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Monday, August 27, 2012

A Street Fair in Stockholm

Several months ago the idea emerged that perhaps it was time for Immanuel church to take their ministry out into the streets and help our neighborhood gain a better understanding of who this community is that sits on the corner of Tulegatan and Kungstensgatan.  Our amazing chair woman spent months planning and working with the city seeking to secure permission to close the streets.  A colleague worked hard at getting all parts of the church on board with what we were doing and Doug and I spent weeks encouraging our congregation to get excited about the possibilities and asking them to volunteer to do something!  After all this, The Good Life Street Festival took place over this past weekend.  It was truly thrilling for me when I saw the signs announcing the street closures for a street festival...OUR street festival!  Volunteers showed up on Friday night to help set up the tents, stage, sound and projection systems as well as begin to sort through the donations for the second hand shop, known as a loppis in Swedish.  (Loppor are fleas, the full word is loppmarknad, flea market, hence, loppis!).  Saturday we needed to be ready for action by 10.00 and again, as the volunteers from the International Fellowship began showing up filled with joy and energy, my heart was full.  Doug had worked very hard on the main stage and we had put together several slide shows that were going to be played throughout the day between the acts.  Additionally, a professional firm had made a series of videos of pastors and lay people explaining in creative ways what Immanuel Church is all about.  All of the live acts were based on church ministries and everyone did really well.  We had everything from traditional Swedish folk music to big band entertainment and the Korean fellowship Praise Band led the crowd in a wonderful time of worship in Korean.  The music was great but I must say, the two highlights from the International fellowship were the aerobics class in the morning and the International Fashion Show that took place in the afternoon!  We have a women's exercise class that meets every Saturday at 13.00.  These women get together to exercise, enjoy one another's company and support one another.  I was so proud when I saw them gather and rock the street with their exercises!  Soon a crowd gathered, others joined in and a good time was emerging!  Later in the day, members from the Swedish, Korean and International fellowships dazzled a very large crowd with fashion from around the world.  It was an amazing moment for me to see the beauty and joy of members from the International fellowship proudly displaying their own culture through the beauty of clothing.  The crowd loved it and it was indeed the highlight of the day.  Another very fun event was the Minute to Win It Game Show we hosted.  We had volunteers attempt a series of silly tasks, seeking to accomplish them in under a minute.  Fan favorites included Stuck on You where one partner stuck a piece of bread with peanut butter on it to their forehead, while their teammate attempted to bounce a ping pong ball onto the other side of the bread, also covered in peanut butter! In Tortilla Head, contestants wore swimming fins and attempted to flip a tortilla onto a plate that was fastened to the top of their head!  I don't have any photos of this because I was hosting the event! Throughout the day, the tents were busy hosting visitors and kids had plenty to do.  Face painting was a big hit, the bouncy castles got plenty of attention and the carnival type games were active all day long.  The church life tent let people know when our services were and what other kinds of ministries they might be interested in.  I love this sign that displays the 5 different worship services that take place at Immanuel church every week.  The weather Saturday was spectacular and we were totally blessed by the warm sunshine that graced this incredibly special day in the life of our church.
Sunday was a day marked with great joy but unfortunately loads of rain as well.  We began the morning with a joint worship service that combined all three of the language groups, welcoming the new Senior Pastor of the whole church, and celebrating who we are as one church.  Instead of continuing the party in the street as intended, we had to make big shifts, move the stage inside, cutting back on the activities for kids and moving several stations under cover.  Still, the mood was festive and light and people continued to enjoy themselves!  We even proceeded with an African Street Dance in the wet afternoon, all who participated taking delight in the music and atmosphere rather than being foiled by rain.  As we started to break everything down, torrential rain began to pour.  The blessing was that it wasn't cold and again, our volunteers were just giants of servanthood.  We resigned ourselves to getting wet, pulled together to accomplish the task and took delight in one another's company.  The body of Christ was functioning to its fullest extent.
There were many reasons why the street festival was a good idea.  We did take the church out into the street and were able to show a beautiful side of our church to our neighborhood.  The deepest blessing for me however was in watching the volunteers from the International Fellowship give so tirelessly of themselves throughout the entire weekend, rain or shine.  They came early, they set up, they hauled furniture, they decorated, they dealt with kids, they planned programs, they smiled, they were joyful, they delighted in the program, they danced in the street, they cheered one another on, they were generous in their servanthood and a joy to be with.  Many were there until late on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.  Many did the hard work of hauling, building, and carrying in order for the street to be transformed.  For these two days, I truly felt I was standing on holy ground while hanging around the intersection of Tulegatan and Kungstensgatan in central Stockholm.  Immanuel International is a church that I've been a part of for 14 years now and still...the generosity of our congregation just simply humbly overwhelms me.  I feel such a deep sense of gratitude for these beautiful servants who love God and others with every fiber of their being.  Praise be to God for this fantastic weekend!