The State of the Lord's Work in Norway
Connie W. Adams
Having just returned from a month of gospel meetings in Norway, I thought it in order to make some kind of a general report on the state of the work there. Many congregations and individuals throughout t h e land have supported the several preachers who have labored or are yet laboring in that country. I have also caught wind of several rumors to the effect that the work in Norway is a dead cause and that no more money should be spent in support of men to go there and preach. Since I had a part in the beginning of the work in Norway in 1957, lived there two years, and have since maintained a close contact with those who have preached there, I thought the brethren generally might be interested in my impressions of the work and the prospects for the future.
The Pine Hills church in Orlando, Florida where I work continued my salary for the month of February with the Par Ave. church of Orlando and the Merritt Island congregations supplying my travel fund. I preached thirty-one times on the trip to a total of 151 who were not members of the church. I doubt if many gospel preachers in the states preached to that many "outsiders" during the month of February.
My first meeting was in Stavanger with Bill Pierce and the small congregation there. That work was established in 1961 and has made steady, though slow progress. Bill and Mary Lou Pierce have been in Norway now six years. They would like to come home but are unwilling to leave unless someone else comes to carry on their work. They have a small but pleasant place to meet on the second floor of a building that is well located. Bill speaks the language well and he and his family seem to be well "Norwegianized."
A stabilizing influence in Stavanger is the presence of the Olaf Reinholdtzen family. Olaf and his wife are members and are bringing Up their two children in the fear of the Lord. Just recently, Olaf began working fulltime with the church. He has been a member two years and knew his Bible well even before that time, for he had been studying at home and searching for sometime for the New Testament church. He is 42 years old, zealous, quick-witted, and an excellent personal worker. It was my pleasure to have him as a working companion in all the meetings I conducted. He is presently working with only $90 a month assured in support. He needs at least $250 a month. I am convinced that the brethren could make no better investment in the future of the Norwegian work than to support this mature, native preacher. The hope of any foreign work is to convert the native people, ground them in the truth, and then let them convert their countrymen.
There are several good prospects in Stavanger and we believe some who attended the meeting will obey the gospel soon. They have a number of good tracts in Norwegian which they distribute, teach in private studies where possible, and put out a monthly paper called "The Old Paths" which is sent to a mailing list of prospects and carried from house to house. They have a Bible Correspondence course that has already led two to obey the gospel. Several are in the process of studying it now.
The second meeting was at Haugesund, a town of 28,000 located four hours by boat`. north of Stavanger. We had a total of 29 visitors in three services there. Enough interest was shown to justify plans for brethren Pierce and Reinholdtzen to go up there every Monday night for services. This meeting was the first effort in that town and we were pleased with the interest shown. 1 also preached 4 nights in Aalesund, a town of 18,000 located 13 hours by boat north of Bergen. This was also the first effort there. The results were not all we had hoped for but at least we delivered our souls in the effort.
The most encouraging meeting of all was at Bergen where we lived from 1957 to 1959. Since that time many heartbreaking things have happened in Bergen. The first convert, a young man who in time began preaching fulltime, made shipwreck of the faith. He helped to take some other members away. He was unduly influenced by a supposedly converted Baptist preacher whom the liberal brethren in Oslo had accepted into fellowship and by a young lady whom he married who was not interested in the Lord's church. Then it was discovered that one family was working against the church from within. Much of their damage was done before their purpose was discovered.
When all of that had about settled down, about a year and a half ago there arose a difference between two American workers in Bergen as to the maintaining of any sort of working relation with liberal brethren in Oslo and other Scandinavian cities. The liberals in Oslo on three separate occasions while I was in Norway sought to clear checks through the church in Bergen, first for tracts, then for workbooks and then in the form of a check which went from Arcadia, California to Lubbock, Texas, to Oslo, each time being deposited by the receiving church and a check being written on their account. So finally it came to Bergen. Each time the checks were sent back with a letter explaining why we could not accept such. The first time we could overlook as an innocent mistake, but the other instances could not be considered such. By the time Mason Harris returned to the states, there wasn't much contact with the liberals anyhow. They had very little use for Mason.
But in the past few years the liberals have stepped up the pace of the same type of unscriptural antics that they have pulled in the states. James Jones and Bob Tuten with the agreement of Bill Pierce, decided that all ties with them must be severed for the protection of the remaining members on the west coast of Norway. A report has been circulated in this country to the effect that this was an unwise move precipitated by hotheaded action on the part of the preachers just named. I have already read the complete files of the church in Bergen covering this whole matter. It is my judgment that the action was absolutely necessary to the preserving of the work that had been done. The final straw that led to this action was the decision of the liberals in Oslo to accept into fellowship a Pentecostal preacher who lived in Bergen when the brethren in Bergen rejected him on the ground that he had not obeyed the gospel. They accepted him in Oslo anyhow, got support for him and he is presently preaching for the liberals. But he has been to Bergen since that time and preached for the Baptist church there. Some Pentecostal people attended one of my meetings in Sandnes while I was over there and told me this man, Sunsdal, had just been in a meeting with them. Things that are unscriptural in America are not made scriptural in Norway or anywhere just because "sound" brethren might get lonesome.
I found the Tutens hard at work in Bergen. They are doing well with the language and seem to have no particular problem with Norwegian customs. They also have several tracts, use the same correspondence course used in Stavanger, and publish a monthly paper called "Back to the Bible." Bob Tuten has an offset press and knows what to do with it. He is saving the church much money on printing bills by use of this machine. I found three faithful members in addition to the Tutens. It seems that old wounds are healing. We revived some old contacts and made some new ones. I believe there will be fruit seen from these efforts. The interest and enthusiasm in the meetings mounted to the concluding service. I left them much encouraged.
They still have 25-30 children in Bible classes each Sunday. During the meetings I was made to see the good that can come from this long-range work. An 18-year-old girl came to the meeting who was in a class I taught and later was taught by Mason Harris. She is engaged to a boy who was also in these classes. She has a pretty good understanding of the truth and I believe will obey it. She is now taking the correspondence course. The church in Bergen has a nice meeting place and the problems about the house where they are meeting are much improved. It is some distance from the center of town but a bus line stops right in front of the building. I believe the work in Bergen is on the verge of an upswing and think it would be disastrous for brethren to stop supporting it now.
Tuten, Pierce and Reinholdtzen are all deserving of support. The Pierce family needs someone to replace them in Stavanger. Bill is willing to stay long enough to help whoever comes to learn the language. The Tutens plan to stay four years in all and have already been there one and a half. There is a need for men to go not only to Bergen and Stavanger, but there are other sizable cities where nobody is at work, places like Kristiansand, Trondheim, and cities in north Norway. Men are needed who are mature in judgment, sound in faith and who have the patience to learn another language, new customs, and who can weather disappointments without coming "unglued." It is a mistake to send a man to such work who speaks with an uncertain sound on the issues that have divided the church in the states. There is a need for men who know how to work with other faithful men. One reason why the work has been so slow has been the language barrier. Another reason, and the principal one, is the thousand years of tradition that has produced a built-in indifference to religion. Then there is the old problem of people being confused by all the different churches.
If you would be interested in learning more of the work in Norway, or would like to have a part in preaching in the country, contact: William Pierce, Madlaveien 49, Stavanger, Norway; Olaf Reinholdtzen, Musegt. 4, Stavanger, Norway, or Bob Tuten, Natlandsveien 84, Bergen, Norway. It was a pleasure to preach once again in the land of the midnight sun, to sow seed in hearts where it had not been sown before, to water that sown by others and to do what I could to encourage the two little, but faithful churches there. The brethren there are doing much hard work and deserve our prayers and support.
Truih Magazine IX: 9, pp. 3-5