One of the best things about cross-cultural ministry is the people you meet. We’ve only been in Norway for a little over a week and I have already met some wonderful Christians who have enriched me in my walk with the Lord! Being an introvert in every sense of that word, I wondered as I prepared for this trip how I would be used in a brand new setting (not my forte), especially with a language barrier. At sixty plus years of age, would I find anyone I could relate to among a student body of mostly twenty-year-olds? The Lord knew that here I would meet a new sister who could have been my twin … had we not been born decades apart. Hannah is also an introvert. She loves reading books, watching Jane Austen movies, walking, eating healthy foods, and exercising. She also really enjoys worship music, prayer, studying the Scripture, and staying in touch with close friends (by regular mail). She’s serious but can share a good laugh. She’s a morning person and is ready to crash by 10:00. She feels more at home in nature than at a party, and she takes a very long time to process new ideas. Oh, she also loves to write. Could anyone be more like me? We have had many good talks (fortunately she is very good in English, as are many of the young people here in Norway). Just today she shared that her good friend back home (she’s from southern Norway) contacted her to tell her that she was saved! Hanne was overjoyed because she’s been praying for and sharing the Gospel with this friend for four years. It was great to be able to share in her spiritual victory.
I’ve met other women too, of varying ages, who have welcomed me with open arms (though without the usual hugs that we share in the southern U.S.). Maria is a female evangelist who shares the Gospel in churches here in Norway and other places like Sweden and Denmark (she’s Danish). She and her husband live close to the school where we are staying. The other night she invited me and a few other ladies over for a time of fellowship and food at her house. We enjoyed pizza, salad, Norwegian almond cake, something chocolate that reminded me of brownies, and pistachio ice cream with coffee. It was delightful! Most Norwegians eat this evening meal at 7:00, but it is normally cold cuts, bread, etc. I felt very privileged to be able to have this extravagant feast. The best part of all was sharing our life stories with each other and getting acquainted in the Spirit. Not everyone spoke English fluently but we managed between us to converse pretty well. It was truly a gift from the Lord.
These new friendships are a sweet reminder that the small inconveniences we experience when we’re out of our comfort zone, like fridges that don’t work and showers that seem to take forever to heat up, unfamiliar languages to work around and being stuck without our own transportation, are small prices to pay for the blessings of encouraging others and being encouraged by them.