One Year Later…

Life in the fast lane…
June 1 marked our one-year anniversary and just when we thought we had finally gotten the hang of living here, bam!

Before we left the US we established our residency in Tennessee, including getting TN drivers’ licenses. We thought that would provide us with current licenses until we returned in 2018. We also thought our US licenses would be good here in Norway. A few months ago we discovered that we would need to “exchange” our US licenses for Norwegian licenses. That didn’t sound too difficult so we went to the driving center to start the process.

That is when the unfortunate truth started to reveal itself. In order to “exchange” our license we had to take the Norwegian driver’s test (only the driving part, not the theory test too; woot!). But, before we could schedule the test, we needed eye tests because we wear glasses. Then, we found out that you can’t take the test in your own car, you must “rent” a car from a driving school. But, before the driving school will let you “rent” the car, you must take a lesson from them. I guess in some way this makes sense, but we thought it was scam. Oh, and to add to the scenario, just about every Norwegian takes the month of July as vacation so many businesses are closed or short staffed. This obviously includes the driver school and the testing facility which meant we only had two test dates to choose from. Still, we thought this wouldn’t be a big deal, we have been driving for many years, how tough could it be?

My first lesson ended with “if this was the test, you would not have passed!” This was on Friday morning and my test was scheduled for Monday afternoon. One more piece of the story, if you fail the test you must wait 4 weeks to take it again, which meant my US license would expire here and I wouldn’t be able to drive. So I had to scramble to get more lessons in before the test, which I did and I was able to pass.
However, Jo was not so fortunate. She crammed in 4 lessons, but it wasn’t enough. In her defense, she hasn’t done much driving here and her “go slow and safe” mode is just not compatible with the Norwegian driving philosophy. If the speed limit is 60, they want you going 60 immediately, not 58 and not 62! And their yield/right-of-way mindset is very different from the US. So, starting in the fall, she will be required to take additional driving lessons before she can get her license. In her words, “this has been the most stressful week yet in Norway!”

Life in the office
Jo has been busy working with the applications for OM’s teen discipleship summer camp in Germany. This year we are taking 22 teens and 14 adults. While this is not a large group, it is almost double what we took last year and that is a significant increase. She has also been working with two young people who are preparing to join our ship ministry in August for one year. Additionally, she is trying to schedule debriefs with several Norwegians as they transition from their field of service to life back in Norway.
She was able to travel to South Africa in May to provide member care for our Norwegians who are serving on our ship. This was a treat for her because they were the same people she took care of when they joined OM last year.

I was invited to speak at two churches recently which I really enjoyed. Especially because one of the churches was English speaking which meant I had twice as much time as usual. When they say “you can have 20-30 minutes” it is really only 10-15 when it needs to be translated.

One of the first work trips we took last year was to a denominational camp meeting. We didn’t know anyone, we just “showed up” and hoped for the best. We actually had many good conversations that week and it gave me a starting point for building relationships.

This year we will go to that same meeting and an additional one. But now I have had a year of communicating with many of the pastors, so I hope to have conversations that actually lead to some mission engagement instead of just “thinking about it.”

Life of the party…
One of our biggest concerns when we moved here was whether or not we would be able to make friends. I am very happy to report that this was not a problem. During our first year we have been very blessed by many people who have reached out to us in various ways. As we reflected on our first year we wanted to show them our appreciation for their friendship so we invited them over for a very Norwegian time of “coffee and cake.” It was a fun for us to watch our new friends get to know each other.

Life in reality…
It is hard to believe we have lived in Norway for one year already. That means that in 6 more months we will be at the mid-point of our 3 year commitment. Some days I (speaking for myself) want to stay here forever and other days I want to get on the plane tomorrow.

These mixed feelings come from the unmet expectations we have experienced. We arrived here thinking that Norwegians would be “lining up” to join OM. All we had to do was open the doors and things would happen. But in truth, that is not happening. Even though we (Jo) have processed several applications, it is only a trickle. And, as I meet with pastors it becomes more and more evident that the average local Norwegian church is not currently engaged in missions.

This means that the “fruit” we hoped to pick is still several seasons away. There is much plowing, planting, and nurturing to do before we will see a great harvest. Part of me looks forward to the challenge of a 5-10 year project here in Norway while part of me wonders if I am willing to commit to it. I place all of this on the altar of God’s plan and trust His leading in our lives.

Life in prayer…
1. Office vision: the current state of the Norwegian church reveals many possible opportunities for OM to engage in, but, what and how are questions that we don’t have the precise answer to yet. Please pray for our clarity of vision and wisdom in the steps we take.

2. Support: during our first year we have lost several financial partners. While this is normal in the mission world, it will require us to raise more support for our remaining time in Norway. Please pray that we will be able to do so.

3. Travel: we will be travelling to different meetings and conferences until early September. Please pray for good conversations, relationship building, and focus during this time.

4. Revival in Norway: recently a pastor told me “the fire I feel inside does not match the reality I see outside.” He meant that he didn’t see much desire in the local people to be engaged with Christ. They were “ok” calling themselves Christians but they didn’t want to be associated with Christ. Please pray for a revival within the Norwegian churches.

Atheism Surpasses Religiosity in Norway

atheistfishFor the first time ever, the number of Norwegians that says they do not believe in God has surpassed the number of those that says they do. This means atheism in Norway1 has finally reached a national record that is now well up in the double digits.

According to a new socio-cultural study, which was conducted by Ipsos MORI for Norwegian Monitor, those responding with “no” or “don’t know” when asked if they believe in God comfortably outnumbered those who said “yes”. The annual survey, involving as many as 4,000 Norwegians, revealed that outright atheists, who simply dismiss the notion of God, now enjoy a strength of 39 percent of the country’s total population as opposed to 32 percent of believers, with the remaining 23 percent saying they do not know. {Read full article…}

Our first winter in Norway, we survived…

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Figure 1 from our kitchen window

The winter

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Figure 2 Jo on skis, Willy coaching

The snow is gone, the flowers are blooming, and we now have more than 12 hours of daylight per day! Even though much of the Norwegian interior is still covered with several feet of snow our southern coastal town is enjoying the transition from winter to spring. And much to my surprise, we actually enjoyed the winter season.

Figure 3 Taylor’s first time with Kari Anne

The efficiency with which the roads and walking paths were cleared was nothing short of amazing. Another amazing fact is that we were actually warmer in our little apartment with two small heaters than we were in our Georgia house, and the added beauty of the snow made the short days very beautiful. Dave has put away his cross-country skis and hopes to start riding the bike to work again this week.

 

 

 

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The office

In January we moved offices because the church we were renting space from was starting a remodel project and we were going to lose our space. We found an office building that is very close to the city center that is owned by a Christian business man and there are several other ministries in the building too. This new location gives us better visibility and a more “professional” look. After many days of packing up the old office, moving and then unpacking again, it was good to get settled. This move also included several trips to IKEA to purchase more office furniture. This in turn caused Dave to spend many hours putting said furniture together; he has since decided that IKEA is Swedish for “I hate this place.”

 

 

The work:

Dave continues have encouraging meetings with churches. But the down side is that Norwegians appear to make decisions very slowly. After he meets with the pastor, the usual response is “this sounds great but I need to meet with my board.” The follow-up meetings can take several weeks or longer to schedule which can be frustrating. Even though the progress is very slow, there are several reasons to be excited. In January there were 3 meetings that will provide many open doors for us in the Norwegian churches. Two of these meetings involved the respective leaders of the two main evangelical denominations in Norway and the third was with the organization that manages the youth programs for one of those denominations. All three of those meetings ended with “we want to partner with OM.” This was an amazing outcome but as mentioned earlier, the final wording to the agreements are taking longer to negotiate than expected.

We had another potential partner meeting this week. It was with Laget, the European branch of Inner-Varsity. This is an evangelical campus ministry that works in high schools and universities in Norway. Dave met with the regional leader and was asked to start meeting with their international student group. This will give Dave more opportunities for “front-line” ministry as well as the opportunity to promote OM to the students. Because Laget is on almost every high school/university campus in Norway, this will be a major partnership.

Jo keeps busy with the new applications that are coming in, helping those who have returned to Norway re-enter society, and working through the issues that our Norwegian workers face when living abroad. She will travel to South Africa in May to visit our workers who are serving on our ship, MS Logos Hope (www.gbaships.org).  This will allow her to see their environment first hand, help them work through any problems they might be having, and give her a better understanding of what they experience day to day.

 

Outside the office:

Last summer we had the privilege of meeting a very spiritually mature teenager here. In the fall he invited Dave to speak at his youth group and they have been keeping in touch ever since. In early January the young man contacted Dave and asked him to be his mentor. Dave felt greatly honored but also very challenged. They have been meeting weekly for about 8 weeks and it appears to be going great.

Also in January we met a young lady who was looking for a church. We suggested she visit the one we were attending which she did. She shared with us that she was looking for an older couple she could learn from and asked us if we would fill that role for her. We gladly accepted and have enjoyed getting to know her.

We are both in a couple’s Bible study group and Dave is in a men’s group, each of these meet twice a month. Even though the majority of the conversations are in Norwegian, we really enjoy both of these gatherings.

 

The language:

Norwegian classes are still the low point of our week. We each come home feeling dejected and overwhelmed. Both of our instructors are very patient but the speed at which they cover the material is too fast for us to get it the first (or even third) time. But, when we look back at what we knew when we started and what we know now, there has been vast improvement. When we started, listening to a Norwegian talk was like listening to a constant stream of “noise.” Now we can identify individual words (we still don’t understand them) and we are able to read most of the signs and more of the newspaper. We are even forcing ourselves to speak Norwegian to each other at home which usually leads to much laughter. These are small victories but we will take what we can get.

 

The life:

We have gotten to the place where we can both say that we are “comfortable” living here. That does not mean it is easy, but now we mostly know what to expect. This in itself is a major milestone in our cross-cultural adjustment and it gives us a sense of stability that we haven’t had in many months.

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Seen outside our church entrance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Figure 4 winter picnic, Norwegian style

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The red, white, and blue:

Being an American overseas is not always comfortable. Here are some examples of conversations we have had…

In a meeting with a pastor: …the problem with America is too many guns. You need more gun control laws…

As I met an immigrant from Iraq:

Immigrant: …hi, my name is Muhammad, I’m from Iraq.

Dave: Hi, my name is Dave, I’m from USA.

Immigrant: USA? You invaded my country….

Going fishing with a new Polish friend: …This refugee problem all over Europe is America’s fault! Under Saddam Hussein and Kaddafi there were no refugees. If you had left things alone everything would be fine…

Almost weekly we get this: … how about that Trump?!!!?

I am amazed at how well informed the average European is on US politics. They seem to know more about the primary process than I do, and they are very concerned about who the next president will be.

A very encouraging conversation went like this:

Friend: I was telling my daughter just today that America is Norway’s friend. We can sleep easier knowing that America prevents Russia from invading us like they did Ukraine…

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Jo enjoying her new friends

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They start skiing very young here

These are some of the things we experience as we live in Norway. Thank you for reading and caring.

Misconceptions about missionaries…

Dear Family and Friends

Recently Jo came across this article that I found to be very interesting as well as very true. Perhaps it will give you more insight into our lives.

Thanks for reading and caring
Dave

In the last two weeks, I’ve posted “Misperceptions Laity Have about Pastors” and “Misperceptions Pastors Have about Laity.” A missionary friend encouraged me to write a post about misperceptions about missionaries, so I did some research among missionaries… by Chuck Lawless

1. “We are saints.” They’re not, they told me. They’re regular people answering God’s call to do work across cultures. They struggle with sin. Their families have arguments. Their kids drive them crazy some days. Missionaries don’t want to be heroes (though they often appreciate the affirmation they get).

2. “We all live in a hut in Africa.” Missionaries live all over the world, many in megacities where millions of people live.

3. “When we come to America, we’re coming home.” Home for missionaries is where they live. The place they reside, and the people they’re seeking to reach, become part of them. Coming to the United States can, in fact, be stressful. I’ll always remember one missionary who called me from Walmart, completely stressed because the vast numbers of cereal options overwhelmed him.

4. “We understand U.S. culture.” This misperception relates to #3 above. Missionaries come back to churches that are often more elaborate, supermarkets that are much more “super,” and missionary homes that are much bigger than what they have where they live. Often, they don’t know the newest praise choruses or recognize the latest sermon illustrations. Reverse culture shock is real for them.

5. “Your short-term mission trip is a great blessing to us.” It can be, but not always. If your team doesn’t work with the missionary from the beginning – or if you ignore the missionary on the ground to form your own plans – you can make the missionary’s task much harder. Ask how you can help the missionaries rather than telling them what you plan to do.

6. “Our life is just a longer short-term mission trip.” One missionary put it this way: “On a short-term mission trip, you basically do ministry from sun up to sun down. You don’t negotiate with a landlord, struggle with buying groceries and cooking food, homeschool your kids, or stand in long lines to pay a $2.00 bill. Living overseas requires a lot of effort just to live.”

7. “We’re all natural language learners.” That’s not the case. Language learning is difficult, and even those who know the language well might still struggle. Some long-term missionaries never fully master their language – but they press on because they want to share the gospel with their people group. Language learners need our prayers.

8. “Evangelism is easy for us.” Not only is it hard to move a conversation to the gospel, but missionaries must also do that in a second language. Even those believers who go to the ends of the earth still wrestle with engaging somebody with the gospel.

9. “All of us took a vow of poverty.” Not so. They’re serving God, but we need to treat them as worthy of their hire. In fact, some missionaries live in places where the cost of living is quite high.

10. “We’re all living in a revival.” Many are still waiting for someone among their people group to follow Jesus. Some are themselves struggling to find daily joy. Missionary living is not always on the mountaintop.

11. “We’re never afraid.” Missionaries are faithful people, but fear can be a reality. Depending on where they serve, they may face public opposition, violence, threats, natural disasters, and strange illnesses. Some live continually ready to flee their area if necessary.

12. “We don’t need support from our home churches.” Many missionaries look forward to encouragement, support, relationships, and visits from the churches that sent them. They recognize it when churches seem to have forgotten them.

13. “Saying ‘good-bye’ gets easier over the years.” The good-byes for missionaries are numerous and seemingly continual: to family and friends the first time they leave home, and then each time they return to the field after a furlough; to friends on the field each time they return to the United States; to graduating children who go to college; to colleagues who leave the field; to aging parents, likely for the final time. It never gets easier.

14. “When we come back to the United States, we’re the same people who left.” Returning missionaries may look the same, but they’re different. Their experiences on the field change them. Temporary stuff that used to matter doesn’t matter so much any more. Big church buildings no longer impress them. Church conflicts seem foolish now. People matter.

15. “We stay on the field because we love our people group.” They do love their people group, but that’s not the primary reason they stay. They stay because God loves their people group, and they’re just the vessels through whom God gets His message to them.

16. “We can’t wait to speak energetically to your church when we return to the U.S.” They really do want to tell you what God is doing through their work, but they’re usually returning after several years of hard work with few breaks. They’re tired. They’re facing their own culture shock. Some are also not naturally gifted to speak to large crowds.

17. “We don’t have time to hear your prayer concerns.” Sure, missionaries want us praying for them . . . but they equally want to pray for us. Some of my missionary friends are the best intercessors I know.

18. “We trust God, so we’re never lonely.” They’re never alone because the Spirit lives within them, but missionaries can still be lonely. Some serve in isolated places with no other believers within days of them. They long for their families, especially when they miss weddings and funerals; in fact, they’re often as close to their own families as others who’ve said to them, “I could never do what you do because I’m so close to my family.”

19. “We don’t know it if you don’t read our newsletters.” Many missionaries work hard to send well-crafted, concise accounts of God’s workings and their prayer concerns. Because of technological resources available today, they can know how many people actually open their newsletters and read them. Don’t discourage them by ignoring their news.

20. “Our greatest conflicts come with nationals.” Actually, the greatest struggles often come with teammates. Interpersonal conflicts are typically magnified in a cross-cultural setting.

I’m sure I have my own misperceptions about missionaries, but I don’t think I’m wrong about this conclusion: they are godly people who serve faithfully around the world. Let’s learn about them, listen to them, pray for them, and walk beside them. And maybe even become one of them.

New video update now available

To all
Our newest video update is now available on our website. Please remember that we are not professional actors! 🙂

http://mckissickmiles.com//videos/

Dave

Christmas Greetings

To all of our family and friends

We tried to produce a video for this update but due to technical difficulties (mine) it did not come together as planned.  We will try again and hopefully have it ready soon.

In the meantime we want to thank all of you for your continued support and encouragement for the work we are doing here.  We wish each of you a very merry Christmas and a happy new year.

May Father bless you in ways you never imagined.

Dave and Jo

How strong is your shield of faith?

Ephesians 6:16…in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. (NASB)

The armor of God is a popular passage to teach on and it is a relatively easy concept to grasp and apply to our lives. But, like every word of scripture, it is also alive and continually teaching us things we didn’t understand before. Here are a few thoughts to consider…

The first three pieces of the armor of God (truth, righteousness, and gospel of peace) are complete and independent of us. God has established His truth, our righteousness (through Christ), and His gospel and nothing will ever change or diminish the power contained within these three pieces of armor or their effectiveness in our lives.

However, the second three items (shield of faith, helmet of salvation, Word of God) are only as powerful and effective in our lives as we allow them to be. And their ability to protect and guide us is dependent on our ability to use them effectively.

The shield of faith is the only protection we have from the attacks that will come our way. If you are like me, you probably envision this shield as large and thick, capable of protecting you from everything. But in fact, our shield of faith is only as thick and strong as we allow God to make it. Every believer must have faith because that is the starting point of our relationship with God. But the child-like faith that allows us to accept Jesus as our Savior is not at all the same faith that will sustain us when Satan attacks. Faith that allows us to continue loving and following God in the midst of Satan’s attacks is faith that has been tried and tested by trials throughout our lives.

In 1 Peter 1:6 we read that we will face trials and that they are reason to rejoice because they can produce glory for God. But quite often we wilt under the pressure of the trials and we miss the opportunity to bring glory to God and to have our shield of faith strengthened. The result is that instead of a shield that is large and solid that deflects the arrows of the enemy, we will be hiding behind a small flimsy shield with holes in it. And because Satan’s goal is to kill and destroy us, he always aims his arrows at the weakest part of our shield.

Here are two examples of how this happens. Many people have very strong faith in John 3:16. But they struggle with 2 Cor. 5:17 so Satan keeps telling them the lie that they are the same old person committing the same old sins. Or, they will have faith in 1 John 1:9, but they struggle with Ephesians 2:8-9. Satan will exploit this weakness by telling these people they must “try to be better” so that God will forgive them. These attacks on the weak areas of our shield keep us in bondage that Christ died to set us free from.

Knowing and believing in scripture is only the starting point. Paul is very clear in Romans 6:11 that we must put into action what we believe. This alone will strengthen our faith and give us a stronger shield to stand behind and this will ultimately bring glory to God!

Dear friend, may your shield be large and solid for your benefit and God’s glory.

Creation without the Creator

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In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep… (Genesis 1:1-2 NASB) But what if God had stopped there, what if we lived in a dark and formless world?

God could have left the earth formless, void, and dark. But instead He choose to create an environment that is filled with constantly changing shapes, colors, textures, and so much more. Genesis chapter 1 concludes by telling us that everything God created was not only good, but it was “very good.” He didn’t skimp, He didn’t give half measures. He created an environment for us that was very good! And, even though what we experience today has been defiled by sin and the consequences thereof, it is still quite an amazingly awesome world.

One of the blessings of living in Norway is the natural beauty that is everywhere. No matter where I look, I see either the sea, a crystal clear lake or fjord, or a mountain. For someone like me who enjoys the outdoors, this is a perfect place to call home. But even in the short time that I have lived here I find myself getting caught in two different traps. One is taking the beauty for granted, the other is enjoying the creation without acknowledging the Creator. I believe that God has revealed His glory to us through creation in order that He might receive glory from us. But the only way He receives that glory is for us to acknowledge and worship Him and to encourage others to do the same.

Whether we look at the deserts, the skies, or the jungles, there is always a natural beauty that should cause us to admire it and to praise the Creator for it. The Bible tell us in Job 36:24 “Remember that you should exalt His work, Of which men have sung… (NASB)

Dear friend, I believe that enjoying the creation without worshiping the Creator is an offense against God because it robs God of the glory He deserves. And, no matter where you are there is plenty of God’s beautiful creation around you to remind you of His awesomeness, His supremacy, and His unequalled power. Won’t you take a moment to praise God and worship Him because of who He is and what He has done?