Gunnar Andaas loves his little village of about 8,000 inhabitants and I agree it is a very pleasant place to live. For a Canadian, I feel Like I am on the west coast and so much of the atmosphere is familiar. The same was true in Kristiansand, which looked to me like the Canadian shield, Kingston to Peterborough, Ontario. I am very much at home except for the challenge of language. It is for me an odd thing. So many words are two and three letters but then suddenly here’s a word with twenty. They seem to get it while I don’t.
I arrived LATE last night by air from Oslo to the island runway at Alesund. From there it was another two hours to a bed above the church. I had a good nights sleep and up and out taking pictures by nine.
My purpose in being here is to train the church in evangelism (Thursday and Friday night Seminars) and then interacting with the university students (about 100 or more) who come into the church for coffee after everything closes up. Most who come are lapsed state church Lutherans, atheists, agnostics or young people who like to get drunk and then get l——d. I doubt if many are intellectual atheists and even if they make that claim it is more likely that they are moral atheists who prefer to believe that there is no God to be accountable to.
So my task is to engage them and I began this morning by going to the student center and making friends. “No one cares what you know until they know that you care.” The gospel in Europe must be relationally driven. It involves more suggestions than proclamations… more listening than speaking and so forth. “The Four Spiritual Laws” would leave them totally mystified. My job this weekend is to help people learn how to connect and communicate. We are spending most of our time talking past people by answering the questions they are not even asking.
Tonight, after I teach at the church for three hours, I will go to the coffee house, restaurant, night club called “Rokken” where there will be an open mic and more than a hundred young people. I will draw portraits and simply show myself to be as un-square as possible by giving away the drawings and and hanging out. I’m looking forward to it. Again, this is my bread and butter. I want to leave them with this question, “What is it?” I want them to look at me and think “Manna” (“What is it?”). This is what it means to live incarnationally. Jesus said, “I am the TRUE “What is it.” He was totally unpredictable. No one had any idea what he would do or say next and this the reason for his impact. He wasn’t a bit like the Pharisees and I love to follow him by coloring outside of the lines.
I enjoy this kind of venture but honestly, it takes a great deal of time and money to do it. I wanted to go around and see how some of my former SBI students were doing after they graduated and moved on to other settings. It so happened that a number of them had re-settled in the Kristiansand area so it made sense to see as many as I could in one visit so I went. It was my intention to see Aurora Hoiland, Hanne Stiland, Julia Anderson, Linda Anderson and hopefully, if he could make it from Stavanger, Tore Erik. It turns out that Hanne has a new boyfriend, Lars so I was going to check him out and give my thumbs up or thumbs down. Ok, Hanne, det er en spøk! (Okay, Hanne, it’s a joke).
I learned earlier in the day that Hanne was in bed with pneumonia so she and Lars wouldn’t be able to come after all and furthermore, she wouldn’t be able to host me as planned. She had contacted Aurora so I could stay with her and the Anderson girls. They met me at the station gave me a quick tour of the center town and bussed me out to where they live. I settled in, we visited and then at supper time I took them all out for pizza. Four of us enjoyed and three “small” pizzas for the paltry sum of 700 NOK or $119.00. Okay, everyone out there! You’re going to have to step up your giving!!! Actually, the Norwegians have been very generous with me and this has been a great help.
We walked around a bit, had a cup of coffee each ($23.00) and since the night was cold, headed back to the house.
The next morning was spent mostly alone while Julia slept and the other two were off to school. Later, when Aurora returned and Julia had gone on to school, we had a long visit and then she took me to the bus to the airport and my trip to Alesund and Volda.
Did you know that Norway has both a Kristiansand and a Kristiansund? They happen to be about a thousand kilometers apart. Once I discovered this slightly important detail I was freaked-out until I found a good internet connection where I could check my flight arrangements. It so happened that I made the right choice and once more, Murphy’s Law did not prevail!
After a rather lousy weather day in Larvik I boarded the train to Drammen and then the long ride to Kristiansand at the very south (bottom) of Norway where I have some former students living. On the train ride my seat mate was an Englishman also on his way to Kristiansand. We got into a warm-hearted conversation about what we were doing in Norway. It turned out that he was the exact opposite of myself but yet doing the almost exact same thing. He told me that he was a motivational speaker and I said, “So, am I.” I asked him to explain what he motivated people to be or do? He was quick to show me his materials on positive spirituality and how thinking the right thoughts would change the outcome of one’s life by generating energy in the brain. He had all of the symbols of world religion on a power point inside a star of David. Frankly, (I didn’t tell him this) but not a thing he said made an ounce of sense but he continued to roll it out. People actually pay to endure this nonsense. Corporations bring him in to spread this malarkey. His jargon was akin to something from Mars but I went along with him. When he gave me a break, I went at him in a polite way, unloading all of my worldview questions, like, “Where did you get your information?” How do you know it’s reliable?” “What happens if you’re wrong?” I talked to him about Oprahdoxy, I briefly went over New Age ideas from Deepak Chopra to Marianne Williamson and the error of the way New Age arrives at what is true.
It was a wonderful trip.
We exchanged business cards and promised to be in touch. You know, the problem is this, people are not Christians for one of two reasons, either they haven’t met one, or they have. I think I left him with his head spinning (he admitted that he had pretty much dismissed Christianity but would have to re-consider many of his misconceptions concerning it). He will have a problem getting there since he virtually does not have an ounce of discernment. Here’s what I mean, his favorite Christian book is “The Gospel of Thomas.” I suggested that he read Vishal Mangalvadi’s, “The Book That Gave You Your World.” He wrote it down.
I was sorry to arrive at Kristiansand central station where we parted with warm handshakes and brief introductions as I met up with my entourage of Aurora, Julia and Linda.
I was told by my colleague, Gunnar Andaas that I needed to make acquaintance with David Flanders and Englishman that frequently visits Norway. He said that we had the same heart so when he came this close (thirty minutes away) we rounded up two vans of students and drove over to hear him. He is pastor of , a church in the Plymouth area.
Gunnar was right, I completely identified with this guy’s honesty, passion and communication style. Young people everywhere seem to get his drift. I think this is what Gunnar meant. He seems to click with the next generation and this is my heart as well… reaching the “Harvest” generation. I did manage to exchange greetings and hope that we might carry on some contact into the future.
With a sermon tonight (Sunday), I am pretty much finished here after a week of Contemporary Evangelism Methods classes and a Leadership Seminar, yesterday. In all I logged more than twenty-five hours in speaking. Though I am without my stuff and in a simple little room, my time here has been invigorating and to be honest, I feel very much alive at the moment. This is my meat and drink.
I have many very close friends here in this part of Norway and most of them are somehow connected to Smyrna Bible Institute where I teach. Kevin, a Norwegian by birth but lived long enough in Massachusetts to be a Yankee is married to Siv Monica. Kevin demonstrates the same passion for food that I do so he said why don’t you come over for some sushi tonight?
I had no idea of what he had in mind. He made sure that I did not go to bed hungry. It was first class and being Norway, everything was fresh and straight from the sea.
Arriving at SBI (Smyrna Bible Institute) on Saturday afternoon I prepared to preach at “Oasen” on Sunday morning and begin my weekend long evangelism school entitled, “Communicating Christian Thought in a Post-Christian / Post-Modern World.”
I have a good group of about twenty young students. Mixed among the Norwegians are two Filipino girls, an Argentinian, Spaniard, Kenyan, Nigerian, Sumatran, Pakistani and Romanian. The first morning went extremely well with lots of favor regarding the material and especially the biblical portions. Some of these people are serious minded and hungry young people who have only been Christians for a matter of a year or so. The mix of new faith and the international environment makes for a lively learning environment. I will be here until next Monday when I leave for Kristiansand in the south then fly to Volda in the Midwest.
I have included a photo of my friend Andreas who is my friend, teaching assistant and former student. He is much sharper than he looks in this picture.
I usually catch the bus toward Tonsberg and get off on the side of the road some fifteen miles before. Someone comes down to the Shell station and picks me up. As I walked from the hotel to the bus station I took a few pictures of city life.
Norwegian culture is most interesting to me in this respect, while they will hardly make eye contact with a stranger they will dress up as this group did and draw attention to themselves. I asked what this was all about since the streets were filled with college aged people dressed in ridiculous costumes. I learned it was just a social media induced costume party.
Though wealthy, like any American city, Oslo has it’s fair share of broken people, alcoholics, addicts, displaced and street people.
I finally wound my way through the streets and intermittent rain to the bus.
Here we go – from Norway.
I arrived at my hotel, The Best Western, Bondeheimen (the only price that makes any sense at $117 for a single), last Thursday at three in the afternoon. This was after the all “nighter” to Heathrow and an SAS to Gardemoen Airport (Oslo), then finally an Express train to the National Theatre. From there it is but a five minute walk down Karl Johanes (the main thoroughfare) and up a street, the name of which I am unable to recall or spell if I could. I did my best to sleep but anyone who travels internationally will know what a challenge that is so after several attempts I made my way to the recommended “Kos Kos” under “The Mona Lisa” restaurant just a few blocks away. If you like north African influenced to cuisine this would be worth the price (my one big splurge in Oslo and enough for the week). People rarely take taxi’s or eat out as the prices, even for Norwegians is prohibitive. In my case a rather normal for what you see of forty-five American dollars. I justify the expense by asking myself the WWJD question. He wouldn’t pass this up if He knew he was going to live in a student dormitory room for the next ten days in the country side where any store is five miles away. This college is not a monastery but it could be. If the objective was to isolate people from the world this would do it. Still, I won’t whine too much since it has everything I need. Among other items, Bobby from Romania can cook up some wicked pasta… pizza, lasagna and last night I had roasted, herbed chicken on a bed of seasoned rice. I’m not suffering here in Svinevoll, Norway (Pigville, seriously).