Though it’s been exciting and I’ve been enjoying my adventures so far, some days are still difficult. My coworkers are great but I haven’t formed any real connections yet. I understand I’ve only been here 2 weeks but I’ve been missing my friends and family back home. Being able to talk with someone about anything; Being able to hug someone and be hugged.
I am putting myself out there to form relationships here (to a certain extent) and that is difficult and often uncomfortable. The unknown is scary - will they accept me? Will they think I’m weird? Do they want me to stop talking?
On Sunday, I went to church. It’s a calm way for me to get my week started. I knew it would also be another situation where I had to put myself out there and meet new people. I was greeted outside the door by a friendly man named Emmanuel. He asked me the basic questions - What’s your name? How long have you been in Turku? What brought you here?…after a few minutes of conversation, he walked me inside and gave me a small radio device with headphones. He said it was for the translations. The service is given in Swedish but there is a translator on staff that is broadcast via this radio. This was a relief because I was kind of prepared to sit and listen to a service I didn’t understand.
I walked in the small sanctuary and found a seat - 2nd row to the far left, though no one was seated in the first. The piano was in front of me with a blonde woman seated behind it. There was other band equipment but only the piano was manned…or womanned. A screen was projected on the front wall towards the right side of the room. A large, beautiful mural of angels on clouds looking over a shepherd and his flock hung on the wall front and center. A young woman, close to my age, came to the front and picked up a microphone…speaking Swedish. I picked up my translator and heard her say, “now, we will sing”, and put down the microphone. The music started and lyrics came on the screen…in Swedish. I stood quietly through the song and figured I’d listen this time until I got used to pronunciations anyway. (I start a Beginners Swedish course next week). The song ended, a prayer was said, and the music started up again for another song. This song was in English but I wasn’t familiar with it. I felt uncomfortable…out of my element. I felt separated from everyone and alone. I was so worried about being the outsider at this church that I wasn’t even focusing on my connection with God.
The song ended and I stayed standing just waiting for the songs to be over so I could sit in “comfort” with my translator to listen to the sermon. Instead, another song started…but I recognized this one right away…even before the lyrics began. “Bless the Lord, O my soul”. Tears actually formed in my eyes because this is one of my absolute favorite worship songs. I feel as though God was saying “You’re going to be alright”. Even when I feel alone, out of place, uncomfortable, He is with me. And I know that He will not only get me through it but will also make it a valuable experience. I by no means want to “just get through” my time here. I want to enjoy it and I know that I will. I know that God will help me through the awkward “hello”s and the uncomfortable “would you like to have lunch?”s. Time and time again I am reminded - trust Him.
After the service, a couple of girls my age approached me and asked the basic questions. It was a very small congregation so I was the obvious newbie. They invited me to stay with them for coffee and a sandwich so, of course, I did. We sat and talked for about 30 minutes before I left. They invited me to an event with the church this Friday - time at the cafe to just hang out with one another. I plan to go - with God by my side, I’m up for the journey.
“Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me, let me be singing when the evening comes.”