New People, Same God—Choir Tales from Scandinavia

Ruth Gunderson reflects on Concert Choir’s recent tour in Scandinavia.

It is Thursday, May 16. On a bus headed south of Oslo, Norway, members of the FLBC Concert Choir look out over the harbor and islands that are transitioning to fields and farmsteads not unlike those of the Upper Midwest. Their eyes may be on the scenes whizzing by them, but their ears are focused on the voice of Pastor Adam Osier, their dean. He sits in the jump seat next to the driver, microphone in hand as he gives the last devotion of the three-week spring tour of Scandinavia.

His text is from II Corinthians 12:9, the tour’s theme verse. But first he reminds his students of the context: the Apostle Paul’s vision of heaven, where he heard things expressed in words “things no human is allowed to tell” (vs. 4). So easily, Paul could have boasted of this experience. Instead, he writes to the church in Corinth that he will instead boast about God’s sufficient grace, and a thorn he lives with that displays that grace. “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness,” is the New Living Translation of God’s message to Paul.

We are on our way to Rolvsøy, near the Swedish border. It is the birthplace of Hans Nielsen Hauge, who, in the late 1700s and early 1800s began a spiritual awakening in Norway which greatly influenced our church body, the AFLC. Like Paul, Hauge had a spiritual experience—in his case, while plowing a field and singing a song. He wrote:

“My mind was so uplifted to God that I was unaware of myself and could not say what was happening in my soul … I regretted that I hadn’t served the God who is great above all things better than I had …”

—Hans Nielsen Hauge

Hauge could have boasted of this supernatural experience. But like Paul, the experience was a catalyst to factual revelation—Jesus had paid fully for his sins by his death and resurrection.

“We can be striving for experiences and looking for signs, and sometimes God is gracious to give us those,” Pastor Osier told the choir. “But the fact of the matter is that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is enough. That assurance is yours.”

It is a fitting devotional at the end of our tour. Our students have had amazing experiences. They have been awed by the immense landscapes in the Faroe Islands. They have tasted unique cuisines, from dried fish to brown cheese. They have jumped into the fjords of Norway and walked down Copenhagen’s beautiful streets. Through it all, it is the message of God’s sufficient grace that has traveled with them, through songs, through fellowship. From tiny chapels to humble prayer houses, and from Bible school auditoriums to an historic cathedral. Places sacred to the people of Denmark, the Faroe Islands, and Norway.

So what experiences rise to the top of these three weeks? Ask our students and they will most likely answer—the people.

“Although the scenery has been absolutely stunning on this trip, my favorite part has been meeting the people and engaging in their culture,” said Caleb Cox.

In the Faroe Islands they met members of a church youth choir and sang a Faroese song with members of Christianskirkjan in Klaksvik. In Copenhagen they met members of Nansengsgade Church, who hosted an evening of cultural conversation. Outside of Copenhagen, they played games late into the evening with students from Luthersk Missions Højskole. In Gilja, Norway, they were fed a delicious meal in a prayer house basement by FLBC alumni and friends who serve God faithfully. At Bildøy Bibleskole near Bergen, our students and theirs joined together for a night of worship. At Betania Church in Trondheim, conversations lasted late into the evening following two services and a full concert. At Bibelskolen Fjellhaug in Oslo, our students had another late night of food and fellowship.

The people of Scandinavia are reserved, noted Liv Underwood. But looking around at each scene, each place our students have shared about God’s sufficient grace, it is clear that this message supersedes cultures and languages.

And it is a small picture of the grander story we look forward to—a scene in heaven where people from every tribe, every nation, and every tongue sing a song that echoes the finale of the choir’s program, “He is worthy of all blessing and honor and glory.” Because his grace so sufficiently meets us where we are.

“We get to have these mountain top experiences,” said Cox. “But there is also the simple fact that God is the same God here and back home

Ruth Gunderson is managing editor for The Lutheran Ambassador. She is to thank for the photos you saw on our Facebook and Instagram throughout the tour. To see these photos, search for #flbckorturné on Facebook or Instagram. Another big thanks goes to Ava Torfin and Liv Underwood for capturing great Instagram stories!

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