Prayer Walk through Tensta

We’ve made it to Sweden! The Tensta neighborhood of Stockholm, to be specific. I’m exhausted from having stayed awake the last thirty hours (with still five or six hours of waking time before I’m likely to get to sleep) — but things really went remarkably smoothly to get us to this point. We’re now sitting around our friend Sarah’s apartment after some lunch and walking around. Ethan and Davi were just doing a little jam session on piano and guitar, respectively, but we just asked them to pause so people could rest and/or reflect for a little while.

Prayer Walk through Tensta

I’ve been thinking about an interaction I had with a bunch of adolescent boys at a football pitch in Tensta’s Nydalsparken. Our group had spent a good while playing on the concrete pillars and ledges of a parcours playground, and then we took a few creative group portraits. And then, just as we were getting ready to move on, some younger kids (maybe late elementary school aged) came up to our group and started interaction with some of the women. But in that same moment, my attention was drawn to a group of older boys calling out from the other side of a chain link fence.

Prayer Walk through Tensta

“Free Palestine!” was their opening line. And even though I was willing to engage with them on these substantive issues (suggesting that I might prefer a two-state solution, myself) — it turned out that their biggest objective was to get a rise out of me. When Palestine didn’t do it, they asked me for my opinion about Adolf Hitler and the N-word… And eventually, they settled into a lot of aggressive, hyper-sexualized insults. Mahmoud, from Iraq, was especially crude.

His favorite phrase involved some variation along the lines of, “You’re so beautiful, with your big blue eyes. I want to take a picture of your face, so I can I bust a nut all over you.” Sometimes, it was busting two nuts, and sometimes the produce of the “busted nut” would rain down like a storm. But it was always that “bust a nut” language. I could tell that he was talking about masturbation, but I told him that I didn’t think it was a very popular phrase in American English (though my American adolescent sources have since confirmed that usage in the United States is more widespread than I initially believed). In any event, Mahmoud was super-loud and super-crude… But he had an enormous smile on his face the whole time.

I was a prop in an act of performance art for his friends. But honestly, I didn’t pick up on any true hostility.

Prayer Walk through Tensta

They all seemed surprised that our group was spending time in Tensta, instead of Stockholm’s city center. They said that theirs was an “ass neighborhood” (and I didn’t even try to correct them with more common English constructions on this one). One said that he just had a gun pulled on him yesterday. Another claimed to have gotten his wallet stolen just a few hours previously. They said that their families were from Somalia, Kenya, Iraq, Lebanon, and Bosnia. But I didn’t really get to learn that much more about them because the rest of my group started moving towards the grocery store, and I decided that I needed to keep up with them. Still, I hope that I might get to bump into them again. And even if I don’t get to talk any more with those particular boys, I think that this conversation played a valuable role in warming my heart up for the week ahead.

The youths of Tensta might seem like something of a hostile crowd, but they’re mostly just curious — and curiosity is fertile soil in which the Good News of God’s Kingdom can grow.

This entry was posted in Adolescence, Culture, Culture Shock, Europe, European Missions, God, Ministry, Prayer, Sweden, Travel. Bookmark the permalink.

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