Coffee and Tea

Coffee Outreach

The northwest neighborhoods of Stockholm have names like Tensta and Husby and Rinkeby. And one of the most distinctive things about these neighborhoods is that they are “majority minority” communities, where most of the people don’t come from Sweden but from other countries like Syria… Iraq… Iran… Somalia… Eritrea… Ethiopia… They happen to be living in Sweden — one of the most secularized, most individualized, most “Post-Christian” cultures in the world — but the people in these communities are far more likely to claim a Muslim religious identity and a communal identity. And more likely than not, they’ve never even talked to a real Christian before.

So we wanted to pray for the people living in these neighborhoods and then trust God to provide openings for spiritual conversations. One of the ways we ended up meeting people was giving out free coffee, tea, and dates to people passing through the center of Tensta at sunset (the time when Muslims are allowed to break their Ramadan fast). It was a very mixed environment, linguistically and culturally, with an unusual police presence in the area; but it honestly felt way more “familiar” than “foreign.” Its emotional core was quite similar to our Flapjack Friday nights in Kent and the Waffle Outreach we did in Husby. And we got to have some decent conversations, though it’s hard to tell what fruit might grow from the seeds of the Good News that were scattered during our time there.

The most interesting relationship to come out of our Coffee Table Outreach was a guy who first came up to the table with a weird skittishness about him. He put three or four sugar cubes in his little paper cup and then added maybe an inch of coffee — and then he walked away. Five or ten minutes later, however, I went to throw something away in a trash can, and I saw that the guy was standing right there using the top of the trash can like a bar table. I smiled and said, “Hej,” but then returned to our table. Then a few minutes later, the guy walked back over and started talking in pretty-decent English.

He told me that he had only moved to Tensta about a month ago, from Slovakia. He moved because he wanted a change of scenery, saying that his life in Slovakia was too comfortable, too predictable (“too much power” was the way he initially phrased it). I also learned that he had grown up “Christian,” in Tunisia, but he decided to convert to Islam two years earlier. Also, it seemed, to mix things up, to try something new. And because he was attracted to the way that Muslims do community (“as one”). He kept talking about trying to challenge himself, to divest himself of power. So, I eventually asked him why.

“What is the purpose, or meaning, of life?”

He took a while to answer but eventually indicated that his purpose in life is to find peace. And then he asked me what I thought. And I took that as an opportunity to share the Good News of Jesus — talking about God’s design for the world (emphasizing peace), our choice to go our own way (emphasizing the human tendency towards self-centeredness), and God’s initiative to redeem us and restore the world through Jesus (again emphasizing peace).

It was encouraging to see my new friend become genuinely energized by what I was saying. He kept smiling widely and patting me on the shoulder and dapping me up, and he said he liked the way I was talking. I told him that I was going to be in Sweden for three more days and asked if he would like to meet up again. He said he would, so we found each other on Facebook and made plans to meet up again two days later.

Mall of Scandinavia with Aymen

For our follow-up meeting, I brought along one of the Kent State students named Ethan. Our new friend was at our rendezvous point before we got there (even though we were also early for our meeting time). He seemed happy to see me again and happy to meet Ethan. We eventually decided to find a place where we could sit down to talk. Our new friend decided that we should go to the Mall of Scandinavia (necessitating a metro ride followed a tram ride followed by a walk over a train platform). We talked as we traveled, but then we got to the mall and decided to stop at a bubble tea spot on the lower level (our friend insisted, even though he was fasting for Ramadan). And just like at the Coffee Table Outreach, our new friend demonstrated remarkable spiritual openness.

He seems like he’s truly seeking God — and his conversion to Islam was largely a reaction to a distasteful version of “Christianity” that he’d observed, where all kinds of money was spent on gold plating for the church building and salaries for the church leaders who seemed to only open themselves and the building up one day a week for parishioners who played the part of “Christian” on Sundays but lived every other day according to their own self-centered priorities. Ethan and I were able to empathize with his perspective but also offer an alternative perspective of Christian community from Acts 2 and our own personal experiences. Ethan shared his testimony in a way that really seemed to connect with our friend.

But then, it was time for us to return to Tensta. It’s hard to know what God will do with our new friend, but I pray that he will experience the truth of Matthew 7:8: “Everyone who asks receives what he asks for. Everyone who looks finds what he is looking for. Everyone who knocks has the door opened to him.”

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