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!