I’ve never really lived in a city before. I’ve had a few months in London here or there, studied in Nottingham, a year in Bujumbura (Burundi) and travelled around a lot. So I’ve had a reasonable amount of cross-cultural exposure but travel, student life and the world of international development all have their own unique features that, so that experience doesn’t always translate. I’ve not really lived in a multicultural environment in a day by day, ordinary living way.
Shrewsbury where I pastored for a decade is one of the least multicultural places in Britain. It’s just not that easy to meet someone from another nation when 99% of the people are white British. That’s just the way it was. So coming from that environment to Stockholm has been something of an eye-opener; without a doubt this is the most multi-cultural place I’ve ever lived in.
Take for example the nursery where we send our children; there are around 35 children of which only two are not bi-lingual. That means all the other kids are growing up in homes where the home language is not Swedish. I checked on the map in the hallway and saw at least 22 different nations from 36 children. If you’re used to city life this is not very surprising or even unusual – if you come from a market town, it’s a little different in a good way.
We’ve lived in our house four months and it’s taking a while to get to know people, but so far we’ve met Eritreans, Ugandans, Algerians, Chileans, Saudi Arabians, Syrians, Kurds, Greeks, Iranians, Chinese, Icelanders, French, Americans, South Africans, Iraqis, Turks, Brits, Finns, Poles, Kosovans, Serbs, Germans, Armenians, Azerbaijanis, Russians, Ukrainians and even a few Swedes.
We came with a desire to reach Swedish people in Sweden but quickly realised that when you live in a city that you need to have a heart for the nations. It’s an opportunity to love people wherever they come from. In Luke 13:29 Jesus says of the Kingdom of God that, “People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.” Planting a church in a city gives us the opportunity of tasting some of that feast this side of heaven.
There’s no question this will be challenging, we all have our blindspots theologically and culturally but the goal of seeing a church which gives a glimpse of what it’s like to breakthrough the walls of segregation and separation that we so easily build, is powerful and inspirational.
*If you’re in the UK and are interested in joining us in this mission to the nations, consider coming along to this