The Final 90 Days…

Dave and Jo’s final countdown has begun…

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

Easter walk

On Easter Sunday a friend at church asked us if we wanted to go for a walk. We don’t have family here, but we do have some very dear friends.

A Norwegian hobby

Pretty yellow house

Enjoying the view

Typical southern Norwegian view

Forward, Back, but always Up

Looking forward, looking back, but always looking up!

Forward
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

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.

https://vimeo.com/78197384

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b1cnX3uTpT8

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.

May

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.

June

Our new leader joins the team.

July

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.

BACK

December-January:

Taylor
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.

February

TSC

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

New Leader

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.

ILM

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.

Up

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.

Prayer requests:

  • 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
  • Please refer to the list of up-coming events

Dave’s Recent Trip

Arabian Region Prayer Journey Review

Visited 2 countries, 8 cities

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.

Dave

Photos:

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.

 

  

 

Recharged, Refocused and Reengaged

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

Recharged

Time in the mountains

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

Time with our girls

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

Time for listening

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

Time with others

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

 

Refocused 

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

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

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

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

 

Re-engaged

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

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

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

 

In the mean time

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

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

 

Please pray for:

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

 

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

…among the least reached…

Less than 72 hours….

Hello to all

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings to each of you
Dave and Jo