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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Serving the Disenfranchised

The last Saturday of every month, Immanuel hosts a lunch for homeless men and women in Stockholm.  This has been a great initiative that has brought together volunteers from each of the 3 language groups that Immanuel has: International (English), Swedish and Korean.  Volunteers plan the food, prepare the food, serve the food, clean up the food and most important of all, offer a warm handshake and kind conversation to those in our society who are struggling a bit. 
Per and Olivier peel 25 kilos of potatoes!
Susanne helped with the truck load of potatoes as well!
Rolling silverware and setting the tables.
Homelessness in Stockholm is not nearly as profound as is it in other cities but often those who find themselves on the edge of society are mentally ill or have had a difficult struggle with drug and alcohol abuse.  I enjoyed my conversations with them and found them to be a lovely, warm, appreciative delightful group of men and women.  Of course, some are a little nutty at times, but then again, aren't we all!  It was really neat to take this day and be a part of this good ministry at Immanuel.
Setting up the bread baskets.
Our efficient serving crew.
We plate the food and serve the folks restaurant style.

I was very proud of our church, of the teenagers who come and serve and this time around, a man from our church had brought his 10 year daughter. She doesn't speak Swedish but she did great serving the folks, hauling plates, cleaning up, pouring apple juice, and being a very bright spot in what is likely a fairly dark existence for some of these folks.  I was struck by how appreciative the entire crowd was.
My husband Doug and our colleague and dear friend Chris provided some good musical entertainment through playing and singing some American classics. They called themselves "The Heavenly Brothers!."   I love hearing them sing.  They really are great!And the volunteers gave an entire Saturday, with joy, and it revealed once again that often our greatest happiness comes through serving. 
Bali and Chris on dish duty!
We have a mentally ill man in our fellowship who has become quite beloved to many of us.  He is very high functioning and comes to everything the church has to offer!  So he arrived yesterday, part volunteer, part participant! (He is not homeless but runs with the homeless crowd sometimes at the various gatherings around town.  He is a very social guy and needs human interaction.  The church has been great towards him.)  He knew many of the guys who came to the lunch and he enjoyed a meal with some of his buddies.  But as soon as he was finished eating, he headed to the back of the kitchen to begin washing all the dishes. Bali loves to come to church and is eager to find ways to serve.  It's a joy to have him serving in our church and I am thankful for the ways in which our fellowship has embraced him, even with his shortcomings.  But then again, even those of us with sound minds have a few shortcomings!
Of course, if you are going to serve lunch in Sweden, you must have fika, coffee and a little something to go with it!
It was a special day.  I'm happy I had the chance to be a part of it and I look forward to other opportunities to come and be a part of this Saturday happening at Immanuel.