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…..
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.
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!!!
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
The Gravity of Gratitude a devotional by John Piper
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful . . . (2 Timothy 3:1–2)
Notice how ingratitude goes with pride, abuse, and insubordination.
In another place Paul says, “Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking . . . but instead let there be thanksgiving” (Ephesians 5:4). So, it seems that gratitude is the opposite of ugliness and violence.
The reason this is so is that the feeling of gratitude is a humble feeling, not a proud one. It is other-exalting, not self-exalting. And it is glad-hearted, not angry or bitter.
The key to unlocking a heart of gratitude and overcoming bitterness and ugliness and disrespect and violence is a strong belief in God, the Creator and Sustainer and Provider and Hope-giver. If we do not believe we are deeply indebted to God for all we have or hope to have, then the very spring of gratitude has gone dry.
So, I conclude that the rise of violence and sacrilege and ugliness and insubordination in the last times is a God-issue. The basic issue is a failure to feel gratitude at the upper levels of our dependence.
When the high spring of gratitude to God fails at the top of the mountain, soon all the pools of thankfulness begin to dry up further down the mountain. And when gratitude goes, the sovereignty of the self condones more and more corruption for its pleasure.
Pray for a great awakening of humble gratitude.
The days are getting much shorter and the temperatures are dropping. Fresh snow has been falling in the higher mountains and it’s time to wear sweaters and heavier coats. The change of seasons here is very enjoyable and in one way it helps to track the passage of time. It seems like just a few days ago we were enjoying our first Norwegian summer and now it’s time for our second winter. As we rapidly approach the half-way point of our initial commitment in Norway, I believe an appropriate title for this edition is “Finally…!!!” First I’ll wrap up the past few months and then look at the ones to come…
July, August, and September have been a blur. We started our second year much the same way we did the first, attending week-long camps for 2 different denominations, then travelling with a bus load of teens and coaches to Germany for OM Europe’s Teen Street conference. We were only able to return home between these events to do laundry, re-pack and hit the road again. In August, Jo travelled to the Netherlands to accompany 3 Norwegians as they officially joined OM and set off for their adventure onboard our ship, Logos Hope. In September, she traveled to Hungary where she met with other Short Term Coordinators. The purpose is to learn from them as they share their experiences with short-term missions. (spoiler alert: this will be very important for her next summer).
In November, I travel to Montenegro for OM’s European Leaders Meeting. This is where all the field/ministry leaders from the European offices gather to discuss current business as well as ministry opportunities in the region. I will be filling in for our leaders who are anticipating the birth of a baby at that time. I have also had several speaking opportunities at churches and am very hopeful of future partnerships with them.
Another news worthy item, Jo and I have both taken on additional roles in the office. In addition to Personnel Officer and Member Care, Jo is now the Training Officer. This means she will be responsible for ensuring the creation and implementation of all training that OM Norway offers (spoiler alert; this will also be important very soon).
In addition to my primary role as Director of Church Relations, I have taken on the new role of Ministry Development. This gives me the opportunity and responsibility to envision and implement the new ministries that OM Norway will be engaged in, as well as initiate the growth of current ministries. (another spoiler alert, keep reading.)
It appears that the efforts of OM Norway are about to bear the fruit we have been praying for, and some of these things might actually start to happen soon; well, in 2017 anyway.
Here is what I mean…
Finally, we have churches who want to participate in short-term mission (STM) teams outside of Norway.
Our ultimate goal is still raising up and sending Norwegians out as long-term missionaries. But, unfortunately, that is not something the average Norwegian Christian sees as a need or possibility. Therefore, we must modify our strategy and help them take the initial steps of short-term missions (STM) in order to expose them to the needs and the possibilities around the globe. Hopefully, this will ignite a passion in them that will fuel a life-long engagement in missions. At this time, we have 4 churches who are planning to participate in STM in 2017. This is a major breakthrough for our team which will require much work, but the benefit to the local churches will be enormous.
Finally, we have churches who want to bring short-term mission teams into Norway.
Another way of helping churches see the opportunity for long-term engagement in missions is for them to host a STM team. That means we (OM Norway) will recruit a team of people from our other OM offices and then bring that team to Norway where they will assist a church in their effort to minister to their local community. This is another major breakthrough for us and will also require much effort next summer.
Finally, we have a plan for long-term ministry in Norway.
The first two items are enough to make us jump for joy, but this is something we hope will put OM Norway “on the map!” Here is how it started. This summer I was visiting a very small church and I was asking God “what can OM offer this church?” I realized that every church needs 2 things; money and people. We (OM) don’t have any money, but we do have (we can recruit) people. We can offer the churches people who will serve in the church. What church would say “no” to that?!?!
Our office in Ireland has been very successful at providing “interns” for their partner-churches for about 8 years. We hope to copy their program and do the same for churches in Norway.
The plan is to recruit 18-25 year olds from other countries through our OM network. They will cover all of their own expenses and commit to serve here for one year. They will serve under the leadership of the local church in the role that the church needs the most. Most likely, they will be youth workers or worship leaders, but each church will tell us exactly what they need and we will try to find people with those skills. This is a great opportunity for the church to get a “free” worker for a year, and also a great opportunity for the intern to get experience in international ministry.
We hope to start this ministry with 3 churches next fall and then expand as we are able. This ministry will eventually require several more workers in our office to oversee it which is another goal to achieve.
This is exactly the kind of news we have been hoping to report for a long time. We feel honored to be part of these ground-breaking events and we look forward to even more in the future. May God receive all the glory for this.
Oh, and one more…
Finally, we have a plan for returning to the US, at least temporarily. In March 2017, we will return for a 30-day furlough. This will be a time where we “unplug” and “recharge.” We hope to spend this time quietly seeking God’s guidance for what we are to do next, extend in Norway, return to the US, or is there something else? When we come back in April ’17 we will have just over a year left in our initial commitment and we feel we should be prepared to inform our leadership of our intentions at that time.
I have enrolled in a different language class and enjoy it much more than the first one.
Jo is getting better at driving and will hopefully pass her test in a few more weeks.
Lindsay/Caleb and Taylor will visit us in December.
Many ministry events will happen in 2017.
The ministry events mentioned earlier in this letter will require massive amounts of planning, preparation, coordination, and travel. Currently we do not have the resources needed to make it all happen.
A vehicle for our furlough. A friend has blessed us with a cabin in North Georgia (half way between Lindsay and Taylor) for our time in the states. If anyone has a car we can use during that time (March 27-April 30) that would be wonderful.
Thank you for reading and following our lives in Norway and please continue to pray for us and the ministry of OM. We realize that your support and prayers make it possible for us to serve in this capacity and we are still very convinced that we are where we are supposed to be and doing what we are supposed to be doing.
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May you be blessed…
Dave and Jo