Reflections From a Sojourner

A team member shares her thoughts from the trip

While Americans look for immediate results from their efforts,
missions in Europe progress slowly. Many times during the Vision
Scandinavia trip, I wondered what to tell you when I returned that
would satisfy your desires to feel like supporting me in this endeavor
was a good investment of your prayers and money. Join me in a short
recap of our travels and contacts with believers in Denmark, Norway,
and Sweden to discover what I learned via your support and what
direction it points toward.

Stockholm at dusk

Stockholm at dusk

We began Vision Scandinavia by Megan (21-year old CBC student) and I rendezvousing in Copenhagen, Denmark with Joe Morell, Matthew, Sarah and Claire Bates. We spent an evening with Peter and Laura who are pastoring a free church (not run by the state) in Copenhagen.
Peter has not had formal Bible training, nor does he have the ability
to leave Denmark to do so. In order to teach the Bible he obtained
syllabi from respected, conservative Bible colleges in the USA and has
collected and studied the books that were required reading for those
courses. I was quite impressed at all he has already done to be
trained. He wants to see sound theological training available in
Denmark. The baseline value that the Danes hold is that “no one can
know more than anyone else.” This value makes discipleship difficult;
as well as raising children, or even just normal communication. Laura
expressed to me that the depth of conversation that they had with us
in the short evening we spent together was uncharacteristic of
conversations that they can normally have with other Danes. Meeting
with them felt like a Brother Andrew scenario in which our
conversation and prayers were water in a dry, somewhat hostile place.

Indicative of the condition of the church was our experience of trying to attend church the first Sunday we were there.  We went to a state
church, but the first one was closed until sometime in September. At
the second church, we were not allowed to go in because we were late.
They happened to be having a baby dedication that Sunday, which is one
of the few times a year when people go to church.  A young mother was
on the steps outside the church with her two children because the lady
who was serving as bouncer had let it be known that children were
being too loud and should be removed. Even though her children were
not being noisy, she chose to leave because of the crowd control being
exercised. She thought the bouncer’s behavior was unusual, as did we.
In Aarhus, Denmark, a city with many universities, Patricia and
David, Leah and Morton served as our hosts to stay in a free church
building for a couple of nights. Conversing with Leah confirmed that
she desires to have Titus 2:4 input in her own life, but the older
women are not available or interested in such involvement. Morton
wants training for pastors and church leaders to be more available. He
is studying to be a doctor, and Leah is studying to be a nurse. They
battle constantly the belief that no educated person would be a
Christian.  Patricia and David opened our eyes to the furor that
exists between Danes and Muslims. As we shared time, concern, and prayer with these couples, tears came when we promised prayer support of them. There is a possibility that Matthew and Sarah Bates who are BMW missionaries raising support to go to Denmark will eventually be in Aarhus. Even to have them in the country would be great encouragement to these folks.

Hearing from their own words about life and spirituality in Denmark

Hearing from their own words about life and spirituality in Denmark

In Oslo, Norway, ABWE missionaries opened their country home to us impromptuly for a gorgeous meal. They serve the International
Baptist Church of Oslo, which is now an ABWE work. The church began as a NATO church thirty years ago, serving mostly ex-patriates. They are
excited because just recently they are seeing progress in reaching Norwegians. These contacts are coming through Internationals marrying
Norwegians. It has been a long wait to see Norwegians finally being
reached. The Burns are hoping that in the next five years they will be
able to start a Bible school in a neighboring town to provide
theological training. Once again, Muslims are an issue in Norway.
History, architecture, and beautiful scenery remained foci for us
throughout our Scandinavian travels and visits to museums of various
kinds, including the Vasa Museum in Stockholm, Sweden. It contains the
restoration of a huge ship built by King Gustav II Adolph in 1628 as a
display of his power. It sank on its maiden voyage in the harbor of
Stockholm, was discovered in 1961, and made available for exhibition
in 1990.

Stockholm is also the home of Joe and Ursula Morell and their four
children. They have been there for four years, and Joe served as
co-leader for our trip. On our second Sunday, we went to the historic
Uppsala, Sweden Cathedral’s hour and a half High Mass. It is a state

Priest(ess?) at the Lutheran Cathedral in Uppsala.  Her sermon was like the  building . . . almost empty.

Priest(ess?) at the Lutheran Cathedral in Uppsala. Her sermon was like the building . . . almost empty.

Lutheran church whose service I would describe as a cross between a liberal church service, a Catholic mass, and things that would appeal
to emergent church folks. I was happy that Old Testament and New Testament Scriptures were read and that the liturgical, almost Gregorian chant songs were biblical in content. However, Joe reported to us that the lady minister’s conclusions about the parable of the talents were interesting at best.  Later in the day, Joe also explained that his vision as head of BMW’s team for Sweden includes a desire to have co-workers in a city half way between Stockholm and Uppsala so that this university town will have a gospel witness available.

From Sweden we traveled with the Morell family to Lindenhof, Germany for BMW’s European Area Conference. Germany had fantastic scenery,
especially because we finally got into the mountains! But for me, it
was also the location of the darkest spiritual places. Ulm Cathedral,
in spite of the splendid stained glass windows and amazing
architecture, was somber and spiritually dark. We also visited Dachau
Concentration Camp. I see it as a sobering recounting of what the
depravity of man fueled by satanic power can do. The belief that “we
will never do that again. We have learned from our mistake” is the
wrong conclusion to make. Rather, the Bible confirms that such things
will happen again as part of Christ’s return. It is horrific to be in
the place of such destruction, but also encourages more concerted
commitment to live with and for Christ as winsomely and boldly as
possible. We were motivated to prepare for battle and to recognize how
those events hardened the soil for the generations who have come after
them. Prayer for the preparation of the ground of their souls will
become a part of my prayers.

It was very fitting and strategic that the BMW European Conference
speaker was Dr. John Talley who spoke on prayer. He expanded our
vision of biblical prayer and equipped us to enter into a more
strategic spiritual battle. Paul Seger, General Director of BMW, added
the emphasis that prayer is the first phase of the spiritual battle
that we are to wage. This war can be fought from anywhere in the world
to affect locations all over the world. As we pray from wherever we
are, we are “dropping ‘bombs’ all over the world, regardless of the
sender or receiver’s location.”

You have been a part of “dropping bombs” as you prayed for me on this trip; I am SO thankful for your support. I “felt” the effects of your
prayers in many ways. God provided gluten-free food for me for every
meal; I was able to rest in Him when the rigors of travel and jet lag
were heavy; we had safe travel via airplanes, buses, trains, boats,
and walking; and I was encouraged by the Lord and drawn into deep
fellowship with Him continually.

So here are my conclusions from Vision Scandinavia: overall, the
architecture was astounding and the scenery so beautiful. But the
spiritual darkness of Sweden and Germany especially made me thankful
that God brought our ancestors from these countries. Therefore, I had
the opportunity to hear the gospel and be saved from the unbelief that
is so prevalent in Europe. The soil in Europe is hard; the people are
well-educated and sophisticated in varying degrees; materialism and
the state function as their “gods;” their baseline values which have
been held for centuries are hard to penetrate with the gospel. The
influence of Muslims is experienced negatively in all the Scandinavian
countries. Evangelism of the Muslims will be a key factor in how the
history of these countries goes.

Join me in concerted prayer for Scandinavia. The contacts I had while on this trip confirmed to me the importance of the work that God has
called me to do as a “sender” and “equipper,” especially through my
work at CBC. It had already been on my heart to enlist some folks to
pray for me as a sender before Vision Scandinavia occurred.
Thank you again for being a part of Vision Scandinavia 2009,

Eidene

“When your memories are more exciting than your dreams, you have begun to die.” Quoted by Paul Seger.

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Looking Back on the Conference in Germany

Director Paul Seger interacting with a very lively and able next generation.

Director Paul Seger interacting with a very lively and able next generation.

We had been disconnected from the internet for the first three days of the conference—already I find myself  back in Stockholm:  I will make this entry a summary of the BMW European Conference.  Time flies, but what a tremendous week it has been!

For starters, it might be best to describe the BMW European Conference.  It is a five day family reunion.  It is fellowship.  It is teaching.  It is singing.  It is like-mindedness.  It is relaxing.  It is edifying. It is iron sharpening iron.  It is a high point of the year for all on the European field with the mission.

The topic of the week was, “Impact through Intercession”.  Dr. John Talley presented a series of powerful challenges from God’s Word.   Enlightening.  Challenging.  Convicting.  I hope my prayer life is never the same again.  The week was a reprimand to me of how much I have minimalized prayer in my life.  The emphasis of the teaching was simply, ‘praying biblically’.

Beyond sitting under a week of solid Bible teaching, our team had opportunity to meet the majority of the European missionaries with our mission.  This was all the more meaningful as, the previous week of our trip, we had been daily praying for each country of Europe where there are BMW missionaries active.

It was a pleasure to introduce our team to all of the BMW missionaries laboring in Europe (one of them serving for the past 40 years!).   An additional blessing was meeting missionaries making their way to new fields, including our future co-workers in Sweden, Jeff and Katie Coulter.

The rest of the week was spent in fellowship, enjoying the Bavarian country side, and enjoying sleeping in the same bed for five consecutive nights.  Because of the close proximity, the team also took two afternoon trip: one to Dachau (WWII concentration camp) and Castle Neuschwanstein .  Walking through the site of one of humanities darkest chapters was a sober reminder to the horrific deceitfulness and evil found nested in the heart of man.   Castle Neuschwanstein displays both the splendor  and the decadence that are both etched into the heart of Europe.

It is hard to believe that our trip has so soon come to an end.  But even though our journey is complete, our task has just begun, and our vision for Scandinavia has been kindled.       —JM

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Day 7 pictorial—on route to Stockholm

Tasty gluton-free discovories in Stockholm

Tasty gluton-free discovories in Stockholm

Look Mom, I'm eating salad!

Look Mom, I’m eating salad!
Bright smile bright and early---7.25 morning train to Stockholm

Bright smile bright and early---7.25 morning train to Stockholm

Matt and Sarah on the train to Stockholm

Matt and Sarah on the train to Stockholm

Reading, loving, and singing

Reading, loving, and singing

weary pilgrims

weary pilgrims arrive in Stockholm

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Searching for Spiritual Life in Oslo

Megan gladly finds a moment of time with internet access

Megan gladly finds a moment of time with internet access

We have been off line the past few days, but not because lack of activity—

Our trip in Oslo was a short blink: regrettably too short.  With really only one day in the city (with our heads still spinning from all the previous travel), we made two objectives our focus:

The Norsk Folk Museum

and

International Baptist Church Norway

The Folk Museum was too short of a visit, but again, provides some depth and context into who the people of Scandinavia, specifically the Norwegians, are.

Our visit to the International Baptist Church was like uncoding another segment of the Rosetta Stone for Scandinavia.  We listened intently to a young Norwegian, trained to be a pastor (both in Norway and the US).  He lamented over how unbiblical his training was in Norway, and explained where  Norwegian Christianity has the greatest needs:

Leadership Training (Bible schools, etc . . .)

Bible teaching

family conferences or helps in raising godly families

pastoral conferences

opportunities with youth and teens

We then shared the evening with a the Burns, a missionary family with ABWE.  The there hospitality was tremendous, and the fellowship encouraging.  Their nine years of experience in Norway gave them many insights to the challenges, the resistance, and the cultural differences found in Norway.

That was Oslo.  Sadly our time ended too soon.

An early morning train ride took us to Stockholm yesterday.  We will report more tomorrow!     —JM

Matt is waiting and hoping that the Norwegian coffee will kick in

Matt is waiting and hoping that the Norwegian coffee will kick in

Sharing experiences and planning for the future---Joe (bmw, Sweden), Bob (abwe, Norway), and Matt (bmw, Denmark)

Sharing experiences and planning for the future---Joe (bmw, Sweden), Bob (abwe, Norway), and Matt (bmw, Denmark)

meals on the go---eating on the Oslo subway between stops

meals on the go—eating on the Oslo subway between stops

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Weighed in the Balance

Think of a two-armed-balance scale.Scale

On one side you find masses of Christians, Christian Bible studies, Bible Schools, Christian pre-schools, Christian High Schools, Christian counseling, Christian Magazines, Christian radio stations, Christian book publishers, Churches of every slant, shape, color, and flavor, etc . . .   The pan on this side of the scale is so full, things are actually falling off from the lack of room.  Let’s call that side of the scale, “America”.

On the other side there are a handful of believers.  Bible studies?  A few.  Christian education?  Only that which mocks the Scripture.  Christian counseling?  No.  Christian magazines? No.  Christian radio stations?  Not that I am aware of.  Churches—oh yes, plenty of churches!  Unfortunately they are nearly all empty or drifting away from biblical moorings.  The pan on this side of the scale is so empty, that the little that remains in the pan ponders seriously if there is any use in what they are doing—hopeless may not be too strong of a word.    This half of the scale could aptly be called, “Denmark”.

Upon studying this most unequal balance, one might simply inquire, Why not move a little from the over-stuffed balance to the empty side?

We have all been moved by pictures of poor and starving people, and hopefully that moving has translated into doing.  But all too often our rationalized response is, what difference can I make?  With absolute certainty the outcome is nothing, if nothing is done.  But if we act, even in a small way, the possibility of making a difference has at least germinated.

I write to you a picture of poor and starving people.  Spiritually poor and spiritually starving.

We shared supper tonight with a young Danish family who have selflessly served us over the last two days.  In gratitude we gave them a simple wooden plaque inscribed with a Bible verse.  Their first words were, ‘You cannot find anything like this here’.  I encouraged them that when they saw the plaque they can remember God’s faithfulness and that there are people praying for Denmark.  Tears began to run down the young mother’s cheeks.  We assured her that we are praying others will join Matt and Sarah Bates and labor to plant churches in Denmark.   As more tears came she said, “I do not know why anyone would want to move from America to this God-forsaken land, but we are waiting and hoping.”

Our brothers and sisters are poor, exhausted, and starving.

If you were standing on the other side of the scale, wouldn’t you be refreshed if just a little from the heaping side moved your way?  God has not forsaken Denmark.  Let us follow Him.   —JM

“The harvest is great and the laborers few; pray the Lord of the Harvest would send forth laborers into the harvest.” Luke 10:2

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North by Northwest

Our time in Copenhagen came to a close today.  A three hour cross country train ride brought us to Northwest to Aarhus, Denmark.

Why Aarhus (pronounced Orr-whose)?  Aarhus is the second largest city in Denmark (300,000 people).  Aarhus is dominated by approximately 35,000 students in Denmarkäs second largest university.  This city is in very real need of a Bible teaching church.

This was the testimony we heard from the mouths of two young believing Danish families we met this evening.  Over dinner they described the frustrations felt and lived out as a result of choosing to follow Christ.  One of them, a medical student, described the very trecherous path of professing Christ in the world of science—”the higher you go in education, the greater the resistence to anything resembling Christianity”.

They endeavor to make a difference, but they stand against an enormous tide.  There exists very little in this country to encourage, validate, or support followers of Christ.  What little exists is fading.  We sleep tonight in a church just down the road from the university.  From the back yard, you can see the steeples of four churches, including where we are staying.  One is for sale.  One is long since closed.  The other two have bells ringing from their steeples.  One can not help but hear the emptiness in the toll of the bells.  It mirrors an emptiness that comes from within.

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Dragons, Dead Bodies, and Doorknobs

Just another day in Copenhagen. And the above were just some of the sights we took in today. Okay, so the dragon was a statue, the bodies were in the museum, and doorknobs are not special, but they alliterate nicely with the other two—at least you are reading!
Actually, the best of the day was not what we saw, but who we met. God arranged some incredible encounters for us with Danes today:
The first was a simple conversation with a stranger as we sat outside a church we were not permitted to enter (come on time or do not come at all, seemed to be the rule here). But the conversation exposed some of the emptiness felt by the Danes as well as their disillusion with what is called the church. It also gave opportunity to express a contrasting view: a glimpse that something more exists than the empty and lifeless form of religion prevailing in Scandinavia.
Later on, a team member was able to meet up with some old Danish friends. In the course of their afternoon together, repeated opportunities presented to testify of Christ and give an answer for the hope that is within. Join us in praying that the seed sown would fall on good ground.
Then this evening, after a full day of observing and touring Copenhagen, we met for two hours with a young Danish pastor and his wife. They explained to us the deep, deep needs in Denmark, the absence of biblical training (in contrast Denmark has arguably the world’s most anti-biblical seminary), the breakdown of Danish society, and the critically weak state of the church. We were encouraged to meet part of a small faithful remnant, who are willing to stand against a raging fire of immorality, hostility, and erosion of truth and reason. We spent time in prayer together, praying for strength and boldness for God’s children, and for the God’s Word to go forth in power in Denmark.
It is fascinating to see swords Vikings used to swing. We enjoyed taking a boat trip down the canals of Copenhagen. It is amazing to walk down streets that have been in place since long before America was even a concept. These things add depth, and clarity to the bigger picture. But in the foreground is the people. As we hear their stories we gain entrance into their world—we see a dry and weary land, and we hear a cry for help.    —JM

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