and when you are positioned for the rumbling?

12 09 2015

Vilhelmina_Hoedspruit

This is all part of ONGOING.  There is much that comes before this title.  And there will surely be much that follows. 

There was always a deep knowledge in me that God had called me for others.  This map does not show the time of preparation I spent in India.  Then the years we lived in Uganda and in Tanzania.  There were also the months spent in Zambia. 

There were also the many years that we both had growing up in South Africa, in a few different places.  All of those times, all of those places, were important.  We were not in those places by some kind of accident.  Each day is a part of an eternal purpose.

Arrival Sweden, Vilhelmina 535 (Medium)

But now, and in this place?  There is just something that feels so different.  So God-organised that it could not be an accident. 

We ended up in Vilhelmina in no way that makes human sense.  But it was the only way we could get into Sweden at a time when we needed to find a place to earn some income and live a life that is meaningful.

And now, just over a year along, we are amazed at the positioning. And the timing. 

(Image from America Al Jazeera).

The world is in crisis.

Like never before, the world is struggling.  To make sense of identity.  Struggling to  determine who may be where and what we will do with all those who do not fit where they thought they were meant to fit. 

We knew some time ago that we did not fit in South Africa.  (Reasons)

We know that we are refugees in Sweden.  Economic, safety, purpose.  (Or, wait. Are we  ‘migrants’? And while people fight over names, we all seek refuge from the terrors that  haunt our minds.)

We understand what it feels like to not belong.  We understood it in Uganda and in Tanzania.  We felt it in South Africa, where levels of dislike between groups of people is rising scarily.  And we do feel it in Sweden.  Not understanding language fully is a big force that keeps people apart. 

But there are other fences.  We do not do things in a Swedish way.  We (gasp) sometimes cross the road just before the traffic light goes green.  We sometimes put honey in our filter coffee. More seriously, we are not familiar with this kind of outside.  The cold outdoors are so different from our warm and balmy unfrozen savannahs. 

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But still we know that we are supposed to be here.

We do not have much choice, but we still have a teeny bit of choice with being in a tiny town in northern Sweden. 

We see, almost daily, new people pouring into our town that have just about no choice in being in Vilhelmina or in Sweden.

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It is easier than one can think to be in an environment that is not ideal, or what we think is ideal.  If we have been watching the last few years, we will have seen how quickly technology, leadership… the world changes.  Life requires an adaptability and tenacity that perhaps was not so universally necessary about one hundred years ago.

These blooms in early summer caught my attention.  Growing superbly, exactly where one does NOT expect to find flowers blooming.  Under flowing water, rushing over them, these flowers bloom.  And they reproduce.  And they bring joy to those who get to see them.  We could be like these blooms – flowering in unexpected places.

Fences, barriers and boundaries are not uncommon to us, coming from security obsessed South Africa and Uganda.  (And these ones below are TAME! Unelectrified, unspiked and unwalled).

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Our Swedish friends are always shocked when they see the almost-prisonlike homes in SA.  We have commented before that it is striking that there are comparatively few physical  boundaries and fences in Sweden. But Europe is noticeable for the boundaries and fences going up around people’s hearts. 

The divided attitudes between European nations is obvious.  Those who take many, those who shun refugees.  We are very used to seeing boundaries from Africa.  We know that in Europe, and in Sweden, these are felt. 

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And now, tracks have led us to this place.  And we are glad to be here.  The beauty, daily sense of purpose, freedom, and spiritual significance are all worthwhile reasons for living fully from day to day. 

But the spiritual reasons just got way more significant these last two weeks. 

We did not choose to come to Vilhelmina.  But God chose us for this place.  And we did not realise how important Sweden would become in rescuing refugees even a year ago.  People are streaming in from nations across the world.  And we are already in this place, waiting! 

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It is no accident. 

My heart pains for those hurt by injustice of greed, violence and wickedness.

How can believers NOT be compelled by these concerns that drive the heart of our Father? 

He who sent His own Son as an Outsider, so that all of us outsiders can become the accepted ones.

So that we who are migrants in this world may convey the message that we are never MEANT to feel too comfortable in this world.  It is temporary, and we have no business living like this is all there will ever be.

So that we may live lives that convey the loving heart of a faithful Father, but also a Just Judge who will hold people accountable for how we treat others and accept the outsiders among us.

This is what the LORD says: Be fair-minded and just. Do what is right! Help those who have been robbed; rescue them from their oppressors. Quit your evil deeds! Do not mistreat foreigners, orphans, and widows. Stop murdering the innocent! Jeremiah 22:3.  ( See also Ex 23:9, Lev 19:33, Zech 7:10)

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We do not know what our roles here will look like.

This week is a week committed to prayer for our church.  Please would you join in praying that God will show us, and the other churches in our town, how He wants to use us for this time?  And that we would answer with a YES?

Deon, again, received “no” to job applications this past week.  It has been three years of pain with this.  Pray that God would open the right opportunities for him to use skills in an effective way and that there will be resources to pay for ways he may be able to be used with people in Vilhelmina.

I continue my job at the school.  It takes energy and mind-boggling thought.  But I love it.  And I wish to teach an attitude that loves others each moment I am there. Language learning continues to be a challenge.  And the fact that I want to spend my days just hugging everyone, when teaching English is my task for now! 

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What about YOU, where YOU are? 

Please listen and be obedient to what the Holy Spirit requires of you.  He will answer if you ask Him! 

Please do a real, human-contact, climb-over-the-fences (NO! BREAK DOWN THE FENCES!) THING to reach out to strangers in your midst. 

Say hello.  (Learn a few phrases in ‘other’ languages.  Talk.  Yes.  It will be uncomfortable.  Every. single. conversation / effort-at-conversation I have here is uncomfortable. I struggle each time I try to talk Swedish.  I so value when others make an effort, even in stumbling language to talk.  You will feel uncomfortable. But SPEAK. 

Invite people for a meal.  Try and meet half way: some ‘local’ food, some other food.  Talk to them.  Use pictures to communicate.  LAUGH at mistakes together.  Be real.

Help physically.  Go and take items (not just throwing money at a cause) but go and get your hands dirty with things, time, personhood.  Money is rather impersonal.  We are talking about lives of people that really matter. For each one, what they have been living through is pretty personal. 

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This crisis of migrancy has been around for as long as there have been people.  And it will continue for a long time too.

It takes so little for the ‘”us” to become the “them”. Syria was receiving the most refugees in the world two years ago. 

Each day is an opportunity to leave marks of love, compassion and eternity in the hearts of others.  I pray that we will learn to do this, in His grace. 

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