The pitcher gets the signal from the catcher, he goes into the wind-up, the pitch, the swing, THWACK, it’s a long fly ball, it’s going, it’s going… 

 

First of all, I ask for your forgiveness! It has been 4 months since our last update. I confess my failure to keep you up-to-date on our lives and I double-dog, pinky-promise to at least try to never let it happen again. We’ll see how that works out…..

Personal
A highlight from November was a Thanksgiving dinner where we invited our upstairs neighbors. Jo made as close to a traditional dinner as possible with Norwegian ingredients. They were very appreciative of the experience and confided in us that we were the only neighbors who were friendly to them.

We had wonderful visits with our daughters in December. Lindsay and Caleb came the beginning of the month and Taylor came the end of the month. It was very uplifting for us to have them here and we look forward to more time with them in April. (more on that later)

If you follow us on Face Book, you saw the pictures, but if not, here’s what we did. With Lindsay and Caleb, we traveled to Tromsø, which is inside the Arctic Circle, in search of killer whales and the Northern Lights. We succeeded on both! The 4 of us were part of a boat tour in one of the fjords where the orcas are known to feed. We were only 10 minutes from the dock when we saw the first fin sticking out of the water. We had about 40 sightings over the next 4 hours. Some were very close and some far away, some large and some appeared to be small. But they were all magnificent. We also saw a few humpbacks in the mix. It was brutally cold, but well worth it. Lindsay and Caleb were still tired from jet lag so they didn’t join us when Jo and I drove outside of town for a view of the night sky. We were rewarded with a brief glimpse of the green and purple Northern Lights.

With Taylor, we stayed closer to home and explored the local area. We did visit a lighthouse on the most southern point of Norway which was another cold experience. The lighthouse is on a peninsula and that day there was a storm in the area. That meant strong winds, rain, and cold temps. We actually had to brace ourselves against the wind and the rain felt like needles hitting our faces. We hope to go back in the summer and maybe it won’t be so cold. (maybe). We also had two enjoyable Christmas dinners in the homes of some Norwegian friends. These were very encouraging because we feel we are “being accepted” by the local folks.

Another personal highlight: Jo finally passed the theory test for her driving license. This was quite an ordeal because many of the questions are very technical and they never told her which ones she missed. Now all she needs is a few hours of brushing up with the driving instructor and then she can take the final practical test. Unfortunately, this past week she hasn’t left house due to a very heavy cold. Hopefully, she’ll feel better soon.

As we have said many times, living here is very enjoyable and we seem to have adjusted fairly well.

Ministry

The previous update listed several opportunities for partnership with churches. While a few probably won’t happen, several are still moving ahead along with some new ones. Several weeks ago, Jo received an email from our office in Finland and they wanted to know if we were able to receive a team of Finns who wanted to work with a church. She then contacted a local church that has been on our short-list of potential partners and they were very willing to have the Finnish team join them in a community outreach. If everything works out, this will happen over the Easter break.
An amazing outcome of these conversations was when the local church pastor said “if they (the Finns) come here to help us, maybe in the future we can go there to help them.” It was a hallelujah moment for both Jo and I when we heard this statement, because that is exactly the “big picture thinking” we have been encouraging churches to see since we arrived. We both walked away from the meeting making fist pumps!!!

In November, I was invited to preach at the Intenational Church here in Kristiansand. That was a treat because I was able to speak in English without translation into Norwegian, which usually gives me more time to speak. I had another preaching time in January and I have 3 more scheduled in February and March. One highlight for me was when I received an email from a pastor I didn’t know. He said he had been referred to me by another pastor I met last fall. It was extremely encouraging to know that the folks I am meeting are recommending me to their pastor friends.

Last week I was walking in town and two young ladies approached me from the opposite direction. As they passed I heard one say “excuse me” (in Norwegian). I knew there was no one else around so I looked back to see if she was talking to me. She walked directly to me and said “Dave!” She remembered me from a meeting I had at her school almost a year ago! She told me that her students were having a dance recital in two days and she invited me to come. So I went to the recital and it appears that some of her students are interested in using their dance skills in missions. We will have a follow-up meeting about this next week. The amazing part of this is that I usually remember the people I have met and I always initiate the conversation when I meet them again. Even now, I don’t remember this lady, but she obviously remembered me and she knew I wanted to introduce young people to the world of missions. Another fist pump!

Remember when we arrived in June of 2015 and one of the first trips we went on was to our “GO” conference in Netherlands? That was were Jo was “sending” Norwegians to other nations to serve. While I was there with her I started a friendship with the husband and wife team who were on their way to Moldova. Because I am always looking for people who could be a good fit for our team, I mentioned to them that “after they come back from Moldova” there might be a way they could serve with us. They returned from Moldova this summer and we continued that conversation. Last night he emailed me and said that they want to officially accept my offer to join my team as regional reps for OM Norway. You never know where a conversation will go… More fist pumps!!!

Looking forward
I have developed an unexpected ability (and passion) to look at the big picture and possible future of our team. These areas include financial, ministry, and church partner development as it relates to the OM Norway team. Because our team is so small, we don’t have the luxury of only wearing one hat and I really enjoy being able to think about these different areas. I don’t know what that will lead to in the future, but for now, I am enjoying the ride.

Our calendars are rapidly filling up for 2017. I have several meetings with existing and potentially new partner churches, there are two times that Jo will be bringing in teams from outside of Norway, and the annual trip to Teen Street in Germany.

As I mentioned in the last update, we will return to the US on March 30 for a 30-day time of reflection. We are looking forward to being close to both girls and spending time with them. However, one of the main reasons for coming back is to seriously consider what the future looks like for us. Lindsay and Taylor have both given us “permission” to stay in Norway (or wherever) and we know there is still much work we can do here. Still, we want to make sure this is what is best for everyone involved and there are many factors to consider. We would especially appreciate your prayers for guidance during this time.

Back to the ball game; it’s a home run!!!!
For many years our office has taken Norwegian youth to our Teen Street (TS) conference in Germany. The conference has been an amazing experience for many of the youth, but it has always been a one-week event and then wait until next year. One of the goals we set for TS was to grow it into a year-round connection between the youth, the church, and OM. This year we were able to take a major step in making that dream a reality by hosting a mid-year Teen Street weekend here in Norway.

By taking a huge step of faith, our team was able to find a church to host the event and bring in speakers and musicians from the Teen Street program team. The weekend was attended by many teens from previous years as well as several new teens. And, we had teens from a few new churches attend as well. This event allowed us to strengthen a relationship with a partner church which is always our goal in everything we do. About 3 weeks before the event we only had a few teens registered and we were very “concerned” about the outcome. But, over 20 teens attended first-ever Teen Street Connection!
I believe this is the highest of highlights so far!

Our first Teen Street Connection

Thank you for your continued support and encouragement that allows us to be part of Father’s work in the Norwegian churches.

Dave and Jo