some pretty amazing humans (episode 2. The Shining)

30 11 2015

DSCN9546 (Small)

Every now and again I have to get something from rooms down in bottom parts of the school.  And the lights may be off. 

What a difference one little switch can make!  In the darkness, even things that are familiar to me seem so strange.  Every step, every turn in a corridor, feels like a frightening challenge.  But with the light on all is safe and un-formidable. 

November sees great darkness arriving over northern reaches.  Where in the summer months the sun never really sets, now we rejoice over every bit of pure sunshine we get.  And the absence of light is felt. 

It is possible to see similar differences when people are living in the light. 

DSCN9524 (Small) 

We feel a sense of comradeship with people who arrived in Vilhelmina around the same time we did. 

One such family visited our church a few times about three months after we arrived.  But it was clear that there were several challenges facing them that we did not have.  This was a family fleeing war in their country.  Fleeing war in marriage.  And a challenge for survival. They did not want to be here, in this tiny town, in Norrland. 

It was not easy for Lee*.  Our town is small, and there are not any big churches.  There are not many churches to choose between, and definitely no Middle Eastern Orthodox churches that were far more familiar to Lee’s way of doing church.  But she kept coming. 

Lee had been longing for God to do something.  To be who He is.  But she had never had a chance to experience Him in a real way for herself. 

DSCN9482 (Small)

Life has been harsh all along for this lady.  She was born in Romania, and had gone to a middle Eastern country and got married  at eighteen years.  Lee had three children and never worked in her married life, but looked after her family. 

War forced them from their warm, sun-loving land.  And sent them to a freezing little town, almost 65 degrees north of the Equator.  And this other sun-loving-land person (me) had to see how she was doing. 

The shoulders weighed down with worry were noticeable.  The eyes darkened by concern had several of us praying. 

Lee needed an income.  We prayed.  And prayed.  Work is not easy to find in this town, where unemployment percentages are above the nation’s average. 

A job was found.  Two towns over.  This was a sacrificial job:  It took six hours of bus transport a day, but it was a job. 

We realised that the living situation was not good at all.  And a family in our church pulled in this Mamma and her three (teenage!) kids to live with them.

DSCN9591 (Small)DSCN9589 (Small)

The first few months were rather hairy, I think…  Noise and yelling where the house had been quiet.  Languages twisted, turned and spun about in the learning of them.  Making sense of a very different education system, when the children were each set back two years from the classes they had been attending in their home land.  And stand-in parents when Mamma was traveling long hours to work.

DSCN9415 (Small)

But now?  Now there is not a bit of their lives that has not been changed by light. 

I just had to write about Lee, after seeing her again at church last week. 

Lee glows.  She could charge a cellphone, she radiates so much light. 

Miraculously, Lee and her children’s person numbers came through in a record time.  (This is absolutely vital for living in Sweden, and  remarkable!)  After much (more) prayer, she has got a part time job in our town, and is studying Swedish the remaining time. Two of her children are now in the school linked to our church, where I teach (which makes a difference to influences, friends and teaching). 

DSCN9582 (Small)DSCN9586 (Small)

When one asks how Lee is doing, she lights up.  “I am so happy.  People ask why I so happy.  I don’t know?  I just am happy now!”  The first thing Lee recognises is God’s miraculous working in her life, after years of longing for Him to move.  Now she knows His reality in a big way. 

 

When I asked if I could write about her, Lee said, “And you must tell about this church.  This church!  Ah!  They helped me so much!” (over and over, Lee wanted to thank the Vilhelmina Fria Forsamlingen) . Then a list followed of how God’s body has helped this lady.  And that is what it is about, isn’t it? 

When we could sit and disagree on certain rituals or habits it is easy to see reasons not to help. 

But I am struggling to find verses that support a theology of fixing faults before showing acceptance.  The body should be recognised for love (John 13:35). 

Eternity is far more important than now, too. 

The family who have welcomed Lee and her children are enjoying a whole lot more falafels  and laughs in this life, which must count for something, but the eternal reward of a “Well done, good and faithful servant”  cannot be matched by anything on this earth. 

And now, a life lived in shining smiles is drawing new faces to our church.

 

This blog was sent to Lee for checking, and she wanted it to be clear: “And I thank God every day and I ask God and say to him that my life its in his hand so sometimes we dont know wich way we must to take! But God knows! “ (sic)

It is so fantastic to see when God swings a life around totally.  He has given hope, courage and joy where there was despair.  His Spirit is continuing to do a work that could affect generations. 

DSCN9501 (Small)

* Name changed… because that is what you are meant to do in these articles, right? 





time for some rearranging

21 11 2015

So, Yes, this world has turned crazy. 

How many times have you thought, in the last few weeks, “I don’t want to live on this planet anymore”?    I have.  Several times. 

IMG_3876 (Small)

If we look at what we can see it seems hopeless. 

These are also precisely the things that deepen my depression, usually. 

BUT GOD…

He is so so amazing and faithful. 

And I believe that this is what He is saying to those who would listen at this time: 

We can no longer depend on our own abilities, our own successes and plans. 

We can no longer trust people to sort things out. 

DSCN5934 (Small)

The word “idol” was rolling around in my head and heart for weeks. 

It came up again and again in Bible reading. 

What is this “idol”?  Cell phones? Money?  There are certainly several things that people have placed as Very Important in their lives.

Today, I think I get what the idol is, though. 

THE SELF. 

This world has focused attention so on what YOUR rights are, what YOU deserve, what YOU NEED. 

DSCN6090 (Small)

My heart BURNS for a casting down and destruction of this idol. 

And it seems to me like God is using these times to shake the belief in self. 

We need to place Him where He belongs. 

The Bible makes only ONE reference to a RIGHT we have as people: 

But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. (John 1:12. NLT) 

What an amazing right that is!  We can be called CHILDREN of GOD!  

 

But we have no RIGHT to success, a roof over our heads, money in the bank, freedom, liberty and all the other things the world says we have a claim to seek. 

A lot of the teaching development one sees nowadays places children as the central focus.  Yes, we do want tot teach them in a meaningful way.  But right from the beginning of life, kids are being nicely instructed that THEY are the centre of the universe and deserve wonderful things. 

THIS IS A LIE. 

IMG_4180 (Small)

Just like an eclipse covers out the light of the sun with another sphere, so often we as humans come between the True Light and ourselves with lies of misplaced importance and what we deserve. 

People doubt GOD because He did not give them what they asked for.  People wonder if God is real because of what other people have done. 

God is not “un-Goded”  because of people.  In fact, His sovereignty is all the more dependable because it proves His unchanging, divine ways. 

We are looking at two completely different categories of being and we cannot try to understand God by comparing Him with what we as humans can fathom with our brains. 

DSCN5550 (Small)

My heart longs for people to turn from trusting in humanity to save us.  Humanity has never been able to save itself.  People cannot save other people. 

We need, and have, an unfathomable, immutable, massive, loving GOD for that. 

If the shaking in the world does anything, I pray that it would shake us loose from seeking hope from any human source.  Our selves, our governments, our friends, our investment policies:  These cannot be depended on in any way. 

The LORD has established His throne in the heavens;
            And His sovereignty rules over all.   (Psalm 103:19) DSCN5584 (Small)

 

Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.  (1 Timothy 1:7  NIV) 





some pretty amazing humans (episode 1)

8 11 2015

DSCN6425 (Small)

Something interesting has been happening lately. 

We have had a chance to start listening to people’s stories.  And we are amazed at how people really just want to talk and be heard. 

We are getting details on some amazing stores, and I would love to share about some of these remarkable humans that live on this planet.

Last week, after one of the really busy youth conference meetings in Östersund, we went down for some fika (coffee and a sandwich or cake, with lots of chatting).  In a very crowded basement, with lots of discussing and communicating, my eyes were drawn to a young lady sitting crumpled into a chair.   Her beanie pulled low with a particular tilt reminded me of so many of my African sisters I have met in the past.  I just love greeting people from my birth-continent, and looking for points of similarity. 

Straight away we found one of those points: Afrikaans language!  Angie*  said she came from Namibia, which neighbours on South Africa and several people are fluent in Afrikaans.  Deon and I are the only Afrikaans speakers for hundreds of kilometres… this was going to be fun! 

What is so obvious, when you begin listening, is that not many people do seem to want to hear these stories.  There are treasures of bravery, persistence and tenacity just waiting to be heard. 

Angie is originally from DRC, the Democratic Republic of Congo.  War has ravaged her country since 1996, with an estimated 5,4 million people killed so far. 

She and her family escaped to refugee camps in northern Namibia, where they lived for fifteen years. (She last saw her father in early childhood in Namibia, and has no idea where he is).   Last year, the camps were closed down and the UNHCR allocated various refugees to various countries.  There was not much choice at all in which country they would go to, how long they had to prepare, and how well prepared they were for their new homes. 

So Angie and her family climbed off the ‘plane in the middle of November in Sweden, wearing T-shirts and flip flops.  They were assigned to a new home: in a little town in rural Sweden.  Incoming asylum seekers are given very basic supplies:  One blanket each, one plastic plate and set of cutlery each, one pot per family.   Angie’s family were caught up in a misunderstanding regarding getting furniture from a local Second Hand store:  They are still paying off a debt for furniture. 

These details were shared not to gain sympathy, but as an African sister who might understand how foreign different ways of thinking are, and how very strange it is to come into this world from an African camp. 

DSCN6428 (Small)

We laughed together at missing typical Southern African foods (biltong! boerewors!)  and spoke a little about school and her family situation. 

This amazing young lady really misses Netball.  She just missed qualifying for the national Namibian team (That takes remarkable skill:  Netball is a game of great speed and agility, and the girls from the tribes where she grew up are known for their extraordinary skill).  Now she would love to play football (soccer) more often, but because the town she lives in is so small, there is no real competition and opportunity for her to stretch those skills.  (I am guessing she would put a lot of good players to shame too!) 

At 16 years of age, being removed from familiar circles of friends and stability is regarded as incredibly stressful.  Instead of seeking ways to be sorry for herself, Angie is looking for ways to help others.  She is working with a lady in her church to begin a group teaching sewing and cookery skills to newly- arrived migrants. 

Angie switched easily from English to Afrikaans, and is making great progress in Swedish (I did not want to be put to further shame when she admitted to speaking Otshiwarongo.  I am sure she speaks a few other languages too!) .  Clearly, this young lady is very intelligent, and her brains would be beneficial anywhere! 

She suggested she might want to study to be a teacher one day (yeah!  good choice!) but would far prefer to teach in Africa than in Sweden:  in her words “Having kids call me by my first name? No! Uh uh!”.  

DSCN6434 (Small)

Fitting into places that just do not feel like home is not easy. 

Obviously more and more people are having to adjust to this kind of situation.  It does help to keep things in their real perspective,  the eternal one. 

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone,… (Eph 2:19, 20)  

 

Angie has made a difference to me, just after one conversation.  Her past may not be fantastic, but she has a future just out of this world! 

 

*  Name changed in case there may be some rules of Asylum, Protection or other rights that I may have overstepped.  Want to keep my African sister and her family safe! 





A crisis of water

5 11 2015

20151104_144627

We got pretty excited when we left for work on Wednesday morning.  We saw these vehicles arrive at our place.  YES!  Water! 

We live in a water rich country. 

There are lakes everywhere, and one can drink water straight from 90% of the lakes.  There is gorgeous clean water everywhere. 

Except in our house! 

DSCN9397 (Small)

Our precious previous landlord made some really unwise choices in getting water into the house from the river, and the source comes through several rocks, picking up a lot of iron oxide along the way. 

The water has a rusty stink to it, and leaves a stain wherever it can settle. 

 

 

Despite all of those beautiful clean lakes, our water is bad! 

We are well trained for such situations after living in Africa!  We get clean drinking water from school, and have just lived with all the consequences of dirty water. 

Any light clothes are stained yerange (yes.  A mix of yellow and orange) and it is almost impossible to get the bathroom tiles clean.  It takes a real effort, lots of chemicals and elbow grease. 

DSCN9400 (Small)

So, we got thrilled when our new landlords said the drillrigs would be coming.  And Deon did not moan about the noise levels throughout the day as the machines bored through the earth for hours. 

20151104_144747

One has to drill really deep here to get to good sources of water. 

So the drills bored through the earth all day.  They started by about 8.30 am and just kept at it. 

When I got home in the afternoon they were at about 80 meters. 

DSCN9392 (Small)

There was no water. 

We listened to the rig going just outside throughout the early evening.  A new rod would be fitted and the sounds would change for a while and then the boring went on. 

But no water. 

Deon went out more and more often to see if water had been found. 

Over 100 meters.  Nothing. 

By 110 meters, Deon stood outside with K, the new house owner.  The look on K’s face was far more a grimace than a grin as he stood there, ears muffed, and stared at the machine. 

Deon came back inside from the cold loud after 115m. 

They would not be able to drill deeper than 120meters. 

 

And we did not get water. 

 

Deon felt ill all night. 

 

The machines were packed up, and the drill guys went home. 

At a cost of 25 000Kronor, which is about $3000 (US),  this drilling exercise was a total waste.  30 meters away the neighbours have a great borehole giving lots of good clean water.  But here, in front of the flat we rent,  there is nothing useful. 

 

This last week, facebook feeds from South Africa have been blaring the despair.  Huge water restrictions across several parts of South Africa. 

Calls for prayer for rain. 

Drought declared in KZN. 

 

And just recently they found water on Mars.  Not really the kind I would choose to drink, but they found it. 

I tried to google how much it cost to find that water.  Glaring silence in that regard. 

My google search of ‘’”What did it cost to find water on Mars?”  delivered articles on what this means for the world, ten facts why this is an outstanding discovery, and even this bizarre headline on buzzfeed:  Why Scientests Finding Water On Mars Is Blatant Misogyny. 

 

We live in a crazy crazy crazy world. 

20151104_144754

What we really need to survive is just meters away. 

But how to get it to our taps, is an expensive, complicated, time-consuming endeavour. 

166781_551971921492421_1263019096_n

After our time in Africa, where collecting after is really hard work, I can never just open a tap to drink and take good clean water fro granted again. 

 

And even in this ‘first world’ country, where such necessities are so taken for granted, God reminds us again and again. 

We cannot put our trust in man.  People will fail.  They will look in all the wrong places, thinking of making life good for the here and now.  But this is really not all there is. 

A bit of discomfort to get water is not the very worst thing in the world.  It regularly reminds me of finding fresh springs in Him,  coming to Him again and again for refreshing, just as we need to fill up our water canisters at school again and again.  The jugs we fill today need to be topped up within days again. 

DSCN8348 (Small)

 

And our focus is never ever meant to be on earthly comfort.  All of this is temporary.  Do not get your butt so settled in a good chair that you miss out on all the living that is still coming! 

God also gives this hope, over and over: 

John 16:33  The Father is with me. I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.”

DSCN9399 (Small)

And He reminds me of the deep deep passion that continues to well up in my soul- 

 

That ALL people, in ALL places would come to know what it is to find the true Living Waters. 

Those waters that well up from inside and truly fulfil.  Waters that are not filled with tiny little bits of dirt that will always force their way through filters.  Waters that do not cost anything to enjoy. 

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. (Rev 22:17, ESV) 

Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’"  (John 7:38 NLT)