“Going Cucumber”: Danish Culture and the Need for Jesus

If there’s one thing I could say I didn’t know about Denmark before travelling there (and there were many things I didn’t know), it would be their comical expressions! Although I definitely can’t say that saying “Holy cow!” really makes sense, I’m sure anyone else would find these expressions entertaining if not hilarious!

One of my favourite expressions was “the cow is on the ice”. Can you guess what that means? It’s another way of saying “no worries”! I think I will be adopting that phrase from now on because it sounds much cooler than “no worries”!

Another expression we learnt was “going cucumber”, which you can probably guess to be “going crazy”, much like how Canadians say we are going nuts or bananas. And if that’s your guess, then you’re right! Again, it’s one of those phrases that I like better than ours, maybe because it seems out of the ordinary, like I use the other expressions too much and I need a change.

And “change” is definitely something I experienced on this mission trip! A change of view on Denmark, a change of view on evangelism, and a change in my heart and view of myself. There is honestly so much to write about my first-time mission AND travel experience, but I will try to make it short and hopefully, it will not be boring to read either!

The Danish culture has taught me much about being humble and the importance of simply being quiet and listening. As Canadians, our student-culture is very much focused on the many things we can do and accomplish all at once; our student-identity relies on achieving high grades, having a lot of friends, getting the best job, and owning a lot of money. As result, we work at a fast pace in order to achieve the highest possible social status. Although the Danish can struggle with this fast-paced mentality at times, their culture is more focused on a Danish term called “hygge”, to which there is no equivalent English word, but can be thought of similar to being warm, cozy and comfortable. The culture is quiet and reserved, but also warm and welcoming once trust is established.

During one of our training sessions on how to spread the gospel to the Danes, one of our leaders emphasized the importance in building trust by simply loving on people. And one of those ways, although extremely simple, hit me with conviction: solely listening. There are many aspects of evangelism that I took away from this trip, but a huge one was that we should not be listening to respond, but instead we should be listening to simply love. When we listen to respond, we are not thinking about the other person; the focus is on ourselves and what we have to say next. Instead, we should be thinking about how we can love that person.

And so although the quiet and reserved culture of the Danes proved one to be difficult to talk about our faith in, it also taught me a new way of talking about faith – a system that focuses more on building trust, loving people and being there for them, than the informational, factual idea of the gospel that we so often strive to tell. It taught me the importance of quietness, of waiting on the Holy Spirit to work during these conversations and simply listening in order to love. “Slow to speak,” James writes (1:19), and slow to respond, always! That includes whenever we are sharing the gospel and God’s love! Being eager to tell someone the good news isn’t a bad thing, but when our eagerness shoves aside the love we should be having for those we are sharing with, it can be problematic and can come off as the wrong representation of the gospel.

On a personal level, I really felt God revealing to me how incredibly selfish I am throughout this trip. I definitely listen to respond most of the time, I want to be heard, understood and respected, and I want people to look up to me and appreciate me.  I was constantly reminded this week that it’s not all about me. It’s a simple concept to take away from the trip, but in all honesty, God knew I needed to hear it. My pride and my self-pity is a constant issue that I need God to work through. During one of the seminars we attended, a Christian Danish pastor reminded me of the importance of really knowing God’s grace and mercy in sharing the gospel. He asked the question: “what is our reaction when we sin? Do we run to God, or do we try to fix ourselves?” My answer was the latter when it should have been the former. God is constantly holding out open arms for us to run to so that he can heal and restore us, and I often forget that and instead tend to focus on my mistakes and how I can overcome them, not God. Knowing God’s grace and mercy is what it really means to know the life-changing gospel.

Another interesting part about the Danish culture is that, similar to a lot of North America, they already know the gospel. They know the story of Jesus dying on the cross and rising from the grave in order to save them; they were raised with a background in the Lutheran Church. But although they already know the gospel, most of them have not experienced it on a personal level. I believe it is a head-knowledge verses heart-felt knowledge issue in Denmark, and that this issue is deeply rooted in their culture. In my personal experience in conversing with Danish students, many of them did not know or understand what it meant to have a relationship with Jesus.

One way we learnt to break through a reserved culture with a lack of understanding of God’s true love, is to show them God’s love through building trust. One way to build trust is to listen and try to understand their background and culture. This obviously takes much time and can even involve a life-time of investing in the Danes, but building trust and listening is a start! One might think they’re going cucumber when even thinking of getting involved in such a big project, but in many ways, the “small” part of building trust and listening can break stereotypes of Christians being judgmental and unloving, and can also allow them to dig deeper in what it really means to be a Dane in relation to what their church background involves. This is what we learnt and practiced within the past week!

Through our interactions with Danes on the campuses of universities in Copenhagen, we learnt so much about the Danish culture! We built trust and invited them to come to a Christian get-together for Danish students, and it was really amazing to see God work through all of that!

I am not going cucumber when I say that God is working in remarkable and wonderful ways in the city of Copenhagen, Denmark! Through the Canadians who are there in long-term ministry, we were so blessed to have had the privilege of taking part in a long-term mission that God is carrying through. God is soooo good! I continue to pray for the country of Denmark and the city of Copenhagen; that the Danes will have open hearts towards God, for the long-term missionaries there to stay strong and courageous in sharing God’s love to the Danes, and that the Danish Christians will also have the audacity to share about God’s unfailing love even in such a quiet, reserved culture.

There is always a constant need for Jesus. Everywhere. He will always be what people are searching for; He will always be the complete satisfaction in a world that craves more and more. I pray that the people of Denmark will seek God in this way; that even though they are known as the happiest nation in the world because of their safe socioeconomic system, they will recognize the need for Christ, that they will hunger and thirst for more, and seek after Him. Would you join me in this prayer?

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