Yesterday was a good day.
In the morning it was the graduation ceremony for the language school (Voksenopplæring). About 20 students were finishing, mostly after the 2 year mandatory program for refugees. As a student, I was asked to play, so what better than Grieg’s Morning, together with a video using pictures of the area and the text of Psalm 19 in English and Norwegian? Things didn’t go entirely to plan (the grand piano turned out to be a keyboard, the stage was so dim I couldn’t read most of the music, and I had to play ‘catch-up’ with the video after somebody started it before I was sat at the piano), but people enjoyed it. This was of course followed by mandatory coffee and cakes.
Then on to celebrate the semi-retirement of one of my colleagues at the church, with reminiscence and ice cream.
After spending the early part of the afternoon preparing for 4 weddings, I had a ‘chance’ encounter with a man struggling with many issues, not the least of which was a deep sense of unworthiness and helplessness to change. We prayed and talked about Jesus words recorded in Matthew 11: 28 ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest’. Hallelujah, what a Saviour – Jesus has done it all, if only we will cease our struggles and go to him.
At 4pm it was off to Bardufoss airport with two Eritrean friends. I was the driver and we were going to collect the wife of one of the men. He had not seen her for 3 years due to the lengthy immigration process here. He has been talking about this moment ever since I arrived, and even the completely miserable weather couldn’t dampen their joy.
When we got back to Finnsnes, about 20 people had gathered for a welcome party. I was also invited in and treated as an honoured guest. I learnt a bit about Eritrean culture, hospitality (warm) and food (delicious). As we went in, a lady with a pan of seeds was sat with a small electric stove in the middle of the room. At first I thought she was making popcorn (there was already quite a lot in bowls on the table), but the seeds in the pan didn’t pop, and eventually started to burn. As the room filled with smoke, she got up and headed for door, and I assumed she was taking whatever had just burnt, outside. But then she walked the pan around the room and everyone started to waft the smoke into their faces, inhaling it and nodding their approval. No, it wasn’t drugs, but home roasted coffee! Having watched the coffee roasting we then had figs (not the gooey packaged ones, but hard and sun-dried), special chilli with curried vegetables, and of course cake to go with the (very strong) coffee. I also learnt you must tell the coffee lady that the coffee is good after the first sip, otherwise she is obliged to start all over – that’s dedication.
So, a day of much celebration and joy – good for the heart – and a diet of cake and ice-cream – bad for the arteries!