Hannah is the wife of Daniel Norén, a church planter in Gothenburg, Sweden.
My husband and I work in an immigrant neighborhood in Sweden, and I often meet Syrian refugees together with my children as I take them out to play. (We speak Arabic, which has made a lot of these conversations possible on a deeper level). Here are a few encounters for which I deeply thank the Lord.
A lady was playing nearby with her twins, a boy and a girl. I noticed that the children were quite shy and somber, and I started talking with the mother. She and her family are Orthodox Christians, and she started relating her story: how their home in Northern Syria was bombed, and she and her husband slept out in the field with their twin babies, next to their destroyed house for more than a year, with no electricity, running water, or shelter. After another bomb exploded quite close to them, they started the journey by foot to walk to Turkey and slowly, slowly made their way to our country.
My own children were a bit hesitant at first to play with these kids, as they were not able to understand each other. During our family worship and throughout the day, we explained to our kids that these twins had lost everything: all their toys were broken and left behind; their room and their bed would never be seen again; they were forced to leave their home. What they really needed now was for us as believers to embrace them with God's powerful love.
A few days later we met again, and my daughter ran right over to those kids and hugged them and held their hands and pulled them along to start playing. I have gotten to share with the mom many times, as our children played, about the gospel and what it means to be a Christian. In those times when our children are able to join us in ministry, it can be so moving to see them understand how God poured out His love on us, not that we might just keep it to ourselves, but that we would give and share that love with others.
Another beautiful aspect of our work is being able to embrace and try to bring along immigrant wives and children to church. Turkish and Iraqi families that have occasionally come would typically send their children out to the nursery during the church service. I am often out tending to our baby, and I always take the opportunity to teach these kids. Recently, as I opened the Swedish Children’s Bible and taught a chapter, I thought they would surely be out of patience to hear more. However, the oldest Turkish girl, who had not heard most of these basic Bible stories before, entreated me to continue, chapter after chapter. Their hunger to hear more of Christ and His work on the cross is like balm to my soul, as children’s care and work can often be busy work.
Another immigrant lady has come regularly to church and Bible study, and a visitor asked her when she became a Christian. (She was raised in a “Christian family”). She replied that it was since she moved here, through the teaching at the church plant, that she really was able to understand the meaning of the gospel and Christ’s work on the cross. Being able to walk day by day with these ladies and see their growth over a period of time is fantastic! We have loaned several books to her about true Christianity and the gospel. She has read through them with much interest. Praise the Lord that He is working in hearts and lives!
I have also been trying to go through a book called, The Church Planting Wife, with some of the other immigrant wives in our church plant (whose husbands have an active role in the church). This book helps to make sense of some of the struggles many wives may confront as they stand by their husbands in church planting. As I read through some excerpts from the book, I continually heard my friends saying, “How does this lady know this about us? Did she write this book directly for us?” These women have started to see that God has put them right where they are, as wives to men involved in church planting.
Their attitudes and support to their husbands are crucial, even as their men might be taking long hours to prepare sermons, fielding phone calls from church members, and so on. When we can see our role in the bigger picture, we can go from sulking (that our husband isn't available, or that we are always cleaning up after guests, etc.) to rejoicing in the work we can do together for God's glory! This reality also helps with processing the challenges of being far from family and relatives, shouldering heavy responsibilities, giving ourselves away to others, or even possibly enduring criticism or defeat for the sake of Christ. We women have a desperate dependence upon God first and foremost, and we are appreciating more and more that ministry in all its types is a privilege and not a burden.