One Year Later…

Life in the fast lane…
June 1 marked our one-year anniversary and just when we thought we had finally gotten the hang of living here, bam!

Before we left the US we established our residency in Tennessee, including getting TN drivers’ licenses. We thought that would provide us with current licenses until we returned in 2018. We also thought our US licenses would be good here in Norway. A few months ago we discovered that we would need to “exchange” our US licenses for Norwegian licenses. That didn’t sound too difficult so we went to the driving center to start the process.

That is when the unfortunate truth started to reveal itself. In order to “exchange” our license we had to take the Norwegian driver’s test (only the driving part, not the theory test too; woot!). But, before we could schedule the test, we needed eye tests because we wear glasses. Then, we found out that you can’t take the test in your own car, you must “rent” a car from a driving school. But, before the driving school will let you “rent” the car, you must take a lesson from them. I guess in some way this makes sense, but we thought it was scam. Oh, and to add to the scenario, just about every Norwegian takes the month of July as vacation so many businesses are closed or short staffed. This obviously includes the driver school and the testing facility which meant we only had two test dates to choose from. Still, we thought this wouldn’t be a big deal, we have been driving for many years, how tough could it be?

My first lesson ended with “if this was the test, you would not have passed!” This was on Friday morning and my test was scheduled for Monday afternoon. One more piece of the story, if you fail the test you must wait 4 weeks to take it again, which meant my US license would expire here and I wouldn’t be able to drive. So I had to scramble to get more lessons in before the test, which I did and I was able to pass.
However, Jo was not so fortunate. She crammed in 4 lessons, but it wasn’t enough. In her defense, she hasn’t done much driving here and her “go slow and safe” mode is just not compatible with the Norwegian driving philosophy. If the speed limit is 60, they want you going 60 immediately, not 58 and not 62! And their yield/right-of-way mindset is very different from the US. So, starting in the fall, she will be required to take additional driving lessons before she can get her license. In her words, “this has been the most stressful week yet in Norway!”

Life in the office
Jo has been busy working with the applications for OM’s teen discipleship summer camp in Germany. This year we are taking 22 teens and 14 adults. While this is not a large group, it is almost double what we took last year and that is a significant increase. She has also been working with two young people who are preparing to join our ship ministry in August for one year. Additionally, she is trying to schedule debriefs with several Norwegians as they transition from their field of service to life back in Norway.
She was able to travel to South Africa in May to provide member care for our Norwegians who are serving on our ship. This was a treat for her because they were the same people she took care of when they joined OM last year.

I was invited to speak at two churches recently which I really enjoyed. Especially because one of the churches was English speaking which meant I had twice as much time as usual. When they say “you can have 20-30 minutes” it is really only 10-15 when it needs to be translated.

One of the first work trips we took last year was to a denominational camp meeting. We didn’t know anyone, we just “showed up” and hoped for the best. We actually had many good conversations that week and it gave me a starting point for building relationships.

This year we will go to that same meeting and an additional one. But now I have had a year of communicating with many of the pastors, so I hope to have conversations that actually lead to some mission engagement instead of just “thinking about it.”

Life of the party…
One of our biggest concerns when we moved here was whether or not we would be able to make friends. I am very happy to report that this was not a problem. During our first year we have been very blessed by many people who have reached out to us in various ways. As we reflected on our first year we wanted to show them our appreciation for their friendship so we invited them over for a very Norwegian time of “coffee and cake.” It was a fun for us to watch our new friends get to know each other.

Life in reality…
It is hard to believe we have lived in Norway for one year already. That means that in 6 more months we will be at the mid-point of our 3 year commitment. Some days I (speaking for myself) want to stay here forever and other days I want to get on the plane tomorrow.

These mixed feelings come from the unmet expectations we have experienced. We arrived here thinking that Norwegians would be “lining up” to join OM. All we had to do was open the doors and things would happen. But in truth, that is not happening. Even though we (Jo) have processed several applications, it is only a trickle. And, as I meet with pastors it becomes more and more evident that the average local Norwegian church is not currently engaged in missions.

This means that the “fruit” we hoped to pick is still several seasons away. There is much plowing, planting, and nurturing to do before we will see a great harvest. Part of me looks forward to the challenge of a 5-10 year project here in Norway while part of me wonders if I am willing to commit to it. I place all of this on the altar of God’s plan and trust His leading in our lives.

Life in prayer…
1. Office vision: the current state of the Norwegian church reveals many possible opportunities for OM to engage in, but, what and how are questions that we don’t have the precise answer to yet. Please pray for our clarity of vision and wisdom in the steps we take.

2. Support: during our first year we have lost several financial partners. While this is normal in the mission world, it will require us to raise more support for our remaining time in Norway. Please pray that we will be able to do so.

3. Travel: we will be travelling to different meetings and conferences until early September. Please pray for good conversations, relationship building, and focus during this time.

4. Revival in Norway: recently a pastor told me “the fire I feel inside does not match the reality I see outside.” He meant that he didn’t see much desire in the local people to be engaged with Christ. They were “ok” calling themselves Christians but they didn’t want to be associated with Christ. Please pray for a revival within the Norwegian churches.