Trip 38 / Entry 18 / Oslo, Norway

Friday and Saturday, May 16-18, 2014

Friday Evening International Supper

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IMG_2487My friend Roar of Oslo came to fetch me at Smyrna Bible Institute on Friday afternoon then took with him to Oslo. On the way there he informed me that there was going to be an international dinner at 7PM and I would be speaking. If you want spontaneity, Norway is the place. I am often surprised by meetings I am slightly unprepared for. He suggested twenty minutes with translation and my mind began to frantically race trying to sort what I might be able to effectively do in so short a time. I settled on giving my abbreviated testimony.

We arrived at his house a little after five. I laid down for a few minutes and then got dressed. Off we went to enjoy a meal provided by people of thirteen nationalities. I came to discover that the MC was a Mexican “Christian” but I very quickly noticed that he was abrupt and cold to me. He failed to make eye contact at all and when it was finally time for me to speak, I saw him pacing, looking at his watch and scowling. Roar translated me and at times got so tickled that he couldn’t go on. This has happened before  on other occasions so we should probably never be put together in this capacity. He laughs at my descriptions until he cries.

I ended soon enough with what I thought was an impacting message that all, regardless of religious conviction, could grasp and enjoy without offence.  After all, it was just my story.

I thought it went well and Roar was delighted.  The next morning while waiting outside to go to the city, the Mexican fellow who occupies a small apartment on the bottom floor, came out to do the same. I wanted to build a bridge so I asked where he was from. From the minute I asked the question, I knew I had made a mistake. He complained about my message and baited me for a fight. His wife eventually came out the door apologizing for him while they went off down the street with her returning to apologize as he yelled, “We don’t like American’s or whatever you are. Go back to where you come from!”

Well, he made Muslims and Jehovah’s Witnesses seem a lot more civil. I have never been this badly treated anywhere or at anytime. It almost came to fisticuffs.  I was so shocked I said, “I don’t think you know the Lord Jesus,” and I don’t believe he possibly could unless he is dominated by the works of the flesh (carnality). More honestly, I think he is a dangerous man. I expect to be accosted by a Muslim or drunk here and there by not by one professing to being a follower of Jesus. Either this man is demonic or insane. Personally, I think he was mad with jealousy that I was invited to speak without his knowledge or approval. It’s a territorial thing.

 

Apologetics Conference with Southern Evangelical Seminary

Ga Ut Senter, Oslo (Hurdal), Norway

SES presenters

SES presenters

More than a year ago, I suggested that friends from here in Charlotte make a trip to Oslo and join the staff of Ga Ut Senter in a much needed, apologetics conference. In all about six or seven professors and students showed up to spend a weekend teaching on subjects such as “Intelligent Design” and “The Exclusiveness of Christ, Pluralism.”

Smyrna heads home

Smyrna heads home

Early Saturday morning Brad and I grabbed our gear and met about six Smyrna students for the two and half hour ride to Hurdal.  We spent the day in various, well attended lectures. At the end of the day, they drove back and Brad and stayed the night and then took a quick tour of Oslo the next day before he headed back to London in the late afternoon.

Great food!

Great food!

I remained behind for several more days staying with Roar and Lillis. Most of the time I was quarantined to my room and bed with with the stomach flu. Finally, on Thursday morning I flew back to London, spent the night in Crawley, England and took to ten o’clock flight home on Friday morning.

In ten weeks, I traveled approximately nineteen thousand miles, slept in twenty-seven beds, visited five countries (some twice), preached and taught about fifty hours. It was more trip than I should have taken on and only eternity will tell if any of this is worth the time, effort and money.

SBINorway 10-6 to 10-14 164

Stupid me!

Kevin

Kevin

Here’s some helpful advice. It was murder trying to find a low-cost flight from Ljubljana to Oslo or thereabouts on the day I needed it. I felt a little stuck. Either I would pay a huge sum of money for a rather direct flight or travel some distance to locate a cheaper plane. Pastor Chris thought it made the most sense to just bite the bullet and take Berlin Air or some such a carrier at about five hundred and forty euro. This seemed exorbitant to me so I had Chris drive me across Slovenia to Trieste, Italy where I caught a five-hour train to Bergamo, Italy, caught another bus, took a hotel, had my supper and then flew to Torp the next morning on Ryan Air. Yes, the Ryan Air flight was around a hundred euro but if I add up the inconvenience, time, transportation, meals and hotel, it just made, in retrospect, a lot more sense to just pay the big bucks and be done with it. In all, it took more than fifteen hours of travel to get from Murska Sobota, Slovenia to Torp, Norway.

My friend Kevin came along with me and parted company with him going on to Parma from Mestre while I went on another train to north of Milano.

SBINorway 10-6 to 10-14 001

I boarded the flight and before settling into my seat I noticed the young man next to me reading Sam Harris’, “The Death of Faith.” I am well aware of Sam Harris, a very aggressive and vitriolic anti-Theist. It surprised me to see a young man of this age intensely reading such a book for his entertainment. I quickly leaned over and asked him, “Are you an Atheist?” Proudly, he replied in the affirmative. He asked if I was to which I told him no and that I was his polar opposite. I then wanted to know if he was an “intellectual” or a “moral” Atheist. He didn’t get what I was driving at so this gave me opportunity to engage him in a two-hour conversation. We ended as friends. Let me just say here, this fellow knows more about the Bible and what he believes than any combined ten young Christians I know of.

Overhearing the gospel…

At the end of the flight, when I returned to my seat an older Norwegian couple seated next to me wanted to know who I was and was complimentary regarding some of the questions posed and answers given the young man.

It occurs to me that in forty-five years of adult life rarely, if ever, has anyone ever shared the gospel with me. It is my guess that almost no one tells anyone about Jesus and that’s a fact. It’s a wonder to me that anyone ever gets saved at all.

Sunday Service at Oasen

While Peter is out walking in nature AGAIN – Pete loves nature – I took a nap (I love naps) and once awake decided to enter one more blog.

with my translator and friend Sara Anderson

I have no idea of how many blogs I have written in the past that have almost the same images in different locations. As similar as all of these blogs are, I suppose this is what it is all about. I am always on a platform preaching somewhere and often, thankfully, people make life altering decisions, though it has little to do with me or my messages. I know this is true because I ask them. I ask them in this way, “Was there something I said this morning that caused you to respond?” They almost always answer in the same way, “I don’t know what you said. I don’t think I was really paying much attention.” Well, that kind of comment can make a guy who spends hours praying, studying, thinking, writing, trying to find just the right way of saying a thing feel like he has wasted a colossal amount of his time. But, truthfully, this is often the way it turns out.

Many responded

I think my message was pretty interesting but who knows and especially when one has a translator – translation can always make it more “iffy.” I am not the easiest guy in the world to translate since I rely on a thousand idioms the translator has never heard before. Oh well, in spite of me, it all turned out well as it often does with many people responding and lives being changed along the way. When I return next spring or some other time, I will see the changes as I so often do.

“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”                                            JOHN 3:8

Confirmed, I do not like Edvard Munch or Klee

Friday afternoon…

In the remaining time available I briskly walked to the National Gallery and took in a show that featured the work of Munch and Klee. I always wanted to give Munch the benefit of the doubt, but I came away with a clear conviction that he is no artist of any measure. Included in the show was work by Paul Klee and I never really liked his work anymore than I do Mondrian or Picasso. I think the worth of all of these artists are grossly inflated. I do, however, like Tingley.

At any rate, once I came out of the feature salon I went upstairs where there are masterful works by Norwegian artists I have never heard of. You must see Johan Dahl and Christian Krohg. On the walls there also hung paintings by Degas, Monet, and Van Gogh, so though the gallery is small by Boston standards it turns out to be a rather deep collection and worth a visit if ever in the city. The main thing to remember is this: Norway has a stack of artists North Americans have never heard of that are first-rate.

          Oslo is a city of sculpture. Great pieces are on public display everywhere. Just this summer I was in Ottawa, Canada, my home city. Just below Parliament Hill, there on the corner, stood a sculpture in tribute to Terry Fox. I made comment to a friend that the figure was terribly disproportionate. The thighs, ankles and feet were far too large. It occurred to me that this kind of work does not honor Terry Fox at all since it is amateur. Surely, Canada must have an artist that can do this right, especially when thousands of dollars worth of taxpayers’ monies are ventured on trying to make the National Capitol a spectacular visit. I have walked the streets of Oslo and can tell you, there are hundreds of sculptures and not one of them unworthy of attention and praise. Ooooppps… there is one. In the middle of St. Olafs Plase stands one rather monstrous contemporary piece that fails to convince me of anything meritorious.

Your (ehr…God’s) money and sister Maria…

You may remember from an earlier blog that God sometimes prompts me to give your money away.

As I stood across the street from a gypsy I saw a rather common Norwegian stop by her, speak to her kindly, then kneel beside her, and the next thing, I saw him praying for her. It was a striking scene in the midst of Oslo’s affluence and bustle. He struck me tas a man of limited means so when he finished, I walked across the thoroughfare, came beside her, and asked politely, “Do you speak English?” She looked into my face and said, “Yes, I speak some English.” I asked her if the man I had just seen prayed for her. She said, “Yes, he many times stops only to pray with me.” To this I replied, “I am a Christian. Did he have any money to give you?” “No,” she answered, “he just prays.”  “What is your name?” I inquired. “My name is Maria.” “Well, Maria, I am the answer to his prayers. I have some money for you.” At this moment I handed her a fifty krone note ($8.37). She looked into my face and tears filled her eyes. I told her, “Maria, this is not for your husband. This is for you.” “Oh, thank you, thank you.”

I don’t know why I saw this scene. That’s not true. The Lord prompted me to see it. We miss so much that God wants to do because we simply don’t observe. I think it was C.S. Lewis who made the point that many people never “turn aside” (Exodus 3:3). They never see the burning bush, never detect the holy moment, never hear the voice of God but rather content themselves with picking blackberries.  I have been blessed by a keen sense of discernment and I believe it has made a difference in my ministry.

Sister Maria

As we spoke further, I learned that she was also a Christian. There are many Roma people who have understood the gospel and have received it. I believe she is one of those people. As I asked her questions about Jesus and salvation, she had all of her ducks lined up in a row. So, I was able to finish our conversation by saying, “Maria, you are not a gypsy. I am not an American. You are my sister in Christ,” to which tears filled her eyes once more. Meet your sister and mine, Maria – squatted on Grensen Street sidewalk in the center of Oslo.

In the end, effective ministry has little to do with the masses and more to do with the high-touch upon one life, here and there along the way.

Coffee with Roar

After breakfast, we packed our belongings and stored them for safekeeping while I walked Pete down to Oslo’s glamorous water front. Along the way I took a few pics of Pete standing in front of things so he would have proof that, at least for one fleeting day, he really did visit Oslo.

  

As far as we know, there is absolutely no significance to either of these pictures.

On the way back I took him by the King’s Palace, where a small crowd had gathered. Upon asking, I learned that momentarily the Prime Minister of Norway, Jens Stoltenberg, was coming out of the palace doors to announce the winner(s) of the Noble Peace Prize. I thought it might make us seem more important than we are if we waited to get a glimpse and a picture of him. As though he was just waiting on our arrival, he appeared, I got the photo and listened for a brief moment to a statement too garbled for me to capture a word except for “Liberia” and “activist”.

After this historic interlude, Pete and I marched on over another six blocks to Roar’s office. Begun by Greg Livingstone, Roar is the director of Frontiers Norway, an organization which has as its mission statement, “With love and respect, inviting all Muslims to follow Jesus.”

So then, Roar has a heart for people of Arab descent and once he laid eyes on Pete, he took to him like a fish to water. As they talked and I listened (surprised?) Roar made the suggestion that he would show Pete around to places I have already visited and so an hour later we parted company until time to catch the bus.

Apparently, Pete had a grand time being chauffeured to many places we would have never reached by foot in a short time visiting the city. We met again at three, loaded our things and went to the bus for Svinvoll (Pigville).

Awesome Lebanese!!! Cafe Marhaba

Not our plates (they were already a mess) but typical

Okay, okay, I know what yer thinkun! Yer thinkun, “Some kinda missionary this Hedrick guy is. We give him money so he can eat his way through Europe.” Look! When I find something good, I tell folks about it, I don’t hide my light under the bed but put it on a candlestick so that it might light the whole house. I am a city set upon a hill. Actually, I have eat and drink, ye know not of.  If we are feasting on the riches of His grace we should tell people about it. See, there is a similarity between sharing Jesus and telling people about a fantastic place to eat.

Pete doesn't get out much

Since I am traveling with this Egyptian (Pete), I decided tonight would be special for him and I’d locate some good Mediterranean food and did I ever! The Marhaba was walkable so at around 5:30 we struck out for what turned out to be an incredible meal. Knowing that we would be in what amounts to a rural monastery for the coming week, we pulled out the stops.

The delighted chef

I ordered lamb chops which came with bulgur covered in a spicy rich sauce featuring tomato, sliced onion, tiny okra and chick peas. Next to this was a leafy mediterranean salad.

Pete and I decided to split, so he went with some kind of flavorful herbie beef (I have no idea what aromatic touch this happened to be), roasted potatoes, salad and tzatziki sauce. We divided and passed the food across the table, rolled up our sleeves and went to work. After a few sighs we leaned back in our chairs and slowed down to savour every bite. Let me define the experience this way… Have you ever seen a movie you never wanted to come to the end of?

I’m going to be completely honest, though our dinner was interrupted by a fire bell – the art school on the second floor did it again – this may have been one of my best meals EVER!!! If you visit Oslo I suggest you visit this cozy little spot only a few doors from the recent bombings. You’ll find Cafe Marhaba at Keysergi 1, 0165 Oslo. Reserve by calling 22 11 35 00.

On our way to Oslo

My traveling companion, Pete Boghdadi, and I left the Charlotte airport on Wednesday evening and flew overnight to London Gatwick and then caught a Norwegian Air flight that put us into Oslo Gardermoen by noon the following day. We quickly caught the Express train to the National Theatre and hoofed it the next three blocks to our hotel, a Best Western called “Bondeheimen.” Though our room turns out to be expensive real estate by American standards ($185.) for two singles, it is perfectly located and well-managed. I can recommend it to anyone who wants to be in the center of things. As the old adage goes, “You get what you pay for,” and that’s true.

I want the reader to know this. If coming to Oslo and should you choose to stay here, you will be met with the most extensive “included in the price – keep ya all day” breakfast you’ve ever had. I mean this! I am usually put off by what they call breakfast in most hotels and motels. I don’t like to build my own food in a microwave. When I was invited to go ahead into the restaurant and have breakfast, I was less than enthusiastic. I thought I’d just take a machine-made cappuccino but that would have been the worst mistake of the day (perhaps the week). I entered the restaurant to see a huge crowd all grabbing for stuff (lots of stuff!). Fresh breads, muffins, fruit, cereals, cream of wheat, yogurt, eggs (scrambled, soft and hard-boiled), potatoes, beans, bacon, ham, smoked salmon, sausages and more that I can’t remember at the moment. At Norwegian prices this turns out to be good value.

Entry 37 / Goodbye European Tour Twenty-Nine

On the hunt

That’s it… that’s all. There’s many more stories that I could tell but this is enough for now.