and came to Austria. Here they have now obtained asylum. He told me that to his knowledge this was the first Kurdish community in Europe. The first Kurdish meeting took place two months ago. Praise to the Lord. Nashat the pastor was a book keeper in Syria, now he is making Pizzas, mostly over the weekends, – Lord God he need another job.
There are also changes personally. I felt last year that I was cut up too much with diverse tasks and that I would need more of Jesus. In order to meet the requirements, I absolutely need a new intimacy with God. Our marriage must have its priority, Robbie and Eric, the grandchildren and our older children need my attention, I really love the work at the Salvation Army, but it needs a lot of psychic strength and in addition the care for the churches gets me to the edge of my capacities. For all of us it is always a challenge balancing between the activeness and the resting at His feet. In addition, our physical resources seem to decrease as well. After careful consideration and prayer, I decided to end my work as a social worker at the Salvation Army on February 1, 2017 after 27 years. This was a big step for us, because we never drew money from the churches we founded and this job meant our existence. I continue just as a pastoral counselor in this men’s home for eight hours a week.
I am already looking forward to realize some projects – maybe writing a book. But above all, we want to use time for more communion in worship before God. Our dream is still that we do less and God more, – I think that would be more successful and also healthier.
Be hugged from us and His presence
Erich und Brigitte
(this article was translated from German.)