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