land of fire and ice
Different cultures fascinate me.
Sure, the food, clothing, and languages… but I am even more interested in the social, emotional, and spiritual climates within people groups. I have yet to do much globetrotting, but I have every intention to travel as much as I possibly can.
At the beginning of this month, my international travels began! I took a short trip to Iceland—a country I have wanted to visit since I was 14 years old.
To answer, let’s go back about six years.
I knew absolutely nothing about Iceland, except Iceland is green and Greenland is ice (to whoever I first learned that little saying from: thanks!). There has been a lot of buzz around Iceland lately, but back in 2011, there was not much tourism. In fact, the yearly number of tourists has more than tripled since 2011!
Because very few people went to Iceland six years ago (and I followed less photography accounts on Instagram than I do now), I had no knowledge of Iceland’s stunning landscapes.
Yet even with my utter lack of knowledge and understanding of the country or its people, God made it clear to me that I was to be praying for the Icelanders. So I began to pray.
For years, my prayers were extremely vague, because I didn’t take the time to research the country at all (oops). But I still prayed that the gospel would spread. Prayed that there would be Bible-believing Christians following the promptings of the Spirit.
So, why Iceland? Simply, the Lord put it on my heart.
A little over a year ago, I was thinking of this country often (probably because it had become such a trendy vacation spot) and I decided that it was finally time to try to figure out what was going on in the country. I googled something generic like “Christians in Iceland” and stumbled upon YWAM Iceland’s website. I decided to email the newly established team, and began to follow their journey and pray for them as they moved to Iceland.
It was nice to have some specific needs to pray for as the team was settling in to life in Iceland. In one of the team’s newsletters, they included the following video that was created by the pastor of Loftstofan, a baptist church in Reykjavík.
This video really helped me to begin to understand the spiritual state of Iceland. It is a “Christian” nation that has never experienced a revival. Most Icelanders are Christian on paper, but do not have an internal commitment to Christ. However, there are some believers there who are doing the slow work of influencing their communities; Christianity is not dead in Iceland, and God is moving!
This year, after learning so much more about the culture, it felt like the right time to actually go to Iceland and experience it for myself! So I got in touch with Karen and Joe, a sweet couple from YWAM, and made plans to visit.
My Time in Iceland
I only had 4.5 days in Iceland, and spent most of that time in Reykjavík (the capital).
Fun facts about Reykjavík:
- The population of the capital region is just under 214,000, and about 65% of the total population! (The entire country has a smaller population than my central California hometown.)
- Reykjavík is the only Western European capital without Starbucks or McDonald’s (and the local roasts and burgers are fantastic, might I add).
- There are geothermal swimming pools all over Iceland, a few of which can be found in Reykjavík. (I visited one with indoor and outdoor pools and hot tubs.)
I quickly understood why Iceland has become such a popular tourist destination. Whether on foot or by bus, Reykjavík is relatively easy to get around, and there is plenty to do! I love museums, especially those that feature local art, so the Culture House was one of my favorite spots.
Visiting the national museum was particularly interesting, because much of Iceland’s history was formed by the church. Iceland transitioned early on from paganism to Catholicism, and then was aggressively switched to Lutheranism. There has been an established state church for many years, and church and state have yet to be supersets to this day! Even though Iceland is one of the most atheistic countries in the world, Icelanders have recently voted to continue the governmental support of the church.
From what I’ve gathered, it seems to me that the country in general believes that vague Christian morals be a good thing (i.e. being kind, loving your neighbor, etc.), but there is not much interest in having personal relationships with Christ. Icelanders are much more interested in being progressive.
Thankfully, not all Icelanders can be described this way. When the weekend rolled around, the fellowship I experienced was fantastic. I was encouraged and inspired by the ways that the Bible-believing Christians in the country have chosen to live for Christ.
I was so very blessed by this trip, and hope that I will have the opportunity to return in the future. I have a wonderful feeling that God is going to do mighty things in Iceland through the laborers He has placed there!