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 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.

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 8 / It was tranquil

Wooopppsss…

“You are ready to go at four today?”

“Where? Go where?” I replied.

We can't turn back now...

“You are to preach tonight. I told you, don’t you remember? We go must go to Horten (I thought he said “Horten” but he did not. It sounded like Horten, a village about 20 kilometers to the east.).

I was immediately panicked and I raced through my mind. “Why didn’t I know this? Did he tell me? Well, probably, yes, he did but somehow I didn’t hear him. Nevertheless, I will have to quickly throw myself together appear calm and prepared.”

I thought through what I might talk about, put on presentable, pulpiteering clothes and ran out of the door at four with Jeanne close behind me.

We happily settled ourselves into the van and away we went down the hill and onto the highway in the direction of Horten. We went right through the city of Horten, took the van onto a ferry and floated across to Moss on the other side of the Oslo fiord. 

Betel

I knew I had it wrong again. No doubt, the appointment was not in Horten. Horten wasn’t  even close. Instead, we drove and drove until we came within five miles of Sweden finally arriving at a small church called Betel. Cross cultural communication has its complications.

By 7:30 I was up and at’em with what I think turned out to be a happy outcome. People seemed to be edified and blessed. I have been invited back and that’s always a good sign.

Pastor Bjorn Olsen

Following the hour and a half service we went for “bread” at the pastor’s home. They call this “bread” and they have it three times a day.  Generally it is the same fare at all three occasions and in every home in Norway. The big meal is around 3PM and they call this meal, “Dinner.”

One can expect these items to appear on the table, bread, butter, jelly, cucumbers, red peppers, tomatoes, lunch meats, cheeses (a brown one for sure), pickles, liver pate’, perhaps caviar, honey and sometimes boiled eggs. It’s all good but I’m not used to this lack of variety.

Truth is, in Italy, it is almost always pasta of one kind or another and in Viet Nam, rice done this way or that.  Bread was undoubtedly the historical nutritional mainstay of Norway in times past. Perhaps now it is mostly a hold over from tradition.

At any rate we had this wonderful spread of food at the pastors house (Norwegian coffee is terrific!) and were advised that if we didn’t leave immediately we would miss the ferry. At break-neck speed we were down the highway toward Moss and home.