Greetings from Norway
Let me (Dave) begin by confessing and asking for your grace. I began this update in June and as you can see, it has taken me a long time to complete it.
Being very honest, writing these updates is one of the most challenging things I do. I feel compelled to tell stories of success and accomplishment, but in our context, success and accomplishment are not the same as in other ministries. Nevertheless, here is what has happened in the past few months, as much as we can remember and are able to write about…
In June, the transition into the interim field leader role didn’t go as smoothly as I had hoped. Even before the official change-over, issues that were previously unknown (to me) began to reveal themselves. Most of these issues involved people and/or money, two subjects that don’t always have easy solutions and some of which are still being worked through over four months later.
I quickly realized that the best thing I could do as interim leader would be to establish a team environment that the next leader would be able build upon. It appears that this was God’s plan as well, because He quickly brought three people to me who were like-minded and willing to help. More on them later.
Also in June, I was invited to collaborate on writing a script for Global Village, an interactive experience that would be used to mobilize teens at TeenStreet, OM’s annual teen conference in Germany. The other writers were in Greece and Sweden so everything had to be coordinated via Skype. This was a fun challenge and much of what I contributed was actually used in the production.
Global Village cast.
July and August were very busy because we were finally picking the fruit from a full year’s labors. Visjon (Vision) is a family camp for one of OM Norway’s church denomination partners. Since last summer, Jo had worked to bring a team of volunteers to serve at this camp through OM. Two ladies from the US and a family of four from Australia joined the team and the response from the denomination was overwhelmingly positive. The camp leaders have already asked her to do the same next year! This was a huge accomplishment for Jo.
We returned home from that camp, did laundry and departed for the TeenStreet conference which turned out to be one of the highlights of our year. This year, we had 45 people associated with the Norwegian team, our first year there were only 23. We consider this another major success after a year of hard work.
After the Teen Street conference, we took four days to visit some American missionary friends in Paris. Even though we spent many hours walking the city, it was still a relaxing time of no decisions and great food. An added blessing of this visit was being able to share with like-minded English speakers who understood the struggles we have experienced as cross-culture workers.
Three new team members
When I became the leader, a lady who previously volunteered and served as a board member for OM in the past (as well as a personal friend to us) told me she was excited about the new future she saw for OM Norway and she wanted to be part of it. In order to make that happen, she quit her job and is now volunteering for us two days a week. This is a huge win because her skills and passions enable her to fill a position that has been missing for years. She is now responsible for Partner Development. That means she will tell our current donors “thank-you” and will also work to find new donors. This is a vital role that will allow OM Norway to “keep the lights on,” and contribute to other fields and projects in the years to come.
In August 2016, I started having coffee with a local youth leader because some of his youth had attended Teen Street (TS) with us in the past. He was interested to hear more about TS because each year the teens who attended were very excited about it. This year, I invited him to attend TS and he said “yes.” After we returned, I had another coffee meeting with him and asked him about his experience at TS. (I couldn’t talk to him during the camp because we were both too busy.) He said it was the best camp he had ever attended and he wanted to tell other youth leaders about it! Then, I asked him if he would be willing to join our team and do that officially for OM, and he said “yes!” He now volunteers with us one day a week and oversees all things associated with our Teen Street ministry. This breathes new life into our team and takes a lot of pressure off of the rest of the team members.
During our initial vision trip to Norway, we met a man who had previously been involved with the office finances. We have connected with him several times for social occasions during our time here. Early this spring, we had the opportunity to spend some time with him and his family at a church outing. During that time, I asked if he would be willing join us again. I shared my vision for creating a more professional and accountable work environment and he said “yes!” Due to his primary employment, he is only able to give us two days a month, but his accounting skills have already had a positive impact on the financial area of the team.
We see these new team members as snowballs that started rolling down the mountain. They all have passion and vision for their roles and they will be able to continue the work even after we leave Norway. That is very satisfying to us and gives us a sense of changing the future of OM Norway, as well as leaving a solid team that the next leader can continue to expand.
Meeting our neighbors.
Several weeks ago, we saw this moose (and probably his brother) about 40 yards behind our house. They were just relaxing and didn’t appear to be anxious about their surroundings. We were somewhat concerned because there is a walking path between our house and them that many people use every day. We didn’t like the idea of meeting them while we were out for a stroll.
Jo’s responsibilities have increased
OM is divided into “areas” based on geographical regions for administrative purposes. The Norwegian field office is part of the European Area. The Area provides centralized support and ensures standardization between the different field offices in areas like finance, IT, personnel, etc. In September, Jo was asked to take the role of Interim Area Personnel Officer. This means that when the other Field Personnel Officers have questions about policies or procedures, they will call or email her and she will (in theory) be able to provide them the help they need.
Even though she doesn’t see herself as the expert, she has already been able to help others work through their issues. This is very rewarding because she knows that many people helped her when she was learning and now she is able to pass that on to others.
Church: The church environment has always been challenging for us because nearly everything is in Norwegian (naturally). Even though they provide translation (almost every week), we don’t always feel like we get the full impact of the sermon. It’s another reminder that the language barrier is much more than we anticipated.
Pray that we won’t be discouraged by these momentary setbacks and we will continue to find joy in fellowship with our brothers and sisters here.
Wisdom: The role of leader has put me into situations that I am completely unprepared to handle. It’s also forcing me to make decisions about people that I don’t enjoy making. On the other hand, it is providing me with learning opportunities that I would not have had apart from this experience.
Pray that I will have the wisdom and grace needed to use these experiences effectively for God’s kingdom.
Finances: It is a praise that we have been here for over two years and this is the first time we have had to mention this. Due to the exchange rate between the Norwegian Kroner and the US Dollar, our support is starting to trend in a negative direction. Also, as every missionary experiences, we have lost some supporters since we arrived here. The situation is not critical yet, but it could be critical if the exchange rates continue to fall.
Pray for our support to continue at a sustainable level.
Team Members: The 3 new team members are a huge blessing to us. However, we still need more help and we must also have replacements for ourselves.
Pray for more workers to fill the critical roles that are needed in our team.
Thank you for holding the rope for us as we help build vibrant communities of Jesus followers among the least reached through OM Norway
Dave and Jo