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Margit Eichhorn hiked up a mountain 40 miles south of Salzburg, Austria. Dense fog shrouded the valley below, home for the small dairy farm on which she'd been born and raised. The sun was sinking swiftly into the mists on this Christmas Eve in 1990.
But Margit scarcely noticed the sunset. She was wrestling with the Lord, for her brother had just recently died of AIDS, and unfulfilled desires marked her own life. "Lord, have I done it wrong?" she cried out. "Have I lived my life incorrectly?"
Margit, a perfectionist, had always wanted to do things exactly right. As a girl growing up in the valley below, then later at the University of Salzburg, her life had been wrapped in rigid legalism. Always fearful of not being good enough, she became very serious.
Life was to be endured, not enjoyed. And spiritually, Margit tried hard to be a Christian, but felt she never measured up to God's expectations.
That quiet Christmas Eve on the mountain brought a new perspective, one that would eventually lead the young Austrian to Cru and a ministry of helping fellow Austrians come to wholeness in Christ.
Down in the fog, she realized, you slog slowly along, barely able to see more than a step or two ahead. Likewise in life. But God sits above it all, He sees the Master plan, and He knows where He is leading.
The roots of this lesson lay back in Margit's college days at the University of Salzburg, when she met Agape (Cru in Europe) staff members Ken and Frances Knutzen. They taught the earnest young woman about grace -- God's unconditional love. And the Knutzens modeled grace. "We love you as you are," they told Margit. "Even if you make a mistake, we still love you."
As Margit began to understand God's grace, she herself began to enjoy life more, whether plunging headlong downhill on a mountain bike or laughing with friends over coffee. Change came slowly for her, as if she were stepping tentatively through thick fog.
In time, Margit got a degree as a psychologist, determined to help others find God's grace. She continued her association with Agape, but in 1996 decided to work full time with the ministry. "These people enjoyed life," she says of the Agape staff members. "But they also worked hard and were serious about walking with the Lord and about evangelism."
Today Margit has many opportunities to help others learn of God's grace and forgiveness. She leads Agape Austria's Institute for Life Development, where she offers seminars on topics such as depression, fear and relationships. "When we give seminars on psychological needs," she says, "people come. There is such a great need. And it's easy to work in the gospel."
As Margit, now 43, has taken steps of faith through the fog of life, God has kept her focused on the bigger picture. She's learned that it's not healthy to be a perfectionist, and that God loves her unconditionally. "After being single more than 40 years," she says, "I can still feel like God has forgotten me, or that He doesn't love me. But I can count on the fact that He is here with me, even if I don't see or feel it."
Should Margit begin to forget, she just takes another trip to the mountain, looks above the fog and remembers the big picture.
"I know that He will make something good out of every situation in my life, even the hard, painful ones," she says. "This is reality."
Fabian Reitzner, a teenager who placed his faith in Christ through AIA sports camps in Austria, plays on an AIA team that participates in a Vienna city football league.
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