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    Chapter 17

    A Visit to Sweden

    Within two weeks of Stan's and Andreea's return to Raj we received an invitation to visit Sweden by Björn Engström and his two wives Sonja and Misha. I was over the moon! But Stan was still tired after his Romanian trip and "second honeymoon" and wanted to rest a while longer. As I hadn't been out of Poland for two years, and knowing my connection to the Engströms, Stan asked if I would like to come along. I was not slow to accept the invitation.

    The winter snow was thawing and the first signs of spring were in the air. Stan didn't like the winter and preferred to do his travelling in the spring and summer and so the sudden and exhausting trip to Romania while the winter snows still lay on the ground had take a lot out of him. He decided to delay a month and wait until Pesach (Passover) was over. We set our date of departure for 15 April.

    Stan had originally thought we could drive to Jönköping viâ Swinojscie (Swinemünde) and then take the ferry to Ystad, but decided the journey would be too gruelling for his health. So instead we flew, taking the train to Warsaw, and from there a flight to Gothenburg (Göteborg). From there we planned to take the train to Jönköping, but Björn insisted on picking us up from the airport personally.

    The purpose of the conference set up by Björn was to talk to some Messianic groups who were very much tied into the Messianic Jewish movement and to give them the wider picture of what Yahweh was doing in terms of the restoration of true Israel in the last days, and in particular, Ephraim. This, of course, also included the restoration of polygamy as one of its facets. However, preaching polygamy was not our main mission (and never was).

    Sonja had come with Björn and was still as blonde and Scandinavian-looking as ever, though the dark tan she had had was gone.

    "HEY, HÉLÈNE!" cried Sonja as we came through customs and into the main hall, and gave me a big hug. Stan and Björn embraced too, evidently delighted to see one another again after so long a time. To my amazement, Stan was speaking Swedish to Björn, something I hadn't expected.

    "Hey, you never told me you could speak Swedish, Stan!" I said indignantly, pulling his sleave.

    "You never asked, dear. In any case, I can't speak Swedish. It's not real Swedish, is it?" he said, turning to Björn, grinning widely.

    Björn laughed. "Not really. It would be more accurate to say that he speaks Scandinavian because it's a complete mix-up of Danish, Swedish and Norwegian."

    "Between Suszana, Björn, Sonja and a few others I've picked up a smörgåsbord of Scandinavian languages," said Stan almost apologetically.

    "Smörg-what??" I complained? "What's that?"

    "You'll find out soon enough," chuckled Stan. "If you're nice, maybe Sonja will make you one to sleep on."

    Sonja hooted with laughter. "Pay no attention to him, Hélène, he's just teasing you. You can only eat a smörågsbord - it's a meal!"

    It was great being with Sonja again. We chatted all the way to Jönköping in the back of the car and ignored the men completely as they weren't speaking English anyway. I envied Stan his many languages. I even noticed my American accent returning as I seemed to make the mental bridge back to Californian times and Blum's Restaurant.

    I was surprised to still see so much snow in mid-April.

    "Oh, it remains as late as May sometimes, and we've even had snow in June. But don't worry, you'll like the snow here. It's really cool!" teased Sonja.

    We giggled like school girls and had a wonderful drive. Even Stan seemed galvanised and enjoyed himself for he didn't have much male company back home. It was a change to be rid of all us women, the problem being that amongst polygamous friends the women always outnumbered the men wherever he went!

    "What are you guys talking about?" asked Sonja as we passed through a large town called Borås.

    "What a Jew is," answered Björn. "Stan has just given me some new insights."

    I wan't surprised. Stan was always an encyclopaedia of information.

    "Can we hear?" I asked.

    Sonja didn't seem too keen, which disappointed me, but then I remembered she wasn't such a theologian as Misha. But what she had really wanted was some female chatter. I felt privileged to have so many sister-wives to converse with. She had only Misha who was rather intellectual and I could see that Sonja had a bit of an inferiority complex about this. Instead of making an effort to grow in that area, she played it down and tried instead to emphasise her sporting abilities, knowing full well that Misha was not the sporting type at all. That way she felt she could build up her self-confidence.

    I considered this a definite weakness of Sonja and during the course of my stay tried to gently point out to her that her attitude was building walls up between her and Misha, instead of building relationships and edifying them. Björn had apparently not been too happy with this development either but had soft-peddled the issue, afraid to alienate his wife. That I also considered a weakness of his part and Stan agreed with me.

    We were to spend a lot of time counselling Björn's family while we were there which was even more humiliating to Sonja because I was both her junior in years as well as being newer to the polygamy scene. I don't know how much Sonja could have taken vis-à-vis spiritual correction but as I got to know her and Misha better I could see that she was definitely the spiritually weaker of the two and needed a lot of support. Building up her self-esteem whilst continually steering conversion in a Gospel direction was my one major theme whilst there. I talked to Misha privately about my strategem and obtained her cooperation for she had also sensed her failure to get deep into her sister-wife.

    It is a difficult thing when you feel a sister-wife is "better" than you because you start imagining all sorts of silly things. As I expected, Sonja believed that Björn loved Misha more than her because she was more "spiritual". I had to explain to Sonja that intellect and spirituality weren't the same thing necessarily. I paraphrased one of my favourite quotes which Stan had told me from a Second World War British General to illustrate the point:

      "Intelligence is to a man what over-bright headlights are to a car: they lead to faster driving than prudence dictates, and give no information as to the sharpness of the curves ahead or what obstacles lie beyond. By dazzling other people and thereby inviting accidents, far from making speedy progress in the long run, they tend only to obstruct and confuse" (Major-General Sir Edward Spears).

    I continued:

    "It is not necessary to dazzle anyone with intellectual ability in order to be useful to the Kingdom work. It is more important that we inspire confidence because we are completely trustworthy. To be intellectual like Misha is a great asset to your family and you should be proud of her," I insisted, "but both Björn and Stan, I know for sure, prefer truthworthiness and loyalty above all else. If you can inspire Björn with those qualities, you'll be doing more than your share for the family."

    I astonished myself because of the ease and authority that was in my voice, and I could see that Sonja was stunned.

    "No two gifts are alike and besides, the gifts we have are themselves gifts from God to be used for His glory. We haven't earned them, and they're not for our self-glory. And if we don't have a particular gift that's because of God's sovereign will. To resent someone else's gift is in effect to resent God, and that's blasphemy. It stems from pride and a lack of self-discipline."

    I paused, still shocked at what I was saying. I knew Stan would have been proud of me. I was preaching a no-nonsense Gospel, the type Stan liked, which balanced what I thought were mercy as well as strict judgment. But it's not nice when you see the person you're talking to start crying. And that's just what Sonja did.

    My immediate female instinct was to feel guilty but I knew that was false since these weren't my words but God's. I knew I was being led by the Spirit. Stan had to constantly remind me that we are to forget ourselves and not take credit for God's truth, whether positively or negatively used. The only thing we have to be careful about is making sure it is God's Word we are preaching and not our own.

    "If what you say to someone knocks them down to earth, or hurts them, remember, you must reveal the love behind the discipline of truth. Your duty is thereafter to build them up again without minimising what you have said or diluting God's Word," Stan had taught me. "You're God's representative as a priestess, and you're a priestess because you're a believer, and you're a believer when you believe absolutely all that God has revealed."

    I put my arms around Sonja and told her that God loved her and that I loved her, but that she had to face the truth both for her sake and for her family's.

    It was in such moments that one is the most teachable and when the greatest of responsibility falls upon the one who is ministering, for he or she must show great sensitivity mingled with firmness. She soon regained her composure and thanked me for speaking so openly and, as she knew, as a friend. Sonja had always been a special sister in Christ and after that moment we grew even deeper in our friendship.

    Having explained Yahweh's sovereignty in the delegation of gifts to His children, I went on to reminder her that we have a responsibility to put those gifts to work and make them fruitful for the building up of the Kingdom:

    "Björn needs you for the work he is doing. You are utterly unique and irreplacable. But you can't just sit on your gifts. Remember what Yah'shua said about those who bury their talent - before you know it, the talent will be gone. Our gifts must be cultivated or invested like money in a bank. We are neither to be ashamed of them nor boast of them."

    "But I don't know what my gifts are," insisted Sonja.

    "I don't believe you, unless you are really that blind! For one thing, there aren't many women who are capable of living polygamy, and living it in a way that brings glory to Christ."

    Sonja didn't answer.

    "Oh, I know, you still have problems living polygamy, who doesn't? But the fact that you're on balance doing well and happy proves that you have walked, and are walking, a path that most women would find impossible. Your cheerfulness inspires Björn and Misha. In fact, you'd probably be surprised how much Misha envies some of your gifts!"

    I don't know why I said that save I knew it was true. I remembered some of Misha's reactions back in Blum's when Sonja was saying she was the sporty type. Sonja was naturally charismatic, people were attracted to her because of her bounciness and joy. Misha was more reserved, not as pretty, and lacked self-confidence in other areas.

    "You and Misha need each other a lot more than you think," I said. "She lacks self-confidence too and you could help her just as I have tried to help you today."

    Sonja looked at me intently. "I know what you're saying is true. I always knew it but I suppose pride got the better of me. I'm going to work on this one. Thanks for being a friend."

    In many ways her battle was a lot simpler than mine. She had only one sister-wife to get to know and love whereas I now had seven. And they were all so completely different. The amazing thing was the way we all helped each other, often unconsciously, work out solutions to our problems. But it was important that we cultivate sensitivity and never allow pride to blind us or turn our hearts to stone. New sister-wives often think that once you've tilled and turned over the soil of your soul once that the soil will always be fine. It isn't. Weeds are constantly being planted there, the soil is being pounded by rain and sun and gets hard. Like the field, we are seasonable creatures. We need retilling. That's why Stan said we needed the annual festivals and their spiritual meanings to help us to keep on turning that soil. We could never relax. We must sweat at it all our lives or risk turning into a desert. Laziness, indifference or a loss of hope are some of the worst things that can strike anyone because the neglect of our souls leads to stagnation and eventually to atrophy.

    It was wonderful to see how all the things Stan had taught me each day would suddenly come back to my remembrance when I was ministering to someone. I discovered I was a library of life-giving information, and the more I ministered, the more that library grew. Serving, Stan said, was the greatest thing anyone could ever do, because it tills your own soul as much as the one you are serving. Service was a mutually-sanctifying work that made disciples into not just followers but living imitators.

    The Engström's house was a little one in the suburbs of Jönköping tucked into a little wood so they could have some privacy. They had moved from the apartment where Sonja had first met them as it had been too small for the three of them and neighbours had started gossipping. The new house was made of wood and painted yellow and it looked more like a barn to me at first until I got used to Swedish housing styles. The garden was small so there was little responsibility they had there. Neither she nor Misha had any children still which led me to wonder. I shared my concern with Stan and wondered if Björn had confided anything to him.

    Jönköping

    "As a matter of fact I noticed the same thing," remarked Stan, "and causually brought the subject up with Björn. He seemed a bit touchy on the subject so I trod carefully. But it seems, piecing the bits together, that he has taken Paul a little too far and believes that Kingdom work should completely dominate marriage and that since we were in the last days it was not prudent to have children."

    "Oh no," I exclaimed, understanding what stresses this must have put on Misha and Sonja. "We have to sort that one out!"

    "Tread carefully, sweetheart. But I think it must be up to me to talk to Björn about this one. When it comes to a man's duty in the home, it's up to his father to teach him, not his wives. And as his spiritual father, that lot falls upon me".

    I knew what he meant.

    Stan was invited to teach most of the daily Bible classes the Engströms had in their home and wasted no time in getting straight to the point though in what I thought was a very tactful manner. He asked Björn as the head of the household if there was a particular theme he would like but he deferred to Stan, leaving him to choose whatever he felt the Spirit was leading him to share. That suited Stan just fine.

    "Only a few weeks ago we were discussing the Corinthian epistles in our home and wondering how Christianity would have evolved if there never had been a Corinthian congregation or if Paul had never written his letters to them..."

    I smiled inside. I knew what Stan was up to. He had a way of making people relax and join in the spirit of a discussion by making them play scriptural rôles. That way they could understand without being directly "taught" because it made God do the teaching rather than a man. He often found ways to get around ministers who were too proud to accept teaching from a fellow minister.

    "We know, of course, that Paul repeats many of his teachings in all his writings but that each contains something unique. And we also understand that some of these teachings refer to local conditions and are not of general application. So, let's imagine that the two Corinthian leters weren't in our Bibles. What doctrines and practices do you think might become absent from the Body of Christ generally?"

    They all thought a while. I held my tongue because I knew that was what Stan expected of me, except to promt here and there in moments of silence. We both understood that the Engströms would have to find the truth for themselves.

    Misha the theologian spoke up first. "Well, we wouldn't know a lot about the Lord's Supper. And we wouldn't know of all the problems the first apostles had with false doctrines and practices. For instance, they had lots of problems with speaking in tongues. There would probably be even more confusion about tongues than there is already today without Corinthians."

    Stan agreed. "Absolutely. The Corinthian Church was plagued with problems. The people were fresh converts, and still thought in pagan terms. It was a nightmare situation for whoever were the Elders there."

    "That lovely passage on love in 1 Corithians 13 wouldn't be there. That would be a terrible loss," added Björn.

    We all agreed. Chapter 13 was one of the most inspired passages in the whole Bible and we would be impoverished without it.

    "The Corinthian experience was one of extremes. Paul had to be very careful. The congregation had divided into factions. The Lord's Supper had been turned into almost a drinking party. There was little reverence. Tongues had got out of hand completely. They were copying local pagan practices at Acro-Corinth where the internationally famous Delphic Oracle was located. Worship services were chaotic. People were blabbering and prophesying all at the same time. It must have sounded like the Tower of Babel after the confusion of tongues. All sorts of variants of the Gospel were being taught because the Greeks and Romans were experts at syncretism..."

    "What's "syncretism"?" asked Sonja.

    "Syncretism is the blending together of different religious practices. When the Roman Catholics went to South and Central America, the pagans there retained many of their former practices and simply combined them with Catholicism."

    Stan was on one of his favourite themes and I smiled inside.

    "The whole of the Catholic and Protestant worlds are examples of syncretism to differing degrees. The celebration of Christmas, Lent, Easter, Haloween, St.Valentine's Day, and so on, are all borrowed from paganism and were worked into Christianity very early on by the Catholics to make the Gospel more pallitable to the pagans. This tendency was present in Corinth, and also a number of other European-Greek congregations. The pagans thought the flesh should be indulged but the Gospel taught the opposite. In Chapter 15 of First Corinthians Paul tells the Corinthians about the resurrection body which, whilst physical, is nonetheless spiritual because it is not governed by the same appetites as our physical ones."

    Stan was playing Björn's tune, building him up so as not to shoot him down in flames when he came to the crunch. He worked hard to preserve and strengthen Björn's patriarchal authority in front of his wives. Rather than point out an "error" he would try to give the impression that the one in error just hadn't quite got all the pieces together. He wanted to provide an honourable way for Björn to change without humiliating him in front of his wives, which thing he would never tolerate.

    "There is a great deal about marriage in these epistles," continued Stan, "which has been misused for generations, especially by the Catholics who wished to create an élite priesthood separated from the masses by conferring on them the mystique of supposed holiness by forced celibacy. But we know that we are all a Royal Priesthood, thanks to Peter's teaching, and thanks to Paul's witness to Timothy we know that anyone who forbids marriage, whether monogamy or polygamy, is controlled by demonic powers."

    They all enjoyed hearing these words. This was music to their ears.

    "The Greeks were aesthetics, inspite of their promiscuity. They, like our modern culture, tended to extremes and lacked the balance which the Hebrew soul possessed. Their religious people were aesthetics and celibates whereas the masses tended to be perverts. Having misstresses and even boys as lovers was normal in Greek and Roman society. It was a culturally bisexual society. Most of the Roman emperors had misstresses and men had lovers in addition to their official wives. The Corinthian Church was still plagued by this sort of problem, understandbly, since you don't change a mindframe cultivated over centuries in one day. The gap between their jurisdictional salvation through faith and Christ and their actual sanctification was as wide as the Grand Canyon.

    "The Hebrews had none of this aesthetic-promiscuous polarity. Celibacy was unheard of and even regarded as a crime against the nation. This fact alone probably damped down the more extreme urges for sexual indulgence that plagued the pagans. Celibacy was to be a part of normal marriage instead of dividing society into two different classes. Marriage and the raising of children was a mandate given our race from the beginning and all the prophets and apostles sustained this position except under extraordinary circumstances.

    "God's people were also commanded to be celibate at certain times, namely, during a woman's menstruation and for one week afterwards. This was a brilliant move on the part of Yahweh because it built in a natural harmony between spirit and body. Extra celibacy was only to be enjoined, taught Paul, by mutual consent when there was a special need to devote oneself to prayer, perhaps to interceed for someone at a critical time. Otherwise the Hebrew's and the Christian's potential sex life was to be half devoted to God and half devoted to pleasure. We understand from the Bible's teaching that sex was intended for both pleasure and procreation and that the two should not be separated. Sex should always be had with children in mind even if they did not manterialise. It is for this reason that the Lord hates contraceptives.

    "There was only one other situation where celibacy was enjoined and that is in 1 Corinthians 7. This is the Catholics' favourite scripture in defence of celibacy and is used to define their anti-sex stance whether openly taught or, more often, just implied. When Paul advised against marriage it was because of local conditions. Read in context it was because of persecution. Starting a family was not advisable, or even marrying, for that matter, if you were going to be driven from your homes and threatened with death continually, for this was no environment to bring up children in. He also advised against marriage if the person had sexual hang-ups like homosexuality or an uncontrollable sex-drive. But rather than fall into the sin of fornication, it was better that they marry if they couldn't control their urges at all.

    "Without the Corinthian letters the Catholic doctrine on celibacy as the higher ideal wouldn't have had a leg to stand on. They conveniently ignore Paul's teaching elsewhere that to deny marriage is a doctrine of demons, just as it is to deny the eating of food which God has blessed through the Torah. "

    Misha and Sonja were casting glances at each other and Björn was staring at the carpet. This was a sensitive moment and Stan had to tread very carefully, having laid the bare facts before everyone.

    "When the tribulation starts and the Antichrist starts murdering the saints then Paul's counsel in 1 Corinthians 17 will be applicable again. It would be insane to try and raise families in such circumstances and abstaining from marriage would certainly be the best choice, for the children's sake, and so that men and women could devote themselves to God in what will be a life and death situation.

    "But for those in the twelve firstborn colonies, the end-time cities of refuge, under Yahweh's divine protection, family life will continue not only as normal but with renewed dedication and interest. Like Noah, we are going to have to breed as many as we convert for the New World to come. If we obey His laws He will bring forth the right seed, at the right time, and ensure we will be able not only to afford to look after them but provide a family structure that releases the patriarchs for evangelism. And that family structure is polygamy.

    "Polygamy without raising families isn't true polygamy unless the Lord deliberately prevents conception taking place supernaturally. Our calling is, amongst other things, to raise the Twelve Tribes of Israel again. But since their blood is so mixed into all the races of the world now, the Lord can only achieve that by careful inbreeding, as it were, by bringing together the right men and women.

    "You are going to see some of the most amazing things take place - children appearing in families who don't resemble their parents in nature at all, nor even looking like them. We are engaged in one of the most astonishing breeding programs ever, without recourse to scientific methods, and in completely natural circumstances. Israelite genes long dormant because they are overshadowed by non-Israelite ones because they are recessive will suddenly be expressed as two Israelites with the same types of genes marry and produce children with the required characteristics through divinely-orchestrated genetic recombination. This is, in my view, one of the most exciting missions that we as Israelite patriarchal Christians have."

    Stan had them in the palm of his hand. They were enthralled by the prospects. Even Björn was no longer staring at the carpet any more.

    "The Corinthian letters can so easily mislead in some areas if we aren't aware to whom they are addressed. Paul is made out to be anti-marriage when he is the very opposite. Instead, he elevates the institution to one of holiness, not to be used as an excuse for immorality for those with unbridled lusts, and not to be instituted in times of great persecution for everyone's sakes, but especially the children's.

    "The Genesis mandate has never been revoked, and never will be. What is important is to find those husbands and wives whom God wants to be joined together, and for them to breed. We have a sacred task, a glorious and exciting one. It may be that a couple are only supposed to have one child. If God is in control, we need not breed like rabbits as the Catholics do. We may enjoy the same frequency of conjugal relations as they do but rest in the knowledge that the Lord will see to the increase. So far three of my eight wives have not had any children, even though we have tried. The Lord has his timetable, just as He did for Sarah, Hannah and Rachel. The important thing is not to stop trying, not to hope for chidlren the Lord doesn't want us to have. Quality not quantity is what is important, though I am sure some polygamous families are destined to be enormous. We shall see. It is all in God's hands anyway so long as we do our part."

    Björn was definitely reassured, I could tell. He didn't say anything and Stan didn't press him. He would need time to think it over. Stan changed the theme of his discussion and looked at different aspects of Corinthians. We all enjoyed the meeting - Stan's teaching sessions were always jam-packed with interesting things.

    Björn never spoke to Stan about his problem and it wasn't necessary either. Stan knew what he had said had sunk in and that Björn would figure out the right thing to do. Three months after we returned to Raj both Misha and Sonja got pregnant within two weeks of each other. Björn had his hands full now and from what I gathered was very chuffed! So were we.

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