OIC board-member-in-exile Stian has written a letter to us from Tanzania, where he is studying theology for one year.
Dear friends in OIC! Greetings from Tanzania! My name is Stian. I’m a Norwegian coming from the town called Skien about two hours driving south of Oslo. I’m 25 years old and I’m in my fourth year of studying theology at MF – Norwegian School of Theology (Menighetsfakultetet), located at Majorstua. This year I am lucky to be part of an exchange program and I’m spending two semesters in Makumira University College in Arusha, Tanzania. Before I went to Tanzania in October 2010 I had been part of OIC for about two years.
Living in Africa for one year is giving a lot of new perspectives for a spoiled Norwegian boy who hardly knows what trouble or worries are. Norwegians at home used to ask me before I left Norway; “Oh, so you are going to Africa to preach?” or “So you are becoming a missionary?”.
Most Norwegians are not even aware that the biggest churches in the world now are located in Africa, Latin America and Asia. I guess you OIC friends know more about this, but it’s reason to be worried when the churches in our context in Norway hardly pay attention to the changes at home and in the world!
I think we as an International church, together with the immigrant churches, have a big mission in challenging and trying to awake the Norwegian Christians.
Why is it so that Norwegian Christians still think we should send missionaries to Africa, but they don’t care about telling their neighbour or their youth about Jesus? I’m aware that this is not the case everywhere, but people in Norway need to see and admit the truth: Norway is not a Christian country anymore. Christian history and tradition, ok, but when tradition is what’s bringing people to church isn’t it then rather some kind of a museum or place for cultural gathering than a place where we worship the Living God together?
Here in Tanzania the population is divided something like 50-50 between Christianity and Islam. The Christians are bold and not afraid of reading the Bible everywhere they want. You’ll find open Bibles on the desk in the drug store, in the hand of the conductor on the bus, and so on. And Christian songs may be played everywhere. In Norway, and maybe also Europe, religion has become a private matter, and as a consequence of this the new generation hardly knows anything about Jesus and the Bible. In my opinion it is our mission as a different church to ask questions to, challenge and try to establish cooperation with Norwegian Churches.
It is my conviction that not before the Norwegian Christians are willing to admit that they are living in a mission field, they can’t really reach out.
We are called to be light and salt. I’m ending with a reminder from Paul:
“For this reason I remind you
to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.
For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.
So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God” (2Ti 1:6-8 NIV)
I’m excited to read about what’s going on in OIC and I’m looking forward to meet you all in August. Stay blessed!
Greetings from Stian
If you are interested in reading more of my opinions about the Norwegian Church and mission, check out:
http://holtskog.blogspot.com/2011/04/den-norske-kirke-og-misjon.html (Article in English)