We just wanted to take a minute to wish you all a Blessed Christmas this year. We are so very thankful that we can celebrate Jesus’ birthday! “The Lord himself will give you a miraculous sign. The virgin is going to have a baby. She will give birth to a son. And he will be called Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14) “All of this took place to bring about what the Lord had said would happen. He had said through the prophet, ‘‘The virgin is going to have a baby. She will give birth to a son. And he will be called Immanuel.’ The name Immanuel means “God with us.” Matthew 1:23-24 God is definitely with us each and every day, whether it’s a good day or a not so good day. And we are so very thankful for that!!! We hope that as you celebrate Christmas, you will also experience “God with us” in your own life!! Here’s a video from our Christmas Caroling Sunday night. This is not something that we do in Sweden, so it was really wonderful to be a part of it this year in the States!
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So now the next step, and hopefully the last step, before we can travel to the US is to see the gastrointestinal doctor (medicinläkare) to begin treatment for the liver disease. Please pray that we have contact with him soon. We don’t want to just wait because of our plans to be back in the States at this time. But it’s not always easy to get quick visits when it’s not a medical emergency. Even though things haven’t always happened when we planned, we believe that through prayer, God has greatly helped in our endeavors to move this process along as quick as possible. So please pray that God will help us get in contact with this doctor quickly.
At this point, it doesn’t seem that we will be able to get to the US before Jiana’s birthday on Nov. 23. If you would, pray for her and that she has a wonderful birthday here. She has been so looking forward to having this birthday in the States and celebrating it with my (Gwen’s) brother’s family and doing things that we can do in the States since her last birthday. Of course, since August, when we had to cancel our tickets, she has known this might not be possible. But now it is becoming a sad reality… Pray for her to be pleasantly surprised and that she’ll feel that God really does see her and care for her. And pray for her mom and dad to be able to pleasantly surprise her, too!!!! Thanks so much!!
We just ended a great weekend of ministry and family celebration we want to share with you.
On Friday night, I was asked to share a message at the Pentecostal Church’s young adult group (ages 18-30). I spoke on the need for transparency. Interestingly, there’s no direct Swedish equivalent for that word…the closest is a phrase that means “to allow insight”. I had to illustrate with clear transparent glasses filled with water and colored non-transparent glasses, but I think they got the point. I believe the lack of being transparent with at least 1 or 2 intimate friends can easily lead to destruction of people’s personal and spiritual lives. I’m praying that these future church leaders will take up the challenge and experience the freedom from shame and guilt that comes only through being transparent first with God, and then with their transparency partners.
On Sunday, our church was visited by Yura, a Russian pastor and men’s ministry leader who serves in the Russian Arctic tundra. He shared how his ministries of wilderness adventures (hiking, camping, mountain climbing, etc.) and small groups aboard the Russian naval ships passing through the port are helping to develop men into the husbands and fathers God has called them to be. Interestingly, Yura does this through teaching the men to be transparent with each other – the very same principle I shared with the Swedish young adults! I love how God delights in bringing seemingly unrelated people and events together to show us His desires! The picture to the right shows one of the Russians sharing about how Christ has radically transformed his life through the men’s ministry. He spoke in Russian, Yura (in the center) translated the Russian to English and then Richard (our pastor) translated the English to Swedish. We’re so glad we won’t need translators in heaven!
Sunday was also Father’s Day in Sweden. When we first came, we decided to continue to observe the holiday in June rather than November. However, Jensina crafted a beautiful card for me and I really want to share it with you. Definitely one of those things that makes a Dad burst with pride!
We continue to ask you to join us and pray that God would cut through all the hindrances and allow us to be in the States for Jiana’s birthday on November 23.
Thanks for your involvement in our ministry!
Just wanted to give a brief update to you all. The doctors wanted to repeat all of the original tests; MRI, blood tests, and ERCP, which are the ones that got this process started. They did that between Oct 18-23. Since then, we’ve been waiting for the results. The results of the MRI and blood tests were normal. We are soooooo happy about that and praising God. Now we are just waiting to hear about the lab results from the ERCP. We should hear any day now and are anxiously waiting so we can make our plans. If the results are good, I (Gwen) will probably need to see one more doctor about the liver disease and maybe get some medicine. If the results aren’t good, the doctors here will probably want to do more testing. I am feeling well and am soooooo very thankful for that!!!!!!
We were really hoping to be back in the US by Thanksgiving and Jiana’s birthday, but that hope is slowly turning into disappointment. Please keep us in prayer as it is getting harder emotionally. Especially for Jiana, who has been planning all year to celebrate her 12th birthday in the States.
Other than that, we are doing well. Jensina and Jiana are making good progress in school. I am feeling well and taking this time to catch up on making scrapbooks for Jensina and Jiana (I am woefully behind :() as well as meeting with people and continuing to make efforts to improve in Swedish. Tony is working on his Swedish drivers license (it’s quite hard and demanding), some ministry opportunities, and improving his Swedish also. So we are working on things that will help us settle in better when we return to Sweden.
Last week was the annual light festival here in Luleå. Here are some of the sights we enjoyed!! (Sorry for the shaky pictures. It was COLD and so hard to hold the camera still!!!) Below the slideshow is a video of the main attraction at the Ljusfest. Hope you enjoy it all!! Gwen 🙂
I called the doctor yesterday again because we didn’t receive the promised letter from last week. The receptionist told us the test in Stockholm came back normal (BIG PRAISE!!!), but the doctor now wants me to have another MRI. The woman we spoke to didn’t know why he wanted it, but she said she’ll schedule the MRI probably for mid-October and then we need to have a follow-up visit with him. The doctor Gwen needs to see won’t be back in the office until next week, so the woman we spoke to can’t find out anything more until then. We explained our situation again and begged to have the MRI sooner. She said she would call them and try, but no promises. So now we wait once again for the next step.
So what is this all about? Why are we “stuck” here? What is God up to? Honestly, I don’t know. God is blessing us incredibly, but it’s hard, sometimes discouraging, to feel “stuck” in a place instead of moving forward. But our Heavenly Father asks us to trust Him. And we are trying. We know from our past experienceS that God is faithful and has perfect timing for everything. He has proved that. So when He asks us to trust Him for what we don’t understand, we do our best to do just that! We know that our lives are in His hands and that He has good plans for our future and success! So we try to wait with hope and anticipation for all He will do and to encourage each other to trust and do the good things that God has placed in front of us now.
Thanks for all of your continuing prayers! We feel your prayers lifting us up and sustaining us! So please do keep praying. THANKS!!!
Each day on my way home from taking Jensina & Jiana to school, I catch a glimpse of this beautiful birch tree and it takes my breath away for a minute. It’s shape and color is just beautiful!!! Then, I noticed that it is actually 2 or 3 trees growing together. How beautiful. A little bit down the road, I noticed another beautiful birch tree. But this one was not quite as beautiful. It had beautiful color and was also 2 or 3 trees growing together. However, one tree doesn’t want to grow together with the other. You can see a tree sticking out on the right side that doesn’t want to grow with the other trees. It’s a unique tree, but it doesn’t have the breathtaking beauty of the other one. It wants to grow its own way. So while it is beautiful, it’s not as beautiful as it could be. Then I got to thinking about my relationship with God. When I’m working with him, growing with him; that is when I am most beautiful! When I go off on my own, usually with some kind of bad attitude or selfish thinking, I am not as beautiful as I could be. So how beautiful do we want to be? (Gwen)
Some days, life here in Luleå is just an adventure!!! I’m glad everyday isn’t anymore, but some days just are!! It reminds me that we still aren’t fully Swedes and probably never will be completely. That’s ok – it gives spice to life!!! And I’m so glad when I can laugh about it!!!
We were refunded some money and since it is a sunny day (rained yesterday, will rain tomorrow) I decide it’ll be a good day to go to town and deposit our checks. So I drive to town, park the car, put my money in the meter and go off on a simple task with some time to spare for a little window shopping!!! A very nice relaxing break! I decide to take the break part first since my task is a simple stop at our bank. I get to the bank with time spare!! I take my number and wait. Finally my number is call and I go up to the window and give them my checks to deposit. The teller looks at them and says, “No, we can’t do that here. It says only the bank it came from can cash it.” Ok, I look at the clock, go back to the car to put some more money in the meter. I’m thinking no problem, plenty of time. I just have to be home by 3:30 to meet the girls at the bus. (This morning I told them I wanted them to take the bus home today so they learn the route.) I’ll walk down the street, look for the bank, do a bit more window shopping, … how hard can this be? Well, I get to the end of the street and no bank!! Where is this bank??? Fortunately, I have one more day with internet on my phone so I quickly look it up. (My year subscription runs out tomorrow.) Ah, next street over. So I get to the bank, take my number, and sit and wait. Oh no, I look at the clock. Five minutes more on my meter. Fortunately, it’s a small town!! I walk back to the car, put more money in the meter, go back to the bank, take another number, and sit and wait some more. This time, I’m called to a desk. I show the man my checks and he starts shaking his head. That is NOT a heart-warming sight!! Then he explains that for him to send it to my bank, it will cost 2/3’s of the amount of both checks together!!! Then he says lots of banks take our checks. I carefully explain to him in Swedish that my bank said they can’t. He just kinda shrugs his shoulders and says that they should be able to – lots of other banks do. Well, I think, I’m here, let’s just cash the checks. No, he can’t do that – it’s a cashless bank!!!! At this, my mouth falls open!!! A cashless bank?? But cash and banks go together like bread and butter!! How can you have a cashless bank??? (No, I didn’t actually say it, but I did think it!!) Well, at least he could set me up so that next time I get a check through them, it will go directly into my account at my bank. A little success! I’ll take it!!! I walk back to my bank and tell them what the man said at the other bank. Now, I have to say, I really like my bank. Many of the tellers know us, they’re friendly, very helpful, speak English and we enjoy talking. At this point, I decide I’ve had it with Swedish for now and begin talking in English. They have a little conference – lots of shaking of heads – and come back with the answer. No, they can’t, they aren’t linked to that bank. So I tell the teller that the other bank is going to charge me 2/3’s of the checks to send them to this bank. A look of compassion passes over her face. She calls another bank that they are linked to hoping they will be cheaper, but the manager won’t be back until tomorrow. She’ll call them for me tomorrow and then call me and let me know if that will work. So I walk back to the car for the drive home. I decide to go a different way, and run into 2 dead ends!! At this point, I turn on the music and blast it!!! Finally I’m home, checks still in hand!! I NEED SOME CHOCOLATE!!!!!!
Next, I get a phone call from the girls. They stopped to get some chips and soda on the way home so they missed their bus and want to know which bus to take now. I tell them which one and that I’ll meet them at the bus stop. Fifteen minutes later, I walk to the bus stop and wait for about 5 – 10 minutes. No girls. I call Jensina, “Where are you?” Jensina replies, “Datavägen. Jiana says we just passed Porsön.” “NO,” I say, “you’re going the wrong way!!!” An hour later, at around 5 pm, they get off the bus. Now THEY need their chips and Coke!!! LOL
What a week this has been!!!
Monday, Gwen took the taxi, plane, bus, train and finally her feet to Stockholm for the medical test on her liver. The 3 hour test was on Tuesday and the doctor was pleased that he was able to do all that he wanted to do!! We now need to wait 3-4 weeks for the results. Wednesday, her travels took her the same way back to Luleå, with a 1.5 hour look around central Stockholm, where she used to live.
Meanwhile, back at home, Jensina and Jiana started a new school year and Tony started dismantling furniture in the apartment. Thursday and Friday found us busily packing and taking furniture apart .
Today was the big day!!! We rented a trailer and many friends came to help us move! Thank you so much, Clas, Anders & Sara, Kjell, Billy & Jackie, Claus, Jimmy and his 3 sons for giving up your Saturday to help us out! We have a saying in the States, “Many hands make light work!!” And it’s true!! Much got done in a short amount of time!! Now it’s mostly just the cleaning that needs to be done and we’ll have help for that from another friend! Thank you, Thomas! And thank you also for all of those who wanted to help but couldn’t, and for all who have been praying for us! We have felt the prayers lift us up and they keep carrying us through!
Tomorrow, we will begin living in another friend’s apartment…thank you, Majlis!
In the American Christmas movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, the main character goes through a really hard time. In the end, his friends gather around and give him the help he needs and his brother declares him to be “the richest man in town.” Well tonight, we are going to sleep feeling like the “richest family in town!!!” THANK YOU ALL!!! And especially, THANK YOU JESUS for supplying all our needs according to your riches in glory!!!
Gwen had her test in Stockholm yesterday. It was quite extensive and lasted 3 hours. When the doctor came in to speak with her after she returned from the recovery room, I was able to Skype Gwen and she put him on speakerphone so we spoke to him together – technology can be such a blessing!
He was very pleased with how the procedure went and he was able to accomplish all he wanted.
Gwen feels fine and will fly home today. Since there were extensive samples taken and they’re doing specialized analyses on them, we probably won’t get results for at least three weeks.
Thanks for your continued prayers.
July 13 marked the date!! Can you believe it’s been two years since we packed up, said our goodbyes and boarded a plane bound for Luleå, Sweden? Our time here has been really great!! We have met so many people, developed relationships (we will soooo miss our friends here), been involved in many ministries and have seen first-hand how God is satisfying the spiritual hunger here. Also, God has changed our lives in incredible ways as we’ve learned to trust Him more.
Now it is time for us to return to the States for our 1st home assignment. We have purchased our flight tickets and we’ll arrive back to the States on 17 August! We can’t wait to get there and reconnect with you! Our desire is to share what God is doing in people’s lives here in Luleå. If you or others you know would like to meet with us, please let us know.
We’ll need to raise additional financial support so we can return to the ministry here. Our length of time in the States will depend on when God works through people and releases the funds needed, but we are hoping to be back here in 6 months!
While in the States, we’ll be staying at Cedar Lane Missionary Homes in Laurel Springs, NJ. We will need a reliable car while in the States… if anyone can provide us with one, please let us know.
We can’t wait to see you all!! We’re all looking forward to meeting our “old” friends and making new ones!! And Jiana has her list of places we need to eat at with Rita’s and Dunkin’ Donuts topping the list!!!