We have just returned from our annual teaching visit to Norway which is a highlight in our diary. For the past thirty years or so our visit has been centred on teaching at the Ga Ut centre in Hurdal, but this has now been closed, so our programme has changed.
Our visit started this time in Oslo at Fjellhaug Theological College. This is the centre for the Norwegian Lutheran mission which used to be associated with the China Inland Mission in China and it still has a strong concern for worldwide mission, although most of its students will work in Norway. Fjellhaug is biblically conservative and warm in their welcome to us. We have given some teaching there every year for many years, so know the ropes and feel at home both with the staff and with the set-up generally. They are now exploring a connection with All Nations which could be very good.
We moved on from Fjellhaug south to Porsgrunn to stay with our very good friends Per and Nora Gimse. Here I gave some seminars on Habakkuk for two evenings and then three hours on the Trinity on the Saturday before we both preached in different churches on the Sunday. Nora is minister for the local Free Lutheran church, so through her we relate to a variety of churches in that area. It is always a special joy to be with the Gimse family. Their three excellent boys are now grown-up, but always come home for the weekend when we are there, so we enjoy seeing them and sharing together. But sadly Per is now at an advanced stage of MS and cannot do anything for himself. He is amazingly patient and loves being in the family and at church. Nora’s parents live just five minutes walk away which is most helpful in loving support, in their shared love for China and in the abundant supply of honey, fruit and vegetables.
After the warmth and beauty of Porsgrunn we moved to Grimstad Bible School. I had been there once before, but it was Elizabeth’s first visit. Set on a slight hill above the fjord the views are splendid and we much appreciated the staff and students there. Now we are working on dates for next year in each place and we may perhaps add a Bible School in Trondheim where there will be a new Ga Ut course like previously in Hurdal.
Sadly we no longer have contact with Elizabeth’s wider Norwegian family – her grandmother was Norwegian. But our love for Norway still continues. It is such a privilege to be invited each year to teach in this most beautiful land.
Look out for another blog in a few days’ time when I will write something on the church situation in Norway today!
Elizabeth and I have just returned from a few days down in Chichester with our two daughters and their families. We rejoiced again and praised the Lord for the immense privilege and joy of being part of a loving family with wonderful children and grandchildren to love and to be loved by. It is such a pleasure to be with them and to share together. Each of our three children is so different and yet they really enjoy being with each other and also with us – and we love the three of them so much, The cousins also just love to be together which is wonderful to observe. Margaret has a lovely home which leads out onto a beautiful lake which they own and run as a fishing syndicate.
It takes about thirty minutes to walk round the lake, so we can enjoy the beauty with swans, ducks, diving terns and cormorants plus the occasional heron. We enjoy the comfort of the home and the beauty of the lake and garden. And Ruth and Greg have worked hard to make their smaller garden both productive and pretty which is so good too.
Their pig-rearing continues to flourish! And they set a brilliant model of simple but comfortable living. Ruth and Margaret both live in Chichester, so it is easy for the two families to get together. What a delight to have 10 of us sharing a meal together in the sunshine overlooking the lake!
Andrew and his wife Margaret plus their three beautiful girls live in Greenwich, so it is easy for them to come up to us for the day or for us to drive down to them. Andrew is wonderful with the children and all our grandchildren have a special love for him, enjoying it so much when they get together.
We often feel that our society is losing the security, joy and comfort of loving families. As Elizabeth and I get older, we realise all the more how precious it is to share life together with someone who one has loved and been loved by for so many years through all the experiences of life. We long that the multitudes of our nation might also share this wonderful privilege.
Elizabeth and I have just returned from a brilliant weekend with the Salt and Light Community Church
in Derby. We find it so spiritually refreshing and invigorating to have weekends in such churches, for at home we belong to our small village church where we much enjoy the people who are our friends. But the church is small and gradually declining which can be a bit discouraging. So Derby was wonderful. Before our first meeting there on Saturday one of their leaders prayed that we might not only give to them, but also that we should be equally blessed through our weekend together. God answered that prayer!
On Saturday evening we had a lovely supper together with thirty of their leaders who are involved in church planting and in their work among local Muslims. Then we both spoke and felt that the Spirit was with us in that ministry. It was so encouraging to hear of their new church plants in various other towns and cities in the area. Their new church in Leicester already has 150 people in attendance which is so encouraging. But we were specially fascinated to hear of their work among Muslims. On my previous visit I had been excited to meet with a group of some fifty Muslims and ex-Muslims, but now that has grown to about 95 – of which 74 are already baptised believers in Jesus Christ. They are largely Iranian and Afghan, but a small group of Kurds is also growing. Of course there are also one or two of other ethnic backgrounds. Having been in Afghanistan three times and seen how hard it is there for Afghans to become believers in Jesus Christ, it is wonderful now to see how Afghans are turning to the Lord in Europe, America, India and Pakistan. Once they are away from the militant and violent Islam in Afghanistan itself, their disillusionment with Islam can be expressed with slightly greater freedom and safety.
After lunch on Sunday we met with the 25 or so who are working with the Muslim communities. We taught through a variety of stories and then drew out the principles behind the stories. This led to questions and sharing together on their experiences.
The church had been having a series of talks on Giving and this Sunday was billed as the final talk of that series. I preached on the well-known John 3.16, seeing God himself as our model in giving. His love is based on the fact that he loves. Likewise our giving is not a task based on duty or even just the need, but stems from our love for the Lord and for his people and work. Of course his giving was sacrificial in the giving of himself in the person of his only son – what a challenging model for our giving! And his giving was for the world, not only for his own chosen Jewish people. And the world is waiting for us to give even our own lives to bring Jesus to them. In this we looked briefly at different areas of the world where people are still waiting to hear the good news of Jesus.
Let us also give all we have and all we are to the Lord for his glory worldwide – willing to do ANYTHING and to go ANYWHERE for him.
It is so heart-warming and such a privilege to be part of a loving family! Elizabeth and I feel so blessed with our children and grandchildren. Recently I had a week’s preaching and teaching in Aberdeen, but Elizabeth was rather unwell at that time and needed someone to be with her and care for her. We were so touched that the three children took it in turns to have a couple of days in our home looking after Elizabeth. Elizabeth felt so surrounded and cocooned in their love. Happily she is recovering well and steadily regaining strength, but we still have to take things a little gently.
Gilcomston Church website
It was very good to be back in Gilcomston Church (‘Gilc’) which was a major Church of Scotland church until the strong support for same-sex relationships became the final straw on top of other non-biblical trends in the national church. Two years ago they separated from the Church of Scotland along with quite a few other major churches around Scotland. Some have joined the Free Church of Scotland, others have joined the International Presbyterian Church which stemmed from the ministry of Francis Schaeffer. Gilc and several others are still just independent churches, but they relate closely with the others which have left the C. of S. It was fascinating to talk with the Minister and others about their relatively new situation. New freedom brings new opportunities for effective ministry, but also introduces new issues in the life and outreach of the church. They will also face the question of ordination and training for ministry – All Nations with its strong emphasis on biblical cross-cultural training would seem ideal for them. This relates particularly to Aberdeen with its oil economy and its strong university life which make the city very international. For me it was a delight to see a large group of English teachers from China in the church when I preached on the Sunday and then again in an International Bible Study where I spoke – two even came from Lanzhou and knew the church we relate so closely with there. Altogether it was very encouraging to feel the open-hearted enthusiasm of the people in the different meetings where I was speaking. And it was very good too to stay again with Geoffrey and Angela Tudor (ex-All Nations) whose hospitality is always very generous.