Vienna team Families team up to spread the Word

Families Team Up to Spread the World

Oklahoma Christian has been sending students on its Vienna Studies program for more than two decades.

More than 750 OC students have had THE experience of a semester based in the Austrian city that is famous for its art, music, cuisine and for being the cultural hub of Europe. Every year, many of them insist they'll return.

Now, a team of four OC alumni couples are doing just that ... as full-time missionaries in Vienna. 

The team members are Jake and Amanda Haskew, Josh and Kim Hensel, Ira and Kari Lockwood, and Brian and Alisha Rusher and their children.

Three of them, Josh, Kari and Ira, were on the 1999 Vienna Studies Program. Their degrees range from mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and information systems to liberal studies, advertising design, English, education and ministry. Their education and experiences will help them as they embark on a multi-year commitment to spread the word of God in Vienna.

The Vienna Team's main sponsor is Memorial Road Church of Christ in Oklahoma City. After working in secular jobs, team members have transitioned to full-time ministry with Memorial Road for hands-on ministry experience before their planned departure at the end of June.

"We will be a new church plant in District 22 and we are going to strengthen, encourage and fellowship with the existing churches in Vienna. We want to reach out to the large number of young professionals living in this district and plant a church that will continue to evangelize the city after we leave," Ira Lockwood said.

In this city of nearly two million people, almost 27 percent of them reported "no religion" on a 2001 census. Almost half of the population says it is Catholic while nearly eight percent claim to be Muslim.

The team members' heart for the lost is conveyed in their latest newsletter, which seeks to explain their strategy: "The most important reason for our moving to Vienna is that the people in that city need the Gospel of Jesus. There is, though, a strategic significance to Vienna that is not lost upon the members of our team or our sponsoring churches. It is our desire to see Christianity grow through the entire continent, and Vienna is the type of city that can ignite such a church-planting movement."

"We have fallen in love with the city," Ira said. "More than just loving the city and all the neat places, we have a love for the people of the city and a desire to serve them any way we can. Our hope is that some day, foreign studies students will come and visit our members or share in the ministry, and they will grasp a vision for evangelizing the city of Vienna or the nation of Austria, or maybe Europe in general."

For the hundreds of OC Vienna Studies alumni who love to reminisce about long afternoons at Schonbrunn Palace and Stephansdom … or sipping melange at a cafe ... or enjoying sacre torte at the Imperial Palace, Vienna sounds like a perfect spot for mission work. 

"We do look forward to enjoying Bizi Pizza and Tichy Eis, but we mostly look forward to seeing the lives of many Austrians changed forever by the message of Christ," Ira said. 

Read more about the Vienna Team at

by Dawn Shelton (90)