Celebrate the Life of Pastor Sven Levin
Sven Levin passed away on September 5, 2016 in Conroe, Texas. He was born August 13, 1940 in Malmo, Sweden and grew up a city boy who loved to be around people and action. As a boy, he had a penchant for adventure and a dream to travel the world. He loved horses and sailing which fueled the idea of riding off into the sunset or sailing to new places. He would often go down to the harbor and watch the ships or go to the library and read about faraway places. He lived in a Jewish neighborhood which had a profound influence on him as many of them came from other parts of Europe or were headed to Israel. He saw the devastation and aftermath of WWII and how people had to learn to build and dream again. His family was small, for many years it was just him, his mother and grandmother who also raised him. When he was twelve, Elsa married Borje Levin who also had a son, Claes which delighted Sven. Although a few years apart, they bonded and were close as they chose to be brothers. He was also one for adventure and when the time came, served in the Swedish military as all young men did where he received notable awards and accolades for leadership and service.
Always a seeker, Sven desired meaning and purpose for his life. During his twenties, he lived in Malmo and was herald as a successful man in business and also pursued theater under the famous Swedish actor Ingemar Bergman. Yet, during this time, Sven felt there was something missing as if there was a void that he couldn’t explain, he wanted more but didn’t know what. He read a lot of philosophy but it lacked purpose for him. It appeared he had it all and was successful, but in actuality, he was ready to end it. He was considering taking his life when he drove by a building with a cross on it. He said, hey, that is something I have not tried. He remembered his grandmother who had taught him a prayer or two but he didn’t know any more about it. He saw people go in and joined them not ever having been in a church service before. He sat in the back and to watch. The pastor greeted him and at first Sven was very skeptical but as the service started, he was very intrigued. A sweet old lady gave him the hymnal so he would know the words to the songs. There was a guest speaker that night who said, “there is someone here who doesn’t know God who came seeking. God wants you to know that he has a plan and purpose for you”.
Sven was stunned and realized, God was real and seeking him! That night Sven said to God, “if you are real, come into my life Jesus and change me, give me purpose and meaning”. He felt the ways of the world had left him empty and believing and talking to God gave him hope, a purpose for living. His life changed dramatically and instantly. Sven decided to enter seminary and become a full time minister. He embarked on a new adventure believing God wanted him to speak not only to people in Sweden but also to the far corners of the world. Through the years, he would always mark this time as the greatest decision he ever made and give testimony as to what God has done with his life.
Sven loved ministry and often traveled and preached in other churches and during one trip to the capital, Stockholm, he met a young woman, Maj Hultgren, who also worked in the ministry. For him it was love at first sight and proposed on the first date. He said, “how would you like to travel the world and share Jesus with all the people we meet?” Maj said yes and within a year they were married and within a few years, they had added a daughter, Marie and a son, SvenPaul. Sven continued as an Associate Pastor in Sweden and also started traveling farther to preach. The dreams in his childhood to travel were becoming a reality. Maj had always dreamed of being a missionary and they were excited when they were chosen to become missionaries to Pakistan. They packed their bags and brought their small family to a foreign place because they believed that this was part of God’s plan for their lives.
It was an adventure from the start. Sven led to a small bible school of 110 men who in decades to come would result in many churches throughout the country. Mom as a nurse travel with a medical dispensary and help the surrounding areas. This was a time that Sven’s faith grew as prayers were answered and miracles happened. It was not a time to limit God’s purpose. During this time, Sven preached to thousands and baptized over 2000 Christians in a Muslim nation. God used Sven to impact a nation. Many came to know Jesus and those who asked were healed. There was challenges and opportunity for faith to overcome. They spent a few years there as well as Bangladesh until the civil war when Maj and the three kids (one more, Anna, came along) went home to Sweden and Sven remained to continue to mission and encourage those who came to Jesus.
During the time in Bangledesh, Sven worked with the Red cross and some Americans who came from Vietnam with helicopters to transport humanitarian aid after a huge monsoon hit the coastline. It was the first time he worked with the Americans and loved it. He realized that Americans were different and he longed to go to America. Sven always thought it was extraordinary how generous the Americans were and grateful for their help. In later years, he would tell this story and liken the helicopters to eagles who soar above circumstances and that was very much the American spirit. Sven returned to Sweden for a short time and then the family made the move to America. In 1973, they came with three kids and suitcases and headed to Fresno, CA to help lead a bible school. For the next several years, Sven and Maj lived in Washington, California and Missouri planting churches and leading many people to the Lord. Another son was born, Lucas completing the family.
Dad received devastating news in 1981 after a routine doctors visit. It was discovered that he had a large growth in his lungs and also close to his heart. The doctor said, I’m glad you are a minister so the news will be easier to hear that you only have a year to live. Sven and Maj decided not to listen to a bad report and chose instead to believe and have faith that God would heal him. His journey for his complete healing didn’t happen immediately but instead took a full year which had an enormous impacted him as he developed empathy for what it takes to believe and have hope for healing. He knew that a bad report was never the end of the story but an opportunity for God to do great things. Again, having given his life to God, he wanted to be used to impact the nations to choose Christ not just as Lord and Savior but now as their Healer as well.
In 1983, Sven, Maj and the family moved to Texas feeling that it was time to lay down roots and build something. Sven loved Texas and telling folks that this was his home. The Levin family along with two other families started a church on a little two lane highway out on 105 west past Conroe and north of Houston. It was a foreclosed hardware store and all Sven could see was a place to have church and invite people to come. It would grow and many people would come through the doors. Sven had faith and led three expansions with a new sanctuary and increase in surrounding land. Sven loved the community and he loved meeting the people. Many people referred to him as either pastor or Dad as he served as a surrogate father for many bringing him much joy.
The desire to travel ever beckoned and they transferred the reigns of the church to his daughter and son in law, Marie and Kjell Johansson and again pursued preaching to the nations. Because he had spent so many years living in the US, English became first nature which became an interesting tool to use in other lands. Sven sounded like a European with an accent but spoke with a command of the English language which opened the doors for TV and radio all over the world. Sven and Maj continued to travel for many years preaching the Gospel in places like Pakistan, Niger, Ghana, England, Luxemburg, Spain, and Sweden. Sven never stopped dreaming and sharing Jesus. In 2012, Sven was diagnosed with FLD (Front Lobe Dementia) which is similar to Alzheimer’s. Although it slowed him down, he still recognized the family in the end. Although he had trouble reading, he would open his bible and put it on his chest to feel close to the word that had meant so much to him through the years. This past Easter Sven shared his testimony in front of people for the last time and said this, “The greatest thing that ever happened to me was that Jesus came into my life and changed everything. He said believing in God gave him a purpose and sharing Jesus life and love was one of the greatest joys.” He is a beloved husband and father, a devoted pastor and mentor, and friend to any stranger that met him.