New Life Church was part of a group sponsoring a stage and family friendly activities in the park during a big outdoor festival celebrating Sweden’s National Day. Stockholm, a multicultural, progressive, secular, international city is on full display.
The spectrum of people includes sunbathers in only their underwear who are picnicking alongside Muslim families with women covered in the traditional hijab. The weather is perfect and the mood is festive as crowds of people ecstatic to be released from the long bitter winter fill every corner of the enormous park. The New Life outdoor service begins with singing and testimonies. One of the elders shares his life story of being delivered from drugs and gang violence. Pastor John van Dinther gives a condensed version of his morning sermon using a beautiful red rose as an object lesson for his message on our need for a Savior. After the message, the audience is invited to come to the waterfront for a special baptism service.
The weather is ideal for the day, but the water in Stockholm’s vast system of waterways had yet to shed the winter chill. We know that because TEAM Missionary Stewart Webster had come down the day before to scout the shoreline for a suitable spot for the baptisms. Snow skiing pole in hand to measure the water depth and explore the rocky bottom for a flat standing platform, Stewart braved the frigid water before declaring, "This will do fine." Such brevity would not be possible during the baptism as a dozen people lined up to share their public testimonies of following Christ.
The audience swelled to hundreds as the novelty of people treading out into the frigid water drew curious onlookers including a windsurfer sailing right into the middle of the ceremony. The enthusiasm, loud cheers, and high-pitched ululation of women from Africa only intensified the size and energy of the crowd to the point that everyone – churched and unchurched alike – joined in the celebration. Everyone got a glimpse of the kingdom of God as Swedes, Africans, Mongolians, and others paraded in and out of that huge natural baptism pool. Afterwards, we joined the Mongolian group as they sang, prayed, and presented gifts of cross necklaces to the eight fellow countrymen and women who made their public appearance as Jesus followers that day.
-Written by Ray Scott
-Photography by Robert Johnson
[Originally published in TEAMHorizons, March 2011]Download This Issue of TEAMHorizons