Giving Glory to Giants / Å gi ære til kjemper

In Uganda, educating children is like a pyramid. When a Ugandan little one starts school at age six, he or she has 6 million classmates. By the time she’s in high school, that number drops to 800,000. When she goes to university, she’s looking at a mere 8,000-10,000 of her peers having joined her.

    Our friend Jonathan explains this to me as we roll past baby goats and motorbikes, thick farmland everywhere we look: cassava leaves, pineapple and jackfruit in abundance. Brick makers are going about their day, leaving mounds of fired bricks like little monuments on the roadside. The concept of locally sourced is almost laughable here, since the papaya I had for breakfast yesterday came from outside our window and Jonathan just bought pineapple off of some guy’s bike as we head towards the church.

    As I write this, my friend Renske is teaching on the book and life of Joshua. We, as a group, just told the story of Joshua and Caleb and the band of spies, sent to survey the promise land in Numbers 13. My friend Kristin is arm in arm with her Ugandan Joshua to one side of the stage, and I am on the other with my band of ten Ugandan spies.

    I can’t help but feel like it isn’t the first time I’ve played this role before. God, please help my unbelief.

    We talked about the Democratic Republic of the Congo, our next destination, over breakfast this morning, and I asked the question that had been nagging me this whole time: how can you look at a place like the DRC, in all of it’s richness and complexity and issues, and believe that a simple gospel like the one we have could make anything other than a marginal difference? Seeing the Bible as a way of changing nations just didn’t feel like enough, fast enough. It was the question I had been asking for months now.

     I had read all the books I could find on the DRC: it’s history and culture, it’s people and it’s issues, and the solution I held in my hands felt vastly too small.

    Like Caleb and Joshua in Numbers 13, I want to believe the God I can’t see over the giants in front of me, giant like most children will never step foot in school beyond eighth grade. Giants like the damage Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army left in their wake after 22 years in Uganda and Sudan, priceless, precious lives stolen. Boko Haram in Nigeria stole 600-something girls while they slept, for the simple act of pursuing their education. Remember #bringbackourgirls? Sixty of those girls were recently released. If that’s not a giant, I’ll pack up and go home.

     Because God, there are giants in the land. God, make us a generation of Caleb’s. Does our enemy believe in the word of God more than I do? The damage he’s doing on countless souls leads me to believe that might be closer to the truth.

    People like our friend Jonathan are dragging in grapes the size of our heads while we stand there in awe of giants.

     While I read countless books, news stories, and UN reports, Jonathan has eighteen children, some orphans, some not, but so fully loved.. And a school, giving 150-plus children an education, health care, and sometimes even a place to live. And a store, filled with handmade items, employing women to sustain themselves and their families. Jonathan, moved by the word of God, unintimidated by the surrounding giants.

    As Jonathan tells me his story, he tells me of being moved as a young adult by just two little girls. Those little girls are now grown adults, and sixteen more fill his kitchen on the muggy Saturday we go to have lunch at his house,we lounge on couches and chairs, back porches and concrete floors. We talk about school, and laugh at our ridiculous dance moves. He tells me that the reason the school was started was because he couldn’t fit them all into his house. They’re all my children, he tells me. After seeing both his home and the school, called Covenant Community, I believe it.

    Are we giving glory to God? Or giants? Because there’s only one who deserves it. Are we looking into the face of the God who is more than capable of building and restoring nations, and making excuses?

    I sat at breakfast with a lump in my throat, and my processing in overdrive. I’m thinking about my sister Haylee. She loves school, she’s a question asker and an avid learner. I hope and I pray, and I truly believe she’ll never live in a world where her education isn’t a given. Where what happens to countless children across the world will happen to her.

   I sit here in this Ugandan church asking God to teach me a different story. Father, lift my eyes from giants ten times my size, to who you are, creator of the world, greater than even my imagination. Help me to carry the weight of both hope and honesty, knowing that things will not always be easy, but that joy and justice are worth the fight.

    Father, help me to believe you more. Even the demons believe and tremble. I want to believe you and see mountains move. I want to believe you and see the giants fall.

 


I Uganda er utdannelse av barn som en pyramide. Når et barn i Uganda begynner på skolen i en alder av seks år, har han eller hun 6 millioner klassekamerater. Når hun er kommet  til videregående skole, faller dette tallet til 800.000. Når hun går på universitetet, er det ikke mer enn 8 000-10 000 jevnaldrende som har sluttet seg til henne.

    Vår venn Jonathan forklarte dette til meg da vi kjørte forbi baby geiter, motorsykler,  og rikt jordbruksland overalt hvor vi ser: kassava blad, ananas og jackfrukter i overflod. Arbeidere som er i gang med å lage murstein etterlater seg høyder av mursteinsrester som små monumenter langs veikanten. Begrepet “kortreist” er nesten latterlig her, siden papaya’en jeg hadde til frokost i går kom fra utenfor vinduet vårt og Jonathan nettopp kjøpte ananas av en syklende mann på vei til kirken.

    Når jeg skriver dette, underviser min venn Renske Josva’s bok og hans liv. Vi, som en gruppe, fortalte nettopp historien om Josva, Kaleb og spionene som var sendt ut for å speide løfteslandet i 4. mosebok 13. Min venn Kristin er arm i arm med sin ugandiske Joshua på den ene siden av scenen, og jeg er på den andre siden med min gjeng på ti ugandiske spioner.

    Jeg kan ikke hjelpe for å føle at det ikke er første gang jeg har spilt denne rollen. Gud, vær så snill å hjelpe min vantro.

    Vi snakket om den Demokratiske Republikken Kongo, vår neste destinasjon, over frokost i morges, og jeg spurte spørsmålet som hadde plaget meg hele tiden: hvordan kan du se på et sted som DRC, i all sin rikdom, kompleksitet og problemer, og tro at et enkelt evangelium som det vi har kan gjøre alt annet enn en liten forskjell? Å se Bibelen som en måte å forandre nasjoner på, føltes bare ikke som nok, raskt nok. Det var spørsmålet jeg hadde hatt i måneder nå.

     Jeg hadde lest alle bøkene jeg kunne finne på DRC: Landets historie og kultur,  folk og problemer, og løsningen jeg nå holdt i hendene, føltes bare for liten.

    Som Kaleb og Josva i 4. mosebok 13, vil jeg tro på en Gud jeg ikke kan se fremfor kjempene foran meg. Kjemper som at de fleste barn aldri vil sette sin fot på skolen utover åttende klasse. Kjemper som skandalen med Joseph Kony og the Lord’s Resistance Army etterlot seg etter 22 år i Uganda og Sudan, uvurderlige dyrebare liv stjålet. Boko Haram i Nigeria stjal rundt 600 jenter mens de sov av den enkle grunnen at de forsøkte å fullføre sin utdannelse. Husker du #bringbackourgirls? 60 av de jentene ble nylig sluppet fri. Hvis det ikke er en kjempe, kan jeg bare pakke sammen og reise hjem.

     Du ser  Gud, det er kjemper i landet. Gud, gjør oss til en generasjon som Kalebs. Tror vår fiende på Guds ord mer enn jeg gjør? Skaden han gjør på utallige sjeler fører meg til å tro at det kan være nærmere sannheten.

    Folk som vår venn Jonathan drar inn drueklaser på størrelse med hodene våre, mens vi står der i ærefrykt av kjemper.

     Mens jeg har lest utallige bøker, nyhetsoppslag og FN-rapporter, har Jonathan atten barn, noen foreldreløse, noen ikke, men like høyt elsket…. Og en skole som gir 150 pluss barn en utdanning, helsevesen og noen  til og med et sted å bo. Han har også en butikk, fylt med håndlagde gjenstander, som gir kvinner mulighet til å forsørge seg selv og deres familier. Jonathan gikk på Guds ord, uberørt av kjempene og omstendighetene.

    Jonathan forteller meg historien sin, om hvordan han ble rørt som ung voksen av bare to småpiker. De små jentene er nå godt voksne, og seksten jenter til fyller kjøkkenet på denne grå lørdagen da vi går for å spise lunsj i huset hans. Vi sitter på sofaer og stoler, verandaer og betonggulv. Vi snakker om skolen, og ler av våre latterlige dansetrinn. Han forteller meg at grunnen til at skolen ble startet var at han ikke fikk plass til dem i huset sitt. De er alle mine barn, forteller han meg. Etter å ha sett både hjemmet hans og skolen, kalt Covenant Community, tror jeg det.

    Gir vi ære til Gud, eller til kjemper? For  det er bare en som fortjener det. Ser vi inn i Guds ansikt, som er mer enn i stand til å bygge og gjenopprette nasjoner, mens vi kommer med unnskyldninger?

    Jeg spiste frokost med en klump i halsen, mens tankene raste rundt i hodet. Jeg tenker på søsteren min Haylee. Hun elsker skolen. Hun spør stadig spørsmål, og er ivrig til å lære. Jeg håper og jeg ber, og jeg tror virkelig at hun aldri vil leve i en verden der utdanningen hennes ikke er en selvfølge. Hvor det som skjer med utallige barn over hele verden skal skje med henne.

   Jeg sitter her i denne ugandiske kirken og ber Gud om å lære meg en annen historie. Fader, løft øynene mine fra kjempene som er ti ganger min størrelse, til hvem du er, verdens skaperen, større enn til og med min fantasi. Hjelp meg til å bære vekten av både håp og ærlighet, å vite at ting ikke alltid vil være enkle, men at glede og rettferdighet er verdt kampen.

    Far, hjelp meg til å tro på deg mer. Selv demonene tror og skjelver. Jeg vil tro på deg og se fjell bli flyttet. Jeg vil tro på deg og se kjempene falle.

DTS Outreach Update: Thailand

thai NRTCDTS team in Bangkok, Thailand,  working with students at the Nancy Ross Training Center

One of our DTS teams sent us this report from Thailand, after working a month in Bangkok. Now they have arrived in the northern part of the country, where they will work with the Karen people near Mae Sot. When we arrived in Bangkok, we had no idea what adventures God had for us, which gave us big expectations for our time here! When we took our first steps in this beautiful country, our excitement really started to grow! Even though we were tired after a long flight, we were filled with joy and happiness. It was exciting to think about the month we would have in Bangkok, before heading to some of the northern villages near Mae Sot. Here we are, one month later, so thankful for all we’ve learned during our time here. We’ve stayed at the YWAM base in Bangkok, and it feels like our home! The base has blessed us in so many ways. Showers, familiar toilets (not squatty pottys, which we’re tried outside the base) and Internet are some of the goodies we have here. But the biggest blessing has been the fellowship with people who share a common goal and purpose- to know God and to make Him known. The great thing is that it’s not only a goal, but that its a lifelong journey, as we’ve learned through many of our new friendships!

thai ywam baseView from the base in Bangkok

We have made many Thai friends, and they are beautiful! The culture here is very different from Norway; it is very warm and joyful. If smile at a stranger on the street, they smile back. Everybody is tan here, yet they love people with white skin. Due to this, they use “whitening” creams. So we have to be careful about which skin products we buy! The food here is also very nice! Thai people eat rice and noodles for all their meals- breakfast, lunch and dinner. This was an adjustment for us as Norwegian bread-lovers, but now we really like Thai food! Another thing we love about Thailand is all the markets! So now all the girls on the team wear “alibaba” and “elephant” pants, as we call them. We also have to be careful about the way we sit and the way we’re pointing our fingers or feet. When we’re sitting, we have to have our feet down on the ground, and when we’re pointing, we have to use two fingers. If we’re not doing this, we might offend someone.

To further help us understand the culture, we’ve had a translator with us this last month. There are many people we’ve met who can’t speak English, and our translator has helped bridge that gap of communication. She is an amazing person, and we are so thankful to be working with her! The base in Bangkok is also very diverse. It is a meeting point for Christian teams from all over the world! So not only are we learning about Thailand, but we have also learned about many different nations.

thai 1Praying for the fortuneteller we met, along with our translator

Yet one of the biggest differences is the awareness of the spiritual atmosphere here. There are Buddha statues everywhere, and there are “spirit houses” all over. “Spirit houses” are said to be small houses where spirits of the dead people live. We have also gone for prayer walks during our time here. On one of these walks, we met a fortuneteller. We have noticed that these spiritual things have been challenging at times, as we’ve tried to talk with others about Jesus.

When it comes to ministry, we’ve done many cool things! The first days, we had a cultural introduction, and we went on a prayer walk in two Buddhist temples. The following week, we worked at the Nancy Ross Training Center with the NRTC Student Ministry. We had a lot of fun teaching English! We played many games and laughed so much! We helped prepare food in the restaurant on the base, painted and went on more prayer walks and for evangelism in the nearby university campus. In the evenings, we helped lead a couple of meetings. We praised God through worship, sharing testimonies and playing games.

The two following weeks we served at The Ruth Center. This is a ministry which helps elderly people living in the slums of Bangkok. We washed a huge house, we went on more prayer walks and house visits, and we helped with the “Dream Project.” This project gives elderly people opportunities to make items that they can sell, providing them with an income. On our house visits, we had many good conversations and strong prayers! Many people had a huge reaction to us showing them God’s love. Some of them started crying, and they where really touched by God. Its amazing to see how God is working in these visits and in the ministry! We are learning that it’s not about us, but about Him- everything that happens is to His glory! So far we’ve had a great experience, and we’ve learned a lot! Mae Sot is our next destination, where we’re going to work with the Karen people. Its going to be exiting to see what God has for us there!

Text and Photos: Kine Marita, DTS Student

Crucible

Elses post feb bigger 2

I remember when I was in High School and we learned what the word ‘Crucible’ meant: A place of severe test or trial; a place or situation in which different elements interact to produce something new. Our teacher explained that many times, when one wants to refine gold or silver, the metal is placed into a crucible, exposed to very high temperatures and then the impurities are burned away leaving a beautiful finished product.

October was my month of a living-crucible in Thailand.

You’ve heard the old saying, ‘be careful what you wish for’ or ‘be careful what you pray for’? Now I’m recommending, ‘be careful what you study’. In my quiet time I began a study that I titled ‘Crucible’ where I studied a few places in the Bible where trials were turned into triumphs. In Romans 5:3-5, tribulation turned to perseverance, proven character, and then into a hope that doesn’t disappoint. James 1:2-4 talked of trials being a testing of our faith, teaching us endurance until we reached a perfect result.

While I was studying, there were no real struggles I was facing- just the normal, small struggles of living in a new culture. Then God took me on a field trip: Chiang Mai Ram Hospital! October was a month of sickness, pain and deep reliance on Him. It was a time where I learned to put into action what I say I believe in the Bible; that God is good in all circumstances and has a good plan with everything in my life, even sickness in a foreign country.

It was a time of living out 1 Thessalonians 5:16. “Rejoice Always!” My God is good. He is worthy of praise regardless of circumstance. I believe what is written in Romans 8:28 and it is my joy to honor Him!

I’ve been blessed to be able to come home to celebrate Christmas with my family. And as nice as it has been, I’ve also been hit by the reality of worry and the effect that it has on service to God. As my dad and I drove around Oregon and delivered Christmas presents to all the aunts and uncles, each asked me, “Are you really going back to Thailand after being ‘deathly’ sick again?” And my answer is an emphatic ‘YES!’

I understand their worry and am incredibly thankful for their concern, but my experience has been that that I’ve seen in these passages: From trial comes triumph! Sickness is not my desire, nor is it God’s. However, praise and relationship with Him is! While I lay in my guest house, recovering from my week in the hospital I wrote a blog post (www.elsethenomad.wordpress.com). It was about why I joyfully choose to stay in Thailand with the Karen despite sickness. It was my testimony of God’s triumph.

That post circulated the globe. Friends in Asia read it, friends in Europe read it, and my dad read it to a waitress when he had a Bible study at a restaurant in town. I can’t help but wonder if maybe, just maybe, God allowed me to be sick just so that that waitress could hear the testimony of God’s faithfulness and redemptive and saving love.

Without darkness there can be no light. Without the cold, there would be no comforting heat. Without the difficulties of life, there would be no need for the grace and mercy of God. It is through the testing of our faith that we are made into the perfect likeness of Jesus. Paul was beaten, shipwrecked, stoned, bit by vipers and imprisoned; yet he praised God continually with all his heart.

As it says in Job 23:10: When he has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.

More and more, I understand what Paul meant when he said ‘to live is Christ and to die is gain’. My life is more than health and ease. My life is to glorify God. If glorifying God means being sick in a foreign land, resulting in people all over the world getting on their knees in communication with the God of the Universe, then I’m okay with that.

I will happily and joyfully go through the crucible.

Else Conrad                                                                                                                                                                      One Year team, Maw Gwee, Thailand

 

 

With the Good News to Turkey

Tyrkia 2

When I did my DTS almost 10 years ago at Skjærgårdsheimen, my outreach team went to Turkey. When I look back now, I know that my life was changed forever because of that trip! Not only because of that trip, but because of who God is. He leads us and guides us to where He wants us to be. We don’t always understand how it all will come together, but He is in charge! Today we live in Izmir, on the west coast of Turkey, with our three children. The last one was born here. In her passport it even says  ”Born in Izmir, Turkey”!

I met my husband during the year I did my DTS. He was staff in another city in Norway. Long story short; We got married 2.5 years later. When we married, we asked God what to do with our lives and felt that He told us to go to Turkey to be light and salt there.  After finishing our educations and working for a while, we quit our jobs, said goodbye to our families and friends and moved our life to Turkey. This was 1,5 year ago. So how is it  going?

Our team exists of one family from South Africa who leads the team, our family and 2 ladies from South Korea. Up until now the team has focused on discipling young believers and supporting the local church. Last spring our team was staffing a bible school ran by the local church. This was a “pilot project” and similar programs will take place the following years. Our team is at a turning point these days, where we feel there is a new season. We are praying that God will lead us to what He has for us in this new season.  Some of the things God has been leading us to focus on is mercy ministry, worship and prayer, and preparing workers for the harvest by discipling young believers. In the following months we will work out what this will look like practically.

Language learning is our main focus the first two years. We have been taking lessons in different forms: Classroom teaching and private tutoring. When we attend the church, we learn more biblical terms, as we are listening to testimonies and teaching from the Bible. The worship is in Turkish as well, so we learn a lot of Turkish worship songs.

We have 3 wonderful kids. Two boys age 4 and 3, and an 8 month old little baby girl. When I took my DTS, I never would have guessed that I would have my children in a Turkish kinder garden. They are learning Turkish and learning how to relate to the culture. Our prayer is that they will feel comfortable in this culture, so that we can not only stay for many years in this country, but live joyfully here.

A fieldworker in Turkey

Village life in Thailand

Else

I’ve been in Asia for a few months now, but it feels like I’ve been here for a lifetime… in a good way.

While sitting outside my room at the Karen DTS base in Northern Thailand, seeing the forested mountains break through the morning mist, I’m in awe that I’m actually here. I’m living with the Karen.

A few words come to mind when I think about the past few weeks here: Joy, Peace, Security, Utter Contentment.

Looking back, it’s actually crazy that I’m here. Asia was never on my radar. Missions was never on my radar. I spent most of my life pursuing and went to college to study music. Although my parents supported me, my mom always said, “Else, you’re going to be an English teacher and a missionary. I just know it!” At the beginning of my second year of college, I felt as though God said: Music is over. Through panic and confusion, I found myself studying to become an English teacher and started a new job teaching English to the international students on my campus. Right about that time, God had been introducing me to a people group in Northern Thailand and stirring up a call to missions in my heart. Many small things led me to take my DTS at Skjærgårdsheimen, but the final push was seeing that this small school, in my most favorite part of the world, sent an outreach team to the Karen people. I applied and was accepted within a week.

Throughout my DTS, many teachers said something along the lines of, ‘The best place to be is in God’s plan’. It is so true! Everyday, I fall more and more in love with this place, the village and the people.

God is so incredible. He knows exactly what our hearts’ desires are and the absolute best ways to fulfill those desires. He knows that I wanted to travel and that I love music. Then, He puts me here, in the middle of the jungle (the last place I ever thought I would want to be) with the most musical people I’ve ever encountered. Music is everywhere!

Even in the village, I can see that God prepared me especially for this job. Teaching English, a job I never thought I wanted, has become one of my most favorite activities! One evening, in Maw Kwee (the village my team and I go to every other week), I was sitting writing in my journal and looked down our ladder to see six or seven village kids staring at me and laughing. Feeling awkward, I went inside our house and asked my friend why they were there laughing at me! She smiled and said that they wanted me to teach them English. So I turned on a light, and waved them up the ladder. Suddenly, it was as though the whole village was in our living area! Students, babies, grandmothers- everyone came to watch the blonde girl teach their beautiful, dark children English. It was such a great moment. My heart was full because I knew that it was God who prepared that moment.

Else Conrad
One Year team, Maw Gwee Thailand 

Staffettpinnen går videre

livjorunElse2
                                   Liv Jorun                                                                          Else

En tindrende klar augustdag i høst stod vi i klasserommet på Skjærgårdsheimen og bad for en av vår tids pionerer, 20 år gamle Else Conrad fra USA. Dagen etter satte hun seg på flyet til Thailand der hun skal bo og jobbe blant en folkegruppe fra Burma som heter Karen-folket. Helt på grensa til Burma finnes det over 200 000 karenere som har flyktet til Thailand etter å ha blitt undertrykt av den burmesiske hæren i nærmere 70 år. Else skal jobbe blant noen av de aller fattigste av disse i den lille landsbyen Maw Gwee som ligger rett ved grenseelven mellom Thailand og Burma, Moi River. I denne landsbyen har en annen ung utsending fra Skjærgårdsheimen, Karina Vennerød, startet et prosjekt for vanskeligstilte kvinner. Prosjektet heter Damola som betyr håp, og det er nettopp det Else og Karina ønsker å bringe til kvinnene i Maw Gwee. De bringer håp ved å gi disse kvinnene et levebrød bak vevestolen i tillegg til budskapet om verdens eneste håp, Jesus Kristus.

Det å stå sammen med Else denne onsdagen var en helt spesiell opplevelse for meg. For ganske nøyaktig 13 år siden var det jeg som stod der og ble sendt ut som feltarbeider til karenfolket. Gud hadde talt og jeg var klar til å gå. Jeg følte meg ikke spesielt modig og visste slett ikke hva som lå foran. At ett år skulle bli til tretten hadde jeg ingen anelse om, men jeg hadde lært på DTS at det Gud sier det vil Han også gjøre, det Han lover det vil Han holde. I dag kan jeg si at det jeg hadde lært på DTS er helt sant. Det Gud har sagt det har Han også gjort i gjennom alle disse tretten årene. Han har holdt det Han har lovet. Det var godt å kunne dele den erfaringen med Else der hun stod klar til å ta skrittet ut i tro på Guds løfter. Det kjentes som å gi staffettpinnen videre, ja, mer enn det. I tillegg til staffettpinnen kunne jeg sende med henne en forsikring om at hun kommer til å løpe denne etappen sammen med Far i himmelen og vinne seier med Han.

Liv Jorun Bolås,
Stab International Avdeling