I have been on vacation, (from music making), the last few weeks and have two more to go. I have been taking some of that extra time every day to brush up on my Spanish. I have been using the Duolingo app and been hanging out with my friends from Chile and Peru on Thursday evenings. Thursdays are when my church has "life groups" where we meet more informally. I get to speak a few phrases in Spanish there, but mostly I enjoy the atmosphere of love and acceptance that I find no where else. We come from many different countries (Sweden, Finland, Chile, Iran, Afghanistan, Peru, Albania, the U.S....) The more I meet with my friends I understand that this global bunch had become "mi familia" - my family.
This is how it was yesterday:
When I entered the pastor's house, my friends and some new acquaintances came towards me, throwing their arms around me, welcoming me with their loving eyes and kind words and an even an occasional kiss. I remember thinking that this is how it should feel to come to a family reunion where I had been gone abroad for a year and sorely missed. I had been sick/busy for a week or two and this was the first time I saw them since about three weeks ago.
As we went to the kitchen we were met by an amazing buffé of oven grilled chicken, sallads, goat cheese, bread, butter, cheese and freshly slice peppers. Filling our plates, we then scrunched together as closely as possible on every available chair, in soffas, on the living room floor and in the outdoor patio chairs to find out what was going on in each others' the past week and everyone listened intently.
The jokes, the laughs, and the silliness dominated the meal but if someone brought up something difficult that was welcomed too. Everyone was involved and the atmosphere was positive and loving.
We got more food and kept on listening, sharing and caring.
I had a hard time understanding much of what was said because they kept switching from Swedish to Persian or Spanish but then they would use one of the two languages I know and I could follow again. I translated for a couple from Albania that evening. into English as well.
Many of those in attendance don't know if they can stay in Sweden, awaiting a decision from the Swedish authorities about possible deportation. Still the joy, hope and the love in the room rested as thick as a heavy comfortable blanket on each and every person.
After the food, some information, a song and then a woman from Chile explained in Swedish how giving over her life to Jesus completely freed her. She preached the Word like a worship leader and everything she said was translated into English and Farsi as the kids circulated joyfully in and out of the summer evening.
After a time of prayer and a few songs we said goodbye to all and my husband and I rushed to our buss. At the busstop we got to pray for one of our friends from Iran who's brother is dying from cancer. We care and we keep in touch from week to week.
This is my church och life group nights. Jesus unites us. He is the King and we are His kids. We all understand that we are forgiven completely, loved deeply and unique. We all put the others first. We all pitch in and care when others hurt or are in need - His love drives us. He loved us first. And that love pours out into our lives and onto each other every time we meet.
We each have a purpose and feel needed and appreciated. We help each other find the unique calling God has on our lives and we give each other encouragement to grow where God has planted us. There is no age or culture barrier. We are one big family.
Last night we were about thirty people plus kids. The food was great and the love was unmistakeable, lasting days after.
There's no place I would rather be than in the body of Christ when all its member have humbles themselves before the Lord. It's like resting in the arms of God.
Here's a pic of some of the friends I've made at SOS church.
A church is not a building - it's a family.
Until next time....