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Kathryn Eckler: Finding Rest in Vienna

This summer has been a sixty-six-day long adventure. Working with Projekt: Gemeinde has been an eye-opening experience. Every day brings a new challenge and a new reason to celebrate the joy that comes with living.  The primary mission of Projekt: Gemeinde is to create community with fellow German, Farsi, Spanish, and English speakers. Different cultures collide in the grace an and compassion that reminds us of our humanity.

Many of the people that I have served this summer are refugees fleeing political and social corruption. They have left their homes, families, and former ways of life for the chance of having a secure life. Austria has a regimented process that each refugee must go through in order to gain asylum. Having watched this asylum process first hand, I leave Austria with a profound regard for “rest.”

Traveling internationally teaches you the important lesson of rest. Long days, late, nights, and early mornings make both the body and mind weary. But consider what it must be like to live as a wandering stranger — unknown to your former countrymen and unwanted by those that you are surrounded by.

Before serving in Austria, I found it easy to apply the term “refugee” blindly. I knew that a “refugee” was a living and breathing person. But I had no idea what it meant to live in a corrupt state, flee for your life, and try to begin a new life in a new place.

Now when I hear the term “refugee” I see families, faces, great thinkers, humble students, and people that I have a great love and respect for. I am continually astounded by their ability to face the uncertain in the quest for spiritual and physical rest.

Our God is a God of compassion and love. He invites us to rest in Him. Yet how frequently do we allow ourselves to “rest” in the eternal nature of our God? Considering the forced lifestyle of a refugee, would you be able to rest and to be at peace? More importantly, would you be able to rest in your faith in God? Meditate for a moment on Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Refugees carry tremendous burdens. They are weary. And they rest in the stable and transcendent grace that our God provides.

I found a particular calm and sense of rest on the the top of an Alpine mountain just outside of Salzburg, Austria.

Yet this to rest is to also find strength in God. The Psalmist writes, “I lift my eyes up to the mountains- where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip- he who watches over you will not slumber” (Psalm 121: 1-3).

This summer I learned how to find rest in God, even when I was in a different culture and country. I found strength in the people that I was surrounded by and in the glory of God’s creation.

Finding strength during challenging times is a profound task. But the rest found in the embrace of our God is so sweet.

-Kathryn Eckler