Monthly Archives: April 2013

Trip To Fjordgård

On Friday there was a funeral in Fjordgård on north Senja. We decided to go together, using the return journey for a bit of a ‘photo tour’. Driving is now much easier as all the roads are clear of snow and ice.  Here are the results:

Views of Stønesbotn (Vågen), Senja (click here for  360 panorama). Most of the ‘sea ice’ is now gone. We also saw a large (sea?) eagle , being mobbed by angry seagulls.

Øyfjorden has Fjordgård on it’s western bank, and the island community of Husøy just off its eastern bank. As the crow (or should that be seagull) flies, it’s about 2 miles, but 17 miles by road. (Click here for a 360 degree panorama)

Mefjord is the next fjord west, with mountains which plunge steeply into the sea. (Click here for a 360 degree panorama).

The ice on the lakes beside the pass from Mefjord to Stønesbotn on Senja is just starting to melt reflecting light in hues from light blue to green:

Månen – The Moon

We had a spectacular full moon (fullmåne) on Thursday night.

The pictures below were taken shortly before midnight and you can see it wasn’t completely dark (although I used different exposures ‘for effect’). We now have 24 hours of at least some light, and in a few more weeks we’ll have 24 hour sunshine!


Susanna was very excited today to receive a special package from Switzerland – her new Willson Euphonium, which, as she put it, is one the shiniest things she has ever seen.

For us it is the culmination of probably hundreds of hours spent trying to source a replacement instrument after her old one was damaged beyond repair last year when she slipped on ice (there is a lesson here – always do what your father tells you – in fact it’s a good theological lesson too! ). We have to say though that the insurance company, Hanover, have been very good.

So despite the aggravation, it looks great and sounds better! Susanna er fornøyd (satisfied).

Mummy, mummy, what’s a hoffman?

Sunday we had large congregations in all our services. In the morning Sarah traveled to Bjorelvnes (Lenvik Church), whilst Susanna and I went to Gibostad. We had requests for Sarah to play at both services because she has a much better singing voice than me, so we compensated Gibostad by having Susanna provide the vocal lead. The two buildings are less than a mile apart across the sea, but about an hours drive! Local confirmands were heavily involved in both services and the clergy had selected a good mix of traditional and contemporary music, so there was a real ‘buzz’ about worship and people seemed much more engaged than usual. The organ at Gibostad currently has a sticky note, rendering it unusable, so I used a ‘sampled’ organ (every note is a recording of a real pipe) on my computer, linked to a digital keyboard, and afterwards a number of people commented that ‘the organ sounded good today’ – don’t tell the pipe organ lobby!

In the afternoon we had a family service in Finnsnes. All local four year olds were invited to come to church and receive a book, and barnekor (childrens’ choir) sang, so again we had a lot of people with us. I was slightly alarmed to learn that despite a church full of 4 year olds, the preacher intended using the set texts for the day, first dramatising, then read again in it’s entirety! My concern was Acts 8: 26 – 37, entitled Filip og den Etiopiske Hoffmannen. ‘Hoffman’ is not an everyday word (even the mighty google translate doesn’t have it), nor is it a subject for discussion over middag (evening meal), so I was imagining the scene when after church 25 inquisitive 4 year olds get home, sit down for family supper with grandma, and pop the question, ‘Mummy, what’s a hoffman?’. Worse still was my apprehension over what might be found in the skattekiste (a treasure chest which the children open in church to give clues about the readings and sermon subject).

The service passed off without incident, and in the joyful chaos I don’t think most of the younger children picked up the details. We’ve had no feedback from the parents, so I guess no news is good news!

Pictures from Gibostad Kappel, the view from Gibostad to Bjorelvnes (Lenvik church), and family worship in Finnsnes:


Celebrating A Year In Norway! – Part 2

The close of this week has brought back memories of my first few days in Finnsnes, and we’ve celebrated Norwegian style – with a cake! Friday was international Bible study and Saturday was our ‘favourite’ Saturday activity – International Cafe (Sarah likes curry for breakfast!) – pictures below.

Trives du i Finnsnes?

Do you like it in Finnsnes? This is the oft-asked question. And the follow up – was it the right move?

Yes, we like it in Finnsnes and Norway. It’s not that we didn’t like living in other places, it’s just different. Most importantly, it’s where God has called us now, and on that basis alone, it would have been the right move. But more than that we have been truly blessed, seeing God at work in our lives and in the church and people around us. And if, 18 months ago, anyone had tried to tell us that we’d just jump in the car at 9pm on Saturday evening to go for a quick  ski, we’d have said they were crazy!

Is it what we expected? That’s hard to say, as we really didn’t have much to base our comparison on (a virtual tour of Finnsnes on Google earth, two short TV programs including pictures of Finnsnes, and a couple of hours spent in conversation with key staff in the church!). But here are some thoughts:

  • The weather is warmer and the winter is shorter than I had expected (perhaps it’s easy to say that now the snow is melting, it was 11C in the shade today, and we almost have 24 hour daylight back).
  • Winter driving has been less arduous / dangerous than expected – at least this year.
  • We’ve not been very badly affected by the winter darkness.
  • Whilst we don’t speak like natives, language is mostly not an issue.
  • Parish life is much busier and perhaps more exciting than we expected (although life with God’s people should always be exciting!).

We’ll re-visit these thoughts next year!

Here I am to worship

I have been reminded again and again of the words going through my mind as ‘my’ plane came in to land at Bardufoss a year ago.

Here I am to worship, here I am to bow down,
Here I am to say that You’re my King.
You’re altogether lovely, altogether worthy,
Altogether wonderful to me.

That is they are the reason we are here – to worship!

Thank you Lord – what a privilege.

Celebrating A Year In Norway! – Part 1

This week I am celebrating my first year in Norway. I’m not sure which day I should mark – the day I landed (Wednesday), or the day I arrived  in Finnsnes (Friday).

So what has happened?


A new culture

In many ways Norwegian culture is more akin to England, than the south of the US was. Here are some examples:

  • Food in general is quite similar (although certain Norwegian specialities are unique – such as lutefisk – a kind of ‘jellified’ cod).
  • Cars are generally smaller than in the US, and fuel prices are on a par with the UK. That said there are some large ‘red-neck’ trucks here too.
  • Regular Sunday church attendance is low (less than 3%).
  • Most people are very ‘outdoors’ oriented, especially skiing.
  • Taxes are very high (basic income tax is 35%, sales tax is mostly 25%, and tax on new cars is 100%!).
  • In most families both parents pretty much have to work.
  • Work life is highly regulated.

A new language

‘You’ll be fluent after 1 month / 3 months / 6 months / a year . . . . ‘.

Hmm. After an initial few weeks in language classes we’ve mostly been on our own and I’m no where close to speaking like a native, although we can now hold a reasonable conversation with most people we know. The hardest things are meeting new people, answering the phone, leading the children’s choir, and praying out loud! Also Norwegians are very proud of their regional dialects. Dialects go way beyond accents, and many local versions of words sound nothing like standard Bokmål or Nynorsk, and this makes language learning more difficult.

However, we praise God that Susanna has pretty much taken to both standard Norwegian Bokmål and the local dialect, like a duck to water. It was interesting to have people tell us that when she speaks they can’t tell she is from England! On the other hand I was recently mistaken for a German (maybe because I spend a lot of time talking with my bast friend in Norway, Frank, who is German).

New friends

Moving necessarily means separation from old friends and  family, and that is never easy. We really miss friend both in England and the US, but Skype / Facebook (Sarah and Susanna), the phone and this blog have made it easier to stay in touch.

We’ve made some very good new friends here too. People have opened their hearts and homes to us, and we are so grateful to God that everywhere we have lived, he has given us people who we we instantly feel at ease with, both personally and spiritually. It is such a blessing!

To be continued . . .

Mud Month

Last week our dear friend Zella commented to us “I remember  being at Lake Placid, N.Y. once for a convention – they call April “Mud Month” and those that can leave”.

I don’t know what the equivalent Norwegian is for Mud Month, but we are certainly getting it in Finnsnes now. What remains of the snow is looking distinctly grubby, and to coin Henry Ford’s phrase “You can have your car in whatever colour you want – as long as it’s brown!”.

After church yesterday we sat in the sunshine on our veranda as the temperature soared to 14C (almost summertime temperatures) and the snow melted around us, although it might be a while before the playground is useable again.

Oh, and joy of joys, the sea-gulls are back, so it wont be long before we’ll be enjoying 24 hours of sea-gull-song and avoiding walking under lamp posts. But spring is on the way . . .

Rhapsody In Blue

On Friday we had a most-of-the-day trip to Yttersia Senja (Outer Senja), which was cut off from the ‘outside world’ over Easter due to blocked roads and avalanche risk. The main purpose, sadly, was to play for the funeral of one of three men killed in an avalanche, but we also took time for a leisurely drive with lots of photo opportunities.

Despite temperatures up to +15C (very warm for the time of year), there was still lots of snow. The blues in the sky, sea and reflections on the snow were amazing. I have posted photos of many of the places from last summer and earlier in the winter, but the views seem more intense now.

The journey from Finnsnes over Senja including Straumbotn:

Skaland is situated on Bergsfjord. Skaland Kappell is where we played for the funeral (I’ll post something on the organ a bit later). There are many islands in the mouth of Ersfjord, although with snow on them they look a bit like icebergs!

Ersfjord, including the ‘Devil’s Teeth’ – a famous tourist attraction. There was 3 to 6 feet of snow covering the walk-way to the beach from where most people take photos. We tried walking, but we were up to our knees in snow, so didn’t get very far. We’re also seeking to identify the 3-legged creature which left foot-prints.  Another amazing thing here is the way that the snow comes right down to the high-tide mark, so the ground is white, then a narrow strip of dark rocks in the ‘tidal zone’ and then the sea.

The return journey to Finnsnes included several tunnels which have very impressive ice-flows and icicles – the photo in the tunnel has many bright lines, caused by reflections from icicles:

Sun And Snow = Water

Today we had warm sunshine and snow (on the ground, not falling from the sky). This combination leads to melting, so we have now  returned to filthy cars, caused by the road surface ‘dust’ mixing with the puddles, and then being splashed everywhere.  Pedestrians also have to have an eye on the traffic, lest they too become ‘re-decorated’!

Because the snow surface is melting it also becomes very shiny, and the mountains gleam.

One of the photos below is a 360 degree view of the centre of Finnsnes, taken from the pond, which whilst still frozen, is rapidly turning to slush, so it’s probably the last picture from this vantage point until next winter.

We had time for a little skiing today too. The snow glistened like a rainbow, the sky was blue and at least some locals were sunbathing!

Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble – 2

Yesterday I used a slightly tongue-in-check quote from the worship song Did You Feel The Mountains Tremble? in the context of a ‘building shaking’ service. We follow it up today with a another ‘post Easter power worship’ experience, this time quoting the second verse / chorus:

Did you feel the people tremble
Did you hear the singers roar
When the lost began to sing of
Jesus Christ, the saving one

And we can see that, God, You’re moving
A mighty river through the nations
When young and old return to Jesus
Fling wide, you heavenly gates
Prepare the way of the risen Lord

At the end of last week we had a return visit of some of the TXVikings. This time the team was only 3 and nothing was lifted, smashed, blown-up, rolled-up or set on fire. Well, actually the last bit is not quite true, because along with their powerful personal testimonies and clear proclamation of the gospel, came an invitation for anyone who wanted to receive more from the Holy Spirit, to come forward for prayer. More than 30 responded to the call and the joy and new found / newly rekindled ‘fire’ was obvious afterwards. What a blessing it is, both to the individuals and the church – we gained, as Paul Fuener would say, some ‘Energizer Bunnies’!

Not much to see, but here are the team, taking part in Torsdagsklubben, our open youth club evening. Just a little confusion over liturigcal colour-coding!