Trip 38 / Entry 17 / Near Tonsberg, Norway

Saturday to Friday, May 10-16, 2014

Students at SBI 2014

Students at SBI 2014

 

Smyrna Bible Institute

I caught an Air France flight from Ljubljana to Paris and then KLM to Amsterdam and the to Sandefjord (Torp), Norway, finally arriving at 11 PM Saturday. I almost missed the flight from Amsterdam and was the last person to board after running the full length of Schiphol Airport. I was picked up by my friend, Morten Ostevik, the head administrator of Smyrna Bible Institute where I will teach 1st Corinthians to about twenty second year students for the week. I have come here every year and some times twice for the last four years and developed a good relationship with the leadership. I will preach on Sunday night in Oasen, the campus church.

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

Teaching Evangelism at Smyrna Bible Institute

A few of my students

A few of my students

At least once every year for the past five years I have spent a week or two teaching at Smyrna (Kraftskolen) near Tonsberg in southeast Norway. I usually have about ten to fifteen students in the first year class. To learn more about this scroll back through my blogs and you will find a good number of stories and photographs relating to this school.

This time I spent a week from October 7 to the 14th before going to Oslo where I would meet up with Southern Evangelical Seminary staff and students at the Ga Ut Senter where they would be presenting a seminar series on “Why Apologetics?”

Brad speaking

Brad speaking

In the meantime Brad Frey, a Canadian, ACCI missionary living in England came up to join me. While I spent a number of nights teaching and preaching, Brad joined me with testimony and teaching.

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On one evening we had, what they called, “A Bad Taste Party.” Regrettably, Andreas, my friend and Dean of men thought it a good idea to dress-up like me as an example of “bad taste.” Frankly, I think for an older gentlemen, I have fairly good taste but considering the laughter in the room upon his arrival, I am forced to reconsider some of my apparel choices. Some people can think they are in the groove when they are really in a rut.

SBINorway crop10-6 to 10-14 075

 

 

 

While at Smyrna I met a young Pakistani couple. I really liked Joel, his wife and young daughter. It was my hope to find some church that might adopt them as they are a people without a country at the moment. I’m still open to trying to locate a congregation who might adopt them. If not, they will be forced to return to a very dangerous part of the world.

“WeII, suppose we’ll know in five years.”

Socializing after a powerful service

Peter Ayling my mentor in my formative days could be slightly cynical. As an evangelist, I was always thrilled to report that this person or that received Jesus as their Savior to which he would often reply with this deflating line, “I suppose we’ll know in five years.” Like Peter, I’ve learned not to get too excited by visible results. Over the past forty years I’ve seen many people only make temporary decisions and have become lost to the kingdom (if they ever were really in it at all) along the way.

If we were to decide my effectiveness in Europe by visible results I would be a very productive Christian worker. Yesterday morning, for instance, I preached to about one hundred fifty people and at the time of active witness about ten people responded to a call for repentance and faith. Hopefully tears remain to be an evidence of earnest repentance but this cannot be trusted either as I have seen the emotionally unmoved, cold-faced decision maker stand firm while the one, almost hysterical regarding their sin has washed out. Good beginnings are never a guarantee of successful endings.

Anyhow, leadership was quite pleased with the message and response with some they had been praying for making a visible acknowledgement of their condition. “I suppose we’ll know in five years.”

Tor Erik giving testimony

Nevertheless, I doubt if preaching almost anywhere in America I would see this response from a single message in a group of this size so I am quite relieved to see that the Spirit of God appears to be moving, convicting men and women of sin, righteousness and judgment to come.

Progetto Archippo and Southern Evangelical Seminary

Kent, Francesco, Ray, Ted and Moi

About four years ago we had the idea to start a missions training school in Parma.The Cerasino’s and the Arbortivi’s called it, “Progetto Archippo” after the admonition to Archippus in Colossians 4:17, ““Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.” Once you understand it, it turns out to be a good name for what they are doing here. You can find them on-line at progettoarchippo.org. Basically they have attempted to bring together in partnership about fifteen active mission agencies in Italy for the purpose of equipping indigenous believers for ministry.

Simon Brace

When John Haley (ACCI’s Executive Director)was visiting Jarrs in Waxhaw, North Carolina he made acquaintance with South African, Simon Brace Director of SES TEAM  Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte. While talking together, Simon learned of my involvement in Norway and Italy. Both Norway and Italy turn out to be strategic locations for the vision of SES’s mission vision in Europe. The SES mission focus is called TEAM ( Truth Evangelism and Apologetics Mission).

As Simon and I became friends we began to dream together and this month, October of 2011, two important things will have taken place.

SES Charlotte and Progetto Archippo, Parma

Perhaps fifteen nationalities

SES and Progetto Archippo partner to host an Apologetics Conference in Parma, Italy with teaching guests,  Ray Ciervo, Ted Wright and Kent Suter.

SES Charlotte and Ga Ut Center, Oslo, Norway

Johannes Redse

Then at the end of the month Headmaster, Johannes Redse of Ga Ut Centre (Normisjon), Oslo, Norway will visit SES in Charlotte during their annual apologetics conference when some 6,000 people will be in attendance. It is ACCI’s hope that we will be able to formalize a teaching and credentialing relationship between Southern Evangelical Seminary and Ga Ut, Oslo.

Why is apologetics so necessary in Europe? Why can’t people just pray and present the Roman Road, Bridge to

Kent teaching with Francesco translating

Life or Four Spiritual Laws? Simply stated, because people in Europe have no Christian memory and what Christianity they do have knowledge of is grossly distorted. They are not looking for answers in God. Ever since the Enlightenment and the age of reason, Europe has secularized. They are not asking the questions American missionaries are providing answers for. They have been impacted by the ideas of Darwin, Voltaire, Hume, Camus, Sartre and other anti-theists. Hence, they are totally unaware that Christians have intelligent answers regarding origins, ethics,  meaning and ultimate purpose of life. As Ray Ciervo said, “Apologetics removes the brush (misconceptions) that stands in the way of belief.”

Tables were filling up with pizza and conversation

Norwegian Tor-Erik with Ted Wright

This weekend, more than sixty people attended the SES Apologetics Seminar. The teachers were often peppered with bright questions from those in the audience that wanted clarification. It would be impossible for me in this brief blog to tell the reader of every occasion when the light went on and people “got it!”

Now that was some kind of day!

 

TThe student body

Friday was incredibly busy. On Thursday evening I preached then the next morning I tought for four hours straight, took a mid-day meal they call dinner

My evangelism class

and then to the studio for two more programs, a short break and off to Rivetal to speak again. In all, I was talking for about seven hours. Sometimes I think, “What if I run out of things to say?” or “What if I just forget which message is which?” Most people assume that I am totally relaxed when I preach. I suppose to those unaccustomed to public speaking, I might look that way, but I assure you that I am always rather panicked underneath it all. I’m okay I’m up and at ‘er but when I’m sitting there waiting, during the worship, I am thinking, “When is it my turn, when is it going to be my turn?” It’s not that I think I am more important than worship, I’m just afraid everything in my mind and heart will suddenly evaporate and I will wind up totally stymied.

Truth is, I’m also feeling a little bit like a race horse in the gate waiting for post time and the starting bell… “an he’s off an’ running!” As they say, “He’s chomping at the bit,” and I am.

Ministry at the local pizza restaurant

Pete headed back home in the middle of the night when Ida drove him to Gardermoen airport and at noon today I will be flying to Venice with seven students. We will be picked up there and driven to Ljubljana, Slovenia where on Sunday morning I will preach again and the students will provide ministry. I don’t have one boring moment.

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).