At the moment, snow covers the ground here in Holsby and it is giving everything a wonderful wintery feel! The snow could not have come at a better time as we had our annual winter retreat last weekend with all the students. The winter retreat is a day set aside to spend time together in community, doing activities and being outdoors. We were planning on going ahead even if the weather wasn’t top notch, but a dumping of snow a few days before made it even better!
The day started after breakfast, with our students being shuttled out to the nearby village of Skirö. Table tennis, billiards and clearing an area for broomball on the lake followed as we waited for everyone to arrive. Chaos ensued as 70 people attempted to put on jackets and boots ready for our hike!
The hike took us through the forest, and the snow on the trees added beauty to our surroundings. Of course, snow on the ground meant many a snowball ambush was made as we went along, and you always had to be on the alert just in case someone jumped you with a pile of snow in their hands!
After our sack lunches, we split off into different activities in the afternoon. Some braved the cold to play ice hockey and broomball on the village’s frozen lake. Others opted to stay inside and were kept busy playing table tennis, chess or spending time chatting and fellowshipping with one another. A group also baked chocolate balls and cookies, which quickly disappeared when our mid-afternoon fika time came around!
As the afternoon progressed, the sun came out from behind the clouds and lit up a spectacular sunset. It was a privilege to be in the midst of God’s beautiful creation, watching the sun go down and making footprints in the snow.
Dinner was brought to us and we ate until our stomachs were full! What is it about the outdoors that always makes you so hungry?!
The schedule for the day was non-stop, as after dinner we heard a student testimony and prepared to play group games – family group competing against family group. Noise, laughter and true competitive spirit came out as we passed candy from person to person using raw spaghetti, did relay races and tried desperately to find that piece of information in the newspaper!
My personal highlight of the day came after the games, when we got wrapped back up again and stepped out into the moonlit night. The stars twinkled as we walked to a nearby lake, each family group holding a flaming torch to light our way (we are torchbearers, after all!). The lake was frozen, covered in snow and surrounded by forest. We stood in a circle, holding hands and singing ‘Amazing Grace’ and ‘Bless the Lord, My Soul’, before splitting into our family groups and lighting Chinese lanterns. Stood there together, in unity, watching our lanterns rise, was a memory to cherish. We watched as they floated up and became the size of the stars (at least, most of them floated up. My family group’s lantern rose, then promptly caught fire and descended quickly). But being stood there, each family group together with one another, was just special.
Those who have been in Holsby often comment on the community that is felt here. And on a day to day basis, our community is strong and together. But there are also the moments when you really stop and thank God that you are here, in this moment, with His people. And that night was one of them. ‘Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!’ Psalm 133:1
Camp Holsby has a remodeled website! Check it out and don’t forget to spread the word about Camp Holsby! Youth groups, confirmation groups and family camps are welcome. We still have days available during the spring season and a few open spots during the summer season as well.
Special thanks to Samuel Weirich for the web design, photos and hours of work gone into the renovation. Also special thanks to Alex and Esther Herbert for getting the website jumpstarted in the first place.
Even though I’m British, spending last year with some Americans and Canadians has made me more aware of the traditional holiday of Thanksgiving. A few weeks ago, we had our own Holsby version of Thanksgiving, called ‘Höstfest’… it’s Thanksgiving with a Swedish twist!
The purpose of Höstfest is for all the staff, students and guests to gather together, spend time in fellowship with one another and to take time thinking on the good gifts we have from God. Our theme this year was ‘God’s provision,’ and we started off the evening with a great Thanksgiving dinner. Brad (our chef) brought out the centerpiece of the evening, a huge turkey with sparklers, with the ‘Halleujah’ chorus playing in the background. There was much conversation and laughter as we ate and enjoyed the abundance of food the kitchen gave to us!
After singing ‘Give Thanks with a Grateful Heart’ together (in both English and German) and a devotion by Luke on Philippians 4v11-13 (strength to be content in the sufficiency of God’s provision), we sat in our family groups and talked on the theme of the evening, sharing with each other about the way we saw God’s provision in our lives. Some responses included family, being able to come to Holsby, fullness of joy, the fruit of the Spirit, the beauty of nature, the act of restoration, forgiveness, the blessing of community and for giving life to us. It was a special time as brothers and sisters in Christ were honest with one another and could share stories of God’s generous heart toward us.
Following this, each family group put together their very own patchwork, combining all the individual responses to the theme of the evening. Here’s an example of the Schoon family’s creation. They are now displayed in our dining room to help us remember God DOES provide, and He is faithful. For me, one of the biggest blessings of the evening was seeing what the children had drawn, one picture being of the cross and the empty tomb. A reminder to all that God’s biggest provision for us is the death and resurrection of His Son!
Pumpkin pie and ice cream followed and conversation over tea and coffee finished off a brilliant evening…
All in all, Höstfest 2016 was a great time of reflection, praise and community, looking back on all the many blessings God abundantly gives us. The time together concluded with much laughter, very full stomachs and lots of pictures!
Three week summer Bible school, just what you’ve been waiting for! If you haven’t checked out our website yet, this might give you a good excuse. Next July we are going to offer a three-week Bible school course, giving you or someone you know the opportunity to dig deeper into God’s word, to be physically and spiritually refreshed, to make new connections, maybe revisit some old ones and to explore some of Sweden. If this is not for you right now, would you pass the information on to anyone you think might benefit from these three weeks and, of course, plenty of fika? Oh, and as an added bonus for those of you with family, we will provide childcare during the sessions.
Every time we get to talk to a friend of Holsby about our plans to build this beautiful new facility for exercise and refreshment, the reaction is the same: “What a wonderful idea! This is a real need both for the Bible school and the summer camps and retreats.”
We are very grateful for those who have already expressed their support of this project through their giving. Lots of modest donations, a few large donations, but always with a spirit of encouragement and partnership. We know that generosity is alive and well among our Holsby friends.
Over the last 12 years, we have done all we can to invest wisely, spend prudently and save carefully. And with the Lord’s help and blessing, we have been able to put aside a sizable amount to build the Holsby gym. But a large project like this would deplete all our savings and still leave us with a significant debt to pay off. We feel that would not be prudent.
Our hope was to begin to build in the spring of 2017, but we have not received enough in donations to break ground yet. Our Holsby Leadership Team has decided to extend our fundraising efforts for another year and, God willing, begin to build in the spring of 2018. That will give us one more year to save some money and, hopefully, to raise a lot of donations – both small and large.
“So, what can I do?” you may ask:
- Some of you may not be able to afford a large donation, but you could afford to send a monthly amount over the next 12 months that will add up to something significant. Consider becoming a monthly contributor.
- Some of you have the means and the vision to invest a much larger amount in the expansion of the Holsby campus and ministry. Those gifts are very much needed.
- Some of you may know of family, friends or acquaintances who are looking for a worthy project to support. You can present the project to them on our behalf.
- All of you can support this project through your prayers. We can only do this by God’s help and His blessing.
Go to the donation page on our website and you will get all the instructions you need. You will also find a brief one-page fact sheet about the project that you can share with others. Please consider how you can partner with Holsby and invest in the lives of young people from around the world.
I want to support the Holsby gym project
The total cost is 1.9 million U.S. dollars. We already have $800,000 in donations and other funds set aside for this project. Now we need your help to raise the rest of the money.
We would be very grateful if you would share this project on social media and with your friends and family.
Though the Calgary Stampede has already come and gone, the highlight of your summer still awaits you. That’s right, the Torchbearers Tour is coming to Calgary on August 12-13, and I (Luke Thomas) look forward to seeing you there. Meet up with students and staff from your school year and possibly others who might just be living down the road from you. If you’re not in Calgary, but in need of a good excuse for a road trip, come and enjoy these couple days of fellowship, reminiscing and teaching from God’s word. You can also check out the Torchbearers website to see where else the tour will be going this summer.
Holsby has a new website! Check out the fresh and innovative design. It is full of beautiful images and graphics, and has lots of helpful content. This new website is now optimized for viewing on smartphones and tablets.
This project came together very quickly under the expert guidance of Samuel Weirich, a volunteer programmer and designer from Germany. Samuel has been able to accurately capture the ethos and vision of Holsby and then communicate it with this attractive and accessible digital tool.
Take time to explore and click your way through the various pages. And then be creative in helping us get the word out about the new Holsby website through your own social media and personal connections. It is a great tool for sharing with potential students and their parents.
If you are an alumnus of Holsby, pay special attention to the “Alumni” tab in the “Connect” menu at the top of the page. There you will find instructions for linking up with a Facebook group specifically for the year you attended. Join the group and get back in touch with your old roommates and friends!
There are plenty of exciting things happening at Holsby. We will be highlighting some of our plans and projects in upcoming posts on our FikaTime blog and our newly updated Facebook page. So stay connected and stay in touch!
“Alums” return to visit Holsby from both far and near! It’s a joy to renew acquaintance and witness God’s continuing work in their lives. Two such visits were a part of our experience in June.
A large family group graced the campus early in the month. Pam Hagen Beebe, from 1982-83, came with her whole family and some of her extended family (which included Swedish relatives from a nearby village, who have even sent their kids to Holsby for confirmation camps). “It was such an amazing experience,” she stated. There were 21 of them altogether. Their time was limited, but after enjoying a tour of the campus, they even eagerly managed to conquer the adventure course. “That will certainly be a memory for all of us,” Pam shared. “Your staff was so gracious and patient as our group struggled through each segment of the course.”
Pam reflected about her Bible school year: “I attended Holsby between my high school and college years, hoping to get deeply rooted in God’s Word and gain a global outlook on Kingdom work before I set out to prepare for my vocation. When I returned to the States, I became a teacher and a pastor’s wife. Now we are enjoying a season as the presidential couple of Westmont College in California, and I continue to see the many ways that my time at Bible school prepared me for our ministry.”
During their visit, Pam met Morgan McCornack, the daughter of one of her Holsby classmates (Scott McCornack). Morgan is on summer staff after being a student here this past year. Maybe there will also be a “2nd Gen” student from the Beebe family in the future. “It is my great hope that one of my own children might return for their own experience at Holsby,” Pam concluded.
A church group from north of Gothenburg was here for a week of family camp at the end of June. They’ve been coming to Holsby every summer for many years. One couple in the group is Dag and Gun Linwik (formerly Dag Wikström). Dag was a Holsby student way back in 1978-79. His story is an amazing one of God’s love and grace.
One day on a business trip, Dag picked up a couple of young people who were hitchhiking! They were Holsby Bible school students, who were bold to share their faith. What they said piqued Dag’s curiosity – so much so that he located Holsby and came for a visit on his next business trip. It was spring break, and so not many were around on campus. But there just happened to be someone there when he drove in. They directed him up the hill to the Schoon house.
On the way up, Dag stopped to ask further directions of someone who just happened to be walking the hill – who just happened to be a student, and who (at that precise moment) just happened to have left (because of cat allergies) the neighbor’s house where Wally and Donna were having “fika”!! Dag parked the car, knocked on the neighbor’s door – and we all soon learned his reason for coming to Holsby. A deep conversation ensued – of what it meant to really know and love Jesus Christ. Of course, the neighbors had to listen too.
Eventually the dialogue moved to the Schoon home. Sometime after midnight, Wally asked a key question of Dag: “What keeps you from receiving the Lord Jesus into your life?” And so in those early morning hours, a new life was born into the Kingdom of God! That autumn, Dag came to Holsby as a student so he could grow more deeply into his new-found faith in Jesus Christ! All these years later, Dag and Gun have an active faith within their church fellowship and its surroundings.
Things don’t just happen in this life of walking with the Lord! God had all the pieces in place long before they were put into action to bring Dag to Himself! I do not remember if those students who witnessed to the life of Jesus ever knew the results of Dag’s response to the Lord in his heart. But eternity will reveal their faithfulness in sharing the life and love of the Lord Jesus within their everyday circumstances!
When were you last in “awesome wonder” of our God? If we understood the totality of His wisdom, not limited to, but wonderfully represented in creation’s gifts: the blooming of a flower, the hungry songs of nesting birds or the shades of shifting light, I think we would be in a constant awesome wonder of Him. How much more when we add to creation’s gifts, His intentional interest directed towards us through the infinite power of His sovereignty and His intimate love experienced through His community. Both of these are life changing and, though not always acknowledged, they would also lead us into a constant awesome wonder of Him.
As you watch this slideshow, a summary of this year’s Bible school, many of you will know and remember the awesome wonder that is behind the fellowship of all that takes place here at Holsby…an awesome wonder that has changed our lives and will continue to change us until Christ returns.
As you were probably told when here, that awesome wonder isn’t because of Holsby; it’s because of Jesus Christ, who has never and will never leave us. Have a fika break and take a few moments to identify some of God’s awesome wonders in the midst of your work, your studies, your family, your church and the rest of your surroundings.
Please take the time to read this encouraging story of light in the North!
It is relatively rare that the Northern Lights can be seen as far “south” as Holsby, but last week many students stayed up late to catch a glimpse of this mysteriously beautiful appearance in the northern sky. But I want to tell you the story of a different kind of light that is miraculously making an appearance on a regular basis here in Sweden.
News reports about the recent flood of refugees streaming into Sweden usually emphasize the problems, unrest and tragedies that have accompanied this great migration from the south. Sweden has taken in many thousands of people fleeing the war in Syria, the poverty in Africa and the daily uncertainty and even persecution in other parts of the Middle East. And yes, this mass movement of desperate refugees is inevitably accompanied by difficulties, but that’s not the whole story.
Last week, a young man whom we will call Mansoor (not his real name) for his safety, visited the Holsby campus. Mansoor came to Sweden from the Middle East about five months ago out of fear for his life. Back in his home country, Mansoor had begun to search for truth and took a special interest in the claims of Christianity. He assumed that by coming to Sweden, a “Christian” nation, his search would be successful. Little did he know that Sweden is what we call a post-Christian nation – and is now one of the most secular countries in the world.
The Swedish Church, which until 16 years ago was the official state church, is led by an archbishop who denies many of the central truths of the Bible. She has stated that belief in the virgin birth of Christ is an optional extra, and she can’t say whether Jesus or Muhammad presented a truer picture of God. It would seem that there is not much light in this part of the world – except for the occasional Northern Lights.
Anyway, Mansoor ended up in a relatively isolated part of Sweden together with 800 other refugees waiting to be interviewed, processed and hopefully resettled. The government is not equipped to handle all the social and human needs of these desperate immigrants. They languish in boredom in temporary housing with nothing to do except wait for their fate to be decided – will we be allowed to stay or will we be sent back to the war zone and/or possible persecution? Despite differing views about the wisdom of opening the borders to so many refugees, Swedes have generally shown generosity and compassion toward these people.
The local parish of the Swedish Church was overwhelmed by the needs of Mansoor and his fellow refugees. They hired some extra staff, including a priest to minister to their spiritual needs. In God’s sovereignty, this priest turned out to be “Johan”, one of the relatively few strongly evangelical priests within the Swedish Church. Johan also happens to be a former member of the Holsby board and has brought many groups of young people to Holsby as part of their confirmation instruction.
Johan and the members of his parish organized activities for the refugees, including a Sunday afternoon meal and worship service. After a hot bowl of soup, a small group of mainly Muslim refugees gathered to hear about Christ. In one of his sermons, Johan told the story of how a young and very fervent young man named Saul was on his way to Damascus, on a sort of spiritual crusade, when he was stopped in his tracks by a bright light. And there on the road to Damascus in Syria, where many of these present-day pilgrims grew up and are now fleeing, Saul came face to face with Jesus Christ. The irony and poignancy was not lost on the refugees.
Young Mansoor was the first to give his heart to the Lord and soon nine of his fellow refugees also encountered the Light of Life in the face of Jesus in that small parish in our post-Christian Sweden! Almost immediately, they all asked to be baptized. The leadership of the Swedish Church strongly discourages Muslim converts from getting baptized. In part, they are fearful that if these refugees are eventually sent back to their home countries their lives will be in danger because of their public conversion to Christ. But Mansoor and his fellow converts insisted on being baptized.
Mansoor, who speaks English fairly well, serves now as an interpreter for Johan as he continues to instruct these former Muslims in their new faith. His hunger for God’s Word is insatiable and Johan sensed that Mansoor needed more in-depth Bible training. “Let’s see if Holsby has a place for him!” And so, Mansoor visited our campus last week to see if we might be able to fit him in for our Bible school spring term.
As Luke and I conversed with Mansoor, we immediately recognized the reality of his faith in Christ. And we quickly agreed to offer Mansoor a scholarship to join our students for the spring term (the months of April and May). We are confident that Mansoor will be quickly accepted and drawn in to the Holsby student body. It will be a perfect opportunity for him to experience Christian community and be strengthened in his knowledge and faith.
The latest report from Johan is that 20 more Muslim converts are now asking to be baptized. The Light of lights is shining brightly in the North! Please pray for Johan and his staff. Let’s thank the Lord that He has His people everywhere. Over 60 refugees now attend the weekly “soup and worship service” at Johan’s church. And let’s pray for Mansoor and his fellow converts as they already face opposition from some of the other refugees.
“For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.” (2 Cor 4:6)
If you would like to contribute to the Holsby scholarship fund so that needy students like Mansoor and others may attend, you will find instructions at the following link: General Donation
Your investment in scholarship students like Mansoor is a great way to spread God’s light to a part of the world that has so little true witness for Christ.
As a reminder, we would also encourage you to think about making a contribution toward the gym project. You can use this link: Donation to the Well