Our first full day in Stockholm started with breakfast at Sarah’s. She works for the same mission agency I do, with a related network of churches. So it felt like a family feast, and a tasty one at that. Sarah also did a great job teaching us about the way that they do ministry in Tensta — an approach they call “Four Fields” ministry (based on a story of Jesus recorded in Mark 4) — so we could make the most of our time in Sweden.
After we finished with our breakfast and informal orientation, we went on a prayer walk through the neighborhood of Tensta. The population of Tensta includes a large number of immigrants and refugees from North Africa and the Middle East, and we prayed (and will continue to pray) for God to move powerfully in this community.
There are four of us from H2O Kent on mission in Stockholm this week: Daniel, Halle, Lauren, and me. It’s been fun for us to travel together, enjoying serious conversation and silly stuff, too.
In addition to our team from Kent, there are two other Christians from South Carolina who are visiting this week: Katherine and Kimberly. At Sarah’s suggestion, we’re merging our teams for some activities, and it’s been great to work together. After our prayer walk, we hung out in one of the parks near the center of Tensta and made some new friends. Katherine and I got to talk with a Pakistani family for over half an hour, covering a wide range of topics including suggestions for things to see in the Stockholm area… the policies of Donald Trump… the names of their children… the spiritual significance of Ramadan… and the teachings of Jesus.
When Omer and Hanna needed to take their kids inside, Katherine and I joined an impromptu game of soccer that our friend Halle had started with a little boy named Mohammed. Eventually, I drifted from kicking the soccer ball to the conversation that Daniel was having with Mohammed’s father, Feras. We talked at some length about Feras’ decision to move from Syria to Sweden… about raising a Syrian-Swedish family in Tensta… and about the difference between cultural Christianity and a personal devotion to Christ… We finished by exchanging telephone numbers, in order to see about meeting up for drinks or a meal together later in the week.
When we came back from the park, Lauren was still leading a workshop on how to use Google Drive, which Sarah had set up for some of her refugee friends. Two young women from Iran and one young man from Morocco learned the basics of Google’s online programs that could help these young people in school and in potential jobs in the future.
It eventually became clear that the level of engagement was deeper from the Iranian women, Marsiyeh and Asiyeh, than from the Moroccan man, Bouaza. So Sarah suggested that it might be good for Daniel, Bouaza, and me to go outside and get some fresh air. So we grabbed a frisbee and a basketball and headed back to the playground.
Communication was a challenge, though we figured out that Bouaza and I both spoke a little bit of French which provided our best means for interaction. The French was supplemented with body language to teach Bouaza how to shoot a basketball, play Pig, and just have a fun experience together. By the end of the afternoon, we had received invitations to break the Ramadan fast at three different houses (a Turkish meal, a Syrian meal, and a Persian meal) over the course of the coming week!
It’s been a pretty amazing start to our trip! We’re thanking God for everything that’s already been accomplished, and we’re praying that momentum continues to grow throughout the rest of our time in Sweden (and beyond).