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.
…among the least reached…
As we walked down the steps from the airplane, we were greeted by a stiff wind and very “brisk” temperatures. One of the local men that we met later said, “welcome to the green winter,” implying that there are two winters in Norway, one is white and cold, the other is green and cold. That is exactly what we experienced the first few days; green and cold. But after the first week of rainy weather, the sun has now been shining almost every day and the temperature actually climbed to 70F last Friday. People everywhere are laying in the sun and playing in the water because the Norwegian people love to be outside, especially in nice weather. Currently, daylight hours are from 4:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m. It is somewhat strange to see light in the sky as you get ready for bed, but the dark window blinds help with that.
Our temporary home is ALMOST 600 square feet; a one bedroom apartment in the basement of our boss’ parents’ home. It is very comfortable and we are glad to have it. It is only a 20 minute bike ride to the office and we learned very quickly that our sedentary lifestyle is now over! Norwegians are very outdoorsy people and they don’t bat an eye at riding their bikes or walking. In fact, our landlord said she rides her bike to work every day of the year, unless it is icy. We’ve already had several people confirm for us that “there is no bad weather, just inappropriate clothing.”
We have been blessed to secure a very nice apartment and we will move in on July 1. It is near the office and has a great view of the local river. I am looking forward to being able to ride a bike to work on a regular basis, but Jo will probably opt for the bus or car (when we get one).
The OM Norway team now consists of 4 full-time employees, Jo and I, and Willy and KariAnne Meberg (the field leaders). They have been the field leaders for 4-5 years, but they have been working mostly alone this entire time, with part-time help from a few volunteers. The situation is like a boat that has been tied up at the dock getting repaired and re-fitted so it can sail. Now that there are more workers (us), the anchor is being raised, the sails are being hoisted, and the ship is about to leave the harbor. They are very excited to see their vision finally come to life and we are excited to be part of the next chapter of OM Norway.
Our first few days in the office were spent finalizing our job descriptions, getting trained on the personnel/data management system they use, and high-level discussions about the vision of the team. Now we are starting to get into the details of the long term strategies and making action plans. Because there are so few workers, the amount of work that each of us will be responsible for is almost overwhelming. But, we knew this when we agreed to join the team and we are excited about the roles we will fill.
We didn’t expect to start traveling right away, but we found out yesterday that we will be attending a major teen event in Germany in July. We’ll be there to start networking with workers from other OM fields as well as starting the recruiting process for possible future workers in Norway.
Jo is already working with several Norwegian applicants who are preparing to go on short term missions this summer. The process here is similar to what we used in the States, but there are many “upgrades” we plan to implement to help make it smoother and faster for her as well as the applicants.
I have started the process of contacting existing partner churches as well as initiating meetings with potential new churches. These churches are scattered throughout southern Norway. A quick check on Google maps says it will take 20 driving hours to get to all the towns involved.
Because of all the driving I will be doing, a car is a necessity, but not just any car. Since most of my driving will be in un-populated areas, it must be dependable and because of the hours involved, it must also be comfortable and above all, it must be affordable. There is a local mechanic who used to work with OM and he is helping me find the right one. We tested one last week, but it just didn’t fit the bill so we are still shopping.
The “I don’t know” syndrome
Overall we are comfortable here. It is a safe and secure environment. But, there is a low-grade annoyance that we feel constantly. That is the “I don’t know” syndrome (I just made that name up). This refers to the many things we don’t know; we don’t know what the street signs mean, we don’t know how to use the washing machine (but we’re learning), we don’t know where the government offices are that we need, we don’t know where the banks are, we don’t know where we can park in town, we don’t know where the bus goes, we don’t know… Being a type-A, control person, this REALLY bothers me and makes me feel isolated and hesitant. It isn’t debilitating, but more like a mosquito that is constantly buzzing in your ear. Language classes will greatly help us defeat those mosquitos but the next classes don’t start until mid-August.
One example of how not knowing could be a problem: we were out driving (exploring in a borrowed car) the countryside this weekend and I saw a sign that I couldn’t translate. It seemed to be some kind of “alert” sign so I slowed down, but I didn’t see anything abnormal. When Jo started yelling “STOP,” I realized that the road had suddenly narrowed to one lane and a car was coming towards us. I guess that is what the sign meant. Good thing we were going slowly.
Thank you to all who have contacted us and asked how we are doing. Those touches from home have helped outweigh the feelings of isolation and we really do appreciate them.
Here is our new contact info:
Phone: PLEASE remember that we are 6 hours ahead of the east coast!
The exit code for the US is 011, the country code for Norway is 47. So you will start with 011 47, then:
We use Viber and Whats App for free calls and texting. We are both on Face Time, Facebook, and Skype.
Here are some photos of our new surroundings……
Jo and I must give grace to each other as well as to ourselves. This is a difficult transition for both of us and we need to treat each other gently.
This is a must!
Remembering the “Why”
When life here gets stressful or discouraging, we must remember why we volunteered to come. We are here because there are people around the world who will never have the opportunity to hear the saving gospel of Jesus Christ unless someone goes and tells them. Our role is to share this with the Norwegian people and then help them to go and tell others around the globe.
Revelation 7:9 After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.