Friday, May 28, 2010

Funny Things

Hello again from Sweden! We're wrapping up our second full week of ministry and headed into a much needed weekend (our tiredness has caught up with us the last few days!). Tomorrow we're going to Stockholm for the day so we'll post again after that!

In the meantime, I was thinking today about a couple of funny things that have happened so far. Thought I should blog about it:

-Yesterday I was walking through downtown and saw a high school band playing. As I got closer I was thinking, this song sounds really familiar. Finally I realized it was "The Rose" by Bette Midler. So many things are different in Sweden than in America. But school bands around the world are rocking out to The Rose. Couldn't help but think back to how I played that song on my flute back in the day :)

-Sunday after church some of our team was jonesing for McDonald's. At first I was planning to get a hamburger, but as I looked at the menu, was relieved to see that the #9 combo exists here too....

My secret is out, I love a good Filet o Fish. And being in Sweden was no exception. The guy making the puke face is Scott, one of the students with us from UNC. He's making fun of me and how 99% of the world's population would never order such a thing.

-Last night Josh and I went out on a date and ended up at an Irish Pub. We were excited to get fish and chips and shepherd's pie (which they ended up being out of so bummer!). Anyways, as we were eating, an interesting song came on in the restaurant...Achy, Breaky Heart by Billy Ray Cyrus. How hilarious to be sitting in an Irish pub in Sweden listening to Billy Ray. Talk about worlds colliding!

-After dinner on Tuesday we were walking past one of the "nations" which turn into clubs at night. There was a huge line of people waiting to get in. All of a sudden a marching band comes blaring down the street and heads into the club. If I had a dollar for every time I saw a marching band parading down a street on a Tuesday and head into a club...I''d have one dollar. Drumline 3: the streets of Sweden comes out in theaters soon :) (Josh got a video of this event which we'll post later)

-My favorite moment came today. I was having lunch with a girl on project when we heard these really loud sounds. It kept happening over and over again and we couldn't figure out what it was. We kept looking around and no one seemed concerned, so we figured we wouldn't be either. I left lunch and headed to campus and while I was walking, I heard the loud booms again. Finally, I decided to stop someone and ask what was up. "Do you speak English?" I asked the girl passing by. "Yes" she said. "What is that noise?!" I asked. "It's the cannons going off near the castle." She replied. "Oh," I replied, glad to know what it was, but now a;armed about why cannons were going off. "So why are they going off?" I said. "I guess someone's coming," she remarked and kept walking. I thought to myself, "SOMEONE'S coming? Like who? Another country to invade? A famous person? What did she mean?!" Thankfully, I found out later Sweden was not at war. They were being fired for a special event being held in Uppsala. Whew!

I'm sure as the summer goes on we will have many more funny stories! I'll leave you with one last picture. Nothing funny happened here, but thought the blog entry needed another pic. This is Josh and I and the other staff couple Ben and Jen from UNC-Wilmington by the river that runs through Uppsala.

Hope everyone has a great weekend!


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A typical week

Hey ya'll! I've missed the word ya'll so I thought I'd bust it out in the blog at least. We just finished our debriefing time for the day and have a quick break before dinner. So I thought I'd post and let you know what our schedule is like here. Here is a glimpse of life on Sweden Summer Project...

9:45: we gather as a project for praise and worship time, followed by our prayer meeting
11:30: we pair up and head to the nation lunches (refer to earlier post if you don't know what I'm talking about). We usually spend an hour and a half to two hours initiating with Swedes at lunch and talking to them about life in Sweden and spiritual things.
2:00: staff mtg at a cafe downtown. This is where we do our planning and talk through what we're teaching at training times/discipleship/men's and women's times that week, do some planning, brainstorm how to move forward in evangelism and community-building, etc.
4:30: each day at this time we meet back at the apartments to debrief about what happened with ministry that day. Always encouraging to hear stories of the Gospel being shared, people's interest being piqued, etc.
*our monday nights are free to get dinner in groups, meet back up with Swedes if we have appointments, hang out as a team, get caught up on rest, etc for the rest of the night.

9-11: we have our training time called "equip." We as staff are taking turns leading these times and addressing apologetic questions, such as why does God allow suffering? and why is christianity the only way to God? today Josh led our time on the latter question and did a great job!
11:30: nation lunches everyday
2-4: tuesdays through fridays at this time we either (1) meet with the students on project for discipleship or (2) do ministry with Swedes (doing Soularium surveys, meeting backup with Swedes we've met at nations to dialogue more, etc.)
4:30: debrief as usual
*every other tuesday, the ministry here (called Agape, cause "Campus Crusade" would be a bad idea in Europe) have their weekly meetings. So tonight some of the group is going to that. Some Tuesdays we have small group dinners with the project, where we randomly group people so they can meet each other. Last week I was grouped with 3 students I didn't know well so it was fun to get to know them in a smaller setting.

10-11:30: praise and worship and extended time with the Lord
11:30: nation lunches
2-4: same as other days
4:30: debrief
dinner: on your own
7-9: men's and women's times. Tomorrow Josh is coming to the women's time and the two of us are doing a talk on relationships!

9-11: Bible studies (I'm leading 8 of the project girls, Josh has a group of 4 guys)
11:30: you guessed it, nation lunches!
2-4: same as other days
4:30: debrief
evenings: free for people to get dinner with Swedish friends. Josh and I have this as our date night!

morning: free to spend time with the Lord, do laundry, planning, etc
11:30: nation lunch
2-4: same as other days
4:30: debrief
dinner: together with the whole project! last week we took over a pizza place with all 27 of us!

most of the day is free but at some point in the day we have a social, which our community team plans. Last week we cooked Mexican food for the project and watched soccer. Ok, I didn't watch soccer, but some people did :) This Saturday we are taking the train to Stockholm for the day!!

10-10:45: walk to church. yep, 45 minutes of walking...
11-12ish: church. I say "ish" because last Sunday it went until 1:00. woa.
lunch and afternoon are free. I usually take the obligatory Sunday nap, which I also take in America.
5-6:30: ministry team meetings. there are 3 teams, community, evangelism and prayer. Each of the staff coach a team and are responsible for brainstorming, planning and carrying out things in each area. I coach the community team and Josh the EV team.

Whew, that was alot. And probably pretty monotonous to read through, but we wanted to give you a glimpse into what our typical days here look like. Although the schedule may not seem tiring, I'm definitely starting to feel it today! Although it has been a privilege to get to know Swedish students, it has been a lot of initiating which can be draining for so many hours each day.

We are still really enjoying our time here, though, and it has been amazing how many conversations we have gotten into with students here. I was talking to a girl Friday who did not believe in God. We asked her why and she shared that she couldn't believe without 100% proof. But then she added that often, she is jealous of those who do believe in God. She said "their lives are so rich and many times I wish I could experience that." What a glimpse into these students' hearts! Pray for this friend and many others- that we will have more opportunities to talk with them and that God would reveal that He IS true, has revealed Himself to us in many ways and is worth believing in!


p.s. sorry no pics, we'll post some the next time
p.p.s. i said "etc." at least 40 times in the post i think...oops

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Our Home in Sweden

It has been requested by my mom to share where we live.

We have some great housing here in Sweden. It is quiet and cozy. Our group is staying at a hotel complex of 5 buildings. 27 of us are shoe-horned into 6 units. It is clean and accommodating for our time here in Sweden. Erin and I have a little studio room that is about 200 sq. ft. Here are some pics of our set-up.

1- Our front door immediately leads into our closet which is conveniently located next to the fire blanket.

2- Two steps into the place you pass the dividing wall and enter our Living Room / Bed Room / Dining Room. This is where we sleep, 2 twin beds bumped against each other. For the record my bed is the one next to the wall. It is a cot and has wheels. It moves alot so we pinned against the wall and Erin's bed. The real reason for me writing all this is so you all can know the cot is much harder than the bed. I love my wife so I get the padded ply-wood. Strangely, I'm kinda enjoying it.

3- A view from where Erin is facing from the second picture. That door leads into the bathroom. And if you were wondering, we are pretty quite certain everything you see in this room is from IKEA.

4- Same view as picture 3 just panned a little left. Our kitchen and dining room table. With the hallway between the table and the bed. The kitchenette includes 2 cabinets for storage, a small fridge on the bottom left, a small stove top (conveniently holding our cereal boxes). And a small sink directly below the microwave.

5- And in this corner, directly opposite the kitchenette we have a TV we've never watched cause we don't speak Swedish, a table that is holding random belongings that have no home but use consistently like books, make-up bags and electrical devices, along with our luggage tucked below.

6 and 7 - And finally, the bathroom. In fine European fashion they've successfully wedged in this room a full bathroom within about 18 square feet. It is small, functional and...small. Maybe the worst part of the whole set-up is we have to squeegee the floor every time we run the water cause the floor isn't slopped toward the drain.

We've adjusted to the size of the place. It's got everything we need and nothing we don't. And for 6 weeks this is our home, and has begun to feel that way. Honestly, I think this place rivals the North Sunrise Resort we lived in at Clearwater, FL last summer. Mainly because there are a lot fewer bugs.


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Skull Bike Gang

Hello again from Uppsala! OK, don't worry we haven't joined a Swedish gang but a funny thing did happen this week. Since some of the parts of campus we go to are sort of far away we decided to rent some bikes for the summer. (SO many people here have bikes, it's such a part of their culture here too) So, we got 10 bikes to share between the 27 of us. We went to pick them up on Monday and they were these really nice, new, shiny black and red bikes. As we looked closer later though we saw this...

Each of the bikes has 5-6 of these skull emblems on them. Hilarious! They look so funny lined up in a row at our hostel. We joked that we could now all be in a gang and we'd call ourselves the skull bike gang. I just love that this group of Christians is riding around town with skulls all over our bikes. So funny.

In other news...we're still really loving our time here. Today makes a week that we've been here. The longest I've ever been out of the country has been a week, and to be honest, I'm usually pretty ready to leave by the end of that week. I was praying that that would not happen this time and that I'd be able to be "fully here" and not missing home too much. I'm sure there will be days when I will feel like that some this summer, but I have been so thankful that I haven't felt that at all yet. The city is pretty easy to navigate, we're loving getting to ride our new bikes everywhere, and the fact that everyone speaks English has made it a pretty easy transition.

One thing I'm most loving about Uppsala is their wonderful cafes. There seems to be a cafe on every corner here. It's been fun to check out these different places during our "fika" times. As we may have mentioned before, Swedes take a break in the afternoons sometimes, which they call a "fika." It's a time to meet up with friends and spend one to two hours talking, drinking coffee and eating desserts. Um, yes please. Can we have fika in America por favor?! Anyways, as we form relationships with Swedes we hope to have fika appointments with them. This week I've met two of the girls on project for fika for our discipleship times. It's been fun to try out these different cafes and their great desserts. Hey, since I don't drink coffee, I have to get cake right?!

It's also been fun to go on dates in Europe :) Tonight Josh and I had our first date in Sweden. We rode (which I just spelled wrode and took a second to figure out why spell check said it was wrong...yikes!) our bikes to dinner at this cute Italian place. I had pizza (shocker!) and Josh had pesto pasta. It was so fun to sit outside of this cute little restaurant and then go on a walk around town afterwards. Pretty romantic place to be!

So that's a little update on our past few days. Oh and I'm realizing I didn't post much of a ministry update. That has been really encouraging in our first week. Each day we go to the "nations" to have lunch and meet Swedes. Then we have been doing surveys, playing sports and other things to meet people and have been doing alot of that outside in the afternoons since its been nice weather. Each day at 4:30 we debrief about our days and it's been so cool to hear what God has been doing so far. We as a group have been able to have some great conversations. Before we came here, we were prepared that Swedes can be pretty apathetic and that it is very hard soil here. While that is true, we have been pleasantly surprised at how many people have been open to talking with us. One of my first days here I met two girls that were religion majors. I couldn't believe it- what an easy bridge to talk about the Gospel with them! Many of the people we've met want to meet again for fika. Please pray for us as we continue to initiate (alot!!) and meet new people. Pray that God would soften hearts and cause the Gospel to be beautiful news to them!

Thanks for reading about our time here and for praying for us! We'll post again soon! Oh, I meant to show pics of the inside of our place we're living, so I'll do that soon!


Monday, May 17, 2010

Domkyrkan- "Dome-sherkan": Cathedral

The largest cathedral in all of Scandinavia resides here in Uppsala. It is massive and beautiful. The amount of history that belongs to Europe is something to ponder. This building is over 600 years old and took almost a century to complete! It stands 390 ft tall. Anywhere in the city you can see it through the skyline. It's been a helpful reference to us while we've been learning the city giving us orientation. These things were built with such awe inspiring design to be a conduit for man to enter the heavens and experience the holiness of God. We pray for worship to again return to this city.

Liquid Holy Spirit

The title of this blog is in honor of Libby Crafton Swenson my old regional director and friend on staff in Colorado. She loves coffee more than I do.

Since we've been here in Sweden I've been enjoying a new form of caffeine. I brought several packs of Starbuck's new instant coffee, Via. It's really good. Better than really good. It's great. On the box it says they micro-grind the bean so it dissolves in hot water. Not a crystal that has been formed in conjunction by some chemicals. So its not flat or twangy on your tongue. Just all natural goodness. And I'm a fan.
I heard good things before, but I never was in a situation that really presented the opportunity. Our current living situation doesn't include a coffee maker, but it does have a microwave. So every morning here includes a solid cup of glory...

Coffee here is crazy expensive... almost $5 for a regular 8 oz. cup at a cafe'. And grounds at the grocery can between $10-12 a bag. Suddenly $0.90 for a instant cup sounds okay by Starbucks.

Leaving for a afternoon of ministry on campus here. Pray for fruit that comes from faith for us today.

- Josh (I guess we need to sign our posts to avoid confusion, although if anyone knows Erin they would know she didn't write this.)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Dancing Queen

While learning the streets of Uppsala one of the places we had to find during our photo scavenger hunt was "The Walking Street," a very busy shopping street crowded with people. To document our finding we had to sing and dance to any song by the Swedish sensation ABBA. Really only one song comes to mind... honestly can you name another?

Hej Hej!

Hello from Uppsala, Sweden! (One of the first Swedish words we learned was how to say hello. Hej Hej is hello, which you pronounce "hey hey." Pretty easy to remember!) So in Swedish, hej hej!

We have a little time this afternoon so I thought I'd update you on our first few days here. We left Raleigh on Wednesday at 2:30 pm and flew to Charlotte. I wish all plane rides were 40 minutes long! By the time we reached our cruising altitude, it was about time to start our descent. Once we got to Charlotte we had a couple hours to kill before we left the good ol' US of A. Josh decided he'd better get BBQ while he still could so we had an early dinner, then left for Munich at 6ish. That flight was not 40 minutes long. 8 and a half hours later, though, we were in Germany. We were nervous the Iceland volcano would affect our travel (cause we flew right over Iceland) but it didn't so we were thankful for that! The flight was as nice as a long flight can be though- plenty of movies to watch! One crazy story from the flight was that we actually met another summer project on the flight- they were going to Serbia and also going through Munich. Such a small world!

So we got to Munich at 9 am Germany time (3 am back home) and we were all pretty exhausted. There were college students asleep all over that airport terminal (and a few of us staff too!) We had a 5 hour layover there so that was a bummer, but at least I was able to get about an hour of sleep which I desperately needed. Then at 1:30 we boarded our last flight to Sweden. The airport we flew into is near Stockholm so once we got our bags we took vans to Uppsala- the city we'll be doing ministry in this summer. Side note- we travelled with 27 people over here and all of our bags made it...well done Lufthansa!

We came straight to the apartments we're staying at for the summer and unloaded our stuff. Here is a picture of the outside of the apts so you can have a visual of where we live.

It's so cute, I love that they're bright yellow! That night we headed over to the long term staff couple's house and they cooked dinner for all of us. Even though it was only 6:00 at night, we were all exhausted. We somehow managed to stay awake until 8 then came back and crashed. Josh and I slept for 12 hours and it was glorious!

Wow, this is getting long, thanks for still reading. I promise all the posts won't be quite so detailed :) Friday was our first full day here. We had a meeting in the morning to find out some details about ministry in this country and what we'll be doing to partner with the long-term team here. Then we went to these places called "nations" for lunch. Nations are sort-of like fraternities and sororities, except every Swedish student joins one. And these nation houses are where everyone eats lunch each day. So that's where we will go at lunchtime most days to meet students. Friday we went for the first time and one of the American students, Jessica (who goes to UNC) and I had the chance to meet two girls. We got to talk to them a little about their beliefs but hope to have the chance to meet with them again to talk more.

After lunch we all met back up to do a scavenger hunt in the city. That was great at helping us get oriented to Uppsala. It's a beautiful city with a quant little downtown area. It has a river running through it which makes it so pretty. Then Friday night we went out to dinner. Josh and I got pizza...yea, kindof lame to already eat pizza on our first day here! But it was really good!

Yesterday we had a free day- nice to have a day to keep catching up on sleep and unpack our room some more. Our room is small but cute...I'll blog about that and include pics of the inside of it later. So yesterday, Josh got to play disc golf with some of the summer project team and some Swedes (you know if there's a disc golf course around he's gonna find it!) And I went on a run...ok who are we kidding, it was a fast-ish walk...because the weather was perfect yesterday. 70s and sunny, which hardly ever happens here we're told. Then after that I went into downtown (about a 20 min walk) and got some things we needed for our apt. Last night we had burgers and fries for dinner...we are so typical Americans aren't we?!

Today we had the opportunity to go to a Swedish church. So neat to be there with other believers worshipping in a totally different language. We sang "Holy, Holy, Holy" cool to think about the fact that this is a small picture of what heaven will one day look like- different tribes, tongues and nations worshipping Christ! Although neat to worship there this morning, it was also sad to think about what a small percentage of the country was worshipping this morning. Please join us in praying that God would soften hearts of people here to see the beauty of who He is!

Thanks for those of you who read this far! Josh was like "don't write too much" and here I am writing a novel. Next time will be a shorter recap, I promise :) Until then, have a great week!!