Sent by God
Home Search chapter Contact details More photos


58. On our way towards a new mission quest

Svenska  sveriges-flagga.png


Sven speaks: When Sonia had completed her Bachelor in Nursing in Toowoomba, we moved to Brisbane. In that way, I did not have to commute daily between Toowoomba and Brisbane. At the same time, we advised the Assemblies of God World Missions Office that we were willing to be missionaries in Central Asia and that I was willing to accept the assignment as Regional Director. After that we waited for an answer how to proceed.

In February 1998, we began to wonder whether the Assemblies of God World Mission were still interested in us being missionaries in Central Asia, since we had not heard from them since December 1997. However by the end of February we had a visit from Pastor Kevin Hovey of the Assemblies of God World Missions Office. He said, among other things, that we ought to attend an eight-week course in the Philippines, which started in early April. The course was about how to best reach Muslims with the Gospel. "It means that I must immediately resign from my job, but the problem is that no churches have yet pledged to finance us, so how are we going to live?" I wondered.

On the following Monday, I resigned from my job, but once I had done that, the reality of our situation suddenly struck me: What had I done? We had no financial support arranged and we needed immediate funding of AUD 6 000 to attend the course in the Philippines. We actually had no idea how to get the money needed.

But then I got a phone call from my sister in law, Birgitta Göransson, in Tyringe. She was then a board member of the Filadelfia Church in Tyringe. She told me: "We have heard that you might be going to Kazakhstan. How is your situation right now? The thing is that our church received 20 000 SEK (4000 AUD) that a church member donated to us in a will. By the terms of the will, the money has to be used for foreign missions purposes, but our little church does not have any foreign missions work at the moment. If you are about to become missionaries in Kazakhstan, we feel that you should have this money." "Right now we do not need money for Kazakhstan, but we need to take a course in the Philippines. The costs are about 30 000 SEK (6000 AUD) and the 20 000 SEK would obviously be of great help." I replied. The conversation ended with Brigitta promising to get back to us with more information. The news was that they had decided to give us these 20 000 SEK and would by the next Sunday collect an additional offering that they would give to us also. The additional offering gave enough money, that together with the other 20 000 SEK, they covered the total costs of the course in the Philippines.

Asian Pacific Theological Seminary in Baguio

Marianne and I traveled to the Philippines with both an exciting and unsettling feeling about the future.

When we arrived in Manila, we took a taxi to the Christian guesthouse where we would stay a couple of nights, before continuing to Baguio. The taxi driver had a difficult time getting there, so I took out the envelope with the tickets and traveler’s checks. In the envelope was a letter that described where the guesthouse was situated. When we arrived, I forgot the envelope in the car and there we were without any return tickets or money. We took another taxi back to the airport in the hope of finding the taxi in which I had forgotten the envelope, but of course we did not. We reported the loss to police and the airline. The airline was very accommodating and immediately wrote out new tickets for us. After the bank had done its own investigation of the reported loss of our traveler’s checks we received new ones. After a few weeks we had our money back and we could pay our school fees and living expenses.


Marianne and Sven together with other students in Baguio

The course in Baguio was a life-changing experience. It was about ten teachers from different denominations, Baptists, Presbyterians, Plymouth Brethren, and of course from the Assemblies of God who organized and sponsored the course. All had extensive experience evangelizing in the Muslim world. It was a lot to take in during the short period of eight weeks.

At the end of the course, I was advised by the Assemblies of God World Mission Office that I immediately after the course had to go to Pakistan to sort out some problems there. "But I have no money." I said. "That’s a problem between God and you." was the reply. One might think that it is a tough message that someone calls and asks you to go to a place to solve a problem but at the same time tells you that you will have to organize the money for the trip yourself. "If it’s God's will that you are to go, the money situation will be solved, so there's nothing to worry about." my informant concluded. It is extremely frustrating not to have money when you know that there is something you have to do. But when God later solves the problem, a great and liberating feeling fills you. It lifts one's faith and makes you trust in the Lord like nothing else. This time a person, called from Hässleholm in Sweden wondering if I needed 20 000 skr, was the solution to the problem.


Church Service in Lahore, Pakistan

The Australian missionary working with the Australian Assemblies of God World Mission in Pakistan was a brother born in Pakistan but had for a number of years been living in Australia and was married to an Australian. He had been sent out by the Australian Assemblies of God World Mission to work with and under the National Executive of Pentecostal Movement, Full Gospel Assemblies of Pakistan, which was the fruit of Swedish Pentecostal Missionaries in Pakistan. He had not been there for long, when the National Executive of FGA wrote to Assemblies of God World Mission Office in Australia, letting them know that they did no longer want him around. The reason was that he did not submit to the Executive. I found out that the Gävle Pentecostal Church was the Swedish Contact Church for Pakistan. Through their pastor, Berndt Wikman, I found out the name and address of the Swedish Free Mission Field Leader in Pakistan, Birgitta Almeby. I contacted her, introduced myself and said that I was coming to Pakistan in order to try to sort out the problems we had caused.

Just before I was going in June 1998, I learned that the Deputy Director for Assemblies of God Mission, Ps Kevin Hovey, was going to come along on the trip. After having arrived in Lahore in Pakistan we set up a meeting with the National Executive of the Full Gospel Assemblies of Pakistan together with the Swedish missionary, Birgitta Almeby. They described how the Pakistan-Australian missionary undermined their work and wanted the Assemblies of God World Mission to re-call him to Australia.

After the meeting, I felt that their appeal was justified, but Kevin thought that we should instead start to cooperate with another group of churches that were linked to the Assemblies of God in America. It turned out that this group of churches had "broken away" from the Full Gospel Assemblies of Pakistan. There is of course nothing wrong in starting new churches; I have always encouraged that, I am however against a group of churches within a Fellowship of Churches breaking away and forming their own separate church movement which was what was happening here. I was also very uncomfortable with the Pakistan- Australian missionary’s attitude towards the national pastors. He did not se them as his co-workers, but saw himself as superior to them. As mentioned earlier in this story, this did not agree with my thoughts on how missionaries should be working and conducting themselves in their relationship to the National Pastors (see Chapter 47, for example). Despite my misgivings, the Assemblies of God World Mission of Australia decided to support the Pakistan-Australian missionary in his work. This was the first time I began to realize that I did not fully share the Assemblies of God World Mission in Australia’s idea of how mission work should be conducted. Unfortunately, my fears came true and the churches split further.


Sven in Karachi, Pakistan

After having returned from Pakistan the Assemblies of God World Mission Office asked Marianne and I to go to Kazakhstan for a month to meet the different missionaries there and familiarize ourselves with the field and make plans and suggestions for how to proceed from here. The return air tickets alone to Kazakhstan were AUD 6 000. I ordered the air tickets without having a cent in my account to pay for them. I cannot remember where the money came from, but in some miraculous way as before, we received the money required and could thus pay for the tickets.

For our first visit to Kazakhstan Teen Challenge Kazakhstan arranged a 12 months visa for us both. When we got there for our one-month-long visit, we faced new problems. The background was that the first Australian Assemblies of God World Mission Worker who had arrived in Kazakhstan had started a Teen Challenge Programme there. (Teen Challenge originally started in the U.S. in the 1950s. The main objective was and still is to help young people trapped in the drug swamp). He had had much help from US Assemblies of God Department of Foreign Missions, but the relationship was gradually breaking down because of a conflict of interest. The US Assemblies of God Department of Foreign Mission Workers looked at Teen Challenge as their local programme, while the Australian Assemblies of God World Mission Worker looked at the same programme as his private work. Prior to us several workers from Assemblies of God World Mission in Australia had tried to rectify this problem, but had been unable to do so. The fact was that the Assemblies of God World Mission Director in Australia had decided to relieve the Teen Challenge Director from his duties and bring him back to Australia, but because the Assemblies of God World Mission board did not endorse this decision, nothing had yet happened.

When we arrived in Almaty, Kazakhstan, the Director of Teen Challenge told us that if we stayed in Almaty, he would "destroy us". He did not mean that he would kill us, of course, but that he would make our lives so difficult that we would give up and return to Australia. It did not feel like a promising start of a relationship with a person of whom I would be the director. But I soon realized it was not anything personal against me, but that he had no intention of submitting to anyone.

In order to get a visa to Kazakhstan, you had to be invited by a locally registered organization. I suggested to the Teen Challenge director that Assemblies of God World Mission in Australia could use the Teen Challenge Kazakhstan registration for the purpose of bringing in Workers to Central Asia, but that they could work on projects that did not necessarily have to be connected to the Teen Challenge Programme. He was not cooperative at this point and already during this first visit, I contacted a Christian lawyer in Kazakhstan to prepare for the registration of a new relief organization. The proposal was to call the organization “Zabota” (забота), which means “care” in Russian.

We made several contacts during this first month in Kazakhstan, including Ps Sargon Daniali. He was from Iran but had married a Russian woman living in Kazakhstan. He was a pastor of a small church in Almaty. This contact was very important to us because of the lack of cooperation from the Teen Challenge director. We spent a lot of time with Sargon and I preached a few times in his church.

The Australian Assemblies of God World Mission workers, Sylvia and Daniel Barecca, had started the church in Almaty. After a short period of time, they had handed the church over to Ps Sargon and the Australian workers moved on to Turkey, where they started a new work. Marianne and I later came to visit them several times when Turkey also became a part of our area of responsibility.

During this first month, Marianne and I spent a lot of time at Teen Challenge, and every day I wrote down my observations in order to provide an accurate report to the Assemblies of God World Mission's director Dr George Forbes. A lot of what was happening at Teen Challenge impressed me but other things were scary. My final recommendation was that we should let the Teen Challenge continue while still trying to deal with the negative aspects of its work. When I returned to Australia I submitted my report and George Forbes endorsed my recommendations. He suggested that we should call the new organization CARE, Central Asia Relief Enterprises. I advised Sargon Daniali that he and the lawyer should continue working on the official legal documents to have Zabota registered. Sargon, three other individuals and I would be the founders of Zabota. (The CARE organization was first formed in late 2001 and only came to be in Australia. The name of the organization was kept as Zabota in Kazakhstan. It was all too complicated to translate Central Asia Relief Enterprises into Russian and give it the same meaning as the English name.)

Back in Australia, you could say that God in amazing ways solved our financial needs for the three trips mentioned above, but we still had not received a promise of a single dollar as regular support, enabling us to take up our permanent position in Central Asia. I seem to remember it being AUD 3600 a month we were in need of. The first church to pledge support was our home church here in Brisbane, Garden City Christian Church. They promised AUD 1200 a month. After contacting various churches in Australia, we were up to AUD 2200 altogether per month. The Pentecostal Church in Hässleholm had decided to participate in our support but never offered any information on how much. Our plan was to stop over in Sweden on our way to Kazakhstan. We would be in Sweden during December 1998 and January 1999. When we arrived in Sweden we were informed that the church in Hässleholm would contribute $1,400 a month and our support was thus completely covered. Additionally, the churches in Hudiksvall and Tyringe decided to contribute AUD 200 and AUD 100 a month, and thus we had everything we needed with a wide margin. Once again, God had shown that we were safe in his hands.

The reason why the church in Hässleholm contributed to our monthly support can be explained with a few lines. During most parts of the year of 1997, Zenitha Josefsson from Hässleholm stayed with us in Toowoomba. During the Christmas and New Year holidays, her mother, Majken Josefsson, also came to visit us. Majken was a woman who loved God and His Works, and it was a great pleasure to have her with us. We talked about Marianne's and my plan to move to Central Asia to work there. At the same time, we told them about the difficulties of raising sufficient support. "Why have you not written to my church in Hässleholm about this?" she wondered. "We felt that the interest of the church in our work had waned already towards the end of our time in Papua New Guinea and therefore we did not feel free to ask them this time,"I replied. "Write a letter to the annual meeting of the church." Majken suggested. "But it won’t make it there in time." I replied. "Well, if you fax it, it would!" Majken said.

Said and done. I wrote a letter, describing our plans in detail. Then I faxed it. According to the Charter of the church in Hässleholms, the letter arrived too late to be included in the annual meeting, but the board decided to read it anyway. After the church had heard what the letter had to say, they immediately decided that they would support us, but the decision did not specify a certain amount a month. We were told about the sum when we came to Sweden in December 1998.

In November 1998 Marianne and I returned to Papua New Guinea for a couple weeks to attend the 50th anniversary of the first missionary from the Assemblies of God coming to this country. We attended the celebration in Mount Hagen. Even Ingrid and Hilding Eriksson were there. On the actual feast day, the four of us got to march into the arena behind people who carried Swedish and Australian flags. It was an amazing experience to be a part of this celebration and reconnecting with all of our friends.

The visit to Sweden, during December 1998 and January 1999, was a wonderful experience as well. Although we had not been in Sweden for over eight years, we were met by great warmth and love. We felt honored to still be remembered by the Swedish people and that they wanted to join and support us in our new venture.

Previous chapter

Next chapter