In 2015 Hannah and Daniel returned to Sweden with a renewed desire to share Songs for Saplings with their Swedish friends. They also carried with them a USB stick from Dana that contained all the Songs for Saplings material recorded up to that point, including albums in multiple languages.
Two bright and theologically inclined young bachelors from their church began translating the first album into Swedish. While the work they did to begin translating the songs was theologically accurate, some of the language they used was a bit too advanced for children. After both men moved on, the project sat waiting for the next five years, until Emilia Johnsson and Linnea Stenlund entered the picture.
Emilia, who is studying to become a music teacher, picked up the translations of the two young men and tweaked them to be more kid-friendly. Linnea was a new mom connected with the church who began helping Emilia after she told Hannah, “I need to be thinking what to theologically train my child in…I’ll probably have to make it up myself!” Thankfully she didn’t have to make it all up, but rather helped Emilia translate and sing what Dana had already created.
A young woman named Jenny Eurell also sings with Emilia and Linnea; they first record the adults and then share with the children to sync their vocals and complete the recordings. Three of the five Norén children (Lydia, Markus, and Elisabeth) sing on the album, as well as two other girls in the community named Mira and Anna. Emilia’s husband David is tracking the vocals, and Dana is editing, mixing and mastering the final project. So far they’ve finished recording about a quarter of the songs for the first album, with the hope to move toward completion this spring.
“Songs for Saplings songs can remind people of what is God’s truth!” Hannah said. “In some ways,” she noted, “Sweden is also an unreached people group.” She shared that statistically it is one of the most secular countries in the world, and that it’s not uncommon for people to believe that truth is what they want it to be. That was part of what brought her family to the country in 2011.
Prior to 2011, Daniel and Hannah served as missionaries for a number of years in the Middle East. Military service had taken Hannah’s father and the family to various places in the United States and England as a child, and then all the way to Saudi Arabia. She recalls how spiritually bleak it was and how her family found an underground church in which to participate. Hannah and Daniel met in Syria, where she was serving as a missionary after college. He was participating in a short term mission trip, and “it was love at first translation” with Hannah as his Arabic interpreter. He later received his theological training to become a pastor. The two married and spent many years as missionaries in the Middle East. In the midst of the Arab Spring, they found it necessary to leave.
They loved working in the Middle East but all along Daniel had felt like his “own country was bleeding theologically while he was watching from a distance,” so their hearts for ministry and missions took them back to Sweden. That next year they were part of planting Gothenburg International Baptist Church with a core of believers who had been faithfully meeting for years, ever since an Iranian believer in Sweden reached out online to Daniel for spiritual guidance.
The area of Gothenburg in which they live is majority Muslim, and Hannah utilizes her Arabic language skills on a daily basis. She and her husband feel like they have the best of both worlds, as they are able to reach out to native Swedes and Muslim immigrants. Ten years after the establishment of their church, it is normal for there to be at least fifteen nationalities represented each Sunday. She said, “People look at each other and they’re like, ‘You know, if we were in our home country we would be enemies with each other…through the bonds of Christ we’re brothers and sisters.”
Hannah is grateful not only to be part of recording Songs for Saplings into Swedish, but also for the albums that have been translated into Arabic. Her five children enjoy listening to the songs in all of the languages! She said, “Big theological ideas are sitting so tightly in our kids’ hearts by now because they’ve heard it and heard it.”
As Romans 11:33-34 proclaims, “O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord?’” Neither the Noréns nor the Dirksens, nor anyone involved with Songs for Saplings, could have ever imagined how the Lord would direct their lives in order to share with so many His grand majesty and love through music.
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