THE HILLS ARE (STILL) ALIVE...
… but not just with the sound of music! That sound you now hear comes no doubt from millions of tourists each year who make Austria their vacation playground. From all parts of Europe (West and East), Asia and the Americas they flock to the heart of the Alps to frolic in the mountains, valleys and lakes that cover the country. Some have even chosen to stay, live, work and/or retire there.
THE SOUND OF THE GOSPEL MESSAGE
In the last 25 years tourism has exploded in Austria and has brought with it an open door for the propagation of the Gospel! Austria has always been a catholic stronghold in which biblical Christianity has been rejected, but in recent years has been forced to "accept" other religions - including evangelical churches and works - as viable religious options. Recent scandals have done incredible damage to the Catholic Church's image! Rome is, however, still a force to reckon with and still rules many parts of the country with an iron fist. Catholicism there is closely akin to patriotism and even nationalism. Austrians are BORN - and for the most part REMAIN - catholic. And that's that!
Austria is one of the original members of the European Community. This means that Christians from other European Community nations can come and live there without visas or working permits. This has been a tremendous help for the young Austrian church. Solid believers with a Christian heritage and experience are a great asset for first generation Austrian disciples. Permanent residency for new missionaries from the States and non-European Community countries is currently difficult. New workers with at least a Masters in theology have an easier time, but even this is still not a guarantee for obtaining a visa. The Lord of the Harvest is, however, still in control. Missionaries are desperately needed there and the Lord of the Harvest is still calling and providing for them to go there. 8 million hell-bound souls need to hear the clear, simple Gospel of Life.
OUR FAVORITE THING: CHURCH PLANTING
Biblical Ministries Worldwide began church planting ministries in the Austrian Tyrol in the mid 1960's. Missionaries back then faced severe opposition and saw very little fruit for their labors. They were scorned and classified as a dangerous American sect. Every attempt at evangelism was met with hostility and subtle persecution. This continued well into the 1980's.
In 1979 a church planting ministry was begun in the city of Telfs 17 miles west of the winter Olympic city of Innsbruck. What started as a home Bible study developed into a small church with regular church activities and evangelistic outreaches. The BMW missionaries there, Rick & Bev Gaudet, work together with the nationals in a busy schedule of leadership training, evangelism, teaching and church planting in nearby areas.
The church in Telfs has become a haven for believers looking for good teaching/preaching, a spiritual home and sound, uncompromising doctrine. Unbelievers, who are searching for help, truth and love, find these things there. Here are some examples of how this has happened.
Along with book tables, concerts and personal witnessing, the best opportunity for soul winning takes place during the quarterly evangelistic guest service. The entire church service is centered on sin and redemption. The unbelieving guests are confronted with their need for a Savior through personal testimonies, special music and a gospel sermon. Most of the recent conversions have taken place following these special services. This is a method that has proven to be very effective. Austrians appear to enjoy being invited to church by a friend or relative.
CLIMBING EVERY MOUNTAIN
In spite of secular darkness, economic difficulties (extremely high standard of living) and spiritual indifference, Christ continues to call out a people for His name's sake and build His church there. Plans for new church plants in Tyrol are in the making. Land is also being purchased for future ministry purposes (theological school/mission center). Church planters and evangelists are needed to begin works in West Innsbruck and the suburbs extending west of the city toward Telfs. Home Bible studies need to be started in the city of Zirl, which lies between Telfs and Innsbruck. On the mountain plateau above Telfs we hope to begin church services and Bible studies for tourists in a Christian hotel. One of our desires for quite some time has been the founding of a biblically solid theological training center. That would require qualified teachers, who could even teach in English until they learn German. Why not prayerfully consider these opportunities?? If you indeed ARE interested in joining the team, need additional information or prayer requests, contact Dale Fries, BMW's Area Director for Europe, or you can visit the Gaudet's website at: www.telfs.com/tirolupdate.