Posted: 4/16/18 at 2:45pm. Article by Patrick Clark.
Patrick Clark currently serves as a BGAV Venturer in Vienna, Austria, ministering especially with refugees. The following article is taken from his most recent newsletter.
Since January, several Farsi have been granted asylum. This has been a major answer to our prayers as the new government has been making it increasingly difficult for immigrants to receive asylum in Austria. One of the interesting outcomes of this crackdown is that more of our Farsi sisters and brothers are given opportunity to share their testimony about their faith and walk with Jesus Christ.
In today’s political climate, less than 30% of the people applying for asylum are getting a positive result in the first round at the Government Office for Immigration and Asylum. The case is then transferred to the Government Appeals and Oversights Court where they are interviewed by a judge to determine whether they meet the requirements for asylum. Because they are seeking protection from religious persecution in their home country, the judge asks them questions to evaluate the authenticity of their faith. This usually consists of questions like: name the Ten Commandments, name the four Gospels, name the disciple betrayed Jesus, etc. They are then asked how they came to know about Christianity and why they became Christian.
Recently I had the privilege of attending such an interview where my Farsi brother shared his faith journey of being a nominal Muslim who became an atheist, then agnostic, while attending university in Romania. After he fled to Austria, he met a member of our church in his camp who invited him to check out our Farsi service. He told the judge he started attending our worship services in 2015 and began to grow in his knowledge and faith about Jesus. He became convicted that Jesus Christ died for his sins and is the source of all truth and life. The judge was so impressed by his genuine faith that she granted my brother asylum within 45 minutes, as opposed to three or four hours.
Several weeks ago I started leading the ‘baptism class’ with Ehsan, another member of the Farsi congregation. This is the last class that new members go through before they are eligible to be baptized (over 150 baptized in the last two years). We spent two days with the new group and asked them to share how Jesus is at work in their lives.
As I listened to each person, I was humbled and inspired by the difference Christ makes in small and significant ways. Many of them said “I gave my life to Jesus.” This gave us an opportunity to talk more about the significance of this phrase; for me it is the privilege of teaching Muslims about Christ, and for them it is the decision to convert at great risk.
In other news, Projekt:Vienna (our apprenticeship program) began its second semester at the end of March. We, the instructors and leaders, have learned a lot in the first six months of this new project and continue to make adjustments along the way. My role is to lead some of the praxis elements with the interns. In the coming weeks, I will start teaching the interns “Lifeshapes,” a discipleship process that uses simple geometric shapes to understand the core teachings of Jesus (from the book, Building a Discipleship Culture). I have found this to be a helpful resource to help people discern what God is saying and what they are to do in response. This also provides a common language that is easy to remember and share with others.
- Please pray for favor in the midst of the current Austrian government stance against refugees. It now takes about a year for the first interview to occur and additional 9-12 months for the second interview. As a result, there is considerable anxiety among our Farsi sisters and brothers, and there are additional burdens on our team as we serve and care for them.
- For the leaders and interns associated with Projekt: Gemeinde and Projekt:Vienna. May we continue to discern the will of God so we can further the Kingdom work in Vienna and Austria through missional communities.
- I have been given the honor of making a presentation and coordinating with other presenters about ‘Diaspora Missiology’ to the Mission Commission at the Baptist World Alliance meeting in July (thank you Dr. Jim Baucom). Please pray as I connect with those who will also make presentations and for those who will attend the meeting.
- The KMI Team from Virginia will arrive mid-May to be immersed in our community for 10 days. Prayers for safety, kairos moments, and great fellowship are appreciated.
- Our team will travel to Bulgaria in June for the European Baptist Federation Conference. Pray for connections and conversations.
- We were informed recently that one of our neighbors in the Donauhof has filed a complaint against us for using the building while it’s still a construction site. We’ve since learned that this person is one who had to buy the building several years ago and is using this to show their displeasure. Unfortunately, the government of Austria doesn’t care why a complaint is filed—only if it’s justified. What that means for us is that we can no longer use the main ballroom until several items are completed—most notably new emergency lighting and exit doors. If all goes well, we should have that done in the next couple months. Please pray that all goes according to schedule and for improved relations with our neighbor.
I am grateful for your prayer and financial support and appreciate all you have done and will continue to do in that regard for my work in Austria. If you, or someone you know, would like to make a financial donation for my support the link is: https://bgav.org/donations/venturer-ministry-austria/
Please know that I pray daily for you and give God thanks for who you are and what you mean to me.
Until the next newsletter, I pray viele segnungen (many blessings) over you,