Entry 23 / Worship Party, Parma, Italy

Arrival in Italy

We arrived in Parma on Wednesday evening from Norway and the Milan Bergamo airport. Since Jeanne had not been feeling well we slowed down our pace knowing that the weekend would be packed with events. On Thursday we did some house keeping. We did our laundry and went to Parma for a short time just to see the city again. This was pretty much our first and last venture to the city center during the entire time we were there.

Worship Party

Some of the faces at the Worship Party

When it came Saturday, the entire day was given to getting ready for a major outreach. The young people (ranging in ages from 13 to 25) put together drama, music, video testimonies and had gone around inviting their friends.

Recognition and appreciation of the youth led Worship Party

The event had been scheduled for eight in the evening but it was quite latin to see the clock on the screen countdown from five minutes only to be started over when it reached eight pm. This happened three times so at twenty past eight, Jeanne and I wondered if countdown clocks really mattered. No doubt, someone had picked this idea up from an American church where things do start on time. When I later brought this up someone defensively said, “We were all ready but the crowd had not come yet.” By 8:20 we began with every seat filled and at least two-hundred in attendance. More than half of those had never been in the church before. In about an hour and half of cute and clever presentations, I was asked to deliver a message and though we gave no altar call or opportunity for a response, it was clear that the message had impact. I spoke on, “The Core Idea.” Basically, the idea was substitutionary atonement and since “atonement” is difficult to explain we went with “adequate payment which satisfies”. With lots of windows (illustrations), people seemed to get it.

Entry 21 / Norway National Day Photos

Typical of the day. Blonde, blue eyed girls in traditional, regional dress

I wish I could show you all 187 photographs of this gorgeous day. It was a once in a life time experience. Three young ladies stopped and congratulated me in Norwegian on the day. Since I didn’t understand what they were saying they asked where I was from. When I told them Canada and the United States they wanted to know if we have anything like this in the America’s. I could only think of one thing – The Kentucky Derby. Ten miles of The Kentucky Derby.

The crowed swelled in front of the King's palace

Entry 20 / Norway’s National Day

Breakfast with Lillis and Roar Haldorsen Strat

See more photographs on Entry 21 

Before heading down to Italy, we were invited to spend a day and two evenings at our dear friends’ house in Oslo. The first night, Roar and Lillis Haldorsen Strat treated us to a fabulous meal of fresh grilled salmon with traditional Norwegian cake and ice cream for dessert. They also planned a truly fantastic day on the 17th, determined to help us experience the Norwegian national holiday in all its glory. We began the day by going to a local school where some of their grandchildren were marching in a parade. Then we drove downtown to the parade that outshines every parade Tony and I have ever attended. Lasting three hours, school after school marched down the avenue to be admired by all us onlookers and waved at by the king and queen of Norway and their son, the crown prince, and his wife and children. The Norwegian flag was seen everywhere – carried and waved with obvious pride by its citizens. The colors and patterns of the national costumes were so diverse and beautiful that I soon became quite overwhelmed in trying to take it all in. There are distinct patterns and styles associated with each region of the country and nearly everyone who owns one of these costumes wears it proudly all day. Since Lillis is from the Bergen region (west coast), she made Roar a costume to match hers and they looked so impressive in them that many people stopped to take their picture. I had a scary experience of almost getting lost in that enormous crowd and prayed my way back to the safely of their company, being a lot more careful to stay close after that. After the parade was over and we listened to a men’s choir sing traditional Norwegian songs, we all headed down to the harbor area to climb aboard Roar’s son’s sailboat and had lunch out on its deck! The day ended with a church service in an old church that sits next to the Oslo fjord and just down the road from the king’s beautiful country estate. What a day! We took hundreds of photos and have included some of them below to give you a taste of what we saw. We returned to their house to have fresh strawberries and ice cream before we all fell into bed. The next morning Roar and Lillis drove us to the bus station to begin our day-long trip to Italy.

The jovial Mr. Strat getting ready for the day

 

Our best outfits were not nearly as impressive as their

Preparing for parade

Entry 19 / Taco Party

A joint effort

Siv Monika

 

Hanne serving

Our token Brazilians

 

The cafe is packed

Oasen (the church) and SBI (the training center) spared no expense and allowed Jeanne and I to spend whatever necessary to make this a real fiesta. Though short of time (one week), we made and distributed about six hundred invitations. Hoping to have as many as 250 people, we bought 13 kilo of ground beef for tacos and ten cooked chickens to shred for the burritos. We offered an authentic food experience with fruit punch, chips, salsa, soft and crispy tacos, and burritos made with chicken, peppers, garlic, onion, and tomato. Except for the el charro or black beans. the condiments were as expected – the same as you might find at Chipotle in America. 

We began serving at 5:00 as people began to drive in to the campus parking lot. Though we did not get the 250 people we had hoped for, we did have many new faces show up along with many Christians from our church connections – about a hundred in all. It was an excellent turnout for them, since Norwegians are unlikely to come to anything they are unfamiliar with and the weather was less than ideal. By 6:30 I had to go buy more burrito tortillas. Fortunately every store in Norway (unlike Italy) seems to have a full supply of Mexican foods on their shelves.  

We had thought to do all of this outside with traditional Mexican music blaring out onto the courtyard, but as the weather became even more uncooperative with wind and a cold rain, even the pinata-breaking was  a challenge. Children gathered around it and pounded away with a bat  under an awning in the pouring rain. After what seemed like an hour of swinging, there was a shout as a small trickle of candies fell to the ground. At first the polite Norwegian children didn’t know quite what to do, but once they caught on, they were pushing and grabbing like good Latino children.

Door Prize time

At about 8:00 we drew for the $100 gift certificate we planned to give away and cleaned up for Sunday. It was a long day of preparation with many students and staff members helping with the set-up, signage, vegetable chopping, decorations, and punch. Students also helped by serving our “customers” for two hours. People were invited to  give a donation to Ghana children, but otherwise we treated them to free food and an authentic Mexican experience… in the middle of Norway.

Entry 18 / Norway

We are slightly behind on our blogging due to a busy schedule and a lack of reliable internet. We have now arrived in Parma, Italy after a few very busy days in Norway. On Sunday last, I preached the morning service at Oasen and then we traveled to Ga Ut Training Center near Oslo. On Monday I taught a class of about thirty students and we then immediately went to Oslo for Norway National Day on Tuesday. This all meant for a very busy schedule so these next blogs will take you back a few days.

Jeanne’s Norwegian Medical Experience 

As you can imagine, it’s kind of inconvenient when you get sick on a trip – especially when you are in a country where you don’t speak the language. I’ve been hacking and coughing for quite a while, so I didn’t think much about it, but suddenly new symptoms developed that weren’t as easy to ignore – like shortness of breath and a loud wheezing in my lungs that got a lot worse when I went to bed. Tony became alarmed enough about me to insist that I have someone call a doctor and try to get an appointment before we head out for Italy next week.

The Tonsberg Hospital and Norwegian efficiency

We were pretty surprised when Tina (the school’s administrative assistant) came back a few minutes later and said she had an appointment for me later the same day with a doctor down in the village just five minutes away by car. I took a translator along with me (Hanne) in case I had problems communicating with the doctor, but the young doctor spoke English pretty well. We didn’t have to wait at all (even though we were a few minutes early for the appointment). After a short interview and examination the doctor said my lungs did sound quite noisy, both when I breathed in and breathed out. She ordered some kind of blood test (finger prick) that would tell her if my body was fighting a bacterial infection. When the results from that test came back low, she decided I likely didn’t need to take antibiotics and so she prescribed two inhalers to target my asthma symptoms. She also ordered a chest X-ray.

Jeanne and Birgitta on the way to x-ray

So Tony and I enlisted the help of a student couple who have a car – Ruben and Birgitte – and they kindly drove us to a pharmacy to fill my prescriptions, then on to a hospital where I could get a chest X-ray. Turns out it was Tonsberg, the city we visited last week and blogged about. Finding the hospital was simple enough for them and when Birgitte and I walked down to the radiology dept. we looked at the clock. It was five to three. My doctor’s appointment had been at 12:30 and we were already at the last leg of our medical assignments.

All of this for slightly less than 100 American dollars

How fortunate our timing was … the radiology department closed at 3:00! I sat down, expecting a long wait since the room had several people waiting ahead of us, and couldn’t believe it when they called my name not more than 10 minutes later. The women doing the X-ray were fast and efficient, and we were on our way by a little  after 3:30. I paid the bill for the X-ray on my way out of the hospital with cash.

What a difference from my medical experiences in the U.S. The total for my medical visit – doctor’s examination, blood test, X-ray, and two pharmacy prescriptions was 600 Kroner …  a whopping $100 in U.S. currency. Quite a bargain, wouldn’t you say?

Oh sure, there are still inconveniences to trying to get health care in another country. It wasn’t easy to decipher what the radiologist was saying (in Norwegian) on the chest X-ray results. But it appears that my problems stem from condensation in my right lung. They are treating me with two kinds of asthma medication and we are continuing on to the next portion of our trip, hoping for the best and trusting in our faithful heavenly Father.

Entry 17 / Norway after two weeks

As of  Wednesday past, we have been on the ground in Norway for two weeks. After landing we stayed a day and a half in the Oslo area (The Normisjon Ga Ut Center) catching up on sleep and getting our land legs. We will be going back there tomorrow where on Monday I will teach a day long seminar on “Contemporary Evangelism Methods” or “Communicating Christian Thought in a Post-Christian, Post-Modern World.”

For the last two weeks we have been mostly encouraging, teaching and mentoring students.

Promotional Poster

Last Sunday I preached here at SBI and Oasen on, “The Plague of the Heart – The High Cost of Sin Management” apparently resulting in good fruit especially with two young ladies, C and J who seemed impacted by the call to Christ and righteousness.

On Sunday evening we were at Betel in Halden across the Oslo fiord near Sweden where I spoke on “Justice, Mercy and Grace – The Unjust Steward.”

During the first week I taught everyday for about four hours. If I were to title the course I might have called it, “Rightly Dividing’ or “Discerning the Full Counsel of God,” where first I explained the divisions of systematic theology and the purpose of theological study. After explaining why theology is important, I took denominational distinctions and various doctrinal positions such as water regeneration, universalism, second work of grace, etc. along with statements like, “What Happens to the Poor Innocent Native who Never Heard of Christ,” and provided biblical answers. We were lost at first with a certain air of anti-intellectualism but once they could see it they got on board and we wound up having a good class which I think will greatly benefit them in the future.

MEXICALI ROSA’S OUTREACH TONIGHT!

Jeanne and Sara sizing up the Mexican food at the local grocery

Jeanne and I also organized an outreach whereby we hope to entertain many first time guests. You can read about it on one of the earlier blogs, “Mexicali Rosa’s, Cafe’ del Sol.” We hope to serve over three-hundred and fifty tacos and burritos today between five and seven pm today.

On the next Friday evening I spoke at a youth meeting on “So What Makes Jesus So Likeable?” Jesus commended the social outcasts (sinners) while turning away the self – righteous. He was and is a friend of sinners. All other religions teach exactly the opposite and this is why the gate is narrow. People simply have to put away their pride which they are not apt to do. People can’t seem to get this concept without divine revelation.

This past Thursday evening I spoke to a combined church, bible college meeting on “Totemism – Living in the Culture of  the King.” All cultures tend to remake Jesus into themselves by making our cultural values his. When we do this we wind up worshipping ourselves. We become God. This is true in America where Jesus is upwardly mobile, successful and wealthy. By putting cultural grids over the New Testament many “Christian’s” wind up as tourists to the kingdom of God rather than immigrants. We should not be forcing Jesus to be the culture learner. He is King.

Last night I talked on the subject, “Who Switched the Price Tags,” using “What does it profit a man if he should gain the whole world and lose his own soul.” All persons, place high value on trivial things and fail to give importance to  the things that  really matter.

I will finish the series on Sunday morning when I have chosen to talk on Hebrews 12: 1-2, “Jason’s Marathon and Laying Aside Every Weight.” Many people need to unload their anger, bitterness and pain. I will also take them to the bitter water’s of Marah in Exodus 14. To sweeten the poison of life we must put in the stick as Moses did. This stick is a type of  the cross of Christ.