OM Arts is pleased to say hello to Dave McKissick! His start date is Wednesday, May 1.
As the new Arts Catalyst for Oceania / North America – he will be responsible for stewarding the ministry partnerships OM Arts has within ONA. These relationships are primarily the OM fields in ONA. But he will also be relating to churches, schools and other ministries with artistic emphases throughout the area.
Through his focused attention on these relationships, we have high hopes that together we will be able to mobilize that many more artists, leaders of artists and funding to see vibrant communities of Jesus followers among the least reached.
Dave comes to us with a wealth of experience: as an Air Traffic Controller for the Air Force and the FAA. His OM career started in the US office in 2012, being a team leader in sending many Americans to the field for both short and long term. His most recent three years have been serving with OM in Norway, as Director of Church Relations and then as the interim Field Leader.
Dave has been married to Jo for 32 years. They have two grown daughters in the Atlanta area and they are expecting their first grand-twins!
Not only does he come with the right experience to flourish in this job, it seems God has also wired him just right to be a networker – being both extremely organized and personable at the same time. Hallelujah for good fits!
The appeal, the announcement, the Albanians, the arts, and the adventure continues.
Spoiler alert, we are not in Ireland!
On December 10, we were notified that our application for long-term visas to serve in Ireland had been denied by the Irish National Immigration Service (INIS). Both Jo and I were given several reasons for this decision, some were the same, but some were different. We were given 6 weeks to appeal by submitting the additional paperwork they required. Initially, this was very frustrating because we had already submitted most of the documents they said they needed. As we communicated our situation with our OM team in Ireland, we discovered that everyone (9 people) who applied to join the OM Ireland team was denied. While this gave us comfort that it wasn’t “just us,” it also caused us concern that the issue might be outside of our control.
We gathered as much of the extra documentation as we could and submitted it prior to the deadline with minimal hope that it would be approved. One of the items they requested (twice) was copies of my (Dave) previous passports. I explained to them that they had been destroyed, but they insisted that I provide them copies; I applied for copies through the US State Department, which never arrived.
We had no idea when we would receive a decision, but if our visas would be approved, we needed to be prepared to leave the US within two weeks. However, if they were denied we would need a plan for staying in the US. Part of us wanted to be pragmatic and make a backup plan, the other part of us wanted to be faithful and let God work through the INIS process. To say the weeks of waiting were challenging would be a gross understatement.
On January 27 (still no word from INIS at this point), we were hosting a lunch date with our oldest daughter, Lindsay and her husband Caleb. As soon as she walked into our apartment, she said “I’m pregnant” followed by Caleb announcing, “and it’s twins!!” That is a moment that will be forever etched in our memories. Obviously, the dominate topic the rest of the day was “the babies.” One comment of that day from Lindsay caught us off-guard; she said “I really don’t want you to leave now.” FYI, twins are due in mid-August.
One thing that Jo has said over and over is “when grandkids come, we’re done serving overseas.” I have always laughed at her for this “unspiritual” attitude, but I did know that it would cause us to think differently about living abroad. However, when I heard Lindsay’s news, my very first thought was “there is no way we can go to Ireland now.” For the next week, Jo and I wrestled with our new reality. We knew that our visas could be approved any day and that Ireland would expect us to arrive quickly. We also knew that if we got on that plane, we would be sacrificing our family, again.
We had made a commitment to OM Ireland and we knew they had been holding our roles for many months. We also knew they were losing other workers because of the visa situation and their team was diminishing. We also felt very strongly that we needed to change the trajectory of our family’s relational history by being near-by.
Jo and I are both the youngest of our respective families and there are many years between us and our siblings. Additionally, we have always lived far from our extended families so our girls never had the opportunity to have close relationships with their grandparents, aunts/uncles, or cousins. Jo and I felt that if we returned overseas, this trend would continue with the next generation and we didn’t want that. We also knew that we would not be able to fully engage with Ireland because of the babies.
After a week of this tension, we decided to acknowledge this to OM Ireland and we requested to be released from our commitment. That was a painful conversation because we felt that we were letting the Irish team down. However, it also allowed them to move forward without us and it allowed us to start focusing on a plan to stay in the US. After that conversation, we rescinded our appeals with INIS and formally ended our plan of moving to Ireland. We later found out that all of the other appeals had been denied and we felt that our decision had been validated.
While this decision did give us a sense of relief, it also created other tensions we had to navigate; what about the belongings we had taken to Ireland from Norway (about 750 pounds of household goods), we didn’t know where we could live, what we would drive, or what we would do.
The Albanians in Kosovo
After we realized we would be staying in the US, I started looking for a new role with OM USA. Several roles were offered to me and I took some weeks to decide what I wanted to do. In the meantime, I was asked to lead a Heart Sounds International (HSI) short-term mission team to Kosovo to work with a local Albanian church. The HSI team would host a worship music writing workshop to help the Albanians write ethnically Albanian worship songs in Kosovo. HSI engages with people groups in least-reached parts of the world who have little or no indigenous worship music in their own language, using their own instruments, and based on their own styles of worship. They do this through ethnomusicology (Google it). My role was mostly administrative, but I did get to use my photography skills to capture the trip in images.
The local church that invited HSI to Kosovo hoped to write 4 children’s songs and 9 adult worship songs during the 1-week workshop. When we finished, 39 songs had been written in total. The church was very excited because there had never been a single Albanian children’s worship song written in Kosovo before that workshop.
Dave with the team in Kosovo
As I said earlier, I was offered several roles associated with the OM USA office. While I was trying to decide on what direction to go, I was given an invaluable piece of advice: determine what you DON’T want to do first, then it will be easier to determine what you DO want to do. After 6 weeks of interviews, job descriptions, clarifying questions, and searching my heart for what I could honestly say “yes” to. I accepted a role with OM Arts, yes that’s correct, Arts! People who play, sing, dance, draw, sculpt, and in general, create! OM Arts mobilizes and sustains artists in mission. My roles will be recruiting and mobilizing artistic people into missions as well as mentoring those who are already in ministry. Jo has been considering a few different options as her next area of service, too, and expects to make a decision within another week or so. Stay tuned for more information on that in our next update.
The Adventure Continues…
For now, we will continue to live near our OM USA base in Tyrone, GA, so that we can be connected to the team here. Our roles will allow us to work remotely, but we still like the interaction with the other folks. We plan to rent for a year and then buy a home between Atlanta and Chattanooga in the summer of 2020. We are looking forward to our new roles, both in ministry and as grandparents.
The Epilogue (doesn’t start with A, but it needs to be said)
Remember our church in Norway and how I took one of the pastors to Ireland, and how he wanted to start sending Norwegians to Ireland to join in the ministry there? That church has taken a giant step forward in this direction. In February, the church sent three people to Ireland on another vision trip. The church and our OM team in Ireland thought it would be a good idea if I was there to ensure the relationship got off to a good start. So, I flew to Ireland and introduced my Norwegian friends to our Irish team. We visited three different churches and they saw many opportunities for involvement in Ireland. As a result of this relationship, the Norwegian church has decided to partner with OM Ireland by sending yearly teams to participate in evangelism and practical work on the OM base. This was a perfect way for us to end the Norwegian phase of our ministry. Even though we are saddened to not be joining the Irish team, we are very happy that we were able to add to their list of partnering churches. Additionally, while I was back in Ireland I was able to have our household goods picked up and shipped to the US. Win-win!!
Dave introducing the Norwegians to an Irish church
Other notable items
• We have re-engaged with the church we were part of before we left for Norway • We have joined a new small group • We have been invited to participate in a weekly house-church meeting • Dave’s photography business is gaining traction www.davemckissick.com and Instagram: davemckissick • We really enjoy spending holidays with our family again
Our first Christmas together in 3 years
Prayer Requests • A long-term rental within our budget starting in mid-July • Wisdom for Jo as she decides on her new role • Wisdom for Dave as he starts his new role. • Lindsay and the pregnancy
We would be grateful if you
could keep the HSI team in your prayers as they travel to Kosovo from March
28th-April 8th with Heart Sounds International (HSI).
The team will be working with a ministry that ministers to kids and youth groups in different cities of Kosovo. The team will partner with those in country to facilitate a songwriting workshop, aimed at developing children’s songs for worship and children’s meetings. The goal is to write original worship songs in Albanian that can be used with children. If time allows, the team also hopes to help participants create some more songs to be used in the church, building on last year’s successful workshop in the area.
About The Kids Club
The kids clubs have a
worship time when they usually play songs and dance with actions to them. Most
of the kids who attend the clubs come from Muslim background, and the ministry
openly shares about Jesus every week.
The dream of the workshop is to create new songs to use in the clubs, but also to give them to other churches/NGOs to use. The ministry also wants to create videos for some of the songs in case there isn’t a dancer to lead the kids through the songs and dances.
About The Church in Kosovo
The Church is Kosovo is quite small and very young (both in the age of the Church and the age of its members). A few evangelical churches existed in the 90s, but the church did not really start growing in Kosovo until during and after the war in 1999. Immediately after the war, many organizations and workers came but very few of these original workers and organizations are still here. Praise God though that today there are a number (about 40) established churches throughout the country and most of them have local pastors. It is believed that there are around 2,000 evangelical believers in Kosovo.
Pray that all flights go smoothly and for peace and
health as the team travels
For team unity and good communication
For the revelation of the Holy Spirit—through what
is taught, received, and experienced
For new songs! Isaiah 42:10, “Sing to the Lord
a new song, His praise from the ends of the earth, you who go down to the sea,
and all that is in it, you islands, and all
who live in them.”
For wisdom on how to provide strong Biblical
teaching in songs that relate to kids
For our workshop leaders as they work together to
facilitate the workshops
That songwriting participants would leave equipped
to keep writing songs
For the team to be an
encouragement to the hosts
For more songs to be created to be sung in the
Church in Kosovo. May God work mightily among these limited number of believers
The landing, the long lay-over, and the pending departure; transition has become our new normal.
Greetings to all from Fayetteville, Georgia. We have finally landed back in the US of A and for that we are extremely thankful. A huge thank-you to Duane P. for helping to make our return trips cheaper and less stressful. As I anticipated in the last update, our final days in Norway were very busy and emotionally draining.
Our last day in the Norwegian office was Sep 7, the next day was our farewell party, and the next week we started packing out of our apartment. The following weekend, we traveled to Ireland for meetings with our new team. We also used that flight to transport approximately 700 pounds of extra luggage which is being stored for us at the Ireland office. Trying to decide what to send to Ireland and what to keep with us for the US was a major challenge because we knew we would have about 3 months and two different seasons in the U.S., but we could only check 2 bags each. After Ireland, we returned to Norway to finish cleaning the apartment and getting rid of the stuff we weren’t able to sell.
On Sep 23, we boarded our final flight from Norway and headed to Belgium for Jo’s People Care II course. This course was part of her preparation for one of her roles in Ireland, People Care. We stayed at the OM base near Brussels and while Jo was in class, I (Dave) explored the city. On Sep 27, I departed Brussels for Malaysia where I attended the second week of the Senior Leaders’ course. This was part of my preparation for joining the leadership team in Ireland. While I was in Malaysia, Jo travelled back to the US. With much appreciated help from Tia S., our son-in-law’s mom, she moved into our temporary home, picked up our loaner van, and started adjusting to the land of bigger and faster. I was finally able to join her on Oct 10 after being awake for 2 consecutive days and travelling through 12 time zones in one day.
Our first order of business was completing the application for the Irish visas. This required finger printing, FBI background checks, remembering every address we have ever lived at, and completing 3 versions of the application because the Irish government is still in the process of revising their procedures. Our applications were finally submitted on Nov 5 and our anticipated approval date is Dec 17-31. More on how this will affect our travel plans later…
Even though we have physically landed and are semi-permanent for the next several weeks, we still feel like we’re in “lay-over” mode, wandering around an airport awaiting our next departure. There are several factors contributing to these feelings and I’ll try to convey them:
1. Saying good-bye with your mouth is easy, saying good-bye with your heart can be very difficult. Even though it wasn’t our own culture, we felt at home in Norway and we had become accustomed to their way of life. We also left behind some dear friends, with no idea if we’ll ever have the opportunity to see them again (at least in this lifetime).
2. Not having a clear purpose leads to a sense of wandering. I currently have no full-time responsibilities involving OM because I had a clear hand-over to my Norwegian successor. I will have a few meetings with some US leaders regarding partnerships in Ireland, but those haven’t happened yet. Jo, however, had an unclear hand-over. This is because her replacement didn’t arrive on the team until shortly before we departed and they didn’t have much time for overlap. Additionally, because of Jo’s continuing role as European Area Personnel Officer, she is assisting Norway (and other European offices) when they have questions. This means she still gets emails from the Norwegian team which makes it more difficult to completely unplug. Additionally, we are still several months from fully engaging with our Irish roles so this all leads to a sense of “what do I do today…?”
3. We know we are temporary. Therefore, we’re not buying large quantities of pantry items or warm weather clothes or anything else. In fact, we even joke about buying green bananas.
4. Engaging with a new church and developing new relationships is also challenging because we know we might only see the people a few times and then we’re off again.
All of this leads to a sense of long lay-over.
Two very positive things during this time: we have a nice home that is sponsored by a local church to live in while we’re in the US and we have a low-cost vehicle to drive. These are wonderful blessings.
Our anticipated arrival date in Ireland is Jan 27. That is when we will join the next group of new team members in their on-boarding training. As I mentioned above, our visas might not be approved until mid to late December which means we won’t be able to purchase tickets very far in advance. Additionally, because of Jo’s role, she must attend the bi-annual intake conference for new OMers in Germany Jan 14-26.
In the meantime, we are reconnecting with our immediate family, our local supporters, and recharging as much as possible. I am taking advantage of a local walking track and trying to get in a few miles each day.
Jo is still engaged with her role as European Personnel Officer. This means she continues to work several days a week and she just returned from Romania for meetings with the other European leaders.
That brings you up to date on our situation.
Connecting the dots from Norway to Ireland
In the spring of 2018, I invited a pastor from our Norwegian church to visit Ireland with me to see if the work there was something the church would want to be involved in. Three days before we left Norway, Jo and I had a final meeting with him and the senior pastor from our church and they were very interested in following up on that visit. After many emails between the team in Ireland and the church, the church has decided to send a vision team to Ireland in the spring. Hopefully, this will lead to many teams of Norwegians coming to Ireland to join the work. This will be especially significant for us because it will be two groups of people that we care about working together. It is also a validation for me that even though I often felt that my efforts in Norway were not producing the results I wanted to see, Father was indeed working behind the scenes.
To all in the Atlanta area, we are planning a meet-and-greet at Southside church in Peachtree City, 777 Robinson Rd, Peachtree City, GA 30269, Monday, December 10, from 6:00-9:00 pm. We will provide coffee and cake. We will have a time of open fellowship and then some Q & A. We would love to see everyone who can join us.
If you are unable to join us on December 10, please let us know if you are able to meet us at another time. We would love to tell you the stories of Norway and share what we know about Ireland.
1. Visa process: that the visas would be approved in a timely manner so we can purchase our tickets and plan our travel.
2. Ministry partners: that we would have enough partners to support us prayerfully, as well as financially for our season in Ireland. A few people have dropped off of our financial support team for various reasons, so if you know of anyone who might like to join our team, we would appreciate any recommendations you have for us.
3. Using this time wisely: that we would be refreshed and prepared for Ireland when we depart the US.
Dave (423) 381-5161 firstname.lastname@example.org
Jo (423) 381-5974 email@example.com
Face Book Dave Jo McKissick
Thank you for your continued support and we hope you will continue the journey with us in Ireland.
By the time you read this we will have less than 90 days remaining in Norway. This is a bitter-sweet time for us because we are looking forward to our time in the US and then joining the Irish team, however we know that there will be pain associated with saying good-bye to our lives here.
The Things That Have Happened
The past few months have been busy for Jo. As the Personnel Officer for Norway and the European Area, she has been swamped with General Data Protection Rules (GDPR) implementation. She really does not enjoy that part of the work but she knows it must be done and her attention to detail makes her very good at it. The fun part of her job is helping people join OM and she has two people in the process now. One of these applicants will be Jo’s replacement in the office and that is a huge answer to prayer.
April was a busy month for both of us. I (Dave) visited Ireland with a pastor from our church. The pastor wanted to see how our Irish team partners with local churches and how he could encourage Norwegian young people to participate in that program.
After the business part of that trip, Jo arrived and we spent a week exploring Ireland and learning what it would be like to live there. We visited some of the team members and had a great time seeing some of the sights. Then Jo stayed for another week to attend a Refresh retreat for wives of leaders.
The following weekend was our Annual Business Meeting for OM Norway. We hosted Lawrence Tong, the International Director of OM and introduced the new OM Norway leader. It was a Friday night to Saturday lunch event and was attended by almost 30 people. We hope this has created momentum for the new leader to build on.
Dave and Lawrence Tong
Jo had her first exposure to the middle-eastern culture when she travelled to the Gulf region in May to attend a meeting of other Area Personnel Officers from around the OM world.
In May I attended the first week of a Sr Leadership Course in Belgium. There were 18 of us, all leaders with different roles from different regions of the OM world. It was a beneficial time of learning, sharing, and networking. The second part of the course is in October, more on that later.
June 1 was the end of my time as Field Leader as our new leader stepped in. She has taken all of my previous roles and I am helping her understand her new responsibilities.
Knowing that my replacement is in place and that Jo’s be in place soon gives us peace about leaving the team.
In late June we took our final driving tour of Norway. We spent 11 days on the road, drove 3500 Km (2175 miles), and enjoyed the beautiful Norwegian scenery. Because we were in a different location almost every day it wasn’t the typical “relaxing” vacation; but we listened to two books on tape and the mental distraction prevented us from thinking about work, and that was very relaxing. The best part of the trip, Jo finally got to see her favorite bird, the puffin. We also saw Lemmings, musk ox, and red fox.
On July 4th, I had my final speaking event in Norway. It was in a beautiful wooden church that was originally built in the mid-1600s. It seemed strange to me that while the USA was celebrating its 242nd birthday, I was speaking in a church that was over 375 years old.
The Things That We Think Will Happen
The next 3 months will be very busy for us and will be filled with travel. In July, I will attend an outreach in Spain and France with a Norwegian college student who has been involved in many of our youth events in years past. Then I will be in Germany with our annual TeenStreet conference. In August, Jo will travel to Netherlands for the GO Conference with the new Norwegians who are joining OM.
In September we will both travel back to Ireland for their team retreat. This will allow us to meet the rest of the team and to begin building relationships with our future team mates. We will also use this trip as an opportunity to transfer some of our extra clothes and household goods to Ireland. After that Jo will attend a People Care II course in Belgium for her People Care role and I will attend the second week of the Sr Leadership Course in Malayasia.
In October we will arrive in the Atlanta area and await approval of our Ireland visas. During our time in the US we will live in a mission-house provided by a local church. Jo will continue to help the office staff back in Norway as well as continue her work as the European Personnel Officer. I plan to start engaging with my new roles for the Irish team so that I will be up-to-speed when we arrive.
In November, Jo will return to Germany for European meetings, then in January we will move to Ireland, if our visas are appoved.
The Things We’re Not Sure About
Moving is stressful. Moving internationally is more stressful. Moving internationally when neither of the countries is your home country is very stressful.
In the next few weeks we will start applying for our Irish visas. The process usually takes 4 months to complete and appears very straight forward. But there is always the chance it could be complicated.
We are currently in the process of renewing our Norwegian visa so that we can stay until September and hopefully this will also be approved. This adds another level of uncertainty.
September will be a challenging month for us. We have set September 7 as our final day with the OM Norway team. We will use the remainder of September to sell our furniture, pack our stuff and handle all the other details for leaving Norway: selling the car, settling the utility accounts, closing the bank account, and other details we haven’t thought of yet…
The last piece of this puzzle is our final travel from Norway to the US. Because Jo and I both have training courses in different countries with overlapping dates, we will probably have different travel dates and routes to the US.
The Things We Know
God is sovereign and He has a plan! The lesson we have learned the most during our time here is that God is faithful, He is not surprised, and He will not fail us.
We are doing our best to finish well; we are making the best plans we can and we are trying to be prepared for all possibilities. However, we know that our plans may or may not happen and when things go sideways, we will do our best to remain faithful.
Specific Prayer Requests
Wisdom for all the details of leaving Norway Bank, utilities, car, apartment… Transporting our “stuff” to Ireland We can take 9 extra bags each but the logistics of this could be problematic. Peace while saying good-bye to our Norwegian friends Ensuring a good hand-over of our roles to our replacements Visa approval for Norway and Ireland Vehicle to use while in the US (Oct-Jan)
Thank you for reading, thank you for your support, and thank you for your encouragement during our time in Norway.
Dave and Jo
Looking forward, looking back, but always looking up!
For the past 3 years we have always known this day would come and as I look at the calendar (St. Patrick’s Day) it is appropriate that this newsletter is written today. Cutting to the chase…we have accepted invitations to join the team of OM Ireland.
Our tentative plans are to depart Norway sometime this fall, spend some months in the US, and then arrive in Ireland in January. Jo’s role is still to be determined, but it will probably be similar to what she is currently doing: personnel, member care, short-term missions. My role will be director of partnerships which oversees three separate teams: mobilization, church relations, and financial development.
There are many details to be considered and plans to be made, but the primary driving factor will be the visa for Ireland (Ireland is currently re-writing their policies). Once we know the type of visa we will need and the length of time it takes to apply for it, we will start making a time-line for our departure from Norway. We should know this within a few more weeks.
Why Ireland? The visa situation in Norway limits our length of stay to 4 years, therefore we must leave. We both feel we would like to stay in the European area for a few more years and we know that our best chance of thriving is to be in an English-speaking environment. After evaluating all the options and talking with the Irish leadership, we feel this is the direction we should go.
We are both excited about this upcoming season, but we are also aware of the difficulty we will have saying “good-bye” to the dear people here and to this land we have come to think of as home.
Even though we are making plans for our departure, we are still engaged in the work here. Here are some upcoming events:
April 3-6 I have the pleasure of taking a pastor from our personal church to Ireland. He wants to see the ministry opportunities there and explore the possibility of sending Norwegians to them. Here are two links describing some of those ministries in Ireland.
April 6-15 Jo will also come to Ireland and we will “look around” to see what it will be like for us to actually live there.
April 16-19, Jo will attend a REFRESH conference for wives of leaders at the OM Ireland base.
April 20-22 we will host our Annual General Meeting. This is a weekend event planned to re-connect with the ex-OMers in Norway and to encourage them to re-engage with the staff. The OM International Leader, Lawrence Tong will be the main speaker and we are hoping to see a renewed energy for the work of OM among the Norwegians.
I will attend part one of the Senior Leadership Course in Brussels, Belgium.
Jo will attend the International Personnel Team meeting.
I will preach again at the church where I preached in January. This will be the third time I have been invited back which is a testimony of how God has opened doors.
Our new leader joins the team.
I will participate in Transform Outreach to France with one of the young Norwegians who has “graduated” from the TeenStreet program. I hope this will pave the way for others to follow his lead in the future.
Jo will work with a short-term team coming to Norway to serve at a denominational camp.
We had a lovely visit with our youngest daughter, Taylor. We took her by ferry to Denmark for a few days where we visited the Aalborg zoo and the most northern point of continental Europe, Skagen.
Team Christmas party
The traditional Christmas gathering in Norway is called a Julebord (Christmas table). This year we had 25 people associated with the team (staff, board members, volunteers) together for a time of saying “thank-you” to all who gave their time towards the ministry of OM Norway.
Jo to the GO
We have mentioned this event before, but the GO (Global Orientation) Conference is the bi-annual intake of people who are joining OM. Even though Norway did not have anyone joining, Jo attended because she also serves as the Area Personnel Officer (for all the European offices).
I preached at a local (3 hours away) church.
We had our second annual TeenStreet Connection weekend. This is where we invite teens who have attended the TeenStreet conference in Germany and teens who are considering attending in the future to a mini-TeenStreet. It is a Fri-Sun event hosted at a local church. Last year, 23 teens attended and this year we had 35. The goal of this weekend is to keep the teens connected and to mobilize new teens into the TeenStreet conference. You can see a snapshot of how it went at this link (of course, the titles are all in Norwegian): https://vimeo.com/259647880
The new leader of OM Norway was selected, but because of her current job, she won’t start until June 1. I have started briefing her on the role and am preparing to hand over the leadership in a few more weeks. On one hand, this is a great relief because there are many leadership associated tasks that I really do not enjoy. On the other hand, I have enjoyed the opportunity to lead.
Each year OM hosts the International Leader’s Meeting where all OM leaders gather for corporate meetings. This year it was held in Johannesburg, South Africa. I attended to represent OM Norway. Seeing OM leaders from over 100 nations was a wonderful first-hand reminder of how global OM ministries are.
I tend to be an evaluative person. Now that our departure from Norway has been determined, I have been reflecting on the question “have we accomplished what we came here to do?” Before we arrived in Norway we had many expectations; the roles we would fill, the tasks we would do, the ministry we would accomplish. We planned to learn the language, to be part of society, to be integrated into the local neighborhood. Some of these things we did in fact accomplish and some we did not! However, we cannot use a list of activities to determine if we have succeeded or not.
Whether we communicated it or not, our primary task was to be faithful. While it was not always easy, I believe we have in fact been faithful. We have gone where we believe we were led, we have done what we believe we were led to do, and now we will again be faithful as we prepare to go where we believe we are being led next. I believe this is the question for us all. Regardless of our situation or location, are we being faithful? The truth is that God doesn’t NEED us to do anything. He only ASKS us to join him in what He is already doing.
We also recognize your faithfulness. Without your faithful prayer and financial support we could not have remained here. Your faithfulness allowed us to be faithful and we are grateful for your partnership with us.
Current office situations: there are issues regarding our current team that require wisdom
Leadership change over: for a smooth and efficient transfer to the new leader
Faithfulness: that we would continue to be faithful each day, regardless of location or situation
For security reasons the location of this trip is deliberately omitted
In November, I joined a short-term prayer opportunity in the Arabian Region. I wanted to be part of this prayer walk team for several reasons. Professionally, I wanted to see God’s work first-hand and I also wanted a local Norwegian pastor friend of mine to see it. Hopefully, he would then be inspired to share his experience with other pastors and this would mobilize more Norwegians into mission.
Personally, I wanted to experience the middle-eastern culture, to see the Muslim world first-hand, and to challenge myself to face some of my personal fears. Ever since September 11, 2001, my worldview regarding this region and its people has been heavily influenced by the media and people with polarizing views. Even within the church, I have heard that Islam’s main goal is to overtake the world and kill all “infidels.” Therefore, I felt compelled to get out of my comfort zone and see for myself. This report is in no way intended to make a political statement or to argue against the long-term goal of Islam. It is only to report to you what I experienced, to encourage you to pray for this region, and to challenge you to see for yourself.
Port of entry was a modern world class city, my first impressions were: clean, safe, professional, and status-conscious! The airport reminded me of a mix between Las Vegas and New York City with very bright lights, and lots of glitz and glamour. I also noticed a very “status” conscious culture. At the passport control area, there was a lady telling everyone which line to enter and when to approach the window. When the officer at the window motioned for me to approach, I glanced back at the first lady to verify it was OK for me to proceed. When I got to the window, the officer scolded me for looking back at the first lady. She said “why did you look at her? I am the one in charge!” That exchange set the tone for much of my observations in this country.
The people (generally) appear to be very status conscious. They only do very high-level work and they hire ex-pats to do all their other jobs. They rarely made eye contact with us and when they did, it was mostly a look of indifference. One thing that surprised me was the interaction I saw between the men and their wives and children. Fathers appeared to be very involved with their children and I saw many couples holding hands or walking arm-in-arm. I didn’t expect to see that.
Something else that surprised me was the presence of an evangelical population. We visited a very large gathering of several hundred people. There were no locals present (that would be illegal), but the ex-pat community was definitely being reached by this church.
I was also surprised by the secret police, literally! One morning I was out early with my camera looking for a place to buy a cup of coffee. While I was walking, I took some photos of the people/buildings not thinking anything about my behavior or movements. As I was standing at a street corner trying to locate a coffee shop, a white Toyota Land Cruiser (the vehicle of choice) pulled up beside me. A local man got out from the opposite side and walked towards me with his hand out in greeting.
I thought, “Wow, this is different, finally someone wants to talk to me.” The man introduced himself as Mohammad, showed me his identification and said, “I am secret police!” Can you imagine the thoughts that were going through my mind now?!
He asked me if I had taken pictures of the mosque that was across the street and I had to quickly recall whether I had or not. I said “no” and showed him the images on my camera. He was satisfied and started to leave. But, I wanted to engage with him somehow so I asked him why that would be a problem and what I could take pictures of. He explained that the mosque was under construction and that would give a bad image of the mosque. I didn’t understand his reason, but didn’t want to press the issue. As he was leaving I asked him one more question, “Do you know where I can get a cup of coffee this early?” He smiled and pointed me to a local coffee shop. Nothing like the secret police to get your day started off right.
We visited several cities in the first country, met with some Kingdom workers, and learned much about the work that is going in in that region. The best visit we had was to a Christian hospital that was started by a Christian husband and wife doctor team back in the 1960s. This couple loved the Arabs and made such an overwhelming impression that the royal family donated the property needed to build a fully functional hospital to serve that area. The King also decreed that this hospital would be free to operate under Christian principles. The doctor and his family are still local legends in that area.
After several days we travelled to 2nd country, where we visited the capital and some inland cities. The differences between the two were immediately obvious. By crossing a boundary in the sand, we had literally entered a different world. The latter are so friendly! They were making eye contact, smiling at us, and even waving to us from inside their cars.
There were two different times that we were near families with small children and the fathers handed their babies to our team members to hold. We couldn’t believe how willing these people were to engage with us.
There were also two different times when I was sitting in the local market place and men actually sat near me and started to talk with me.
In both countries, we had opportunities to visit mosques. These buildings were beautiful examples of architecture with amazing chandeliers, paintings, and stained glass. Here is what happened during one of our visits.
One of the mosques had an Islamic Information room which they invited everyone to visit. We had been briefed before the visit that this room is where the “conversion” begins. So, I had to go!
It was a small room and there was a man serving tea and dates (the standard local snack). They “invited” me to sit and I immediately felt like I was at one of those places that try to sell you vacation property. The man who came to “talk” to me was only interested in a monologue, he didn’t care to hear my thoughts at all. After several minutes, I managed to direct his attention to a display they had on the wall. The display had several inspirational sayings and one was, “know the truth and the truth will set you free.” I told the man that I was impressed by that saying and I asked him if he knew who said it. He thought for a few seconds and said, “no, I don’t.” That was my opportunity to share with him what I believed about Jesus being the way, the truth, and the life.
He didn’t care to listen to me as I had listened to him, nor was he interested in finding common ground. He acted offended that I would even say something like this. So, I excused myself and was eventually able to leave the room.
Outside of this room, there was a younger man who was obviously working there so I approached him. He was very willing to have a dialogue and we found some common ground very quickly. I even asked him, “I understand that Islam requires the death of Infidels. Because I am a Christian, does that mean I must die?” He assured me that he did not want to kill me nor did he believe that Islam taught that. We chatted for several minutes and he even allowed me to take a photo with him. We agreed that if I would be in town longer, we could have a coffee and have a very friendly conversation. Within 30 minutes and 30 meters of each other, I had two very different encounters with Islamic men. Both had a very strong commitment to Islam, but they had very different ways of interacting with me.
A final thing I learned from my interactions with the people is they apparently think all non-Muslims are Christian. I had three different conversations with people about Islam and they all pointed to non-Muslim people who were passing by (based on their clothing) and said, “I dress the way I do because I am a Muslim and that person dresses the way they do because they are a Christian.” I found it very interesting that 3 different people in different cities made the same generalization; all non-Muslims are automatically Christian.
I would encourage everyone to visit the Arab region sometime. I felt safe all the time, it wasn’t any more expensive than a big city in the US, everyone speaks English, and they cater to tourists. I would especially encourage Kingdom workers to go on a prayer journey through the region.
The verse that kept coming to mind while I was praying over the region was Romans 10:20
Then Isaiah is so bold as to say, “I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.” ESV
There are many stereotypes in both cultures, some true and some not true. My goal, was to let the people see my smile and willingness to interact with them, and hope they would realize that all Westerners are not like what they see on TV.
May the people of the Arab region find the One they are not seeking through the prayers of those who have been found.
A special thank-you to everyone who made this trip possible through prayer and financial support.
A market scene, a mosque, engaging with a local man, father giving us his babies to hold, engaging with some local youth, and a man at the market.
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…
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.
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……
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.
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 theSouthside 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.
• 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.