The snow is gone, the flowers are blooming, and we now have more than 12 hours of daylight per day! Even though much of the Norwegian interior is still covered with several feet of snow our southern coastal town is enjoying the transition from winter to spring. And much to my surprise, we actually enjoyed the winter season.
The efficiency with which the roads and walking paths were cleared was nothing short of amazing. Another amazing fact is that we were actually warmer in our little apartment with two small heaters than we were in our Georgia house, and the added beauty of the snow made the short days very beautiful. Dave has put away his cross-country skis and hopes to start riding the bike to work again this week.
In January we moved offices because the church we were renting space from was starting a remodel project and we were going to lose our space. We found an office building that is very close to the city center that is owned by a Christian business man and there are several other ministries in the building too. This new location gives us better visibility and a more “professional” look. After many days of packing up the old office, moving and then unpacking again, it was good to get settled. This move also included several trips to IKEA to purchase more office furniture. This in turn caused Dave to spend many hours putting said furniture together; he has since decided that IKEA is Swedish for “I hate this place.”
Dave continues have encouraging meetings with churches. But the down side is that Norwegians appear to make decisions very slowly. After he meets with the pastor, the usual response is “this sounds great but I need to meet with my board.” The follow-up meetings can take several weeks or longer to schedule which can be frustrating. Even though the progress is very slow, there are several reasons to be excited. In January there were 3 meetings that will provide many open doors for us in the Norwegian churches. Two of these meetings involved the respective leaders of the two main evangelical denominations in Norway and the third was with the organization that manages the youth programs for one of those denominations. All three of those meetings ended with “we want to partner with OM.” This was an amazing outcome but as mentioned earlier, the final wording to the agreements are taking longer to negotiate than expected.
We had another potential partner meeting this week. It was with Laget, the European branch of Inner-Varsity. This is an evangelical campus ministry that works in high schools and universities in Norway. Dave met with the regional leader and was asked to start meeting with their international student group. This will give Dave more opportunities for “front-line” ministry as well as the opportunity to promote OM to the students. Because Laget is on almost every high school/university campus in Norway, this will be a major partnership.
Jo keeps busy with the new applications that are coming in, helping those who have returned to Norway re-enter society, and working through the issues that our Norwegian workers face when living abroad. She will travel to South Africa in May to visit our workers who are serving on our ship, MS Logos Hope (www.gbaships.org). This will allow her to see their environment first hand, help them work through any problems they might be having, and give her a better understanding of what they experience day to day.
Outside the office:
Last summer we had the privilege of meeting a very spiritually mature teenager here. In the fall he invited Dave to speak at his youth group and they have been keeping in touch ever since. In early January the young man contacted Dave and asked him to be his mentor. Dave felt greatly honored but also very challenged. They have been meeting weekly for about 8 weeks and it appears to be going great.
Also in January we met a young lady who was looking for a church. We suggested she visit the one we were attending which she did. She shared with us that she was looking for an older couple she could learn from and asked us if we would fill that role for her. We gladly accepted and have enjoyed getting to know her.
We are both in a couple’s Bible study group and Dave is in a men’s group, each of these meet twice a month. Even though the majority of the conversations are in Norwegian, we really enjoy both of these gatherings.
Norwegian classes are still the low point of our week. We each come home feeling dejected and overwhelmed. Both of our instructors are very patient but the speed at which they cover the material is too fast for us to get it the first (or even third) time. But, when we look back at what we knew when we started and what we know now, there has been vast improvement. When we started, listening to a Norwegian talk was like listening to a constant stream of “noise.” Now we can identify individual words (we still don’t understand them) and we are able to read most of the signs and more of the newspaper. We are even forcing ourselves to speak Norwegian to each other at home which usually leads to much laughter. These are small victories but we will take what we can get.
We have gotten to the place where we can both say that we are “comfortable” living here. That does not mean it is easy, but now we mostly know what to expect. This in itself is a major milestone in our cross-cultural adjustment and it gives us a sense of stability that we haven’t had in many months.
The red, white, and blue:
Being an American overseas is not always comfortable. Here are some examples of conversations we have had…
In a meeting with a pastor: …the problem with America is too many guns. You need more gun control laws…
As I met an immigrant from Iraq:
Immigrant: …hi, my name is Muhammad, I’m from Iraq.
Dave: Hi, my name is Dave, I’m from USA.
Immigrant: USA? You invaded my country….
Going fishing with a new Polish friend: …This refugee problem all over Europe is America’s fault! Under Saddam Hussein and Kaddafi there were no refugees. If you had left things alone everything would be fine…
Almost weekly we get this: … how about that Trump?!!!?
I am amazed at how well informed the average European is on US politics. They seem to know more about the primary process than I do, and they are very concerned about who the next president will be.
A very encouraging conversation went like this:
Friend: I was telling my daughter just today that America is Norway’s friend. We can sleep easier knowing that America prevents Russia from invading us like they did Ukraine…
These are some of the things we experience as we live in Norway. Thank you for reading and caring.