The Gravity of Gratitude–food for thought from Dave and Jo

The Gravity of Gratitude a devotional by John Piper

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful . . . (2 Timothy 3:1–2)

Notice how ingratitude goes with pride, abuse, and insubordination.

In another place Paul says, “Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking . . . but instead let there be thanksgiving” (Ephesians 5:4). So, it seems that gratitude is the opposite of ugliness and violence.

The reason this is so is that the feeling of gratitude is a humble feeling, not a proud one. It is other-exalting, not self-exalting. And it is glad-hearted, not angry or bitter.

The key to unlocking a heart of gratitude and overcoming bitterness and ugliness and disrespect and violence is a strong belief in God, the Creator and Sustainer and Provider and Hope-giver. If we do not believe we are deeply indebted to God for all we have or hope to have, then the very spring of gratitude has gone dry.

So, I conclude that the rise of violence and sacrilege and ugliness and insubordination in the last times is a God-issue. The basic issue is a failure to feel gratitude at the upper levels of our dependence.

When the high spring of gratitude to God fails at the top of the mountain, soon all the pools of thankfulness begin to dry up further down the mountain. And when gratitude goes, the sovereignty of the self condones more and more corruption for its pleasure.

Pray for a great awakening of humble gratitude.

Finally!!!

The days are getting much shorter and the temperatures are dropping. Fresh snow has been falling in the higher mountains and it’s time to wear sweaters and heavier coats. The change of seasons here is very enjoyable and in one way it helps to track the passage of time. It seems like just a few days ago we were enjoying our first Norwegian summer and now it’s time for our second winter. As we rapidly approach the half-way point of our initial commitment in Norway, I believe an appropriate title for this edition is “Finally…!!!” First I’ll wrap up the past few months and then look at the ones to come…

July, August, and September have been a blur. We started our second year much the same way we did the first, attending week-long camps for 2 different denominations, then travelling with a bus load of teens and coaches to Germany for OM Europe’s Teen Street conference. We were only able to return home between these events to do laundry, re-pack and hit the road again. In August, Jo travelled to the Netherlands to accompany 3 Norwegians as they officially joined OM and set off for their adventure onboard our ship, Logos Hope. In September, she traveled to Hungary where she met with other Short Term Coordinators. The purpose is to learn from them as they share their experiences with short-term missions. (spoiler alert: this will be very important for her next summer).

In November, I travel to Montenegro for OM’s European Leaders Meeting. This is where all the field/ministry leaders from the European offices gather to discuss current business as well as ministry opportunities in the region. I will be filling in for our leaders who are anticipating the birth of a baby at that time. I have also had several speaking opportunities at churches and am very hopeful of future partnerships with them.

Another news worthy item, Jo and I have both taken on additional roles in the office. In addition to Personnel Officer and Member Care, Jo is now the Training Officer. This means she will be responsible for ensuring the creation and implementation of all training that OM Norway offers (spoiler alert; this will also be important very soon).

In addition to my primary role as Director of Church Relations, I have taken on the new role of Ministry Development. This gives me the opportunity and responsibility to envision and implement the new ministries that OM Norway will be engaged in, as well as initiate the growth of current ministries. (another spoiler alert, keep reading.)

It appears that the efforts of OM Norway are about to bear the fruit we have been praying for, and some of these things might actually start to happen soon; well, in 2017 anyway.

Here is what I mean…

Finally, we have churches who want to participate in short-term mission (STM) teams outside of Norway.
Our ultimate goal is still raising up and sending Norwegians out as long-term missionaries. But, unfortunately, that is not something the average Norwegian Christian sees as a need or possibility. Therefore, we must modify our strategy and help them take the initial steps of short-term missions (STM) in order to expose them to the needs and the possibilities around the globe. Hopefully, this will ignite a passion in them that will fuel a life-long engagement in missions. At this time, we have 4 churches who are planning to participate in STM in 2017. This is a major breakthrough for our team which will require much work, but the benefit to the local churches will be enormous.

Finally, we have churches who want to bring short-term mission teams into Norway.
Another way of helping churches see the opportunity for long-term engagement in missions is for them to host a STM team. That means we (OM Norway) will recruit a team of people from our other OM offices and then bring that team to Norway where they will assist a church in their effort to minister to their local community. This is another major breakthrough for us and will also require much effort next summer.

Finally, we have a plan for long-term ministry in Norway.
The first two items are enough to make us jump for joy, but this is something we hope will put OM Norway “on the map!” Here is how it started. This summer I was visiting a very small church and I was asking God “what can OM offer this church?” I realized that every church needs 2 things; money and people. We (OM) don’t have any money, but we do have (we can recruit) people. We can offer the churches people who will serve in the church. What church would say “no” to that?!?!
Our office in Ireland has been very successful at providing “interns” for their partner-churches for about 8 years. We hope to copy their program and do the same for churches in Norway.
The plan is to recruit 18-25 year olds from other countries through our OM network. They will cover all of their own expenses and commit to serve here for one year. They will serve under the leadership of the local church in the role that the church needs the most. Most likely, they will be youth workers or worship leaders, but each church will tell us exactly what they need and we will try to find people with those skills. This is a great opportunity for the church to get a “free” worker for a year, and also a great opportunity for the intern to get experience in international ministry.
We hope to start this ministry with 3 churches next fall and then expand as we are able. This ministry will eventually require several more workers in our office to oversee it which is another goal to achieve.

This is exactly the kind of news we have been hoping to report for a long time. We feel honored to be part of these ground-breaking events and we look forward to even more in the future. May God receive all the glory for this.

Oh, and one more…

Finally, we have a plan for returning to the US, at least temporarily. In March 2017, we will return for a 30-day furlough. This will be a time where we “unplug” and “recharge.” We hope to spend this time quietly seeking God’s guidance for what we are to do next, extend in Norway, return to the US, or is there something else? When we come back in April ’17 we will have just over a year left in our initial commitment and we feel we should be prepared to inform our leadership of our intentions at that time.

Prayer List
Praise:
I have enrolled in a different language class and enjoy it much more than the first one.
Jo is getting better at driving and will hopefully pass her test in a few more weeks.
Lindsay/Caleb and Taylor will visit us in December.
Many ministry events will happen in 2017.

Requests:
The ministry events mentioned earlier in this letter will require massive amounts of planning, preparation, coordination, and travel. Currently we do not have the resources needed to make it all happen.

A vehicle for our furlough. A friend has blessed us with a cabin in North Georgia (half way between Lindsay and Taylor) for our time in the states. If anyone has a car we can use during that time (March 27-April 30) that would be wonderful.

Thank you for reading and following our lives in Norway and please continue to pray for us and the ministry of OM. We realize that your support and prayers make it possible for us to serve in this capacity and we are still very convinced that we are where we are supposed to be and doing what we are supposed to be doing.

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May you be blessed…
Dave and Jo

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.