Entry 11 / Norway and England

Unity in Diversity… proof that this is a God thing and not the work of men

I understand this

 Isn’t it strange that I can travel to Norway then to Slovenia, Italy, Charlotte and finally to Canada and you find people who all have the same spiritual DNA? The only things that might be slightly different is how high they raise their hands or whether one person prays at a time or whether everyone prays all at once like the South Koreans do. 

I understand how Roman Catholicism, Islam, or Jehovah’s Witnesses accomplish this sort of thing. They have centralized and standardized their teaching and practice so all of those who belong are compelled to climb inside some sort of intellectual or religious box where they are exposed to nothing but what the various systems approve. They transport their beliefs and practices  from Rome, Mecca or Brooklyn, New York. There is no natural theology or general revelation. Everything must be contrived. 

By contrast, I travel from place to place and I suspect that should I travel further afield, say China or Ghana I would come up with the same results, I would find Christians who turn out to be just like me. It could be that I am wrong-headed or we all are but I am unable to understand how, without the active work of the Holy Spirit (Christ building His church) in peoples lives, this uniformity of belief and experience could ever be accounted for. We know that conformity to the character and mind of Christ is the work of the Spirit “until we all come to the unity – we come to know with all of the saints the height, width, depth…” and on and on. The Holy Spirit is the teacher and guide and He is at work all over the world revealing Jesus, building His church, making clear the Word of God and making ordinary people, without the aid of men or institutions, into evangelists, preachers and theologians. 

This is what I have found here at Smyrna. I have found the same thing I have found in Parma, Italy and Ljubljana, Slovenia. I have found people from cultures so extreme from one another that, if they were not fellow believers, it would be impossible to put them in the same room and have any thing in common at all. But Christ is able to eliminate vast differences in color, disposition, language and more and make from these people groups one person, with one mind, one heart, striving together for the furtherance of the gospel. This can only be the work of God. 

I have come here to Norway first from Canada, then America and finally ten or more nations in southern Europe only to find people just like me here and everywhere else. When I arrived on the campus I was met by people who had never read the same books as I have. They would mention a teacher or preacher and asked if I had ever heard of this person or that person to which question I mostly answered, “No, never heard of them.” But they are, and they think like I do. When I began to explain a supernatural experience they have also been there and can finish my story with their own stories. I say, “God showed me this thing or that thing” and they say, “Me, as well.”  

The Headmaster Reidar Gamst and his wife, Karin though almost twenty years younger understand me completely. When I first met Reidar I said to him, “I know you. I have always known you. When I looked into your face I knew who you were.”  He said the same of me. When I stood up to teach people they heard my voice. They recognized my speech.  They applauded my doctrine. There is one from Brazil, another from Denmark and the rest from cities, small villages, islands and fiords from all over this nation. They come big churches, small churches and different churches but they hear the doctrine the same and say in unison, “Amen.” I challenge any false religious system to describe themselves in a similar way. This can be only the work of God. Out of many, He makes one.

Entry 10 / Norway and England

Temporarily Stuck in Norway?

iceland explodes and flights are grounded

Scandinavian and English airspace is shut down.

O, did he ever return? No, he never returned. He is stuck in Oganstalanshunnumbornegan, Norway but he has all of the salmon he wants to eat. 

Fortunately, for me at least, I am not scheduled to leave Oslo for London until Wednesday when they have forecasted a change in conditions. The only alternatives to London are extremely complicated (two days not three hours) and expensive (by boat and/or train). “The Lord knoweth” (I hope).  

Do remember to mention this in your prayers. I have ministry appointments waiting for me in London and I don’t want to miss it if possible. I have come a long way to bring and receive some spiritual gift to and from the believers there.

Entry 9 / Norway and England

Karin’s Bakerintsalg

Yep, it’s a real word. I am often a barbarian to these people and they are barbarian’s to me. I understand more of what they are saying when they pray in tongues than I understand when they speak in Norwegian. I am sure that the words are very nice words but a single word can get extremely long and I’m not sure why. Does it ever surprise you how many languages and sounds can be formed from a rather limited number of graphic characters?

For instance, I am sure that the Norwegian word “Bakerintsalg” accomplishes much more than it appears to.

Business as Missions

This the Headmaster’s wife Karin’s idea  of how she might make a little more money for the school and at the same time intersect the unbelievers in the area. Karin only bakes bread and rolls on Fridays. At about noon cars start to arrive in the door yard of The Smyrna Bible Institute and within about three or four hours most of the five kinds of artisan breads are gone to about fifty nearby homes. Julia Frey, are you listening?

Entry 8 / Norway and England

Amusing Cultural Reflections

It is early Saturday morning now and I am up alone waiting on someone (anyone) to make a pot of coffee. I can’t even find the milk. I can’t find the milk but I can promise that in Norway it will be stored in the right place. It will be put in the same place every time. But, this is the way it is. You learn to accommodate the schedules and cultures of the hosting families or, in this case, institution.

In Norway, folks rise EARLY (with the exception, so it appears, on Saturday morning ) and go to bed at a reasonable hour while in Italy, only at the very last-minute possible, people get up or go to bed. As Italian’s like to say, “Ahh, we work to live and other people live to work.”

In Norway people obey laws (every law) whereas in Italy laws are subject to personal discretion. As an example, one of my friends ran a red light so, surprised I asked him if he doesn’t he stop when the light is red? He explained it to me this way. “No! Why should I stop? You can see, there is no one coming. It is not reasonable. Italian’s are the best drivers in the world (they all absolutely believe this to be a fact and the only cultural trait that all regions agree to be universally true) and you know why? They are practical. They do what makes sense at the moment.”

Norwegian’s are the exact opposite. I doubt if you could find two people groups within this geographical proxemity that could have such different views on how the world should work.

As a humorous example, my son, Matt was newly married to Noemi and at the end of a mission trip to France they took a short,”How-do- ya- do?” trip to Italy, Slovenia and Croatia. Looking for their B&B while driving through the customary mad, pandemonium of Napoli, Matt saw two policemen standing at the corner in the median.

The day had been hot and long. He seemed to have driven in circles. He dodged cars going twice the speed limit, double parked, coming out of blind alleys with horns blaring and even (when it seemed like a short cut around others) driving on the sidewalks. It was like driving a “Dodge-Car” at the county fair. He decided to take a chance that one of them spoke English. He came to a quick but inconvenient stop, grabbed his map and leaving Noemi to manage while he frantically ran to the cops with the open map of Napoli in his hand.” Excuse me, do either of you speak English?” One of the policemen looked away from his conversation and, in a Napolitano sort of way, gave a smirky smile and replied in the affirmative. ‘Well, great! I am lost I need to get to such and such a place. Where am I?” The cop looked him up and down, raised his eyebrow, glanced for a quick second up into Matt’s face, rubbed his chin, shook his head and exasperatedly made the “tsk, tsk, tsk” sound. Recognizing his displeasure but not knowing what it could possibly be, Matt asked, “”What? What is wrong?” The policeman, twisting his foot from side to side, stomped out his cigarette and then while seriously staring at Matt’s bare feet made this remarkable statement, “In Italy, all drivers must wear shoes!”

After barely escaping death by automobile on a dozen occasions within two hours Matt wanted to ask the simple question that immediately popped into his mind, “Ehrrrr, is that the only law Italian’s must obey while driving their cars?” discretion was and always is the better part of valor.

Entry 7 / Norway and England

An inside look at Smyrna Bible Institute

The dining hall

The student union

The lounge

The church sanctuary

Really, in terms of facilities Smyrna has everything any Christian discipleship or training center could hope for.

Like many  Bible formation or missions preparation schools Smyrna could do with more students and there is no reason why they shouldn’t have them. If a person is looking for this kind of experience in a cross cultural setting I would recommend SBI.

Entry 6 / Norway and England

See my FIVE STAR accommodation.

What more does a person need?

The Word Faith “Name and Claim It” preachers would say that the reason I am not traveling in First Class (or have my own jet) and stay in rather humble rooms is because I lack faith. I could have it if I just believed God for it. They fail to mention that they constantly manipulate people and the only people making any money out of this are the guys at the top. It’s all a big Gospel pyramid scheme. Two thousand years ago Paul wrote this, “For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple.” Romans 16:18 

…”whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things.”  Philippians 3:19

I do have a room with a view…    

A room with a view

Thirty years ago I woke up out of a sleep with the Lord asking of me three things. He said, “Will you serve me if there is no remuneration (pay off), no reputation and no results (evidence of success)?” I said, “Yes” and He did an excellent job of keeping His word. I continue to go without all three. I have kept my word as best I could.

Entry 5 / Norway and England

Tornsberg, I think.

My first impression of wherever I was.

Kevin suggested that I come with him and do a little sight seeing while he went to the doctor so I drove with him to a beautiful fiord city about thirty minutes away. I had a good walk about and made a few shots in the bright, warm sun. The wharfside outdoor restaurants were packed and at the same time going through re-modeling.

Entry 4 / Norway and England

I don’t know where I am but it is pretty.

The left side of Smyrna Institute

I am here now. Wherever here is, I am there. I was picked up and delivered to my room in a lovely three-story building that houses the Smyrna Bible Institute. After getting settled I met the Headmaster, Reidar Gamst and a variety of students coming and going.

The right side of Smyrna Institute

Norway is and Norwegians are very much like Canada and Canadians. Yesterday we had a heat wave here. The snow (for the most part) is melted and the Norwegians have kicked off their shoes and like calves released from the long winter in the stall they are ready to party.

Everything is relative. In the south we know when it is warm and when it is not but northerners have no way to tell. At the first hint of warmth they are ready to go for a swim.

A Canadian was once asked by an Indonesian, “Do you have summer in Canada?” “Of course we have summer,” so said the Canadian chap. The Indonesian came back with this. “What do you do in the summer in Canada?” To which the Canadian replied, “Well, if it falls on a Sunday, we usually have a picnic.”

I owe this joke to Paul Strand who is not normally known for his joke telling. Paul Strand is a Minnesotan of direct Norwegian extraction who served as a missionary in Indonesia. The only thing I changed is this, he used Minnesotan for Canadian but the reality remains the same. Minnesota and Canada are interchangeable words.

 

Entry 3 / Norway and England

It is early Thursday morning and I am writng from the Norwegian countryside and The Smyrna Bible Institute where I will begin teaching at 9:45 this morning and do this for three days through Saturday afternoon. I wasn’t told but I am learning now that I will also be preaching each evening and twice on Sunday so it is some heavy lifting I must say and John Wesley would think me a panty-waste to even whine about such a light schedule as this.

 Oslo / Tuesday

My Oslo hosts Lillis and Roar

See what I mean?

Right away and there to meet me at the airport was my friend Roar Haldorsen Strat who drove me to his home in south Oslo where I stayed once before. After greeting his wife Lillis, I ate a terrific Norwegian style supper of crispy baked salmon, boiled potatoes with sour cream, salad, heavy home-made bread and a spell-binding dessert of ice cream and raspberries. My wife, Jeanne was born to be a Norwegian. This is her ideal menu and then in the morning, what could be better than fresh fruit, yogurt, toast, juice,  whole grain cereals and so it goes.  

Roar is the Director of Frontiers in Norway

We visited a short bit and I went on to bed at 8PM (I thought it was eight but it was really nine since Norway is six, not five hours different from home in Carolina).  I had a great sleep and woke up early to catch the train to Holmestrand. 

 

Entry 2 / Norway and England

Annoyed

You know, I’ve never been pilfered, pickpocketed or robbed. The only time I have ever had any problem at all is when my bag goes through airline SECURITY. Trust me, the word doesn’t mean a thing. You might think that this would be the safest place in the world but I assure you that it is not and the worst part of losing something is how stupid and inconvenient it all is. Guess what they took? They didn’t take my shoes like they did Pastor Ken Roth in Italy. They took my mini-can of airline approved “Foamy” shaving cream. They left everything else but that. This doesn’t sound like much until you have to make a public appearance and look like a dumpster diver. Now just try to get to a can of shaving cream when you must have someone, whom you are already imposing on, drive you about just for a clean shave.