That’s it… that’s all. There’s many more stories that I could tell but this is enough for now.
About every four weeks or so Eltham Green Community Church hosts what they have tagged “Church in a Tea Cup”. On a Sunday afternoon at five they have a traditional “High-Tea” of sorts. They set up nice tables and fill them with half sandwiches, cakes, fruit and then serve tea and coffee. This attracts an entirely different crowd. The invitation is extended to people who, for whatever reason, would not feel comfortable in a “normal” churchy Sunday morning service. In all about forty to fifty people show up. Ten of these will be regular church people who wind up being the servers.
It goes like this. They will visit for about a half an hour and then a speaker will share something from the Bible for about twenty minutes. Many of these folks have short retention spans and some are altogether illiterate. Things have to be kept simple. As it turns out, my talk was well received.
About six month ago I was a speaker at the same event. Afterwards, I saw this lady that I was just sure needed to hear the gospel. As I walked over and began a conversation, she interrupted me by saying something like this, “Boy this little church has sure made a difference in my life! I don’t know where I’d be if I hadn’t started comin’ here. My life is completely different.” I confess to being shocked. I suppose I have gotten used to middle class Christianity. I reckon God does grade on a bit of a curve after all. It is clear to me that where this lady comes from was someplace totally alien to anything that most people know of. I am told that she has a number of children. Some suggest at least seven and only a couple have the same father. Yet, this lady is now beaming and radiant. She says to me, “I make sure all a my young’uns are here. They need to hear this.”
I wonder what might happen if we really decided to go into the highways and byways and compel them to come in? What would church look and smell like if we brought in those in wheel chairs, laid upon gurneys, taken from the mental asylum or found under a bridge laying upon a piece of cardboard? Maybe a congregation of this sort was the very thing that authenticated the gospel in the first century?
Less than 15 minutes away is the historic maritime village of Greenwich where they are presently filming another “Pirates of the Caribbean” series. No, I didn’t see Johnny Depp but I did see millions of people who were looking for Johnny Depp. The streets were packed with tourists all seemingly going to the same market that we were headed for. Once we arrived, it was shoulder to shoulder gawkers with their hands full of every kind of ethnic food and item imaginable. The colors and smells were fantastic as we saw foods being prepared from the Caribbean to Marrakesh. Though you will be jostled this is a must see!
I was quite happy to have a few days to simply stay in my room or wander the streets by myself. I was pretty much peopled out and needed some personal time. My host couple, Mike and Jane Haley who live on the same floor and sleep in the room next to mine (they claim that I snore) were happy to allow me to be myself. They said,”Look just come and go as ya like and if ya want something jist let us know.” I think we’re good enough friends now that we can just be frank as we need to be. Anyway, I didn’t do much on Saturday but hang around the Costa Coffee Shop on High Street and draw pictures of its’ customers. Later in the evening I went out for dinner at a restaurant called Electriq where I had a plate of Spaghetti Bolognese. On the way home I stopped by the Tudor Barn to have a cup of coffee and found the place empty but as I left and went around the shrubbery to the gate I met with four young but profane girls in their early teens. As we talked, I encouraged them to choose something different for their futures. They wanted me to give them money for fags and drugs. This encounter haunted me for most of the night as I pondered the overall cultural environment and thought, “What will these and thousands of other young people grow up to be in a world of such chaos and bad parenting.”
In the morning I dressed and went to prayer and then preached to about 100 or more people. This, by American standards of success is nothing but one must understand that this congregation and perhaps two other African churches are the only expressions of the gospel within miles. People simply do not go to church nor do they have any thought that they should. The message seemed to be enjoyed by all in attendance.
Someone should remind me to bring along more sweaters and fewer pairs of pants. I have live out of a suitcase for more than ten years now and have learned (or at least I had thought that I had learned) what to take for the region and the season. Of course, Canada is never predictable so larger suitcases may be required when traveling there. I did, however, have it in my mind that though Norway might be some chilly from the mid of October, I did not expect so much ”frost on the pumpkin” here in London. Perhaps I am just up and out too early but my breath is clearly visible and this little sweater and light jacket I am wearing failed to keep me warm as I walked up the hill to High Street this morning. I will report one good thing, I have not once had to open my umbrella in the more than a month I have been over here. Opps… I spoke too soon… at the moment it’s raining cats and dogs outside. By times, I have been days under the umbrella in saturating downpours with not even so much as a sunny break. Okay, all clear. Just wait a minute and English weather will change.
It is an often repeated statement, “No one ever goes to Europe and says, “Gee, I think that I will take more stuff next time.” I have this down to miniature or portable everything. I can put six weeks into one small bag and a back pack. Admittedly, I will be returning home with almost nothing that doesn’t need to be washed. Though expensive, you may have to employ a professional laundry to do shirts and underwear. On occasion I have used the facilities in the homes where I stay.
Here’s my list…
1 regular t with sleeves.
7 of each, underwear, t-shirts and socks.
6 shirts (5 sport and one dress).
3 blue jeans (they’re great for every day and travel).
1 dress slack.
1 sleeveless pullover.
2 Ties (weddings happen).
Rain wear ( a combination jacket works best).
A fleecy or hoodie (takes up a lot of room but a real life saver)
Camera and/or Flip video.
Portable computer (the small 2.2 pound one).
Skype phone is very handy.
Plug Adapters (Mainland Europe and the UK)
Inflatable neck support.
A good travel document portfolio.
Portable speakers if not too large.
Small reading light.
Comfortable shoes. (One pair is usually enough if it’s the right pair). I like Timberland shoes… soft leather, good soles and reasonably stylish.
Apparently the English thing to do.
As many know, the national dish of England is not “fish ‘n chips” or “bangers ‘n mash” but rather curried chicken. On Friday evening Pastor John Watson spent a few hours pulling together dinner for about twenty-five men. I had no idea that there were so many grades and styles of curried chicken so when he had it all set out, there were four different trays that ranged from spicy to whhhhussssssy. I took a plate of whussy.
I spoke on, “A Man Sent from God.”
“There was a man sent from God and his name was John.” I contrasted the contemporary concept of what a man sent from God might look like to that of the Biblical examples. I wanted to ask the question, “What does an anointed man of God look like?” All of the world and especially in the United States there is the fallacious idea that a man must be sent from God if he is popular, handsome, flies on jets and stays in five-star hotels. The concept of anointing is also, in my opinion, misapprehended. In the scriptures, the most anointed people were mistreated, misunderstood and ultimately killed. John the Baptist, Jesus, Paul, they were all anointed and equally as despised and rejected. How do we know, maybe someone right at one of these tables is ‘a man sent from God and his name is” Mike, Steve or Jim.
After my morning chapel session at “GO Center” Maitie dropped me at the train and I went to the city center to meet Gunnar and Roar at the Frontiers ministry office. We lunched over, what else? Bread, cheese, jelly and there was this “to die for” shrimp spread that I hovered over.
ACCI (Adventive Cross Cultural Initiatives )and NLL (New Life Literature). I have these friends, Gunnar from Volda on the coast and Roar in Oslo. They are both just about my age so we have a lot of laughs amidst serious discussions regarding how we might more effectively change the world after we are dead. We serve on cooperating Boards and I assist them in trying to print and distribute Bibles to persecuted Christians. I would tell you more about the details but then I would have to kill you. Really, some of what they are engaged in we just couldn’t tell you about but only to say, “It is rather clever and as equally risky.”
Roar took us to “The Ali-Babba” where we had Turkish kabobs.
Following several hours of talking and “Blue Sky” thinking we went out to eat in “Little Asia” a part of Oslo that takes you to the streets of Cairo or Mogadishu. It is all of a sudden another world with scores of men just milling about in front of stores, burqa’d women from many parts of the Arab world hustling with baby strollers through the crowded streets. All of a sudden, there appears trash, trash everywhere on the streets. It is a different way of thinking about living collectively. Norway is within forty years of being more Arab-Asian than Norwegian. Blonde hair and blue eyes will be something of the past. This isn’t a racist statement, it is a fact. Presently ten percent of Oslo is made up of people of color but these immigrants are having far more children than those of Norwegian decent so combined with the present immigration patterns, perhaps all of Europe will be called, “Eurasia” as is being suggested. Just today in Eltham, a London suburb not the most known for ethnic shift, most of the school aged children and young adults are people of color.
Thursday Morning, October 21, 2010 from Eltham (London).
I arrived here yesterday and with only four more days of this tour I finish up my report on Norway from here. I am sitting on a sofa in the Tudor Barn coffee shop near the church where I stay. I have had a rough night of it with a bed that didn’t cooperate and some concerning news that I received from home last evening. I am tired but will do my best to catch up with some blogging today.
Written yesterday on Flight DY104 from Oslo
I am now on a Norwegian Air flight to London, Gatwick. It is Wednesday at about 1PM Norwegian time and I should be in London an hour later their time (1 hour ahead).
Completely overwhelmed by the openness and reception here in Norway I don’t know what to do in the future. I made the funny comment to Norwegian friends that talking to Norwegian audiences when compared to southern or Latino was something akin to playing basketball with a half inflated ball. The ball looks right until one tries to bounce it and then it just bounces less and less until it lays flat, unmoving, dead still on the floor. It has been this way for me. Whether it is humorous or serious, I face the same expressionless personalities. Yet, at the end of things there seems to be a favorable response. Perhaps still waters indeed do run deep. Afterall, Norwegians have been tenacious missionaries on some of the most difficult fields of the world.
For instance, I felt that many of messages fell flat but then afterward those who seem to understand the culture better than I do have had encouraging things to say. There were personal comments as well, with church attendees and students stopping to express their appreciation. There were those who said that they were touched and many who made decisions to follow Christ.
This leaves me in a quandary of sorts. I now have invitations to return to Norway in the spring. Both the Lutheran and Free Pentecostal denominations, Smyrna Bible Institute and The Go Center have asked me to return. Gerson Celeti has asked that I speak on Evangelism in the Marketplace at a Tentmakers Conference in Bergen on the west coast during the first week of June. The SBI wants me to return to teach Bible and perhaps an outreach course on watercolor. Reidar Gamst is arranging for me to preach in the churches both west and south. In all, they have asked that I be available to them for a month from the last week of April through the first week of June. I would hope that, should I decide to do this, that I would have a window in the schedule for a trip to my friends in Slovenia and my beloved Italy.
Following the service we went out to the car where poor Gerson found a lovely parking citation waiting for him. Nothing is cheap in Norway. I asked, “How much was it?” Gerson replied, “Seven hundred Norwegian Krone,” or approximately fifty Euros or 75 American dollars. Oh, the high cost of serving the Lord. Someone on Facebook once wrote, “The Lord provides,” to which I responded, “I have learned that He provides a whole lot better if one is willing to settle for a whole lot less.”
I was taken to my room overlooking the ten or so buildings that makes up the campus. After a short rest I was invited to the Celeti’s for supper. This was the first fried meat I had eaten in a week. Norwegians generally eat boiled and roasted foods so here in front of me was this crispy veal, beef or chicken or whatever. Maitie had also made some pasta and apologized afterward saying that I was probably tired of pasta after weeks in Italy. Silly girl, I am never tired of pasta. At the table were the Celeti’s son, Andreas and his Venetian friend Fosca. Fosca is the only other Christian I have ever met from Venice.
The Secret Service
The idea was to assemble us all in one room and then police burst into the room taking the leader (Ed Brown) captive. The Christians would all have to go out in the dark and then following special signs to a dark place in the basement of the mansion and there have a service simply by offering prayers, songs and scriptures without the aid of a Pastor. The idea is to show the students what this might be like for more than half of the world. So we found our way there and huddled in the dark cellar while stories of martyrs were read. In actual fact, the event might have turned out more anti-climatic than Ed had hoped for as few had much to offer. This is actually very Norwegian as they have adopted a Danish author Sandemoses’ idea regarding social behavior where people should not take initiative since no one should think themselves superior to any other person.
Here are the apparent rules for social interaction as put forth in Wikipedia…
Generally used colloquially as a sociological term to negatively describe an attitude towards individuality and success claimed to be common in Scandinavia, the term refers to a snide, jealous and narrow mentality which refuses to acknowledge individual effort and places all emphasis on the collective, while punishing those who stand out as achievers.
There are ten different rules in the law as defined by Sandemose, but they all express variations on a single theme and are usually referred to as a homogeneous unit: Don’t think you’re anyone special or that you’re better than us.
The ten rules state:
1. Don’t think you’re anything special.
2. Don’t think you’re as much as us.
3. Don’t think you’re wiser than us.
4. Don’t convince yourself that you’re better than us.
5. Don’t think you know more than us.
6. Don’t think you are more than us.
7. Don’t think you are good at anything.
8. Don’t laugh at us.
9. Don’t think anyone cares about you.
10. Don’t think you can teach us anything.
An eleventh rule recognized in the novel is: Don’t think there’s anything we don’t know about you.
For me, this proves to make the culture, though highly predictable, very uninteresting. The resulting danger can be a leaderless society where no one wants to draw attention to themselves, especially among the Christians. Almost everyone is reluctant to step forward or be self assertive in any respect.
SUNDAY MORNING, OCTOBER 17, 2010
The truth is it isn’t a church at all yet. I was invited to speak to a group of Brazilian ladies (about twenty) many who are victims of domestic abuse. We met in the basement Il Cammino Caffe on the bottom floor of the NORMISJON Building. The largest evangelical church in Oslo meets in the hall above them.
I had a ride into the city and after phone calls here and there I connected with my host and hostess, Gerson and Maitie Celeti who are Brazilian missionaries who have now landed in Norway after many years in Senegal, Africa.
As with Brazilian’s and others from the south, Norwegian’s have wristwatches but Latino and African people have time, so we waited beyond the starting time of 11AM before we could begin. Finally at around 11:20 a quorum had arrived and we were ready to begin with a few roughly sung choruses. As you might imagine this kind of faulty start never bothers me so much as I have spent a lifetime in church planting. I suspect that this will be a much larger group by the time I return next year. There were a handful of small children and no more than two men, both Norwegians.
At the conclusion of my message I invited people to receive aand follow Jesus. There were only two men in attendance and both were Norwegians, husbands of Brazilian women. One of the men paid no attention whatsoever while they other, Johannes listened to every word and at the end raised his his hand to the invitation. I make no claim to know what goes on in the human heart. I once thought I knew but now I am pretty sure that I am able to predict nothing. I know of some people that appeared to be completely sold out and even weathered critism for the name of Jesus but today they are no where to be found while others seemed to me to make faulty, half -hearted starts, only to continue for many years, growing deeper all of the time. As my old friend and Bible teacher, Peter Ayling, once said, “Five years should tell us if they got anything or not.”