10 Things I Discovered in Norway (Part One)
1. Bringing 90 people together from 20 different nations is no easy thing but has a significant impact.
The European Educator’s Christian Association (EurECA) has been around for very nearly 25 years. During that time many hundreds of Christian educators have been encouraged, supported and developed through its work. Each year they (or more correctly now, we) organise a conference. This is no straightforward exercise at the best of times but doing it with volunteers in different nations for people coming from across the continent? There has to be an easier way to make something happen but despite the obvious potential pitfalls this was a really well organised and successful venture and so I pay tribute right now to all those involved. Well done!
2. Going to bed at 11.30pm when it is still light makes you very grateful for eyelids.
If I had been advising God in the process of creation and He had asked my opinion, I would have agreed wholeheartedly with the concept of eyelids. I might have needed more persuasion about eyebrows but that is another story for another day.
For now I’ll confine myself to eyelids and what a splendid idea they are. You see, the problem is sunset, or rather the lack of it. There just wasn’t one in Norway when I was there, at least not that you’d have noticed. There might have been one around 1.00 am but I didn’t stay up that long to find out. The first evening we were there we were having a chat after dinner, thinking it was around 8.00 in the evening, at least that was the time that the brightness indicated, when in reality it was 11.30. How was anyone supposed to sleep when it was bright enough for another 20 overs of cricket to be played? The answer, eyelids. So I dutifully closed mine and slept soundly through until the morning. I was told that the dawn chorus had started around 03.00 in the morning but thankfully I was blissfully unaware of it. So, eyelids, good idea Lord, thanks.
3. My tendency to cry during worship isn’t changed by singing in Norwegian, even though I only understood three words.
I cry much more readily these days and with no self-consciousness at all. This is especially true in worship and never more so than when singing about the resurrection. What surprised me is that when we were singing a new song in Norwegian, Graven er tom (The grave is empty) I found the same thing happening. Now, to a non-linguist like me the Norwegian language is, let me use the word interesting. Here is an example, ‘over verden høyt i akt skal være’ which means ‘highest praise over all the Earth and Heaven’; pretty obvious really, yes? So imagine how I mangled the pronunciation through whole songs.
To be honest, most of the time I gave up after a while and asked the Holy Spirit to help me because I reckoned that He had a better idea about what was going on than I did, which of course was true. When I did this I discovered again that He loves to lead us in the journey of worship. This is what I think happens, when we allow Him to do this our language changes from being the language of Earth to the language of Heaven, which is the Word of God, which is Jesus.
4.Some Norwegian coins have holes in them.
This produced unexpected joy. On seeing my first one I was tempted to hand it back and ask for a real one. There has to be a good reason for the holes. I’ve no idea what it is but it opens up all kinds of questions. How many can you get on a toothpick? Would one without a hole be worth more or less than one with a hole? Could you have a game throwing them onto a cocktail stick from around a table in a bar? Could they be worn on a piece of string around your neck instead of putting them in your pocket? Could you make a tunnel for small insects to play in and if you could, why would you want to?
Disappointingly I tried none of these things. I stuck to the rather well-worn track of trading them in exchange for items in cafes and shops, though to be honest you need quite a lot of them to buy anything in Norway, which is not exactly the cheapest place I have been to. Prices ranged from very expensive to eye-wateringly expensive. Despite this the Norwegian people are almost universally happy and pleasant which cannot be unrelated to the all fun they must have with their loose change.
5.God delights to work in unexpected places.
I met a lady from the Faroe Islands. I knew where they were, roughly, somewhere northish of Scotland and westish of Norway but probably not as far as Iceland. She was the Headteacher in a Christian school there, in fact the Christian school there. Her school has about 100 pupils but she was influencing her nation, which only has about 50,000 inhabitants. The island’s TV station had been there several times to report on what they were doing and why and they were really making an impact on the community there.
It also transpired that my good friend Phill Moon, the Headteacher of Bradford Christian School (more of him in part 2) had met her before when she had visited Bradford. Phill was with me at the conference and was as surprised to see her there as I was to find out that she knew him. We had the privilege of praying for her and her nation and the sense we had as we did so was of the Lord’s delight in working in unexpected ways in unexpected places. I am firmly convinced that what will happen in the Faroe Islands has the capacity to influence and to bring hope to a much broader community.
We should be encouraged. In the soul of God is a burning desire to bring change to lives, communities and nations. Education and schools have a great role to play in that because a vast majority of people, certainly in Europe, spend a great deal of their early lives in schools getting educated; about 14,000 hours in fact. The real question for those of us responsible is this, into what are we educating them? When God finds teachers whose own souls resonate with His desire, children and young people begin to discover the glory that they were created for. This is happening all over Europe in all sorts of schools but there is nothing to prevent that growing, if God’s church so desires. A small school in the north Atlantic is discovering that and so are teachers across this continent. Our goal can be to be a part of that and to see every nation in Europe touched by God because its children are being introduced to Jesus and disciple by teachers who love Him.