Recharged, Refocused and Reengaged

Hello again from beautiful, and chilly, Norway.  Our time in the US was very beneficial and we got the answers to several questions.  But, the questions we got answers to weren’t necessarily the ones we were asking…

Recharged

Time in the mountains

We were blessed with the use of a beautiful cabin in the north Georgia mountains.  It was remote, peaceful, and located very near the Appalachian Trail.  Dave took advantage of this by spending several days hiking on or near the Trail.  These were great times of solitude and reflection for him.  Jo used much of the time to catch up on one of her favorite past-times; reading.

Time with our girls

The highlight of our trip was Easter weekend when Lindsay, Caleb and Mako along with Taylor, Logan, and Teddison joined us for a wonderful time of family, food, and fun.  We colored eggs had an egg hunt, and Jo (as usual) prepared a wonderful meal.  It was wonderful having everyone (and the dogs) together.

Time for listening

One of the purposes of this trip was to disconnect from the busy-ness of ministry and to hear from God what our next season would be.  Should we start to pull back from Norway in anticipation of returning to the US, should we pursue other areas of ministry that interest us, or should we put down roots and make long-term plans for Norway?  These were all options but we didn’t know which one we should choose.

Time with others

We were also able to connect with Jo’s family as well as friends and partners in the Atlanta area.  The last night in the US we hosted a small reception where we reconnected with about 20 folks.  It was a fun time of questions and answers and it was very encouraging to see how they were engaging with us in the ministry.

 

Refocused 

A few weeks before we left Norway, our leaders announced that they were stepping down from their leadership roles. This announcement came after many months of struggling to juggle the demands of parenting and leading. Even though this was not a surprise to us, it did create even more uncertainty for us and our future.   All we knew was that the Board of Directors would meet the day after we left and they would come up with a plan.

After one week in the US, Dave received a call from the Chair of the Board and he was asked if he would assume the role of interim leader of the team effective June 1.  Because we had been watching this situation develop for almost a year, we knew that one day this question could be a reality.  Therefore he was prepared to say “yes.”  While this did give some clarity to our immediate future, it also created more questions.  We would need to wait until we returned and Dave met with the Board to get any more answers.

Another piece of news we received during this time was that our current visa (permission to live in Norway) would expire in 2 more years.  Although this was discouraging at first, it was, in fact, another answer to one of the questions we were asking ourselves; how long could/would we stay in Norway.

One thing we often consider is what would we do after Norway?  We definitely want to stay involved in mission, and I (Dave) have an idea of what my ideal role would be, but would that opportunity even be possible?  Well, the day before we came back to Norway, that question was answered.   Dave has officially offed a ministry role that would fulfill many of his desires for the “dream job” and there were also very interesting opportunities available for Jo.  And they were willing to wait for a year while we completed our commitment to Norway.  Hmmmmm……

 

Re-engaged

We have been back for 3 weeks now and have met with the Board and the OM leader who oversees the Scandinavian countries.  This has allowed us time to consider Dave’s new role and the impact it will have on our lives as well as the team.  Even though the challenges will be many and the rewards quite possibly few, we feel that for him to accept this role and to provide leadership for the team is the right thing to do.  His primary focus will be to strengthen and add to the current team so that the next leader will have a strong environment to step into.

While we were in the US, one thing became very clear to us.  We no longer think of the US as being “home.”  We are very happy with our lives here and we are fully engaging in everything involved in living here.  We shared this revelation with several of our Norwegian friends this week and they seemed to be very honored that we would so eagerly embrace their country and culture as our own.

Until the Board finds a new leader, we will be 100% focused on our responsibilities here in Norway.  Once that person joins the team we will re-evaluate the situation and then determine how to proceed.  We have turned down the job offers in the US but we were told there would be doors open for us when we return…  which will probably happen sometime between June 2018 and June 2019.

 

In the mean time

Jo’s responsibilities will (mostly) remain the same.  She will continue to handle the application process for the folks we send out, and she will visit and care for those who are already serving in foreign countries.  She will also have one more full-time responsibility, reminding Dave not to “mess things up.”

Dave will continue in his original role of visiting churches and mobilizing Norwegians into missions.  Additionally, he will absorb the CEO, COO, and CFO responsibilities of the team which was previously divided between two people.

 

Please pray for:

  • Wisdom we will face many challenges in the months to come
  • Team members we need several people to fill essential roles quickly
  • Grace I (Dave) am often reminded by my loving wife that “gentleness and patience ” are not my strengths.  This could be problematic for me in my new role hearing God’s voice there will be many things to distract us and we must stay focused
  • hearing God’s voice there will be many things to distract us and we must stay focused

 

Thank you for partnering with us as we serve the Kingdom from Norway.

…among the least reached…

Less than 72 hours….

Hello to all

Just a quick note to let everyone know we are less than 72 hours from “wheels-up” for the US. We have a few last-minute items to take care of here but mostly we are focusing on what/how to pack for a month.

As we mentioned before, the purpose of this trip is to un-plug from Norway and consider our future. At this time there are several factors that will influence our decisions and some of those are still unfolding. We hope to have clarity soon and we will keep you informed as soon as we are able.

For all our Georgia friends, we will host a reception on April 27, from 6-9 at the Southside church in NEWNAN. We will provide coffee and cake and this will be an opportunity for you to hear first-hand what we have been up to while in Norway. Each of you in the Newnan/Fayette/Atlanta area will receive an invitation in the mail in a few days. We hope that all of you can join us for the evening.

Here are a few things we have “done” recently:
Dave has preached at 4 churches in the past 6 weeks and one has decided to partner with OM.

Jo has set up 2 teams that are coming to Norway to work with 2 of our partner churches. Hopefully these will lead to more teams in the future.

Prayer items
• Weight allowances for our luggage
• Trying to stay “unplugged” while in the US
• Enjoying the time with our daughters
• Clarity for our next season
• Re-engaging with Norway when we return

Thank you for “holding the rope” for us while we serve in Norway and may Father be glorified in all we do.

Blessings to each of you
Dave and Jo

It’s going, it’s going….

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