Marcus & Amber Yoars

Echoes from the mission field of Norway

Category: Family

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!

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.