The answer to the question came quite by accident.
And, I don’t know, maybe it wasn’t even the right question to ask. I was just an average musician in a city that had chewed up the best musicians in history, overwhelmed with the thought, “How can I and our church impact the arts in our city?”
In December of 2010, my family and I left Lecanto, FL (pop. 5,000) and joined the Serge team planting a church of about fifteen people in Vienna, Austria (pop. 2.5 million).
Once there, I joined a local amateur choir in order to practice my German and maybe meet a person or two.
Vienna is full of choirs of all types for all ages and abilities—there are probably ten Gospel choirs alone.
The one I joined was full of amateur singers in their twenties, both students and young professionals. We sing classical music, a lot by Mendelssohn and Brahms.
The members of the choir had sung together for quite awhile, so I didn’t expect to be able to forge many friendships.
And shortly before we arrived I had read this disheartening quote by a native Viennese:
“Music students and other young foreigners who spend years in modern Vienna usually complain about how difficult it is to get close to any native. ‘I practically socialize only with other foreigners,’ an American music student reported after her first year in the city, ‘and we usually exchange horror stories about the local xenophobia.’”
Three years, six concerts, and two tours later I now look back and can’t imagine that quote applying to my Vienna.
The young men and women in the choir have been completely open and accepting of me. They refuse to speak English to me so that I can improve my German, and let me direct rehearsals here and there.
They volunteer to watch my children so that Jen and I can go on dates.
I’ve sung at their weddings. They’ve sung at our church! They know that I work for a church and trust me enough to ask me questions about truth, cynicism, the afterlife, and relationships.
They don’t get wigged out when I tell them I’ll pray for them when they share with me about some of their hardships.
The other musicians in our church and I are learning that “making an impact” often means just simply being there.
Faithfully, lovingly being there.
Jesus is re-making the world—and it started with him being here.
I’m content with letting other wiser, more talented artists make an impact on the arts, but I am so grateful God sent me to Vienna to love, and be loved by, its artists.