Thursday, 28 February 2008

Swedish Update 3 (Finally!!)

“Give God His glory by resting in Him, by trusting Him fully.”
– Andrew Murray

Hello friends,

See the conclusion of my Swedish placement in photos here!
(Just look toward the end of the album if you've already seen the first ones...)

It is impossible to believe that my placement in Sweden has drawn to a close and I am writing to you from my own little English garden-view room at college. The time has flown by, each minute more full than I can ever hope to describe. Everything about my month in Sweden played out so purposefully, from my long and frustrating journey to get there when every placement opportunity seemed to shut in on itself, to every precious person He put in my path during my time there… Our God is so much bigger, so much grander, and so much more attentive and loving than we imagine.

My Little Secondhand Church
My last weeks in Sweden saw many exciting things in the Secondhand Church , the tiny international, rag-tag congregation that met at the Secondhand on Wednesdays and Sundays.
* My second to last Sunday I preached, much to my dread, and even sang, much to my further embarrassment! Despite how awful it felt, I’m told it went fine, and God had another opportunity to prove Himself strong in my weaknesses. I shared a message of God’s unconditional love, teaching from Isaiah 43:1-7—a passage that He had been using greatly to speak to my heart. So it was intensely personal and deep and I really found myself struggling with lots of personal negativity about myself afterwards, (maybe a sort of inverted pride?) but God had much to teach me even through that, so in the end, it was a positive challenge that I imagine He’ll thrust me into again in some way in the future J
* When I first came to Rescue Mission, Amida, a Muslim man and his family had just moved to Göteborg and had found us friends at the Secondhand. He began joining us at Sunday services and cell group on Wednesday nights. Mike assured me that by the end of my month with them, Amida would have given his life to the Lord… Well, my second to last Wednesday night, he did just that, and everyone at cell group had the privilege of seeing him ushered into the kingdom of God !! When he came to my last cell group a week later he had changed his name to Joseph and was joyfully seeking the face of God. It was a beautiful thing to see. I met 3 Muslims turned Christians through working at the Secondhand, though 2 of them were Christians in secret for fear of murderous ‘friends’ and family who wouldn’t be so happy to hear they had found Christ as I was!
* My last week in the church God really spoiled me with attention. Firstly on the Sunday a guest pastor prayed over each of us in the congregation from God’s heart and He used this prayer of prophecy to assure me in particular of specific work He’s doing in different areas of my life, and to affirm me. It was very powerful as this stranger didn’t know me from Adam, but God knows these things in my heart better than I do. Then at the end of my last cell group meeting the night before I left Sweden , everyone there anointed me with oil and prayed for the ministry God will use my life for! It was very precious and I felt entirely spoiled by the amount of love and goodwill God was showering on me through the special people of my little Secondhand Church . Also very humbled and awed to think that God wants to equip each of us, even someone such as myself, to carry His heart with powerful effect—the purpose He can infuse our lives with, even mine, is just… mind-blowing!!

Surprised by Belonging
Though I’d been there before and went somewhat familiar with the Van Weiden family and my Göteborg surroundings, I could never have foreseen how well and how quickly I would fit there. In 4 short weeks I found myself entrenched in real and lifelong friendships with people from the Secondhand Church, and I melded into that beautiful Dutch/Irish family filled to the brim with little brothers J There were days about town with Terri-Anne and slumber parties are her house, coffees and evenings with Betty, understanding chats and walks under the stars with my lone compatriot Robin, parties with other young adults from the Secondhand’s sort of sister church, Smyrnashyrkan, where I was instantly taken in as one of that close-knit crowd, Lots of playing with Bionicles and Transformers with my “baby brother” Jesse, hugs, hugs, hugs, and more hugs from my “little brother” Micha, so many talks on faith with “Papa” Mike, and myriad giggles, talks, and tears with my lovely Brôna as I worked through some deep things God was bringing up in my life… God has been using all of these people and more to whisper to me of His unconditional love—a love I am still getting a handle on and may forever be surprised by.

Lessons, Lessons, and More Lessons
My mind and heart are still all abuzz with the many lessons God seemed keen to teach me through those people, those situations—the biggest one being confidence. Over and over again what He was impressing upon me is that it is not by might, not by power, [not by skill, training, talent, method, technique, or inclination] but only by His Spirit (Zech. 4:6 in living colour!). Pastor Mike is a great man who seems intimidated by nothing (except heights J) and living with and working with him meant those of us who are intimidated by everything have countless opportunities every day to “turn fear into faith’, as Hannah Hurnard once wrote. And all placement long, I was seeing His response to faith despite my fears and insecurities and issues. “Papa” Mike drew on so many analogies to his father/son relationship with his boys to describe much of God’s relationship to us and in so many ways I felt like I was understanding that tender Fatherly heart for the first time, and so living in a new kind of boldness of faith because of it. I felt a boldness to reach into the lives of the people around me and place a soothing hand over any brokenness to be found, or simply to extend a hand of friendship through walls that needed breaking down— and sometimes they were my own. It’s forever that simple touch of human vulnerability pointing to the God of all strength that makes all the difference in people’s lives.

“With His love, He will calm all your fears…”
-- Zeph. 3:17

Hej då to Sweden
This placement, like last year’s placement, had the distinct mark of being right in line with the will of a masterful God, who sees every one of our life stories from start to finish in a glance. I am left with the hopeful feeling that He has started some big things in this girl of His this month in Sweden that He will be lovingly carrying on to glorious completion (and that is very exciting!). For those of you who pray, Mike and Brona have stated in no uncertain terms that they would take me back any time for as long as they can have me... as have the people of the Secondhand church. Perhaps it's no coincidence that I have been praying about what to do after graduation for the past 3 years now :) Perhaps you could pray with me for God to make His best way known to me and then to prepare the way! Perhaps I'll be back in Sweden before too long-- perhaps not. Needing direction!

"If you need wisdom-- if you want to know what God wants you to do-- ask Him, and He will gladly tell you."-- James 1:5

Thank you so much for your support in prayer and giving and simply caring what He’s up to in the hearts of His people the world over and experiencing that through my eyes!

His (and yours) back in England,
Leah <><

p.s. Slideshow of Photos:

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