Thursday, March 31, 2011

Swedish Stories

I want to share a couple stories from our time in Sweden, because I have realized that a primary source of moivation for me in ministry is hearing how God is working in people's lives. He is so incredibly personal, and all of the details the He brings together to create each person's story is just amazing to me!

I think my favorite aspect of my Sweden stories lies in the fact that we did absolutely nothing in our own power to advance the gospel - actually pretty much every opportunity we had to share with people while in Sweden came straight from the Lord. It is such a picture of what He has called us to do and be in the world. Sometimes we get so bent out of shape - either so overzealous to share with people that we aren't sensitive to their needs, or so afraid of offending that we don't make ourselves available to be used by the Lord. Somehow, in Sweden, I got a clear picture of the Lord providing opportunities with me doing absolutely nothing other than being open to being used.

Story #1 - Jen
On Wednesday night, after spending a day in Stockholm, we went to an open house party for the Swedish students who have connections with Agape (the name used for Crusade in Sweden). It was your basic, run-of-the-mill "Meet the Americans" party! A lot of students came, some of whom are believers, but a good number who aren't came as well. As the party was under way, a Swedish girl named Jen showed up, but seemed pretty unsure of whether she wanted to stay, because she knew it involved "religious people."
However, Lindsey, a woman on my team began to talk with Jen - not at all trying to get into a spiritual conversation, simply asking her about her life and chatting, when all of a sudden, Jen says: "So, why did Jesus have to die?" WHAT?!? Why on earth would she ask that question in the middle conversation like that?! Why, other than the Lord working on her heart? So Lindsey was able to explain the entire gospel to her in detail, and she seemed to be genuinely interested.

THEN on Friday morning, when we were supposed to fly home, Lindsey got really sick with a stomach virus and ended up having to stay in Sweden and get a flight a few days later. It was a 24 hour virus but she was there several days more, so she ended up contacting Jen and meeting her for lunch at a cafe, where they continued their conversation for another few hours! She asked a lot of questions, and finally said: "I think I'm going to have to do something about that promise that I made to God." Of course Lindsey was like, what are you talking about? And Jen went on to explain how she had an operation a couple of years ago where something went wrong, and as she was basically bleeding out on the operating table, she somehow became conscious or at least aware that she was dying, and she prayed and promised God that if He let her live, she would believe in Him and follow Him.

Of course, as you already know, she did live, but she hadn't done anything about her promise, maybe hadn't even thought about it, until this point, two years later! What an amazing orchestration of events on the part of the Lord - He's just so amazing that way! And how crazy that Lindsey "just happened" to get sick and have to stay in Sweden, and randomly think of contacting Jen, and ended up having that conversation with her. AND, the fact that Lindsey is the one who talked to Jen at the party rathen than any number of the other people there, because it just so happens that Lindsey is moving to Sweden in September to work with Agape in Uppsala for the next 3 years. I'm pretty sure she'll be having more lunch conversations with Jen....

We serve El Roi - the "God who sees" He sees the tiniest details of our lives, and works it all together for His good purpose. Amazing, simply amazing.

Monday, March 28, 2011

World Travels

Well friends, it's been awhile, hasn't it? I've been a travelling fiend, for which I am so grateful and excited that this chapter of life affords, but now I am back in Tennessee for the rest of the semester (with a few side trips :) and glad to be able to update you on all of my travels!

I think I might do this in several posts over the next few days, so stay tuned for tidbits, stories, facts, praises, and photos!

My recent travels are as follows:
March 4th: Friday morning - leave Knoxville @ 11 am, drive to Charlotte, board a plane @ 7 pm, fly to D.C., board a plane @ 9:30 pm, fly to London (arrive @ 10 am there, 5 am here), board a plane at 1 pm there (8 am here), land in Stockholm @ 4:30 pm there.
Spend a week in Uppsala, Sweden.
Fly home the following Saturday, land in Charlotte at 4:30 (10:30 Sweden time, which I was then functioning on). Spend the evening with friends in Charlotte, having SO much fun but forcing myself to stay awake until 11 pm (5 am to me - eek!)
Go back to the airport Sunday afternoon and fly to Daytona Beach, FL to join our staff team and students for our Spring Break trip!
Spend Sunday-Thursday on the beach hanging out with students, spending some time relaxing, some time building community, and some time doing outreaches on the beach.
Leave Daytona Friday morning, drive to Savannah, GA - spend a couple hours there while the guys watched the UT basketball game and I read a book in a park.
Leave Savannah and drive to Charleston, where we have an amazing dinner, time in the city (preview of the summer for me, woohoo!), stay with a staff member's family, and awesome pancake breakfast in the morning.
Leave Charleston Saturday morning, stop in Spartanburg for lunch with my dear friend Courtney at the famous Wade's restaurant, and then....
FINALLY drive into Knoxville around 4:30. The date was then March 19th.

Holy Moly, it was a lot of travelling. But I LOVED it!

Today I will tell you some general information about Sweden:

In March, Sweden is very cold, but apparently not as cold as most of the winter, because people kept telling us that we cam as it was beginning to get warm (the temperature was right at freezing the whole week, with a couple days maybe getting into the 40's F.)

We walked a lot and used public transportation, which I absolutely LOVE about Europe. I am in love with Europe. I would absolutely love to live there except that all of my friends and family are here and I am a communal creature, so I would probably be homesick a lot. But otherwise...Europe is the place for me!

The only downside to the walking a lot is the fact that there was a layer of ice several inches this all over the sidewalks, and I nearly busted my tail on the sidewalk on a daily basis, but I did manage to keep my feet under me - a big accomplisment!

Sweden has stinkin' awesome coffee. For. Real. Also, Swedish Fish candies are named that for a reason - Swedes love their gummies!

Sweden is known as one of the most secularized countries in the world. Most of the people, especially university students, are either atheist or agnostic, yet only 2 generations ago Sweden sent more missionaries than most countries in the world. This is what is called a "post-Christian" culture. There is the idea that we have advanced beyond the need for faith or superstition or the need for a system of beliefs to explain the world to us. There is either a big reliance on science or the influence of postmodernism and relativism - "your truth is your truth, mine is mine, we can agree that each of us arrives at truth differently and no one way is better than any other." I am convinced that our culture is rapidly heading in the same direction as Sweden, and in a couple of generations we will look very similar. And when I say "our" culture, I'm talking about the Bible Belt, because pretty much everywhere else in the country the philosophy is very similar to what we saw in Sweden. However, it was incredible to see how the Lord is working among the university students of Sweden, and to hear how walls have begun coming down in the thinking of students even in the past several years. Its like they are beginning to recognize their own dissatisfaction with their beliefs (or lack thereof). Like they are realizing that there has to be more, and that relativism doesn't work - it doesn't satisfy. This dissatisfaction was so evident in some of our conversations with students, in the way that Uppsala students are interacting with the Crusade staff team there, even in the questions that Swedes are asking.

It's incredible to see how God is working, and I can't wait to tell you a little bit about it! Stay tuned!