Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Hej från Sverige!

Hej Kompisar!
(Hi friends :))

So I've finally got all the photos I've taken here so far uploaded to an online gallery so please do check them out! This city is so very beautiful and these people in my life here so very special. I'd love to share it all with you :)

Gallery of photos here

These 2 months in Sweden so sovereignly given by God are quickly drawing to a close. I came here really, really low, and wondering what in the world I was good for-- if anything-- especially in mission and ministry, and yet sure as ever that He'd coaxed me into ministry in Europe for a reason, despite everything looking like it requires so much more than I have, both within me and without me. Working in this special Rescue Mission Secondhand, God suddenly gave me a day-to-day purpose, working with the lovely Rescue Mission Church, God suddenly gave me a beautiful extended family from all over the world to share life with, learn from and minister to, and living with the Van Weidens, God suddenly gave me a home (complete with a fabulous family whom I adore :)) and a secure place to work through issues and challenges, and learn to rest in Him (I'm constantly taking it all on my shoulders and feeling inadequate for the job, but OF COURSE I'm inadequate :) I'm not meant to do this myself!)... I feel like after 22 years of Christian exposure, I should have this faith thing down, but this patient God is forever stripping it down to the roots and building it up again as I seek His face. He's refining and shaping my faith every day, and I'm endeavoring to live the process wide open, that He might spark something in anyone I meet along the way... He's using my life in Sweden to teach me more of His boldness, more of His confidence, more of His grace... and I watch Him wide-eyed.

On November 12th, I'm headed back to England for a few days to repack and say some goodbyes (Nov12th-17th.) Then it's home for the first time in a year to spend the holidays with my family-- and I CAN'T WAIT to see them!!! (Nov 17th to January). From there, God is slowly revealing the next step and I'll soon reveal to you what I can! It started with a bright blue dressor last Jan-Feb when I worked for a month at this same Rescue Mission Secondhand for my mission placement for college :) And it's been fueled by the earnest statements of two missionaries here that I deeply respect, and many church friends. God just may be sending me back to Sweden for my first few years in European mission...

But for now, thank you so much for your prayers and encouragement. You are used of Him in this scary life of learning to trust a God who is more faithful than I know whether you realize it or not... On that note, would anyone be interested in getting involved in a missionary support team? I'm praying that God will raise you up for me!! Perhaps you've been wanting to get more involved in world missions or in ministry of some kind to serve the Lord, or simply want to be a help and a blessing to me and haven't the funds to financially support mission? (Or, of course, you could always do both!) Regardless of whether this interests you, will you please join me in praying for the right people (or even a willing person) to step up to form a team that can handle all the practical issues for a missionary overseas? Thank you!!!

'May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you...'
--2 Thessalonians 2:16

Monday, 20 October 2008

Surprise Visit!

I had the greatest surprise this weekend when Adriaan, one of my best (Dutch) friends from Redcliffe, walked into the Secondhand shop on Friday, with his big smile intact and many stories to tell. He hitch-hiked all the way up from the Netherlands, starting Thursday afternoon! I was so surprised and delighted my hands were literally shaking!! There I was behind the counter, just another day, and he was the last person I expected to see walking through the shop door :)

He stayed for 2 days and we wandered around this lovely city and revisited all the places we'd visited before when we came up here together from England 2 1/2 years ago.

(At a beautiful old square called Kronhusbodarna)

(throwing leaves walking along the canal by Haga)

(Meeting some friendly fishermen outside the Feskekyrk)

(Like I said, very friendly fishermen!)

(With the Swedish flag on a ferry around the islands just off the coast!)

For so many reasons this surprise weekend was a gift from God. When Adriaan was praying about whether or not to try this crazy thing, he did something very out of character for him and he asked God to give him a sign if he should go ahead and try hitch-hiking up here. That very day, he "randomly" ran into one of my other best Dutch friends, Mirjam. They live in the same city but they have never met at random before. He couldn't help but feel that was not coincidental. For me, it all just goes to drive home the truth that God loves me, personally, individually, surprisingly :) Adriaan says it's like God's winking at me :) Whatever it was, I hope I won't soon be forgetting His faithfulness and attentiveness and delightfulness that this weekend represented!

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

A Few Happenings...

My Church (family) in Sweden

Hello Everyone! I thought it was about time I updated you on a few more happenings going on these days in my little life here in Sweden. I really just feel like one of the family now-- and not just Mike and Brona's family, but our church family too. I've never been in such a church-- so close, so family-like. I imagine this is what the early church looked like-- believers from every walk of life meeting together and praising the Lord together and eating together and sharing one another's burdens and praying for one another and carrying on the relationships by intertwining their lives throughout the week as well! I am excited by it, and I am blessed by it.

Terri-Anne and Sian and I
Sorinella, Brona and I
A meal after church one Sunday
My Church (Challenges) in Sweden

It doesn't come without its challenges, for me at least. Mike is always asking me to step one foot more out of my comfort zone, and sometimes a few feet at once. On Sunday this week, I was sort of thrown on to a rag-tag worship team that went to another area church to lead worship, then Mike and Eddie and I did the worship back at our own church (to be honest, I can never get enough of worship... It's just doing it up front that causes me to pause!), then I led Communion! Ugh! I hate hate hate being up front and especially when it means speaking on the spot... But I'm hoping that the more I'm able to say Yes without hesitating to things asked of me by human leaders, the more quickly I'll say Yes to things asked of me by God! And it was beautiful to see how God was moving in the hearts of each of us speaking in church that day to give us a common theme without any of us actually speaking to one another about it beforehand!
When I told Mike I would do Communion I was thinking, "What?! I don't even know how I feel about Communion, let alone how to lead it when I'm not comfortable leading ANYTHING!!" Haha. So, I took it to God and basically said, as I was opening my bible to read about the Last Supper, "Look, this is Your thing, not mine. I can't do it, so You're going to have to." To be honest, I've never really understood why believers who live in grace keep on perpetuating this ritual. Growing up in church, I've taken more communions than I can count and over the past few years I began to feel uncomfortable with how... blase and routine it felt each month to drink the little glass of juice representing Christ's blood and nibble the tiny bit of bread representing Christ's body. I can still hear the oft-spoken, "This do in remembrance of Me" on the lips of my whole church together once a month all my life. Doing Communion this Sunday gave me a chance to actually sit down and say, "Hey God, I don't get it. You say to us 'You worship me with your mouths but your hearts are far from me' and certainly Communion has become just such a thing."

As I was praying the first verse He brought to mind was 1 Cor. 1:30. Speaking about Christ it says, "He is the one who made us acceptable to God. He made us pure and holy and He gave Himself to purchase our freedom." That simple.

Then I read Luke 22:19-20 which is simply an account of the Last Supper and God answered my questioning heart asking a sincere 'Why' with: We do this because Christ asked us to do it in rememberance of what He's done for us. He reminded me that He often asked Israel to set up visual reminders of things He'd done for them-- like a stack of rocks at a certain place in the desert to show that this is where He'd performed a miracle to provide for them. Reminders of His faithfulness. Because He knows what we're like as humans, how easily distracted we are.

Suddenly, He showed me at least, that Communion is not some dry religious ritual some tradition set up by the church that we follow legalistically. But a regular chance to take the space to encounter a living, breathing God who loves You so much-- in all your sin, in all your faults, in all your un-acceptability-- to die to make you pure and holy and acceptable so that He could keep you near to Him for all eternity.

That's the God we're remembering through this. And Communion is a reminder set up to remind us to seek Him, and in His faithfulness He will be found...

"And if you search for Him with all your heart and soul, you will find Him."
--Deut. 4:29

Substitute Teaching??

He showed me a bit more of His faithfulness and provison this week in completely unexpected ways. My friend from church, Terri-Anne, is headteacher at a little International 'Dagis'-- which is the excellent Swedish system of preschool/daycare. She was in a panic on Sunday because she was short a teacher for Monday and she asked me if I would step in and volunteer. The term 'substitute teacher' freaked me out, but I had a friend in need so I volunteered for the day. My 'class' were the babies, which put me at ease a little as I'm much more of a baby person than a child person and the only 'lessons' they have at age 1 1/2 is basically structured play. So, I spent the day with 4 delightful little ones under the age of 2, was utterly exhausted at the end, and newly appreciative of Terri-Anne (whom I already appreciated to the moon and back again!)

That night as Terri-Anne and I were driving away to go and pick up her own darling little ones (Sian is 3 1/2 and Liam is 1 1/2) from their Dagis, she told me her boss was going to pay me as a substitute teacher! That was completely unexpected and completely God. This whole time in Sweden has been a thing of faith. I haven't really been asking for financial support, only leaving the door open should anyone want to support me. This has meant I've been avoiding looking at my bank account knowing that if I do I'll panic!! Early on in my stay in Sweden, someone from the church handed me an envelope one day saying they felt God was asking them to give it to me. Mike and Brona keep providing all the practicalities for me, even when I ask them not to. And now God's proving again that He will take care of me, just like He promised, if I trust Him.

And this is just in time as I have friends coming over from England and the Netherlands to visit and I want to be able to go out and show them the sights and must be able to pay for travel fare! : )

He is good, He is good, He is good. And He'll prove it over and over and over again. In dark times, in light ones, in hardships, in joys. He is the same. He will not stop doing good to us; He rejoices in doing us good (Jer. 32). And He is not tired of teaching me yet...

Praise God.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Church Weekend Away

Our church had a weekend away at the North Sea this weekend here in Sweden. It was so brilliant. God does beautiful things in a group of people by simply taking them out of their ordinary setting of meeting together and putting them together somewhere else :) We joined another small international church from near Gothenburg and we spent the days living, laughing, eating, walking, playing, worshipping, and talking together. I was so encouraged at the level of confidence He gave me moving amongst this group of near strangers. And so blessed to come home with a few more friends : )

Our camp was right here on the Sea

Our little rooms overlooking the sea,
Playing on the dock
On a fresh walk around the grounds
Me and Sorinella

Friday, 3 October 2008

It's a Man's World

It’s a man’s world in this household.

I’ve discovered that every toilet seat in the house is left up—and I guess it makes sense. Majority rules, after all. 7 to 2.

The other day I was doing laundry because I stayed home from the shop (which is about 25 minutes drive from the house) to be available to collect Jesse from a play group a half an hour’s walk through the countryside away, and I can honestly say I have never seen so many boxer shorts in my life—in every size from littlest of boys to biggest! It kind of makes me giggle. Brona says you just never know and I’ll probably end up with a pack of boys too someday and to chalk this up to training for then : )

I love these boys. They are VERY boyish, with all the Xbox playing, hip-hop music, silly inside boy jokes, and messes (though they all clean and cook and tidy when they’re parents ask and it’s usually always their job to clean up after the evening meal, which is just unheard of in my family! I’m not even sure my little brothers know how to clean up after a meal, much less cook one!), but they are so lovely—every one of them.

Oisin (O-sheen) is nearly 18 and you can tell he sort of feels entitled to rule the roost, constantly picking arguments with his dad, and attempting to push every boundary. He got a tattoo this week, much to his parents chagrin : ) He’s also gorgeous— all of their boys are—and has a bit of an Orlando Bloom from ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ look going on. I still remember when I first met them when I was 14 and he was this cute, little 10 year old, showing off his sketches to me and teaching me how to speak with an Irish accent : ) What I love about Ois, despite the attitude he so often puts on with his parents and little brothers, is that he always always comes round and kisses us all goodnight. How many 18 year old guys do you know who do that?! Oh, I love Europeans : )

Abdi is 18 and he’s the new foster son and he’s rarely here so I can’t say much for him.

Amir (Ah-meer) is 16 and he’s been living with this family for a few years now and is very much one of the family. He is great because he’s always so careful to be polite with me and he’s forever trying to make conversation in English for my benefit even though his mother tongue is Swedish and all the boys and Mike can speak Swedish with him. He’s really one of the boys to me now and I love his kindness.

Bjorn (b-yourn) is 15 but looks older than Ois. He can be very very quiet and seem a bit shy, but he’s always happy-go-lucky and has a lovely, goofy, off-the-wall sense of humour, and I love that. I think he may have the kindest, most selfless soul of all of the boys, but he’s also been the hardest one for me to get to know since he’s not one to be talking all the time. I’m praying for inroads and just enjoying the snatches of his company I get. Lovely Bjorny : ) He’s ridiculously handsome for a 15 year old as well. Brona calls him her best boy when none of the others are around : ) But then, I’ve heard her say that to Micha and Jesse too, when none of the others are around : )

Micha is 14 and I love this kid!! He is a riot, and a snuggle-bunny, and is forever cracking jokes, so naturally he wins my heart instantly. He’s forever coming round for hugs and cuddles and being a very affectionate person when at ease, I love that! He is truly like a little brother to me and we treat one another like it and he just puts me at ease in the whole family. He asked when I came whether he and I are actually related : ) I told him “no, but we can pretend!” He calls me his buddy and lords it over me a little that he’s taller than me at age 14 : )

Jesse is very nearly 8 and he’s everyone’s pet. He’s my roommate for these 2 months and I’ve discovered that he thrashes around and talks in his sleep just to keep things interesting, but I honestly couldn’t ask for a better one. One with less toys laying around, maybe, but not a better one : ) We went for a walk today and picked a vase of wildflowers for our room : ) Jesse has the most beautiful compassion and consideration for others, and I seriously learn from this child’s big faith! He also has the most stunning eyes—a very unique mixture of green and blue and brown, and I love his sweet little voice… Brona was telling me the other day that when she told Jesse I was coming she asked him if he remembered me from the last time and he said, “of course!” so she asked him what colour my eyes were, just to test and see whether he really did know who she was talking about. She said he got really thoughtful and a bit dreamy-eyed and said, “sort of light green, but not totally light green because there are little flecks of yellow in them and they have dark green around the outside”—woah, the detail! She took in the way he was speaking and the way the little wheels in his head were turning and the way he described my eyes for her in such detail and asked, “Jesse, is she a beautiful girl?” and he smiled a bit sheepishly, blushed a little, ducked his eyes and said, “yes” Haha!!!!!!!!!!!! At least I know one boy in the world thinks so : ) So she says I need to watch out for the little man : )

Jesse and Mike have a little song they sing together and it’s the cutest thing. We’re driving along in the old Toyota people carrier and Mike sings, “Jesse is my little—“ and Jesse pipes in “Man” and they repeat that til the last line when Mike sings, “And I love him very—“ and Jesse finishes, “much.” Ahhh, it moves my heart.

I feel like God let’s me witness these little snatches of exchanges between Mike and his boys so that I can see on an understandable level what He is like as our Father in Heaven, only on a level beyond full human comprehension.


p.s. So I'm off for a special weekend away at the sea! As a church we're going away for a little retreat with another small church for the weekend. I think it shall be marvelous...

Thursday, 2 October 2008

I Want to Live Faith Like This....

I just read a book about a British missionary to Hong Kong, Jackie Pullinger, called Chasing the Dragon and God spoke to me through it's pages of what real trusting in Him looks like. It is such a timely read for me. One section that really hit me was when Jackie was speaking to a pastor about how she felt sure she was called into missions, she just didn't know where or how or what. It said:

I told him that God and I had reached a stalemate; He had told me clearly to go—I knew why I was to go, but He would not tell me where. So how could I go?

Richard’s reply was extraordinary, “If God is telling you to go—you had better go.”

“How can I—I don’t know where to. All my applications have been rejected.”

“Well, if you’ve tried all the conventional ways and missionary societies and God still is telling you to go, you had better get on the move.”

I felt frustrated.

“If you had a job, a ticket, accommodation, a sick fund and a pension, you wouldn’t need to trust Him,” Richard continued. “Anyone can go that way whether they are Christians or not. If I were you I would go out and buy a ticket for a boat going on the longest journey you can find and pray to know where to get off.”

I did not exactly hear bells but this was the first time in all those months of searching that anything made sense.

“It sounds terrific—but it must be cheating because I’d love to do that.” I still had the idea that anything to do with God had to be serious. I was sure that Christians always had to take the hard way and enjoyment was no part of suffering for their faith.

But Richard Thompson told me that it was quite scriptural. Abraham was willing to leave his country and follow Jehovah to a promised land without knowing where he was going because he trusted. In the same way thousands of years later Gladys Aylward journeyed in faith to China.

“You can’t lose if you put yourself completely in God’s hands, you know.” Richard was quite serious. “If He doesn’t want you to get on the ship He is quite able to stop you—or to make the ship go anywhere in the world.” I had visions of being storm-driven like St. Paul. I might land on a little desert island where one person wanted to hear about Jesus. It was an exciting proposition.

“Maybe you will go all the way round the world just to talk to one sailor about Christ, or maybe you will go as far as Singapore to play the piano for a week of youth meetings and then come back.”

Richard’s advice was extraordinary, but completely wise. Never at any time did he lead me to the impression that I was to get on a ship, grow a bun and get off as a missionary ready to do a “work”. He never suggested that I had to achieve anything at all, I had simply to follow wherever God led. I, too, felt I could not lose on this adventure.

Slowly, slowly, He is teaching me the truth about trust.

It's about living in love-- knowingknowingknowing to the very centre of your soul that He loves you, and it is a love without flaw. And then living confidentally in that knowing.

...There is no fear in love.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...