Living in Jerusalem was the experience that opened Ulf and Birgitta Ekman up to conversion.
Ulf Ekman has been called the “Billy Graham of Sweden.” Born in Gothenburg, Sweden, in 1979 he was ordained a Lutheran minister. For a few years he worked as a university chaplain in Uppsala. In 1983 he founded Word of Life, a non-denominational Charismatic church in Uppsala and was its Senior Pastor for 30 years.
Now, Ekman and his wife, Birgitta, are Roman Catholic.
Their conversion happened in the very birthplace of Christianity. In 2002, the Word of Life Church sent them to live in Jerusalem, to start a study center there and to lead pilgrimages.
“It was in Jerusalem that we really began to meet and get to know Catholics,” Ulf Ekman said. “This was new to us, but a very inspiring experience. We were challenged by their joy and fervent love for Jesus Christ. Christian unity had become more and more vital to us and it was not possible to deal with this question without relating also to the Catholic Church.”
But they had to confront their lack of knowledge concerning the Catholic Church and also all the prejudices they said they harbored.
“This was a voyage of discovery and it revealed shortcomings and deficiencies in our perception” of the Church. “But this discovery also brought good fruit in our lives. The more we studied, visited Catholic places and met Catholic Christian brothers and sisters, the more we realized that the Catholic Church had what we were looking for.”
What they were looking for included four essentials: continuity, authenticity, authority, and a sacramental life.
“Here we found the continuity from Jesus and the Apostles,” Ekman said. “We saw how authentically the Gospel and its teaching had been preserved. There is also the authentic authority in questions concerning doctrine and finally a sacramental life that is rich and deep.
“The realization that the Church is God’s instrument, a carrier of that grace that we all need, was liberating and decisive to us,” he stated.
The Ekmans’ journey of faith is recounted in their 2018 book The Great Discovery: Our Journey to the Catholic Church.