Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Mission Ponderings

Dear All—

The long-awaited update!
As usual, it’s long : ) But it’ll have you well informed. So grab a cozy cup of hot chocolate, put your feet up, and let’s have a good catch-up…

Missionary Mire

“You need a specific reason to stay home, not a specific call to go to the missionfield.” -- Keith Green

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about mission. 3 years studying it and training in it! And this intense summer questioning whether I can actually do it. I’ve often felt I have a growing body of evidence to attest that the doubts are right. Yet the passion to see lives in Europe know the love of God and be transformed by this love lives on in me, despite my willing admittance that I am not the ‘best for the job,’ that I have real issues with confidence that hinders so much good I would like to do. I think even my strengths don’t necessarily fit the traditional mold. I keep a lot to myself, in hopes that I might not burden anyone. I fear that I need too much encouragement. I fear I will tire people out I struggle to fight off the feeling that I ought to somehow “be better first,” as if there is a certain standard to meet, a certain line to cross, and then God can use me. Or, in the darker moments, that I just cannot be used by Him at all because I am just too mortally flawed…

I’ve struggled with this before, you all know, and I’m perfectly aware that it is absolutely unbiblical, yet the struggle continues as I wrestle with doubt and fear, and so, with believing God.

How belittling that must be to this God whom a few weeks ago led me powerfully to a passage in Isaiah saying, “Does a clay pot ever argue with its maker? Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying, ‘Stop, you are doing it wrong!’ Does the pot exclaim, ‘How clumsy can you be!’ […] This is what the Lord, the Creator and Holy One of Israel, says: ‘Do you question what I do? Do you give Me orders about the work of My hands? I Am the one who made the earth and created people to live on it. With My hands I stretched out the heavens. All the millions of stars are at My command” (Isa. 45:9,11-12). And a few verses before, speaking to me very specifically about a life of ministry: “And why have I called you for this work? […] I called you by name when you did not know me. I am the Lord; there is no other God. I have prepared you” (Isaiah 45:4-5).

My problem is, I get so hung up on what I’M NOT, that I can’t focus on everything that HE IS, which is what a life of mission is meant to be all about anyway! When all else boils down and all talk of method and skill and measures of effectiveness hushes, what is the mark of a missionary—someone who takes the good news of Christ’s grace to people who need to hear it? It must be passion for God. It must be a desire to be more and more conformed into the image of His Son. It must be simply wanting to delight in Him. It must be about living as if He is all that is important. When I look at it from this angle, all the things I am not and have yet to learn or become confident in… they fade in their importance and serving Him because of Who He is and what He’s done becomes all that matters, whatever the cost.

“If I am abandoned to Jesus, I have no ends of my own to serve.”
-- Oswald Chambers

A Call to Europe

So my calling is confirmed and true, regardless of how I sometimes feel.

But I’ve struggled to wait patiently for God to open the doors He’d have opened for me to serve Him. My heart for Europe is right here, right in place, and so often these days I feel my soul-home is more England than Minnesota! But every time an opportunity for my next step in life here looks promising, it seems to fall through. And that is incredibly discouraging.

Over the summer I met up with a lovely Australian friend, Annette, who is following God to mission in France and He used my interaction with her as yet another confirmation that I am not wrong to continue to press on toward Him and His plans for me in Europe. With she and my common passions for ministry in Europe and common fervor for non-traditional mission, we also share some common struggles and somehow there is something so reassuring about knowing that it’s not just me walking this discouraging road. And like Annette following His heart to France right now, my passion doesn’t go away and I must see it through, no matter the doubts I have in myself. I think what I’ve realized this summer is that… I can’t help myself. I’m compelled.

“For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again.”
-- 2 Corinthians 5:14-15

Europe moves my heart. What was once the hub of Christianity in the world, is now one of the most resistant to the Gospel as post-modern thought takes over. While the gospel has advanced in most parts of the world over the past 250 years, in Europe it has declined. An estimated 1.1% of the people in Europe actively follow Christ. 1.1%!!! The need for the reality of God’s love to penetrate hearts is VAST on this beautiful continent of intricate culture and history, wealth as well as poverty (though, in comparison to other continents throughout the world, the poverty here is mostly of the heart), and people who are so utterly disillusioned by the church for having “been there, done that” for hundreds of years already that the once over-flowing worshippers of the King of Kings have slowed to a mere trickle. I am passionate about this part of the world, and about the specific way of doing mission that is required for this part of the world as opposed to the 10/40 window and such. And after a long and delicate journey into His heart starting at my mother’s knee as a 4-year-old girl, I desire to live out His love here in this land and in His way.

But in so many ways the journey is only beginning…

“Perfect are the good desires You have given me;
Be their end, as You have been their beginning.”


Missionaries to this Missionary

On Friday I arrived back again in Sweden for the next 2 months, welcomed into the home and ministry of some European missionary friends in Gothenburg—to live with and learn from them as they include me in the work of God here. This is ideal for many reasons:

I love this family. They have made a massive impression on my life since I first met them my first time in Sweden to stay with an aunt and uncle when I was 14. Mike is Dutch, Brona is Irish. They have 4 beautiful boys: Oisin (17), Bjorn (15), Misha (14), and Jesse (8), and 2 foster boys: Amir (16) and Abdi (18). And their lives are living, breathing, walking ministries to the world around them. It’s not a job or a career, but a life. And that’s how I endeavor to live.

(The Van Weidens!! Jesse and Micha-- my best boys :) Oisin, Amir, and Bjorn-- the crazy older boys. They have one more older foster son called Abdi who's not around much so not pictured here!)

They have been missionaries in Europe for a long time and they’ve got the vision for mission in Europe—building relationships, creating community, reaching into the brokenness, and offering relationship rather than religion. Working alongside them feels a bit like an apprenticeship, learning by example but in a sort of “on-the-job-training” capacity.

Most importantly for me right now, I think, is that they know me. They see all the fears trembling in my spirit these days, all the insecurities of this stage of life, and understand a lot of the refining process God is bringing me through. More often than not, they’ve been there too. Missionaries are a rather special breed of people, you might have realized : ) And we’re even more specialized according to the region of the world God’s drawn our hearts to : )

And God’s given the Van Weidens extra portions of faith and grace. A part of me feels like if I hang around them long enough, their natures may just rub off on me a little : )

So, this time here is vital in so many ways to the journey God has me on.

“Everywhere you go, you will be on land I have given you… For I will be with you… I will not fail you or abandon you.”
– Joshua 1:3-5

A Ministry for this Missionary

I had my first Sunday back at the little church plant in the Secondhand shop this past weekend and it was a sort of coming home. Not just because I have friends here that it was lovely to reconnect with, but because God just speaks to my heart so much in the intimacy of our little church. This past week my American friend Robin (whose been married to a Swede and living in Sweden for the past 14 years or something) was preaching and it was about having confidence in God rather than self-confidence… speaking directly into the struggles I’ve been walking through these uncertain days.

Today is my first day back to work at the Secondhand! The Secondhand is a charity shop, proceeds going to a Swedish organization called ‘Barn i nod” (Children in Distress) which runs children’s homes all across the world. But it’s so much more than that. It’s the hub of a Christ-centred community of believers and people on their way to becoming believers. It draws in people of all kinds. The shop itself is run by a ministry called Rescue Mission Sweden which exists to reach out to the broken, the down-and-out, the lost—and not in just the non-Christian sense of the word. The store employs addicts and alcoholics trying to come off their substance abuse and be facilitated back into society, as well as a whole host of seemingly random individuals who come and join in the work for a vast variety of reasons. Whenever I ask Mike about how a certain person got involved in the work, his reply is always the same, “God brought them to us, they just don’t know it yet.”

And that is truly the feel of the place. When I was here last time I knew people who came to the shop weekly and stayed for hours, just because they said they felt happier here. Soon, people who may ordinarily never step foot in a church (like the Muslim family I knew last time I was here) come along to the mid-week bible study, and then the English-speaking church service on a Sunday, because having it in the coffeeshop of a secondhand store is so non-threatening, and soon, they are committing their lives to Christ as well (like the aforementioned Muslim family!). Sometimes the process takes a lot longer than that. But regardless, the premise of the work at Rescue Mission Secondhand is the same: Be there for people, right where they are.

And it is a beautiful thing to be a part of.

“We won’t solve all mysteries and our hearts will certainly break in such a vulnerable life… but it is the best way. We were made to be lovers bold in broken places, pouring ourselves out again and again until we’re called home.”
-- Jamie Tworkowski (TWLOHA)

Prayers and Contact!

So, for the next 2 months or so, I’m here again in the lovely city of Gothenburg! There are so so many blessings about my being here, but there are so so many challenges too. It seems God is forever doing intense soul work on me during my times in Sweden. So please be praying for me as I live and learn here!

Please pray too for the ministry of Rescue Mission Sweden, that we will all be discerning about people’s needs and how to best point them to Him. And for health and wholeness of everyone involved.

Please pray for and consider giving financial support for this particular time of my life doing mission here as well! And if God lays it on your heart to contribute to this ministry, just get in touch with me or my mom (my contact email is on the side and through that I can give you my mom's and my physicaly address in Sweden if requested!)

Thank you thank you thank you! Please do be in touch! Please keep me up-to-date with how I can best be praying for you and your circumstances. Please let me be involved in your lives from however many thousands of miles away. Drop me a line and I’ll grab my hot chocolate, put my feet up, and get all caught up on you too : )

Lovelovelovelovelove (from Him and from me!)
His (and yours) in Europe,

1 comment:

Hannah said...

Hey Leah-
We would like to give you a small gift. Would it be best to have mom put it in your account or wait for you to get here? It isn't much but we do want to send some support. Love you-

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