Entry 13 / Norway

It seems as though eating is all we are engaged in.

Perhaps I have more pictures of me at a table than anyone in the world. We do have lots of opportunity to try new items and socialize around food. Actually, you will find that when you are without transportation the highlight of the day is not seeing a new landmark but rather eating a new way to cook fish.

Here we are eating what Norwegians consider to be a Saturday special – a traditional and national treat – a kind of porage made from rice. The next day they made a desert with what was left over. On the porage they sprinkle cinnamon or sugar, others put dollops of strawberry jam or a splash of raspberry sauce.

Then later in the evening it was an outdoor dinner party on the veranda featuring a superb Chicago style pizza. Karin is one good baker and the crust was crispy but chewy with wonderful Italian toppings. I was surprised that Norwegians with their inclinations toward healthy foods would have opted for toppings of broccoli and cauliflower but nope, it was the real thing with all sorts of greasy items I could easily recognize.

Ingres

Finally, sometimes you find a treasure. Here is our friend Ingres. I have known her for about two years and now Jeanne has her for a friend as well. I used to call her “Slave Girl” on Facebook but this nick name seemed to make people nervous and cause them to wonder what kind of relationship I was having with Ingres. I assure you, it was all on the up and up. Ingres was assigned to be my “Girl Friday” and the “go to” person anytime I needed something while here at SBI. She turned out to be my cultural informer, translator, chauffeur and she even did my wash a couple of times. Ingres has an authentic servants heart and we wish you could know her too. She is always busy and though she is a school teacher she makes herself available to cook in the kitchen, clean and work with the children in the Kid’s for Christ Club. We are blessed.

Entry 12 / Norway

Upcoming Outreach Event!

Mexicali Rosa’s                                                          Cafe del Sol                                                               Taco and burritos Fiesta

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
We’ll have lots of reasons for them to show up by providing authentic Mexican food served by cheery Bible college students, a draw for a 500 kr ($100.) gift certificate and  though all of the food is free, we’ll ask these GENEROUS Norwegians to donate to the Children of Ghana. All of this should bring folks into our building here at SBI and Oasen (the church community).
   I told the students that people are just as weirded out by a church service as we are a Hindu meeting. In un-churched societies, people do not attend churches unless invited by a friend. We are out to make a lot of friends.
 
Would our friends out there pray for us?
 
   

 

Entry 11 / Norway

“A man’s heart plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.”

PROVERBS 16:9

 

What does a class look like?

Frankly, not much different from what it does anywhere else I teach,  Bethany College of Missions, YWAM, Bethany Wesleyan College, Progetto Archippo and others.

Mostly I am engaged in one of two things. Either I am involved in spiritual formation or ministry preparation. This past week I taught on why theology matters. Though this sounds like a rather dry subject, I think, by the end of the week, most had a handle on the importance of the course and life was breathed into the verse “rightly dividing the Word of God.”  

Over thirty years ago the Lord spoke to us from Hebrews 5, as we were driving between Brantford and  Toronto, Ontario. He made it clear that we would be involved in raising up ministry leaders. At the time it seemed rather unlikely, but we took it as His voice and though we didn’t particularly pursue this calling, it turned out to be the case and here we have been for at least 15 years.

I sometimes wonder. It seems that I am “unknown, and yet well-known” as Paul described himself. I always wanted to have a huge impact, like leading major crusades, but God has seen fit to make my venues  rather small and out-of-the-way. I don’t have huge crowds flocking to sit under my instruction and so I question God’s economics ability. In spite of this, in talking to Jeanne, we discovered that, even though we are not well-known, we have (by God’s grace) significantly imprinted the lives of many who are engaged in world-changing far beyond our capacity. They do “greater things than we do” and we feel as though we have multiplied ourselves. So, it really doesn’t matter as much how big the crowd as it does who is in the crowd. I often feel very privileged to be given permission to speak into the hearts of many of these future missionaries, pastors, youth leaders and Christian professionals. We are blessed in the doing!

Entry 10/ “Kindred Spirits” in Norway

Hanne and me

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.

Maria Lura our hostess

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.

Entry 9 /I choose not to be vague or vogue

“Jesus was not crucified for saying such things  as, “See the lillies of the field how they neither toil nor spin.”

No, he was crucified for telling people the truth and calling people to repent.

“The fear of man bringeth a snare.”

I generally prefer to call things as I see them. This is sometimes offensive to certain sensibilities. I have prayed much about this and intend to continue speaking with clarity about what I observe.

A few have expressed their concern that I am not culturally sensitive when writing about these observations. I know, I know, “The fool speaketh his entire mind.”  Let me inform you, what I write is the better half of it. I would like to be clear, I am more interested in the kingdom of God than I am national patriotism or the sacred cows of Evangelicalism.

When I am in church – my church in America on July 4th (Independence Day) and people begin standing all around me with their hands over their hearts lustily singing, “America the Beautiful” I am anxious to point out that this  doesn’t seem to me Christian and especially when they won’t sing, “Amazing Love” with the same gusto. I don’t mind so much they sing about America as long as they don’t worship America.  Americans have a tendency to wrap Christianity in the stars and stripes.

I do not treat American culture as superior nor do I handle them with kid gloves. I have no divided loyalties. The kingdom of God comes ahead of all Ceasars. They cannot both be God.

Though I love them, I am just as forthcoming about what I detect in my own nations (Canadian and the United States) and churches as I am that which I observe when I travel to other countries.

Last week I wrote about the price of pizza in Tonsberg, Norway. A visitor to my blog complained that I was being culturally insensitive. Did they read all of my blogs? Do I say nothing commendable about Norway or Norwegians? I simply found the price of pizza unreasonable when compared to the size of an American missionary wallet. (I feel the same way when I look at the price of a Ralph Lauren shirt at Dillard’s department store in Charlotte. I won’t be gouged an extra $30.00 for a logo.) Give me a break! Lighten up! It was good pizza but it was not justifiably good enough to charge $36.00 for it when you can buy a better pizza in Italy for $8.00.

Does writing  this sort of comparison indicate that I think Italy is superior to Norway? Am I a cultural elitist for pointing this out? Was it a criticism or simply information? Am I writing an academic research paper or an “as you go”  travelogue? 

This kind of criticism is insane.  Norway excels Italy and the United States in many ways. For one thing every train that goes by is not covered with mindless graffiti as it is in Italy. Do I like this? You bet I do? Do I like when everything runs on time as it does in Norway? You bet I do. Do Italians show up on time? No, Norwegians they show up on time.  Information like this isn’t interesting, it’s predictable!

A Norwegian friend who had recently visited America remarked that she found American commercial white bread disgusting. When she said this, I wasn’t insulted and had to agree with her. I have no idea why they continue to make such stuff and pass it off as edible. I have no idea why people continue to buy it. It is anything other than “bread” and once you have tasted breads from other parts of the world you will likely share this same perspective. 

Does this mean I find nothing virtuous or good about America? Absolutely not. When a European will sometimes say, “I hate Americans!”  I will respond, “Yes, there are some pretty awful Americans, but have you met them all? In my view there are no people like those of the American heartland. To hate Americans would mean you’d have to hate Mexicans, Irish, Polish, Africans – in essence you’d have to hate the entire world.

When George Bush was President many Frenchmen would tell me how much they hated George Bush. I would be sympathetic but tell them that should France ever be attacked by a hostile enemy, the first phone call they would make would be to George Bush.

Are there things about American and Canada that disturb me? Of course. Am I concerned about the state of the church in both countries? Should I be concerned about the lifeless condition of the evangelical church in Europe?    Perhaps I should just, “whistle through the graveyard.” 

I will not for the sake of popularity and approval, play the ostrich.

Entry 7 / SBI A tranquil start

I am often called upon to preach when I first arrive but this first Sunday I got a break so I was allowed to get re-calibrated so to speak before being put in front of people. Since I know many of the people here (Jeanne does not) it was nice to have the time to be in the audience worshipping and given the time to ease into things. It was nice for Jeanne that some of the worship is in English and familiar to her.

I will often preach five times in one week and I am told that this is coming next week when I will be preaching a mini-series of four meetings in a row. We have decided that on Saturday evening May 14th, we will suspend preaching and throw and outreach party called Mexicali Rosa’s, Café del Sol Taco and Burritos Fiesta. There will be more about this later but we hope to bring in as many as two-hundred or more for the authentic Mexican dinner. Since this is only two weeks away, I have had to put my full weight behind the planning and assigning the roles.

It was also enjoyable that following the service they loaded up the grill and held a barbecue. For SBI this is not so much an American thing as it is Brazilian or Argentinean. For years the students and faculty have been making month-long mission trips to South America and have brought back some of the cuisine with them.

This is not a Brazilian

In fact, they have not only brought back cuisine, they have brought back students as well. They have two students from Brazil. Even though they cannot speak Norwegian, they came anyway and have since picked up enough of the language to understand most of the lecture content.

This year they had three cross-cultural trips, one to China, a second to Argentina and a third to Ghana. Some of the ladies had their hair done in the typical Ghanaian braids. I am told that this work took the hair dresser eight hours to do and they were paid the handsome sum of 119NOK ($16) for the effort. My only thought is, who takes it out and how long an exercise is this expected to be?

Entry 6 / Tonsberg

In Europe, one often see churches closed up and turned into pubs as is this one. In many cities, churches have been made into Buddhist temples, centers for Scientology or some other thing like spiritualism and so forth. Shown here is what was once one of the main Lutheran churches in the center of Tonsberg. It is now a drinking establishment and filled to capacity on this bright Saturday afternoon. An overwhelming number of Norwegians are baptized and confirmed into the Lutheran state church but almost no one attends except as a matter of tradition at Christmas and Easter. It is reckoned that a vast number of clergymen are not believers in a god of any kind and hold atheistic views. For many priests, it is simply a job, like that of being social worker. While men slept the enemy came in and sowed tares among the wheat… The blind leading the blind, they shall both stumble and fall into the ditch… Shall I find faith when I return? But first, there must come a great falling away, and then the end shall come.”  

 Yet, there is an occasional small ray of hope here and there. As we walked to our car, we saw a group of Christians publicly praying for the healing of two ladies they had come across. I went over to join them. Of course, it was all in Norwegian but I like this kind of boldness whenever or wherever it happens. “He that denies me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.”  It takes much more courage to stand up and be counted in anti-theistic societies than in Charlotte where we live. Most of western Europeans are not just atheists. They entirely oppose Christianity and might favor committing such people to institutions. They view all religious faith as irrational, perhaps dangerous, and a detriment to progress. I have students in my class who have parents that think their children have been brainwashed by a cult and are concerned that their children are wasting their lives. Imagine this kind of pressure? This is why we are here! We are doing our best to fan whatever small flicker of flame there is. If we do nothing more than motivate and encourage a few people on, we have done what we could. This is what you are doing when you help us. You are encouraging weary front- line troops.

Think of this. We Americans are rich with spiritual opportunity. We have become fat with mega-Church, worship, bookstores, conferences, television, radio (we have ten in our market alone) and so forth. In my class, I mentioned two popular books, “Mere Christianity” and “Screwtape Letters” by C.S. Lewis, and they have neither in their language. The students have never heard of Amy Carmichael, Hudson Taylor, David Livingstone and have no books in their language that tells these missionary stories that most American Christian’s are somewhat familiar with.  They have never heard of Ravi Zacharias or any other well-known Christian thinker. Yet, there is a glut of teaching (most of it spurious and theologically questionable) through satellite “Christian” television. What books they do have often border on heresy. They have few ways to know this.

Mark Twain (or Charles Spurgeon) was right when one of them apparently said, “A lie can travel halfway round the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”

Entry 4 / Norway, SBI and Tonsberg

Ruben and Brigitta

Apparently (but what do we know?) Tonsberg is considered to be the oldest settlement in Norway. On Saturday afternoon our friends Ruben and Birgitta took us by car to this beautiful city along the sea. We went right to the mountain that overlooks the city and the entire bay.

For strategic reasons the first king of Norway built a fortification, a castle with a church (St Michael’s) on top of this mountain. All of the building are gone but for the foundation, yet it continues to amaze me that you are walking on soil that in 871 someone established their home and subsequently a nation.

I took a few pictures. First Jeanne and I seated on a rock wall in front of one of the early log house/barn combinations. The preservation is marvelous and the roof with grass growing on top of it takes you back to the way it must have been a thousand years ago. Ruben explained that the buildings were designed in this way to keep the rats and mice out as they are not able to climb upside down. So the grain storage areas are built out from the base.  

At the very pinnacle of the mountain there is a one thousand year monument (871-1871).

Following the sightseeing (which is always limited by Jeanne’s feet), we all walked along the sea boardwalk and stopped for some rather expensive pizza (not because it was pizza but because it’s Norway… everything in Norway is more expensive than we’re used to in the U.S. and Canada). See the next entry for the story and pictures. 

We saw evidences of the Mormons based in Tonsberg (which did not please Tony of course) and ran into an old man who adamantly insisted that Norway is going to be engulfed by water because of God’s judgment. It seems to be a season for prophets everywhere we look!

Entry 2 / Norway and SBI

Smyrna students enjoying the earlier than usual spring

If you want to find us on a map we are south of Oslo. Just go straight down the west side of the fiord and then find the city of Horten. It is located on the sea right above Tonsberg and across from Moss. Now take your finger and go toward the west and if you enlarge the map big enough you will find the village of Ravelen. We are in the country about ten K northeast of Ravelen.

After our luggage arrived we were picked up by the SBI Headmaster Reidar Gamst at the GA UT (GO OUT) Training Center near Oslo and driven to Smyrna Bible Institute. There we were met by a happy group of friends and students, got settled, ate, and rushed to a meeting to hear a visiting “prophet” from England by the name of Peter Barnes.

Peter Barnes

Most of you will know that I am not a prophet chaser per se. I don’t go around looking to have my future told. This doesn’t at all mean that I don’t believe in prophesy, I do and in fact on many occasions I have delivered a word of prophesy and have seen these prognostications come to pass. I have all of a sudden changed gears in my classrooms and have begun to prophesy over the students, but I would never bill myself as a prophet that will have a word for people at 7PM  on Thursday evening. I would be scared to death that people would show up and nothing would happen. I am afraid I would fall flat on my face. So when they said they had a visiting prophet, I went with suspicion. I am leery of Christians who have their lives directed by a word here and a word there. I don’t think that this either advisable or biblical.

Well, I must say, Peter doesn’t know me at all, but if he isn’t a prophet, he rode with Jeanne, Reidar and I to Smyrna in the same van, as he said identically what I said in the ride from Oslo. I mean not just “sort of” but exactly. Okay, he did say some things that I will have to wait and see on but for that much he most definitely was a prophet and a fly on the wall. In telling you this, I am not encouraging people to chase a prophet but when they show up (if they have good references by trusted people)  hear them and then weigh carefully what they have said. Watch for confirmation. I have met some “prophets” that were complete idiots. Peter doesn’t seem to one of those people. He was likeable, humble, approachable, and biblical in every way.

Oslo Arrival

IT ALL CAME BACK TO ME…

Jeanne posting her first blog from Oslo

Why I hate long plane rides. Sitting in the Lufthansa jet at the back of the plane (row 59), jammed tightly between two people (one of which was a six foot two guy who loves food) and a mere foot from the monitor screen on the back of the seat in front of me, I experienced a strange new sensation: claustrophobia. The space for eight long hours was so small that I couldn’t lean down and pick anything up off the floor if I dropped it and there was no possible way to sit comfortably. Add to that a two-year-old just a few rows ahead of us that screamed six of those eight hours and you can picture what I mean. A miserable way to get from Charlotte to Munich, but hey, at least it worked. We were late arriving and almost missed our connecting flight to Oslo. But getting on the smaller jet sent me into a kind of euphoria since the seat space was exponentially larger. I felt I could breathe again. Sadly, our checked bags didn’t make it on the flight with us. So after another very long walk through the Oslo airport (my feet are not happy with airports, especially the one at Munich) we had to stand in a very slow line (all the clerks typed with one finger) to report our lost baggage to the airline before we could go through customs and meet the man who had kindly driven to the airport to pick us up.

BUT THIS FIRST REPORT IS NOT AS NEGATIVE AS YOU MAY THINK.

The Gaut Students saying, "Hi."

We had our first evangelistic witness on our connecting flight. A nice Norwegian man was happy to share with us about his new girlfriend that he met on the Internet (no, her name is not Lafonda) – and how he was just returning from Hong Kong after visiting her for 10 days. His flight schedule was nightmarish compared to ours! We got to ask him lots of questions about his country and share what we were doing here. Like most urban Europeans, he has decided he doesn’t believe in Jesus Christ or religion of any kind. We did what we could to dispel some of his misconceptions and to offer some things for him to consider about why we believe in Him. We parted on good terms and I felt it was the first of hopefully many more divine appointments.

I’ve even seen some miracles on this trip already. Now, they aren’t the kind that would qualify for sainthood in the Catholic church, but I can see God’s gracious hand upon us in answer to the prayers of many of our Christian brothers and sisters … like being tranquil in the face of many frustrations and setbacks and the inevitable jet lag. Also, Tony and I both slept for two solid hours this afternoon without a single sound in the room (no fan or noise machine that we’ve grown so accustomed to) because our electrical adaptors were put in – you guessed it – one of the checked bags that didn’t arrive with us. J Small mercies, I know, but when you’re exhausted, they speak volumes about our Father’s love for us.

 

Our first day or night (?) of sleep took place here

Our usual fare

 

 

Our Norwegian friend Johannes, who picked us upat the airport, took us on a quick tour of the area (that looks amazingly like Canada), fed us some lunch of breads, jam, cheese, and a boiled egg, and helped us get settled in a room at the college where he teaches (see photos). Tony will be teaching a class here in a couple of weeks, but they let us stay for one night, since it’s close to Oslo, to rest up before we go to Tonsberg (Smyrna Bible Institute).

Thanks for the prayers and best wishes you are sending our way… I feel such peace and joy in being here with Tony. The adventure with God begins … now that the nasty plane ride is behind us.