Marcus & Amber Yoars

Echoes from the mission field of Norway

TimeOut 2015 Recap

Psalm 123:6 says, “The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.” I can’t think of a better, more succinct way to sum up our last three months of serving in the Bible school here at KRIK Høyfjellssenter. Indeed, what God has done has left us all—students, staff and leaders—in complete awe and filled with joy. Our God is truly amazing!

When the staff of TimeOut (what the fall Bible school is called) gathered a week prior to students arriving the first week of September, there was an incredible sense of unity among us. God quickly joined our hearts together like family, yet there was also an acuteness in the spirit that was beyond the norm. It didn’t take long to understand more of why that was. This year’s group of students came with an exceptional level of openness and hunger for God, and this was obvious within hours after their arrival.

Whereas it usually takes weeks to cut through walls of emotional protection, hardened hearts or straight-up skepticism, this year’s 36 students were ready for God to transform them by the first day of teaching, which was all about uncovering those things in our lives that we often sweep under the rug. And what made this group so unique was both their genuineness in supporting and loving one another, as well as their willingness to pursue God. In almost every camp or Bible school setting, you’re bound to have a few students who are forced to attend and make it known that they’d rather not be there. And yet even among those who struggled with the many hours of classroom teaching during this year’s Bible school, there were still no bad attitudes to be found.

Because of these and other factors, the staff quickly had a sense that God had raised the bar for this TimeOut compared to other years. He not only wanted to establish a foundation for these students—which is often what happens when many come from backgrounds where they’ve rarely been in God’s Word—but He also wanted to equip them so they could be sent out to transform Norway and beyond.

As in years past at TimeOut, students weren’t allowed to share what they do for a living until Week 3, which helped them get to know each other better without prejudgments and gave room for many to open up with a vulnerability they had never experienced before. Because Amber and I were full-time staff leaders this year, in addition to our responsibilities of teaching and leading worship, we were also given four students each that we would walk closely with and mentor during these 10 weeks. Our groups included everything from doctors to mechanical engineers to social workers to lumberjacks to teachers—truly a beautiful mix!

Some students accepted Jesus as savior for the first time. Others experienced the Father’s unconditional love in a way they never knew possible. Many were filled with the Holy Spirit and received their prayer language. Almost all learned to hear God’s voice and recognize His presence more in their lives. And still others were delivered from demonic influences and set free from lifelong strongholds.

Many of the leaders who have been here for years talked about how what was the ceiling for previous years had become this year’s floor. That was evident almost daily in our “morgensamlings” (morning meetings), during which one or two students would share their testimonies and we would worship and minister to each other. We could sense the Holy Spirit’s presence as students spoke honestly about their struggles and victories in life, and from this place of recognizing God’s grace and love came a deep worship—through songs, words and prayers—that often left us literally floored amid the Lord’s almost tangible presence.

One of the highlights almost every year is the Hjertefokus (“heart focus”) week, in which a team of experienced counselors comes and helps students walk through both teachings and group sessions that allow God to unveil and heal emotional wounds. There is nothing like seeing the Lord set people free, and during this week we once again witnessed radical transformation in several of the students. Some even looked physically different after experiencing God’s true freedom!

For Amber and me, the 10 weeks once again were a beautiful time of God using us—our gifts, our life experiences, our hearts for people—to the fullest. I led worship a few times each week, which was always a delight with the group so eager to experience more of God. I also taught for a couple of weeks on worship, prayer, vision/calling, and what the Bible says about sex and relationship issues (e.g., cohabitation, singleness, purity, etc.). Amber taught—which was first for me to experience—during the last week to get students better prepared for “re-entry” into the real world. And together, we led some teachings on marriage and communication.

Outside of the classroom, however, we stayed extremely busy meeting with and counseling students and staff alike. Some of these meetings left us stunned by Jesus’ faithfulness to reveal Himself and heal even the deepest of wounds. So often we knew that our job was merely to “show up,” and indeed, when we did that in faith, He did the rest.

Before we left the States last year God gave us a vision in which we saw Hemsedal as the hub for what looked like a flight map. Out of this tiny town in central Norway came many “routes,” only these routes were actually trails of fire, with each destination being ignited from the burning fires of Hemsedal. We have continued to see how this vision is coming to pass, but during this TimeOut it became even more of a reality as students were equipped and empowered to return to their hometowns as carriers of His fire. Praise God that He is raising up trail-blazing revivalists that will spread this holy fire throughout Norway!

Top 7 Things We’ve Learned in Tromsø

Here in north Norway the midnight sun is now in its full glory, and the result is a surreal experience that’s left us in awe of the power and beauty of sunlight. It’s been tough convincing the boys that it really is their bedtime even when it still looks like early afternoon outside, though that became easier this past weekend, when they saw with their own eyes how something magical happens between midnight and 2 a.m. That’s when we get an uber-early “sunrise,” if you will, that casts a golden glow over the mountains, fjords and city surrounding us. It’s one thing to see a beautiful sunrise against the majestic Norwegian backdrop; it’s another matter to experience this in the middle of “night.” Truly, everything looks different when darkness has no place.

With only two weeks left until we leave Tromsø, our family is praying that we cast a similar glow of pure light—that of Jesus—in the lives of those with whom we’ve shared this season. This truly has been a wonderful, God-appointed five months for us. When we arrived—at the peak of the “dark season” of 24-hour darkness, mind you—Norkirken Tromsø, the church where we’ve served, was facing major issues coming off a rough fall season that had left the leaders discouraged and burned out. We’d be fooling ourselves to say we changed that—only God could—but it’s been humbling to be continually put in situations where the Lord has used us to encourage, equip and empower people. (Hey, sounds a bit like our vision for coming to Norway! :p)

I wish we could share more stories of those we’ve worked with, but many of those involve people who’d rather us not publicize their accounts online. So instead, we took this chance to think through what we’ve learned in the five months we’ve lived in what many call the “Arctic capital.” Here are a few things.

1) Prayer is foundational if you hope to bear lasting fruit.

Nothing we’ve done here in Tromsø—from helping build a family ministry to counseling couples to walking with individuals through inner healing—has produced or will produce real fruit without prayer. In fact, without prayer continuing to surround it, even that fruit will likely spoil. That’s because nothing lasts without God sustaining it as we commune with Him.

Norkirken was birthed generations ago as a house of prayer, part of a movement that founded several bedehuset (houses of prayer) throughout Norway. Its very foundation is upon prayer, yet the church’s leaders admittedly lost sight of this for a season. In the relatively short time we’ve been here, it’s been incredible to watch God restore the place of prayer among this community as He re-establishes a culture of dialoguing with Him. It began with leadership returning to the place of humbly waiting upon God, and now we’re seeing people throughout the community—without anyone’s prompting but God’s—stirred and compelled to gather in prayer. YES!

 2) The Northern Lights really are that spectacular.

Until you see them in person—until your soul melts in worship as you stand there dumbfounded before a dancing heaven exposed—you just can’t fathom how stunning aurora borealis is. Just thought I should point that out. :)

3) Open-handed living is a beautiful, motivating thing.

Those who carry a spirit of generosity understand everything we have is from God, and therefore nothing we have should be held tightly. It’s about living open-handed. It would take months to recount all the ways we’ve been blessed by people’s generosity to us since our family began this journey of faith last year. But in Tromsø, God has taught us even more—through watching others—about how to live holding onto nothing but Him.

For example, before we arrived in Tromsø a family we’d never met had already committed to pay for Brayden’s education while we were here. A complete stranger at Xander’s school found out he lacked some winter gear and anonymously bought him all he needed. The couple we live with—who are some of the greatest models of open-handed living we’ve ever seen—have continuously given, given and then given more. Another family just blessed the boys with bicycles.

These are humbling examples that involve far more than “things.” They’re testimonies of people being the extension of the Father’s extravagant love for us. And as much as we’ve been on the receiving end of this, I pray we’ve learned how to mimic it even more through our own open-handed lifestyle.

4) Sven (from Frozen) lives in Tromsø.

We chased him and his family atop a mountain overlooking the city. Don’t believe us? We have pictures to prove it!

5) One size doesn’t fit all.

Amber and I have seen, studied or been part of enough churches that we know the characteristics of a vibrant community of believers. But as any missionary quickly learns, trying to force ministry models and methods that work in one culture into another is a recipe for disaster. And in our efforts to serve Norkirken, not only would that plug-and-play mindset have been detrimental to furthering their mission, but we also would’ve lost out on the beautiful journey of truly getting to know and love Norkirken’s people as just that—people, not “ministry recipients.”

One of the prime areas we discovered this has been in corporate worship. Scripture says that where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (2 Cor. 3:17). And I strongly believe that that liberty most often equates to freedom in the expression of worship. In my experience, this is where charismatic churches often thrive, as they typically promote more “risk” in stepping out of what’s familiar and comfortable to offer God the extravagant worship He’s due. However, Norkirken isn’t a charismatic church, nor should it be. Because of that, we’ve been continually forced to consider what true freedom actually looks like in a worshipping community. Raised hands do not equate to liberated hearts, yes; but to what extent is the reverse true? Can you walk in true freedom and yet only express that inwardly? My journey for that answer continues … but at Norkirken, it’s been interesting to at least wrestle with this more.

6) Feed those who are hungry first.

Not everyone wants to be fed. And even among those who do, some are hungrier or more desperate than others. Jesus didn’t plan on “feeding”—or more accurately, healing—the woman with the issue of blood or the woman with a demonized daughter, but their unrelenting pursuit of Him captured His attention and resulted in their healing.

We’ve realized more and more during our time in Tromsø that you can spin your wheels trying to win over those who are blasé about what you have to say or give; or you can ride the wind of the Spirit already moving upon those who are chasing after God for a morsel. In our last few weeks here, as we try to finish well and not leave with any regrets, it’s been crucial to follow the same directive Jesus followed: to do what you see the Father already doing and go where you see Him already moving.

And last but not least …

7) Not all Norwegians are born with skis on.

It’s shocking, but true. I’m not sure if we’re allowed to say this publicly, but we’ve actually met a handful of Norwegians who don’t ski. OK, maybe four or five. Or two. But they do exist—and we found them in Tromsø!

How We’re Meeting the REAL Northern Lights

“Africa has enough missionaries; north Norway desperately needs missionaries. They need you up there. They need Jesus!” 

These were the words our dear Norwegian friends spoke before we headed to north Norway in January, and they’ve rung true throughout our time here in Tromsø. Our everyday surroundings are far from the igloos, polar bears and blizzards many people imagine life above the Arctic Circle to be (though we have seen reindeer). In truth, Tromsø is a growing city that boasts the world’s northernmost university and is aptly called the “Paris of the North” because of its love for the arts and a unique blend of cultures from both within and outside the country. Despite those charming qualities, however, the reality is that Tromsø—and indeed all of north Norway—desperately needs Jesus.

Everywhere we turn we find reminders of how far removed this region and country are from its Christian roots. Easter, for example, is still a national holiday where Norway essentially shuts down for a week to celebrate … well, ask people on the street why and you’ll get a dozen different answers, none of which have to do with Jesus. As in America, the country’s extraordinary wealth has pushed faith and belief in God into a diminishing corner—which is further complicated by the fact that 85 percent of Norwegians still consider themselves Christian while only 5 percent actually live out their faith as born-again believers.

Our family obviously can’t change that scenario overnight; indeed, countless others have gone before us to shine the light of Jesus Christ in Norway’s spiritual darkness. Yet here in north Norway, where most foreigners only come to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights, we’ve been privileged to personally witness some incredible beacons of Jesus’ true Light (with a capital L).

This past weekend we attended a DAWN church planting conference for north Norway and met many spiritual heroes who stand as burning lights in a frozen tundra (see pictures below). These brothers and sisters in Christ have counted the cost and are spending their lives plowing new ground in seemingly forgotten areas. Nothing about their ministry work is glamorous or even easy, yet they continue to shine brightly for the sake of “drawing all people” to Jesus. Their boldness and perseverance reminds us of the teenagers we worked with at an Easter camp, many of whom were the only believers in their school or even region. Some came from non-believing families, yet none of them backed down from the truth that Jesus had changed their lives and they will never be the same.

At Norkirken, the church we’ve had the privilege to serve since we arrived in Tromsø, the light shines through a core group of young adults and families grappling with what it means to be true followers of Christ. Some, like the amazing couple we live with, Kjetil and Live, leave us speechless with their open-handed lifestyle of generosity and deep understanding that everything they have and do is for God’s purposes. This tight-knit community of believers is asking all the right questions when it comes to discipleship, outreach, church “models,” true growth, etc. And though they undoubtedly could have wrestled with these things—and what they should do next—on their own, we’re humbled by the fact that God sent us to Norkirken at just the right time to walk alongside them during a critical “crossroads” season.

To be honest, Amber and I feel a little like the apostle Paul in that we want to truly edify and encourage this church during our limited time here, equipping and training them with whatever tools God has given us. To that degree, we’ve taught, preached or met with leaders several times a week and at every available opportunity. Most of our days involve one-on-one “mentoring” time with key people throughout the church, and we’ve had the privilege of counseling several individuals and couples through some extraordinarily difficult times. Amber and I have also been able to help jump-start a family ministry that includes a weekly marriage and parenting course, and we’re encouraged by the fruit this already seems to be bearing. I’ve been working with the worship teams to help them grow in leading the congregation, and both Amber and I have tried to help foster more of a culture of prayer and worship through different means. The reality is, Norkirken’s believers are the ones who have been diligently plowing the ground in Tromsø for years; we’re simply here for a season–yet that’s why we’ve been intentional about equipping them with things that can last.

Of course, we’re learning how to balance all this with language classes and family time. On that note, Brayden and Xander are absolutely loving life here in Tromsø. Rarely a day passes when Xander doesn’t say something about how much he enjoys his friends at Kråkeslottet Barnehage (his kindergarten that’s just up the hill from where we live). And if you want to know how we’re doing on learning the Norwegian language, just ask Xander, who’s become our resident “expert” on pronunciation. :)

Brayden, meanwhile, is having the time of his life at Tromsø International School, a small private school with students from 27 different nations. Growing up in Hong Kong, I went to a school similar (albeit larger) to this one, and it thrills me that Brayden is already developing a more global paradigm to go along with the invaluable educational experience he’s getting here. Though his school is English-speaking, he studies Norwegian daily. I was also in Norwegian classes up until Easter, although my progress has been frustratingly slow (but more on that another time).

Our first few weeks here in Tromsø were challenging in that we still didn’t know how long we’d be able to stay because of an ongoing visa mix-up. Yet not only have we learned more about walking each day in complete faith and seizing it to the fullest, we’ve also “settled in” since then, despite every week looking different from the last. We’ll be in Tromsø only three more months, and we pray that during these remaining days we can fulfill every assignment God gives us here.

We’re on Top of the World (Almost)!

Though sad to leave our new “family” in Hemsedal, we packed our belongings in a car lent to us by a friend and headed out for yet another crazy adventure in Norway—this time traveling more than 1,500 miles in the dead of winter to Tromsø, where we begin the next phase of our assignment this year.

Our first stop was a bit of a detour in terms of location but turned out to be yet another divine sign of how God continues to lead our journey. For months we’d wanted to visit Norway’s main YWAM base, located in Grimerud, and develop relationships with some people we’d previously only connected with online. So before we traveled too far north, we planned to head there for an overnight stay. Our stay turned into four wonderful days, however, as God blessed us with some amazing new friends and ministry connections—while our car received some much-needed repairs for the long drive from a mechanic on staff. (Hey, working breaks are a good thing when you’re traveling down a mountain on a sheet of ice!)

Driving in Norway in the winter is an adventure; you quickly learn to check weather and highway updates before setting out or else risk being stranded in your car during a storm because of a mountain pass being closed. Yet praise God we hardly dealt with anything other than clear, blue skies (at least during all four hours of daylight) throughout our journey. Indeed, God had a special grace for us during the week—from favor with our accommodations to Brayden and Xander having a blast the entire way (we have THE best boys in the world!).

To be honest, at times it felt as if we were on a true “missionary” journey from biblical times. We prayed and stayed with kind strangers from around the world­—from Eritrea to the Philippines—who became like family to us because of our connection in Christ; we lingered when we felt the Holy Spirit leading us to stay in certain places; and we listened intently in intercession to what the Lord was saying about different places we drove through. In fact, Amber and I quickly realized that God had arranged this trip for greater purposes. Had we not driven, we wouldn’t have had the privilege of literally praying through towns, cities and regions of the nation and sensing the spiritual climate of its different parts.

One of the highlights was crossing the Arctic Circle (see images below), where we stood in the middle of a silent stretch of highway to soak in the reality of being so far north and yet still having hours left in our journey. The sun—have I mentioned we don’t get to see it much these days? :)—peaked over the blanketed mountains and created this unbelievable scene I’ll never forget. In fact, unbelievable became the word of the week as our eyes captured stunning sight after stunning sight. Norway truly is one of the most beautiful places in the world. (And we’ve come to accept that pictures will never do it justice.)

Another unforgettable moment was arriving in a fishing town where we stayed with a fisherwoman whom God is using to spark revival in her community. Despite having a past so rough that the town completely shunned her when she returned, our friend Linda is a walking testimony of God’s redemptive nature. Her stories of how she’s listened to and obeyed the Lord’s every whisper—and then seen Him work miracles—brought us to tears. The Lord gave both Amber and I specific words of encouragement and insight for Linda, and His presence was thick during our time together. She also introduced us to an African family whom God sent as fellow missionaries to Norway, and whom we believe are like generals in the spiritual realm. Though Amber and I have both been deep in “intercessory” and “spiritual warfare” circles, these prayer warriors brought those terms to a whole new level for us. It was especially meaningful to be prayed for, sent out and blessed by these wonderful intercessors before we reached our final destination: Tromsø.

We’re now in Tromsø, where we’ll spend the next few months working with Norkirken Tromsø, a church that’s invited us to help them build a family ministry, mentor some of their young leaders, teach, train and serve however else we can. We spent our first two days in Tromsø unpacking (we’re living with an incredible couple, Kjetil and Live) and getting our bearings around town, but today we met with the church leadership and were blown away by their hearts. They are a unified, gifted and wise team that’s currently facing a challenging crossroads, and I pray that we can come alongside them to truly lift up their arms in the everyday battle for this area. Tromsø is famous as a tourist destination for seeing the Northern Lights, but right now it’s also incredibly dark—both physically and spiritually. We’re excited about seeing the Lord’s light shine even brighter!

Before I wrap up this update I wanted to share with you another faith challenge we have in the coming months. Since we’ve been in Norway, God provided a transition period in which I’ve been able to bring in some income by helping my former employer until they found my replacement. That season ends this month, which means it marks our first of completely depending on those partnering with us on this journey. Though that may be a little frightening in the natural realm, we’re so encouraged when we think of those who have faithfully supported us through these months. Yet without more people coming alongside us, our season in Tromsø—and beyond—could be difficult. That’s not just financially speaking, but also spiritually. 

If you sense God stirring you in any way to join with us, we would deeply appreciate it. We know God is always faithful to provide what we need, and we’re confident in this more than ever—especially as we’ve seen Him supply our every need thus far. Yet we also know how true it is that every little bit counts. So thank you in advance for believing in us and supporting us with your prayers, your donations and your overwhelming love. May 2015 be the year that we—together—see Norway transformed for God, person by person.

Finally … an Update!

It’s embarrassing that we haven’t blogged in weeks. I know, I know—we’re not the first missionaries to falter right out of the gate with maintaining a blog. And yes, we have 100 legitimate reasons for that—everything from traveling to working crazy hours to having limited wi-fi where we’re living. But still, it’s embarrassing. (Thank goodness Amber’s kept up on Facebook whenever possible.)

The truth is, when Bible school wrapped up and students left a few weeks ago, we knew we’d still have several major tasks and assignments here at KRIK Høyfjellssenter in Hemsedal. But we had no idea life would continue to be this busy. Yet as it was during the 10-week Bible school term, we’re amazed by how God continues to open doors for us and use us everywhere we turn.

I (Marcus) continue to get invitations to speak, teach and lead worship around town, and it’s been exciting to watch God go deeper with many of those we’ve shared life with over the last few months. I’ve taught more at a local church (Lighthouse)—I still have a hard time calling it “preaching” ☺—and have helped them with worship. I’ve also been discipling a few guys, counseling them through different situations and having the privilege of helping them understand more of what God is doing in their lives. Amber is doing the same with several women and, as usual, she’s been a magnet for countless others.

Yet one of our most exciting and fruitful assignments in the last few weeks has been working specifically with the leadership team at KRIK Høyfjellssenter and helping to counsel them through an exciting yet challenging season of life. Since our first days here, the two couples who live and work at the mountain center, Gudmund and Helene, and Øystein and Synne, have made us feel like family and invited us into their lives. Often it’s easier to share the details of your life—challenges, triumphs, concerns and all—with outsiders who can offer an objective point of view, and that’s been the case with us. We’ve been honored to walk alongside these couples, who make up KRIK Høyfjellssenter’s leadership, by asking questions, listening to their thoughts and dreams, and praying with them. But even more so, we’ve treasured their authentic friendship.

More than a decade ago, Synne had a vision to see a Bible school that would train, equip and send out true followers of Christ from the mountains of central Norway. At the same time, others—including another friend of ours, Øyvind—were involved in bringing that vision to reality … and then some. KRIK Høyfjellssenter celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, yet based on all that happens at this mountain center, you’d think this was a mega-ministry that’s been around for decades. From marriage conferences to Bible schools to youth camps to extreme-sport events, KRIK Høyfjellssenter keeps the calendar full year-round with events that center on a vision to “inspire and equip young adults to know Jesus and follow Him.” (Yes, they reach far more than just young adults—which is part of what Amber and I have been discussing with the leadership team.)

Gudmund, Helene, Øystein and Synne have big dreams for KRIK Høyfjellssenter, yet they also carry heavy loads in leading the ministry. What’s been so exciting for Amber and me is how God sent us during a season when we could help them to reaffirm their vision yet evaluate what it will take to grow—personally, as couples and as a ministry. Though we’re confident God sent us to Hemsedal for many reasons (many of which have been blatant and with evident fruit), if it had solely been to encourage these new friends, that would have been enough for us.

Introducing a New Addition to the Family …

No, we’re not pregnant! :) We are, however, starting our fourth week here in Hemsedal at KRIK Høyfjellssenter, and things couldn’t be going better. God allowed us to quickly make a deep heart connection with many of the students and staff, and that’s been key to what the Lord continues to do here.

Marcus can write more about this next time since there is much to share, but before more weeks fly by (as they already have since we arrived in Norway), I wanted to introduce you to a very special person in the lives of the Yoars family. Kari Henderson (pictured above) is part of “Team Yoars” in Norway, having joined us a few weeks ago in Stavanger. She’s with us here in Hemsedal and has been an incredible help not only as a nanny to the boys (which has given Marcus and me more time to help serve the students and staff), but also in translating (she’s fluent in Norwegian). However, there’s more to the story when it comes to my Kari Julianna, as I call her …

In 1997, I stepped out of my senior year in college (for a year) and by faith moved to Colorado Springs, Colo., to work with a ministry serving the poor and homeless. I had the opportunity to live with the couple running this ministry, work alongside them and nanny for their children. At the time, their oldest son, David, was 5 years old, and Kari was 3. Since then we’ve been family. Marcus and I have watched the kids grow up (including John Markus, who’s now 14) and been part of their lives all these years. God has always entwined our lives in the craziest ways.

Kari’s mother (and my dear friend), Solveig, is from Norway. Though she’s raised her children and lived in the States most of her adult life, Solveig’s career has largely been in Norway as a recording artist. In fact, few Christians in Norway older than 30 haven’t heard of Solveig Leithaug, as she’s known here. In the summer of 1998 I travelled to Norway with Solveig and the family, and from there God truly gave me a heart for this country that led me to pray for the nation and its people for more than 10 years. I’ve travelled to many countries, but Norway captured me in a unique way and I knew I would be back.

Fast forward to 2013 and Kari was graduating from high school. Marcus and I drove to Nashville to be part of the celebrations, and during that time God began to stir our hearts for Kari. We both believed in her so much and knew we wanted to pour into her in the near future. We also saw how amazing she was with our boys, and how much Brayden and Xander loved her. As the doors continued to open for us in Norway, we had a sense that Kari would somehow be part of it, at least for a season. Meanwhile, we were completely unaware that while she was part of a YWAM DTS in New Zealand, God was also putting on Kari’s heart a deep desire to return to Norway.

So here we are, almost 20 years after I nannied for Kari in Norway, and now she’s doing the same for my children. How cool is that?!

God is so amazingly detailed with our lives. (As yet another twist in this story, Solveig was in fact part of Marcus and my meeting in 2001, and she’s been instrumental in helping to connect us with people here in Norway.)

We’re excited about what lies ahead for Kari. God is going to do amazing things in and through her—she’s an incredibly gifted singer and true worshipper. (This week she’s on tour singing with her mom and has already been helping Marcus when he leads worship in different places.) We’re honored to be part of Kari’s journey and are trying to seize this precious time we have with her. Through the years so many people have poured and sowed into us, and I love that we will forever get to do the same thing for others.

Arriving in Hemsedal

We’ve had an amazing three weeks since our last post visiting old friends and meeting new ones in Bergen and Stavanger, two cities that share the same beautiful Norwegian coastline but showcase their unique personalities as soon as you enter them. In Stavanger we stayed with our dear friends, Steve and Anne Kristen Bruns, and their wonderful children, Julia, Jenny and Mattias. We attended a conference called Åpen Himmel (Open Heaven) at their church, IMI Kirken, where we were able to connect with so many incredible people coming from all over Norway.

We stayed in Stavanger longer than expected, but this ended up being a huge blessing for us. One thing it allowed us to do was get to know the staff at IMI Kirken better. We were so impressed not only with the hearts of the people there and the unity among the leadership, but also the healthy culture Senior Pastor Martin Cave and Lead Pastor Egil Elling Ellingsen have helped to create throughout the church. Imagine combining the best parts of some of America’s leading churches known for discipleship, missions, outreach, healing and “hosting” the presence of God … and you’ve got an idea of the treasure that is IMI Kirken. Their missional approach is making major kingdom impact not only in Stavanger, but throughout Norway and as far as Thailand, Cambodia and Laos. In our opinion, it helps that they’ve had two of the most amazing people we know—Steve and Anne Kristen—helping to steer this through their church network called Agenda1.

In Stavanger we were also able to work on our visa applications in a way we hadn’t expected. Though Marcus had researched the process extensively from the U.S. and we’d been advised to apply shortly after arriving in Norway, we weren’t planning on doing this from Stavanger. Yet we stumbled upon the fact that Stavanger is one of only three cities in Norway with a foreign workers office that can help reduce the application process time. Had we not been there, it’s likely we would’ve had to leave the country after our tourist visa expires. In addition, we were all able to get appointments (which you need to officially submit your application) over a two-day period—something that normally could’ve taken weeks if not months. Once again, God went before us and opened doors we couldn’t have! Now please stand with us in faith that there will be no hitches at the tail end of this process and that we’ll be granted our visa in the coming weeks.

The big news for us now is that we’re in Hemsedal, in the breath-taking mountains of central Norway, and can actually unpack our things. Woohoo! After living out of our suitcases since June 15, we’re ecstatic about being able to “settle down” in one place for the next two months. It begins to wear on you when you haven’t had any routine for more than three months, so we’re thrilled about getting back on a schedule—both for us and the boys.

Just as important is that we’ve been able to quickly plug into the amazing ministry here at KRIK Høyfjellssenter . We’re helping out with KRIK’s Fjellbibelskolen (Mountain Bible College), where 20-30 young adults come for a 10-week “Time Out” program that is the spiritual equivalent of drinking from a fire hose … with some extreme-sport team-building outings on the side.

We arrived Monday, just in time to see the last gasp of fall colors on the trees (thank You, Lord!). Already we’ve experienced a variety of weather typical for these mountains—from bright-blue skies to ominous clouds to the season’s first snow on the mountain peaks. For the last two days the high winds have howled through the valley and our cozy wood cabin has creaked continuously. Today I (Amber) already have my wool layers on (exciting!), but I’ll admit, I’m saddened to watch the fall leaves getting blown off the trees, signaling an abrupt end to my favorite season. From where I’m writing this I can still see a little patch of yellow and red trees—I’ll pretend they’re left just for me to enjoy a couple more days.

Our surroundings are stunning, yet even more beautiful right now are the people around us, many of whom we’ve already melded our hearts with. It’s rare to find a group of staff and students this unified and sincere in their love for each other, and they’ve welcomed us with open arms. The Bible college offers two programs a year, each with slightly different profiles and content. The average age of the students is 25, which means most of them are already beginning their careers or at the end of the university studies. They’re here because they’ve decided to take a “time out” to set everything aside and focus on God. Talk about moldable hearts and teachable spirits!

This week the topics were “Understanding the Father’s Heart” and “Hearing God’s Voice,” and Marcus had the opportunity to teach a few sessions yesterday. First, though, they asked him to share more of his testimony before teaching, and during that time I saw a special thing happen. He talked about his father and what he did in university work as a missionary to Hong Kong and how he invested his life into the Chinese students there. Marcus mentioned that he first met Jesus because of what he saw in his dad. And he shared about his father’s memorial service in 1999—how thousands came to honor the legacy of a man who spent most of his life investing in students’ lives for the kingdom.

Marcus then told them about our own process of being called to the mission field and how it connected to his parents. But when he told the students how much he loved his dad, and that he was standing before them largely because of his father—because of the legacy he’d left him—my sweet husband broke. It took him a few seconds to compose himself, but I will always remember that moment and hold it dear to my heart. Many of the students understood the depth of what he was saying and were crying too. And later, as Marcus wove together his testimony with his teachings, it was as if the Holy Spirit were guiding the entire session. I was so proud of Marcus. I always love seeing him with his teaching hat on—he’s such a gifted teacher (like his dad, I imagine). But I’ve also been proud of how he’s stepped out in faith several times already this week to deliver God-appointed “words” that have gone right to the heart.

As for me, I’ve loved every moment as I’m starting to build relationship and get to know the students and the KRIK staff. I’ve already had some incredible one-on-one times with young women, many of whom have pulled me to the side for a talk and ended up pouring out their hearts to me. We’ve encouraged, counseled, guided and prayed with so many, and yet we’re only a week into this … yes! This is exactly why we’re here, and it’s so fulfilling to once again be in a place where every day we’re being used to mold and shape lives—now as a family. Thank You, Lord … You are so good!

Goodbye, America; Hello, Norway!

We’ve finally arrived in Norway—Bergen, to be exact—and are loving every minute of the cool, fall-like weather in summer. In fact, as I’m typing this a beautiful fog silently crawls over the water and islands outside our window. The slow steadiness couldn’t be in more contrast to the pace of our lives since I left my job and we moved out of our house. It’s been a constant yet irregular rhythm with no routine and a million loose ends that needed to be tied each day. Finally, the to-do lists are all checked off (well, sort of) and the airplane tickets now mere stubs.

Yes, after almost two years of dreaming, praying, planning, praying, connecting, praying and preparing—all based on this driving sense of mission God put in us—we are finally here on Norwegian soil. Our first few days have already flown by as we’ve been staying with our dear friends, Lyder and Anne Leithaug, in Bergen. Saturday we ascended one of the city’s seven mountains (prophetic? Nah …) and took in the breathtaking panoramic views of this fascinating coastal city that blends modern and ancient everywhere you turn. Sunday we joined believers at a local charismatic church, Credekirken, took a walk through the neighborhood and fought off jetlag (we’re doing remarkably well so far on this front).

We’ll be in Bergen the remainder of this week, then head down to Stavanger to attend a conference at one of the largest evangelical churches in the nation, IMI Kirken. There we’ll connect with pastors and leaders from around Norway—something we know will be critical to our developing plans this year. We pray the Lord continues to open doors during our time there with divine connections, just as He’s done all along.

But before I get carried away with what we’ll be doing in the coming weeks and months—which we’ll highlight in future blogs—let me capture what we’ve been up to in the last few weeks.

The first half of July didn’t include much sleep as we worked hard to put our house on the rental market and deal with selling, giving away or storing most of our belongings. We headed to family in Birmingham, Alabama, without having a renter, but—praise God!—within a couple of weeks had renters living in our house.

The following weeks were split between Birmingham and East Texas, enjoying precious time with our families and friends—including living in an RV on our friends’ ranch and waking up to the sounds of chickens, cows, horses, dogs and who knows what else. Brayden and Xander had the time of their lives with their aunts, uncles and cousins; Amber stayed busy with family affairs; and unfortunately I had to work much of the time (I’m still working as a freelancer for Charisma, managing the magazine behind the scenes).

By the time we arrived back in Orlando for our final stretch, we were mentally ready to be in Norway; you can only say goodbye for so long until you’re ready to actually leave. But before our Thursday night flight, we were blessed with a once-in-a-lifetime experience, thanks to our precious church community. Last Sunday our sending church, One Church, prayed for us and officially sent us out. Obviously, this was meaningful enough for us; but what made it even more beautiful was how the Holy Spirit moved through the morning and made every word, song and part of the worship services point straight to Jesus rather than any person or event. It was as if our sending out was simply an extension of what Jesus really wanted to do that day, which was glorify His name and remind His people of His work not only in Orlando or even the U.S., but around the earth. This had been Amber’s and my prayer all along, so it was even more powerful for us.

That night the Spirit’s seal and blessing continued as a large group of our friends held an unforgettable send-off party for us at the Feeding Children Everywhere offices. There we were surrounded by people who have meant the world to us during our seven years in Florida, and we couldn’t have felt more loved, appreciated and blessed. It was such a humbling experience for us as they prayed over us, offered words of encouragement and blessing, and even committed to supporting us financially. We are truly blessed.

By the time our good friends Martijn and Amy Van Tilborgh, who have helped immensely during our transition and as former missionaries know all about our journey of faith, watched us board Norwegian Air flight 7052, we were beyond exhausted yet overflowing with gratitude. Gratitude to friends who blessed us beyond measure as we were sent off. Gratitude to our family for understanding the path we’re taking. And most of all, gratitude to the Lord for His faithfulness and leading throughout.

This journey is all about following Jesus, and Jesus’ heart is for people. So though I’m sure we’ll miss the “things” we’ve left behind—our home, the convenience of American living, Florida’s beaches—this journey is about people. Thank You, God, that it’s the people in our lives—both those we’ve left and those we have yet to meet—where You continue to reveal Yourself more and more.

Things Are Moving … And So Are We!

It’s official: The Yoars family is on our way to Norway! After almost two years since we felt God calling us into full-time missions, we’re finally able to tell others about this incredible journey of faith He has us on. Since this will be news to most of you reading this, we’re excited to share the details of what’s been going on, where in the world—literally—we’re headed and what we’ll be doing.

About two years ago God began working on our hearts in that beautiful, life-altering way that only He can. We sensed a longing like never before to abandon everything and “go” in His name, even though we had no idea where we needed to go to or what we should do. As we sought the Lord more, the calling to be overseas missionaries deepened as He helped us connect the dots between our upbringings, our past experiences and the skill sets He’s equipped us with. In particular, I (Marcus) began to have my eyes opened to the legacy my parents left me from their nearly 35 years as missionaries in Hong Kong and how that has shaped the way I see the world.

While we walked through this process under the counsel of our church’s pastor and his wife, God brought some amazing confirmations that we were walking in His will—everything from how our children reacted to the possibility of us leaving Florida to supernatural affirmations that He would provide. In fact, during one weekend we had at least five couples approach us and, without knowing our situation, tell us that if we ever went on the mission field they would love to support us. Yet probably the greatest sign has been the supernatural peace we’ve had that, despite all the unknowns of our journey (and there are many!), God is with us. We’ve certainly needed that as we’ve counted the cost more. In the natural, it’s scary—I’m leaving a great job and career, we’re putting our house up for rent and we have no assurance of financial security. Yet we’ve jokingly said in recent weeks that even if we end up homeless in a few months, we know God will still provide—and we mean it! When you’re walking by faith, what else matters but following Him in obedience?

So what exactly are we doing? We hope to leave for Norway in August, depending on what happens over the next few weeks. First, we need to raise funds (again, we’re just now getting to share the news!); and second, we’re waiting on some things to line up regarding our visas. Either way, the doors of opportunity continue to open for us, and they include: teaching young adults at a Bible school in Hemsedal; developing a family ministry and mentoring young church staff at a church in Tromsø; and training missionaries and assisting staff at various YWAM (Youth With a Mission) bases throughout the country. Outside of Norway, we’ve been in talks about helping to develop a Bible school in Scotland and a missionary training center in Turkey, though these would likely be later. So though we are Norway-bound, it’s possible the “land of the midnight sun” will simply be a catalyst for future assignments. We know much will unfold once we get there, and others have already confirmed that half the journey is in leaving. Besides, if we had all the answers and knew all the details, where would the faith be?

Because of that, our first year will be an exploratory one in which we’ll be “scouting out the land.” We will spend the time getting to know the culture and language, and most importantly, building relationships with people as God continues to open doors and connect us with churches and ministries around the nation. Our goal is to come alongside and serve whoever may have need of our skill sets–and from what we’ve encountered so far, there are plenty of people for whom this is an answered prayer.

As we step out of the boat, we know this is not a journey we can do alone. We need help. In fact, a couple of months ago, God gently took me aside, so to speak, and reminded me that just as much as He’s called and anointed Amber and me to go, He’s called and anointed certain people to send. I had grown cynical with “partner” letters always asking for money and didn’t want to go the same route. Yet the Lord quickly showed me that there would be times in the future when we would desperately need the support of those joined with us on this journey—and that how much money they donated had almost nothing to do with it.

Would you consider supporting us however you can? Whether that’s committing to intercede for us on a regular basis over the next year or supporting us financially on a regular basis, we’d be honored if you join us either way as we begin our journey. (For prayer support, click here; for financial support, click here.)

Stay tuned over the next few weeks as we find out more. We’ll be blogging and posting updates as plans unfold more, but regardless, we’d appreciate your prayers in the meantime. May God continue to grace us with His wonderful presence as He goes before us every step of the way.