A conversation with Tamika Rybinski
She lives in the “City of Dreams,” so-named for a former resident, renowned interpreter of dreams Sigmund Freud. For Rybinski, Vienna is a place where her dreams of serving in an international, multicultural setting are coming true.
As a student at Oklahoma Christian University, she participated in campaigns to Honduras, Poland, the United Kingdom and Mexico. She met her husband, Polish-born Bartosz “Bart” Rybinski, at the university. They married in 2001.
Four years ago, Bart Rybinski accepted a job in the Vienna office of Eastern European Mission. Together, the couple travels the former Soviet world, teaching and networking with other missionary families. Tamika Rybinski occasionally teaches Bible classes and recently taught an art class at Come Before Winter, a renewal event for missionary women.
The Rybinskis have three children: 8-year-old Izabela, 2-year-old Krystian and a newborn, Victoria. The family communicates in a combination of Polish, English and German — a language the Rybinskis dubbed “Podanglish.”
What challenges do you face in a foreign culture?
The challenges of living in another culture start the minute the plane lifts off the ground, and you realize your life will never be the same.
We have all had to relearn how to live in a new culture, to understand visual cues in communication, a new language, develop new tastes and likes.
I remember how overwhelming going to the store was when we first moved. I didn’t understand why some containers of milk were refrigerated and others weren’t or why they didn’t keep eggs in the refrigerated section of the store. I had to learn to cook from scratch. It stressed me.
I am still learning how things work now that we live in multiple cultures simultaneously.
How are your children adjusting to a new culture?
Izabela was born in Oklahoma and has lived half of her life in the States and half in Austria. She attends an Austrian public school and has adjusted very well.
I have learned so much about the German language as well as Austrian culture from Izabela while helping with homework or volunteering at her school. She is introduced to many things in school and can share them with us at home.
Krystian was born in Austria and, like Izabela, is able to switch between cultures really well. Even at his young age, Krystian can recognize the difference and respond accordingly. They Skype almost daily to keep up with friends and family. They play as if they were in the same room — not on the other side of the world.
Why did you and Bart choose to serve EEM?
It was a unique opportunity that could utilize both of our strengths and talents.
Bart grew up in Warsaw, where we led student campaigns for several years. We have always had a heart for that part of the world, and we could see that God was really on the move in Eastern Europe. Lives were being changed and doors were being opened through EEM’s efforts.
In what ways are you involved with the ministry?
I travel with Bart to retreats and other events to network and develop relationships with missionary families. Specifically, I focus on developing relationships with missionary women and encouraging them. I also design covers for the new books published by EEM.
Occasionally, I teach children’s and women’s classes when we travel. And I host visitors, church leaders, missionaries, students and families when they come to Vienna. I also travel to speak to women about EEM and life on the mission field.
Tell us about the Churches of Christ in Vienna today.
The churches in Vienna are organized around the home church model. The environment is intimate and relational. We usually spend most of Sunday in fellowship and worship. Our meetings often include a meal. The children actively participate by sharing prayer concerns, singing, contributing to discussion and sharing what they have learned with the adults at the end of their Bible time together.
The church is very outreach-minded. There has been significant growth and several baptisms in the past two years. As a result, our group is multiplying into two groups.
All of the house churches in Vienna come together to fellowship and worship once per quarter. Each July the churches come together to run youth camps. It is a great way to serve together as well as to share Christ with children who desperately need him.
How has living in Austria and working with EEM impacted your spiritual life?
Working and traveling with EEM has enriched my spiritual life, while living in Vienna has really challenged it.
I always look forward to our EEM trips because I am encouraged by the mutual worship with others living abroad. I am blessed to hear how God is working and moving in their lives and communities. I am uplifted by praise and worship, and I enjoy opportunities to experience this in multiple languages.
At first, when worshiping in Vienna, I always felt lost and disconnected. I needed so much time to process and translate what was being said that I was always behind. I also had to learn the cultural differences of fellowship and worship. It challenged me to get deeper into God’s word to keep myself motivated and growing. I started to do women’s group Bible studies using CD’s at home on my own.
Is Eastern Europe still as receptive to the Gospel today as it was just after the fall of communism?
What we have learned about how receptive Eastern Europe is more than 20 years after communism varies from country to country.
People are seeking God everywhere. We see over and over that what makes a difference is being faithfully committed. Longtime commitment from churches, supporters and workers produces churches that grow and thrive. To succeed in missions in Europe, one must remain faithful and be patient.
Unfortunately, we see all too often that is not the case. Support is lost, leaving missionaries and promising works abandoned.
There are, however, great examples of mentoring and developing native Christians to carry on the work.