other than working as a part-time administrator at a local psychiatric office, i do a lot of other administrating within church ministry. what really moves my heart and brings me deep, God joy, though, is developing and strengthening relationships. i get the greatest high from entering into intimate conversations with friends, co-workers, and strangers about the greatness and complexity that is a personal relationship with Jesus.
let me tell you about veronika*. we met and worked together for only one year, but we spent endless mornings discussing everything from life's daily struggles to meeting Jesus in the midst of sorrow and crisis. i loved spending time with veronika. we've kept in touch since God called me elsewhere, and we recently met for lunch. at one point during the fantastic conversation, she shared with me that her daughter has become very interested in Christianity, that she's started participating in some activities in the local church, AND that they've started reading the Bible at home! my heart soared! moments later, as our chat led into faith and what it really means to believe in and to have a personal relationship with Jesus, veronika said that she desperately wanted to believe but that she's afraid that she won't be able to keep it up, that she'll give into doubt. oh, satan, you're so crafty with your lies. i responded that faith was a decision and that even the "strongest" believers, if they're honest with themselves and God, have moments, sometimes even long periods, of doubt. we are still human after all...please pray for veronika and that God's Word will become living and active in her home and family as they read it and that she will dare to believe!
then there's denise*. we work together three days a week and share our frustrations and moments of joy together throughout the day. just before easter, we had a long talk about demons, the afterlife, faith, church, creation, God in psychology...you know, things everyone talks about on the job :P. she came with question after question, amazed that Christians didn't have to be boring and so far-removed from the real world as so many swedes think that they are (and often with good reason). after hours of talking with her about these things, i was filled with joy. our relationship had reached a new level of intimacy, and it was beautiful!
two days ago, after dealing with a difficult situation between myself and one of the doctors here (which had taken it's toll on me over the past month), said doctor "randomly" approached me in the hallway with a smile (instead of the usual avoidance) and said that he was sorry for things that had happened and misunderstandings that had ensued and that he hoped that we could work things out. that in itself was the answer to a prayer that i'd been praying for weeks. but what really brought joy to my heart was the conversation that ensued with denise afterward. she had overheard my conversation with the doctor and surprisedly asked how that came about.
"well, it's the answer to my prayer," i said quite frankly.
she then, of course, wanted to know what i meant by that and what i'd prayed. that question was followed by, "do you pray for me?"
"of course," i answered.
she placed her hands across her chest as a huge smile lit up her face. "really? what do you pray?"
"well, i pray that God will bless you...and i pray that you'll soon have a personal relationship with Jesus because i believe that you want one." (oh my goodness! did i REALLY just say that???)
her entire face aglow, she replied, "i do want that! i do!"
then a patient came in, and our exciting conversation was paused, but it WILL continue :). pray that denise's heart will indeed be open and that she'll invite Jesus in!
i have also spent quite a bit of time recently with a group of short-term missionaries from palm beach atlantic university in florida who are here working with our church. they've shared their hearts with me and why they're here, why they want to reach swedes, and i've shared my passion for reaching swedes, what's effective here and what's not, and the crazy story of how God called me here. and every time i meet with them, i get excited...excited about how God is using them, excited that people's eyes are being opened to how desperately sweden needs to be exposed to the real, unconditional, unfathomable, grace-filled love of Christ. it fills me with hope, hope that God hasn't given up on his precious children here in sweden, and that makes my heart sing.
tomorrow i'm joining the team as they once again enter into the local high school on the island of kungsholmen (where we have a church plant), serve breakfast sandwiches and coffee to the students, and chat with them about all things under the sun. then we'll invite them to a café night we're hosting on saturday in the church and pray that they come so that we can delve into more intimate relationships with them. please pray for us!
hope, grace, and the love of Christ over you! thanks for reading and especially for praying!
*names changed to protect privacy.