By Connie W. Adams
It was with mixed emotions that we returned to Bergen, Norway in February for a gospel meeting. The brethren there are trying to have some men to come for meetings who have previously worked in that country. I hope others will be able to arrange to go should they be invited. Going to Bergen with mixed emotions was not new for me. In 1957 I took my six-months-pregnant wife with me to begin the work in the land of the midnight sun. We knew nobody there. We did not know the language. We had nowhere to live except for a week’s reservation in a hotel. We did not know how we were going to make contacts with people. But somehow, in the Providence of God, that all worked out.
The work was slow and hard. Then, as now, the population was over 90 percent Lutheran, the state church. Then, as now, many bristle at the thought that you have come to evangelize in what they consider a “Christian nation” which sends out missionaries to spiritually darkened areas of the world. They do not consider themselves in that category. Baptizing babies, confirming sixteen year olds, Christmas and Easter observances, weddings, funerals, and a place to be buried, is the major religious life of the vast majority of the people in that land. They are comfortable with it and do not particularly want to be bothered.
Among the dissenters from the state church, the majority are charismatics. These are as difficult to reach as they are here or in other places. Subjective religionists don’t care a hoot about what the Bible says, not if they have to question what they think they have “felt.” Some of these will come to hear you once or twice, long enough to see if you agree with what they already think. The Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses are very active there but their persistent door-knocking has served to aggravate the people.
Added to this situation is the fact that immigration laws have changed and it is very difficult, if not impossible, to gain entry to the country to stay for a long term to preach. People can yet enter on an American passport and stay for six weeks as a tourist.
In such soil the old Jerusalem gospel has not flourished as it has in other places. But over the years there have been some found with good and honest hearts. There have been some heartbreaking events which weakened and all but destroyed what progress had been made. One brother who preached for a while, left the faith to embrace denominational error. Another native preacher and his wife had serious trouble and they ended up going to the world. Others fell away for various reasons. The church in Bergen lost its meeting place by foreclosure and along with it the furnishings, boxes or tracts, song books, Bibles, Bible class literature and all of the files.
In 1980 when Tom and Shirley Bunting and their children came back to Bergen (they had spent two years there in the late 1960s), they had to start all over again. Only this time, it was even harder than it had been for us in 1957, for they had to overcome ill will which some former members had generated and the shame of the unbusiness-like manner in which the property was lost.
The Buntings have stayed. Their son Terrell and his wife Karen are there in Bergen with the intention of spending their lives there. They encountered difficulty getting in to stay. If they leave, it will be mighty hard to get anyone else there to replace them.
The Church in Bergen
We found a small group of eight members. They had worked hard to prepare for the meeting. They could have done more advertising in the newspaper if they only had the funds. They did what they were able to do. Many advertisements were hand-delivered. Two brethren came from the small group near Oslo to be with us the first two days of the meeting. Also a sister and her child from Stavanger came for four days. We had seven non-members to attend the meeting, three of these attending two times. The singing was ably led by a faithful Norwegian brother. While most attending understood English, some did not so the sermons were interpreted. Terrell Bunting did this twice and the rest of the time, Bjorn Ringdal interpreted. Both did their work well. Bjorn is a student in the university and hopes to one day be able to support himself and preach in Norway. He was baptized at Southside in Pasadena, Texas while an exchange student there. He is a most impressive young man. A young woman, who is also still a student, though married and with one child, is also a member. Another member has been in north Norway for a time but hopes to relocate in Bergen.
The congregation had purchased a building which was once a bakery and has made it into a very nice place to meet. It is in an old and very well-known part of the city and easy for locals and visitors alike to find. Their payments are not much more than the rent they had been paying.
We attempted to locate some people we had known many years ago so the brethren there would have these additional contacts with whom to work. We succeeded in finding a few people and managed to get four visitors to the meetings from that. We found two women who were young girls when we lived there and who had attended Bible classes. They came twice.
It is urgent that the Buntings continue their work. They have shown exceptional patience. The cost of living in Norway is the highest in Western Europe. Housing is especially expensive. Gasoline is $4.50 a gallon. Milk is over $4.00 a gallon. Eating out, even at McDonald’s or Burger King is very costly. A quarter-pounder, fries and soft drink sells for $9.50. Wages are high, though many are unemployed and live off the dole of a socialistic state.
Terrell Bunting and wife have two children and expect their third in the late summer. They are losing $350 a month support by summer. They can ill-afford this. While we were there, Tom Bunting received a letter telling him that he will lose $200 a month support in three months. They can’t afford that loss either. Tom’s wife, Shirley, teaches school now in order to help them stay. Some daylight is being seen in the work. If the Buntings have to come home, who could replace them? Who could even get into the country to stay for longer than six weeks? They are working under the conviction that “we shall reap if we faint not.” We are all thrilled about the opening opportunities in eastern Europe and other places, but we must not allow the light to go out in Norway. These few members there need the prayerful encouragement of brethren everywhere. The Buntings need the patient and understanding support of brethren who do not expect the same kind of results as we have seen in some third world countries and few other fields. If you can help these good brethren, here are their addresses. If you cannot financially help them, could you find the time to write them an encouraging letter?
Adolf Bergsvei 52-D
I would also like to encourage brethren from churches which support these men and who are able to do so, to visit Bergen and worship with these brethren. It would do them a world of good. But it would also do the visitors untold good. It would help them to appreciate what they have at home: commodious meeting houses, well-arranged and taught Bible classes at many age levels, abundance of available literature, several good song leaders, elders, and deacons, many Christians from whom to draw strength and who are just a phone call away, and many others besides.
Through it all we have to remember that many souls over the years have heard the truth in Norway. Some did obey it and some died in hope. There are some faithful Christians there now. A diligent search is still being made for good and honest hearts. We just must not forget those who have dedicated their lives to the search.
I keep thinking of all those children who came to Bible classes every Sunday for several years. And I think about two 45-year-old women who were so glad to see us, and who told us they had not forgotten all they learned. They were proud of the fact that they could so easily locate Scriptures during sermons, for we had drilled them as small children on how to find their way around in the Bible. Surely, brethren, it has not all been in vain. Please keep the sowers of the seed in Norway.
Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 9, pp. 262-263
May 7, 1992