What is your Heimat?

This was my Christian quest, to search for my own definition and heart felt image of what Mother/ Father-land, ‘Heimat’, meant to me. I was not alone. Many others from all over Europe travelled to a church in Helsinki, arriving tired after some long journeys, and were all set the same challenge.

After a tour of Helsinki we travelled to Högsand and were met by a place of great tranquillity. A place where we could just be still and share in the peace and the blessings showered upon us by God. We shared our first meal and time of prayer and the joy of praying with some fifty other Christians in many languages was wonderful. To then sing our praises to God in many tongues was just like Pentecost, and we all learned so many new songs to take home with us. One highlight was a spontaneous sharing of an South African song ‘Masithi siyakudumisa’ taught to us by a German!

The opportunity just to chat was great because everyone was so open. In conversation it transpired that a full time teacher in one European country (I will not name it here) earned £120 per month, and she felt this was a really well paid job. Others came with chocolate and biscuits as gifts for us: these were from some of the poorest places, yet they gave so much. I was shocked and really this was the element that took me most by surprise and which has remained with me. Perhaps the greatest joy was laughter, and sharing with Bishop Oystein Olsen, the United Methodist bishop for Northern Europe and the Baltics.

The quest for my Heimat- being away from my family and church friends- really hit home with me. Just the separation from them for such a short time was painful and although offset a little by the fellowship of my new friends it was still hard to bear. My mobile credit was used and topped up several times to keep in touch. I got to know Jesus through the love showed for me by those around me, and when my wife told me of the sleepless nights she had spend ‘missing me’ I had some very small insight into the pain of separation Jesus must have felt upon the cross. I have kept in contact with several of the delegates and look forward to the next Conference in 2008.

‘My lips will shout for joy...’

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