In our host home the typical breakfast consists of a variety of cold cuts, that do not consist of the traditional ham. A plate will be prepared by putting butter on toasted bread or “crisp bread” followed by cheese, cold cuts, fresh tomatoes and slices of hard boiled eggs. To drink is hot tea or very strong coffee(stronger than the American coffee). They use a special cheese slicer that cuts it very thin. The tea is made from loose tea leaves, not bags.
We enjoyed being part of game night on Saturday, hosted by our son and his family. The snacks were served and the game lasted several hours and was lots of fun for everyone. We got to meet some of their friends and neighbors. We all then enjoyed eating home made burgers and fries. Everyone left happy and with full tummies.
Meeting with the church translator/technical team member
Daniel is the translator for the Birch Church, which is the only church in Umeå that provides “live” translations from Swedish to English from the pulpit. He does an excellent job. Doing mission work here is different because it is in a University city of intellectual people. The missionary work is unique due to the fact that most of the “physical needs” here are met. The Swedish culture is very reserved.
We asked Daniel to further explain from his point of view about the culture and he was very helpful in that area.We had the opportunity to put the sewing ministry to work by mending some items for him. Besides translating he is part of the “technical team” which sets up the audio and visual portion for the recording of each service.
Today we split up the work: Lester went to pick up a church member at the airport and Elbita went to help Casper’s mom with some house chores, because she had hip surgery 2 months ago and then shared with her about her recovery from hip replacement. We had the opportunity a couple of days later to mend some clothes and do some work outside.
We gave a new testament to Casper’s mom and he immediately sat down pretending to read it. She was running around after him to get it and told him it was for mommy. She pointed out to him all of his books and he grabbed one and came back to her and tried to exchange it for her new testament( we all laughed). We had some quality time fellowshipping with them and then Casper’s dad cooked us a delicious salmon dinner.(It was salmon on top of butter with leeks, dill, and mushroom butter on top with fresh sweet potatoes all around cooked over charcoal).
Setting up for Sunday service
Björkstakyrkan ( the Birch Church) is our home church in Umea, Sweden. They rent the space from a community college located in a shopping plaza so they need to set it up every Sunday morning. We go each Sunday with our son and help him, along with greeting everyone as they come in. The service starts with welcoming everyone, prayer and announcements then praise music followed by the pastor preaching the word of God. The service is in Swedish and translated in English every Sunday and is available online(please see the link to the church’s page in the menu).
The church is small and made up of several different nationalities but all have in common the love for God and to learn His word and share His love with others. They have several teams to get each Sunday service accomplished: Pastor, praise team, greeters, technical team, set up team, refreshment (fika) team. The word “fika” is a Swedish word for a snack and is observed by everyone, everyday, and everywhere in the country. It is not only to take a break during the workday, but a time to fellowship.
We are blessed to have the opportunity to serve here in any way we can and hope to visit as many members of the church as possible. The need for God is great here as the majority of Sweden is secular.
After fika and fellowship and everyone has gone home, we put away everything because the facility is a community college during the week.
Geordy is a 2 yr old whose parents are from Togo, Africa and active members of the church we are serving. They are part of our son’s home group where we study God’s word every Thursday nite. We were the only ones participating via the internet(everyone else was in person).We were planning to visit them one day , so we called them to set up a day & time. When we called, the father said his wife was having contractions(3 months early). She was going to go to hospital by herself while the dad watched Geordy. We immediately got ready & went there to watch him so the dad could take her to the hospital.
When we got there the mom greeted us in tears because she was thankful her husband would be able to go with her to hospital. To our surprise, Geordy was comfortable being with us, since he has seen us often on the camera at home group. Geordy was eating his lunch and then we thought to watch cartoons with him. He loved the cartoons and even stopped eating because he was so into them. Later we used the word for sleep in Togo(‘dodo’). Lester put him to bed and he immediately went to sleep.
The mom was released from hospital with doctor’s orders to bed rest for the next 3 months. We thought to apply what we learned to bless people, which was to prepare some meals for them. We asked if they had any food allergies and told them of our plan to fix some meals. The menu we came up with was a variety of native American meals. Lester went to the store to get the food and then we helped fix lunch with the husband and had lunch with them. We shared about the sermon that God has authority over distance and time. We praised God that we came the distance to be at the right place at the right time.
Our son’s family and us prepared enough meals for several days and then delivered them. We give God the glory that we were His hands and feet to bless them.Psalm 100:3 “Know that the LORD he is God: It is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves, we are his people , and the sheep of his pasture”.
Attending a lecture at the University and at The Cross Church in Umea
Even though it was mid April, there was plenty of snow. We took a bus to the University to hear a lecture by Dr. Peter Payne(middle picture) from the USA. We walked from the bus stop to the Humanities building and purchased our lunch then got ready for the lecture. We met our granddaughter who belongs to the christian student group at the university, coordinated by pastor Jesper(seen in the picture on the left). One of the things we learned that afternoon was the type of approach Dr. Payne made on the subject of “Why God allows suffering”. Our interest was to see what kind of questions the students were going to ask. To our surprise, Peter approached them not with an attitude of conflict but to encourage them to question the subject matter. It was an intellectual presentation and one of the questions asked was how can I talk to someone about the existence of hell.
Dr. Payne talked about freedom of will and the consequences of our decisions. This lecture was during lunch for anyone who wanted to listen. We were then invited to dinner and a second presentation by Dr.Payne that night at The Cross Church in downtown Umea.
We took the bus and arrived at the church where we met our granddaughter and were warmly received by the college students. They had tables set up for about 30 to 40 people. We then had dinner with the group. We had hot lentil soup with some toppings we haven’t had before, bread and water with red berries. The dinner was delicious. After dinner Dr. Payne discussed the subject of “Somethingism”. Both presentations were done in english, since the people in Sweden speak Swedish and English fluently. His perspective was that everyone believes in something. He presented some data that he has researched throughout Europe while visiting Universities that shows the declining % of people: A few decades ago the majority believed in God, then a few years later the majority believed in some kind of deity and more recent the majority claim that they don’t believe in anything. He said that when we speak to a non-christian we need to find out in what they believe in. Then it’s good to not judge them for what they believe, but rather ask them if what they believe in is making their life better or worse.
He said that we are to forgive those that hurt us but they still will receive the consequences of their actions. He asked each table to discuss what they understood about what he was talking about and then give him feedback. He then proceeded to answer each question or concern from each table.
The beginning of our trip
We departed early in the morning on April 17 from Columbia, SC to make sure we wouldn’t miss any connecting flights. Our 1st leg went smooth and we arrived on time in Chicago and took the opportunity to call our son who was in ICU in SC. Our commitment to God was clear that we needed to fulfil, however we were struggling with the issue of leaving our son behind in the hospital. The sermon from the previous Sunday(Signs spotlight the savior) ministered to our hearts that God has authority over distance and time. Even though we were going to be far away from our son, God would be with him to heal him of a life threatening illness. In our conversation with him he said that he understood that on one hand we had our comitment and on the other he being ill. It reminded him that God chose to sacrifice His son for our salvation and he understood our decision to leave him.
We waited 8 hours in Chicago before departing to Stockholm which took another 8 hours. We arrived in Stockholm the next morning,April 18, losing 6 hours because of time change. We missed our final connection so we got the next plane leaving to Umea, Sweden. We were invited to a presentation the next day by Dr. Peter E Payne at Umea University, from the crediblechristianity.org. We went to bed early that night because we were very tired.
getting ready to leave USA for Sweden
We packed all our clothes and medications for 6 months, including 125 new testaments. Keeping the luggages under the limit was a task. One picture is us with a prayer quilt signed by many seniors in our Oasis group at our church. In the center of the quilt is Isiah 6:8 “I heard the voice of the Lord saying whom shall I send and who will go for us? Then I said here I am, send me”. On the back of the quilt it says “I am a little prayer quilt to help calm your fears, don’t be afraid to use me to wipe away your tears.”