Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Swedish Update #1

Hej Kompisar! (Hello Friends!)

And so the greatly-anticipated mystery placement commences and I write to you all from a bright and chilly Sweden!

On January 21st I was welcomed back to one of my favourite places in the world—Göteborg, Sweden! I’ve come to stay with and work with one of the loveliest families in the world, the Van Weidens. Mike is Dutch and Brōna is Irish and they’ve been living in Sweden for 10 years now with their 4 fantastic boys, aged 17, 15, 13, and 7. With two teenaged foster boys as well, it is a testosterone-packed house and Brōna needs a little feminine company :) So, what was a busy family of 8, with me makes 9 and I think it’s perfect!

Rescue Mission Sweden
Mike and Brōna run a ministry called Rescue Mission Sweden which translates practically into running a non-profit business in the city called Rescue Mission Secondhand. The Secondhand’s purpose is twofold. Firstly, it’s about making contact with people who need Jesus. It specifically provides work for people who are struggling to function in society such as addicts, especially those trying to get clean and work themselves out. And generally if they aren’t on that path before they come into the shop, after some time getting to know Mike and Brōna they often are :) God continually brings the right people to the shop at the right time and asks Mike and Brōna to be there to love on them and then watch Him change lives! I think this is very exciting.

Secondly, whatever profit is made by the shop goes to a Swedish-based organization called Barn i Nöd, translated Children in Distress, which provides homes for children in need across Asia, Africa, South America, and Eastern Europe.

Besides those two main purposes, the shop has also taken on the role of a church itself. It is an especially safe place for the previously ‘unchurched’ to interact with the body of Christ because it doesn’t come with the inherent threat of a proper religious building and instead fellowship and worship is very casual and at ease, letting people feel one of a family. Besides the service on Sunday held at the shop with anywhere between 10 and 40 attendees at the minute, there are bible studies and prayer meetings held throughout the week. God is moving in exciting ways through this unassuming shop, providing a safe place for people to meet who might otherwise never step foot in a Christian church, including most recently a Nigerian Muslim! Please remember to pray for the people God’s drawing into contact with Rescue Mission Sweden!

The object of my placement here in my thinking is most importantly to be a help and a blessing to Mike and Brōna. When I was praying frantically for God to provide me with a placement after so many placement options had fallen through and I was running out of time, He laid the Van Weidens heavily on my heart but I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was terribly presumptuous of me to call them up and ask if I could come stay with them for a month! I saw from the get-go what a valuable experience it would be to shadow this missionary family as they are both foreigners serving in a European country (like me) and serving not with a structured organization, but simply (or not so simply!) following God wherever He moves and reaching out with His love in whatever capacity they have before them (potentially the kind of ministry I’ll do), and to top it off, they are raising a family and being foster parents (things I too would like to be able to do!). The experience seemed ideal for me, but could be a total inconvenience to them! So I prayed that if I called them it would be in answer to their needs as well. And as it turns out they’ve been praying for some help for awhile now! When I called, Brōna didn’t even have to consult Mike before she asked, “So, when can you be here?”

A Helping Hand and an Observant Heart
So, here I am to be a helping hand and an observant Heart. I’m going to be helping at the shop in the practical things involved in running a store as well as simply being a light to the customers and to the volunteers who are many of them getting clean from drugs and drawn to this Jesus we live for There’s also a coffee shop area that I’ll be helping in.

As far as the church goes, I’ll be helping with Sunday School, worship-leading, and Brōna would even like me to try to preach one Sunday! We’ll see about that one :) But after all, God seems fond of stretching me!

At home I live like one of the family. Jesse (7) and I are already fast friends and are collaborating on a small book just for fun, called “Oskar the Sea Monster,” written in English as opposed to most of his schoolwork done in Swedish J He and Micha (13) are my enduringly patient Swedish tutors. They are also showing me around the neighbourhood and today I took my first solo walk through the Swedish woods, which are full of moss-covered rocks and cliff-like stone hills. They look exactly like you’d imagine the Scandinavian trolls to live in and exploring them in the chilly air gave my little adventurous soul a thrill :)

An Invite to Sweden
I would love to invite all of you to Sweden this month :) Though physically it might be a bit difficult, you can make the trip by joining me in much-needed prayer and support!

Mike and Brōna make no profit through all the ways they spend themselves for the sake of the gospel and yet they didn’t even hesitate to take me in to their home! I’m praying that God will provide through your open hearts the money to cover all placement expenses plus to make a gift of money to the Van Weidens when I leave, as they expect to keep me as their guest! If God moves your heart to support my short term mission this year even a little, please send checks payable in my name to:
(address removed)

Additionally, we’re praying to find a good Sunday school curriculum (in English) for the Secondhand church (one for teens, one for children). If anyone has any leads for us or the means to provide us with this, please let me know!

As always, please keep joining me in prayer about the Holy Spirit’s work in this hurting world!

» Pray for everyone who enters the Secondhand that their hearts will be open and they’ll run out to meet our Father with His arms open wide to them!

» Pray for Rescue Mission Sweden and the vessels God’s using to pour Himself through here and that I might be a blessing to them!

» Personally, I would ask you to pray for my own courage and confidence as He places me in another different corner of the world for this month. May I trust Him without fear!

His (and yours!) in Sweden,

“All that matters is faith expressing itself through love.”
-- Galatians 5:6

Friday, 11 January 2008

The 40th Update

"Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the bordeom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: Touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments and life itself is grace."
-- Frederick Buechner

Dear All,

(A Christmas Break picture gallery: Here)

It's hard to believe as I sit at my desk in my lovely little room at college that I have unexpectedly been to the States and back again in the past month. I am pleased to report that I got home for Christmas this year for the first time since moving to England 2 1/2 years ago!! It would have been my 3rd in a row spent away from my family and in the end they wouldn't stand for it :) So my parents and my little brother put forth the money to fly me back just in time to surprise my 3 other siblings! I assure you there were many gaping mouths and much squealing, which was a lot of fun. My 2 year old niece may have given the best reaction, though, when she ran and jumped into my arms, squeezed me around the neck and exclaimed, "Auntie, you're here! You're at my house! You're not in En'an (England)! Did you fly in an airplane across the ocean, Auntie? Auntie, you're here! You're here!" :) Perhaps needless to say, it has been a preciouspreciousprecious holiday season and it was hard to leave-- especially with my aforementioned 2 year old niece repeating over and over again throughout my 3 weeks in a suitably somber tone, "Neber, neber do bat to En'an, Auntie" (Never, never go back to England, Auntie).

So, I saw this pivotal new year in here in Minnesota with my very own lovely family, which was rather surreal. 2007 has been a strange, strange thing-- in many ways a story from a novel, not my life. It started during a visit by my parents and youngest brother to my beloved England, then onto a heartbreaking and beautiful 6 week mission placement in Romania after which I'll never be the same, the completion of my middle year of college, my last student-summer back in the states to nanny and spend as much time as possible with friends and family, including a new baby niece!, trying my hand at freelance writing (no luck yet but I'm hopeful as it's still early on), and the start (and ensuing stress!) of my final year of college back in the UK. Expanded horizons, new friends, new loves, new places, new homes of the heart, new families of the heart, deep deep friendships, the fading of others, love, heartbreak, despair and joyjoyjoy. Blessings without number, hurts beyond measure. Lessons started and still being learned. Dancing with the King on the heights as well as falling from grace and into the arms of apathy. 2007 proved a journey I'll never forget.

And now an epic 2008! This year I will graduate from college-- penniless, alone, and half-way around the world, with a heart for loving on His broken people in this broken world. I have little idea of what comes next, only that I'll probably continue to find His way for me in His ministry making my vagabond home here in Europe for now. Who knows where He'll take me or how He'll care for me or what He'll show me or how He'll shape me and use me. But I know that I have the choice of which eyes to see any situation through, and I want to choose His. I will not fear life this year. I will live it with all I have. Because time is precious, life is a gift, sometimes tears are more real than smiles, and He is meant to be this scary adventure that He is. I want all of Him, no matter what it takes-- at least I want to want that. It is a frightening thing to stare into the face of God and offer Him everything, knowing He is not safe by our small-minded standards. But because He is so good, it is a far more miserable thing not to. So... here's to 2008. A year of more of Him in all of our lives no matter the roads He must lead us down to get us there...

I so wish I could have touched base with everyone back in MN while I was home, especially since I truly don't know when the next time is that I'll be there. But instead I offer up my prayers for each of you reading this (whether in MN or anywhere else in the world you might be!) and holding me in yours.

I'll be in touch soon from this year's placement wherever it may end up being (I guess we'll all be surprised!). Until then, I pray you're seeking hard after a risen (alive, active, moving, loving, compassionate, forgiving, holy, scary, adventurous, delightful) King!

Leah <><

"Until you have given yourself to Him you will not have a real self."-- C.S. Lewis

(The picture link again:
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