Article | Missions magazine

When One Door Closes: God's Plan Supersedes Changing Circumstances in Austria

Aug 15, 2021

By Leslie Walt

Besides much suffering, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it many changes to how people live—how we socialize, how and when we leave our homes, how we worship and share the Gospel. One of the ways it affected Scott and me was postponing our furlough. In early 2020, we made plans to travel to the US for a three-month stay later in the year. But, when we were forced to cancel that trip, we each found ourselves asking the Lord how we should use the three months that were now free of commitments. He answered my prayer in an unexpected way!

Flashback to 1992

A few years after Scott and I arrived in Austria, he met regularly with Hannes, a man from our young adult group. Although active in our church in Baden bei Wien, Hannes lived in the town of Schwechat, about 30 minutes away. One day in June, Scott and Hannes were working through the whole book of Acts. While taking a break out on the balcony of Hannes’s apartment, which overlooked the city, Hannes told Scott that the Lord had burdened his heart that He, the Lord, was going to start a work in Schwechat and the surrounding area, and someday, it would have an evangelical church.

God did in fact use Hannes and Christiane, his wife, along with another couple from our church, to form a core of believers dedicated to this calling. After about 10 years of planning and sowing, they established a vibrant church—Freie Christliche Gemeinde Schwechat—and it continues to grow and be effective today.

An unexpected opportunity

You may be familiar with our friend Christoph, whom we often mention in our ministry reports. Our connection began on May 31, 1980—the day Scott and I married and Christoph was born in Austria. Little did we know back then how much our lives and ministry would intersect with Christoph’s over the years. Today, Christoph is a family practice doctor and a young husband and father whom God chose to miraculously heal from life-threatening brain tumors. Active members of our church, he and his wife, Michi, helped lead the refugee ministry for more than four years.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020, the number of refugees entering Austria decreased drastically, so Christoph and Michi’s ministry involvement also decreased. At the same time, an Austrian doctor who was preparing to retire asked Christoph to consider taking over his family practice in the town of Himberg. Christoph and Michi started to think and pray about it. They sought our counsel and asked us to join them in prayer. They desired God’s will for their lives and future. Then, unexpectedly, the retiring doctor died of COVID-19. His death shocked everyone.

So God opened the door for Christoph to take over this practice. He gave Christoph and Michi peace and, most importantly, a new ministry direction: from the start, this young couple has viewed the medical practice as a vehicle for reaching the people of Himberg with the Gospel. Every day, Christoph, Michi, and the other staff tell the patients about Jesus and pray with them whenever God opens the door. The whole town talks about the new doctor with strong faith and trust in God.

Where are Himberg and Christoph’s practice located? Next door to Schwechat. The Freie Christliche Gemeinde Schwechat is just three miles from Christoph’s practice.

A new ministry

One day in September 2020, during the time when Scott and I were praying about how to use our postponed three-month furlough, we were talking with Christoph and Michi about all the miracles God was doing in and through the practice. Jokingly, I told Christoph if I ever needed to return to work, I would want to work at his practice. Christoph’s eyes grew big, and he said he had a job for me—one that was exactly three months long. Instantly, God gave Scott and me peace that this job was what He had in store for me. It was an opportunity to support and help Christoph and Michi in their new ministry, which God had laid on our hearts too.

Soon, that three-month position extended into an ongoing job that I love. I work two mornings per week at the practice doing lab work, EKGs, ultrasound therapy, IVs, and even COVID-19 tests. Like all the staff, I have opportunities to share my faith and pray with people. God is using our team as lights in the greater Schwechat area. Although the Schwechat church is very evangelistic, a high percentage of the local population might never attend a free church or hear the Gospel presented by someone who personally knows the Lord Jesus. These are the people who come in the door of our practice every day.

Besides witnessing to unbelievers, I encourage the young adults I work with. Among them is our receptionist, Christiane—the wife of Hannes, who met with Scott all those years ago and discussed the work God would do in his hometown, Schwechat, and the surrounding area. Each staff member is a believer whom Scott and I discipled. They are the amazing fruit of the dozens of Bible Weekends (nicknamed “BiWos”) that we have hosted over the years.

Prayers for more open doors

This opportunity brings me so much joy! Please pray that I will do an excellent job and develop an eye for details. Pray that I will continue to have daily opportunities to talk about Jesus but also discernment to know the appropriate times. Pray that people will trust Christ and become established in the Schwechat church. Pray that I will be a spiritual encouragement to my teammates. Pray that I will be salt and light. ■


Leslie and Scott Walt are commended from Spring Mountain Bible Church in Portland, Oregon.


Originally published in Missions magazine, August 2021. For more content, sign up for a free subscription (US) to Missions at