after a year: we’re signing off

For the sake of closure, it’s time for one last post on the Visual Preacher blog. Many words, cities, pictures, stories, and memories have transformed us over the last 12 months, and we’re excitedly looking to the future and to what God has in mind for us.

28 flights this year. Have you ever heard such a crazy number? 28!!! All safely took off, and (thankfully) landed without too many bumps along the way. You can imagine after 28 flights, our bodies and baggage had gone through the ringer. Have you ever peered out the window of a plane to see the luggage handlers throw your bag with all their might? Kevin once said, “I bet when they begin their job they are really careful with the first 50 suitcases, then from there on out, it’s a contest to see how far and hard they can toss them.” Half of our wheels were busted, stuck, with holes, rips, tears, cracks. Luckily, the luggage we spent some of our wedding money on came with an amazing warranty. We’ve gotten all brand new wheels, full repairs, and TWO brand spanking new bags (when they didn’t think the repair would be good enough). YAHOO! Looking for great luggage: Ricardo Beverly Hills. They stand behind their products, and have had fantastic customer service along the way. You can tell them I sent you! : )

We transitioned back into the United States with two weeks in California. We decided to throw a portrait event to celebrate our return, and ended up photographing over 20 families and two weddings in a 14 day stretch! So much for a vacation. My good friend Amy married Bobby, her long time love in the church where I did my internship. Many of our days were spent decorating, making jewelry, and finishing gifts. The wedding day was beautiful, and it was a JOY to celebrate with their two wonderful families. Luckily, we stayed with our dear friends Chet & Theresa who night after night gave us all the room we needed to vedge, yummy food to munch, and a pool in their backyard to splash in. We cannot thank them enough for their hospitality. We also managed to get by two weeks in CA without renting a car thanks to people who kindly gave up their vehicles for a few days at a time: Kelly, Amy, Stacia, Theresa, Chet, Bobby…thanks for practicing your generosity on the two of us. We really appreciated it!

With exhausted bodies, we flew back home and were welcomed with screaming, cheering, jumping, and butterfingers/twizzlers! Presley and Madison brought down the airport with their excited laughter, wild hugging, and adorable signs! With one night to rest, we started a very busy two weeks for Amber Sue Photography. 16 more sessions in 10 days. Everyone was excited for us to get home, and had been waiting and waiting for updated pictures. I swear, I’ve been staring at my computer screen for two weeks straight trying to edit all of these beautiful kids and families! Kevin thinks I should hire an editor. On top of all that, I managed to hit the 200 sales mark in my Etsy store, and had 15 sets of jewelry to make. Busy, busy hands.

As we rounded out our travels and closed in on ONE WHOLE YEAR of marriage, we started brainstorming the best way to celebrate our anniversary…in no time at all we came to a decision: A PARTY! We’d call it our “Homecomiversary” celebration, and invite all of our wedding guests to come back for a second night of fun! Our actual wedding day flew by so fast, and we feel like there were a handful of people we didn’t even get to actually TALK to that day, so we decided to throw another party so we’d have more time to talk to the people who we missed! Not only that, but I’ve always wanted to have a party in my mom’s backyard, and this seemed like the perfect occasion!

Sunday, August 28, 2011…one year after our wedding, we woke up to pouring rain, and dark skies….hm…so much for that backyard party. Ha ha! We loaded our kayaks in my car and drove to church just praying the weather would clear up. By the time we left worship, there were blue skies rolling in, and extra green grass to smile about! The perfect party weather! We fired up the grill, and welcomed over 40 guests to a backyard reunion. We ate a whole buffet of picnic food, sang a belated “Happy Birthday” to Presley, gifted her a new American Girl outfit for “Carly,” acknowledged my sister Holly for all her help over the year (opening mail, delivering gifts, scanning items, getting me out of jury duty…the list goes on), we wanted to give her something awesome as a way of showing our appreciation. So we got her the perfect Coach purse, and she LOVED it. Mission accomplished. To end our evening of fun, I surprised Kevin with 10 awards for his bravery over the year. This was the perfect chance to tell a few stories while highlighting what an awesome husband I have! Presley handed out his trophies with each award, and our family and friend laughed at the crazy stories we had from our year of travel. Lake Okabena was smooth as glass as the sun was setting, so a few guests even hopped into the kayaks for a paddle on the lake. We felt so uplifted when we saw friends from the Twin Cities who trekked all the way to Worthington, and our friends Tim & Emily (who we met in Jerusalem/now living in Brookings, SD) who also drove over to join the fun! Thanks to all of our family and friends who chose to celebrate with us on our first anniversary! We love you all, and could not have imagined a more memorable way to celebrate today!

For those of you wondering, “What’s next for Kevin and Amber?” Great question! We’re prayerfully considering where God wants us to be, discerning where the need is, and trying to enjoy a few weeks of downtime before interviews start! Will you pray for us during this time of transition? We have been asked to write a few articles for publications and newspapers to share the details of our journey. We’re also going to keep working hard with Amber Sue Photography, writing gigs, and selling jewelry and photographs on Etsy to save money to repay student loans and hopefully buy a house when we get calls. Be sure to stop by and pick up some early Christmas presents in my shop, or call us to set up family portraits. I promise, with Kevin as my photography assistant, no session is less than hilarious! We promise to keep you updated on our call processes as often as we can! Thanks in advance for your prayers of support!

So I guess that’s it. 12 months of travel, marriage, life, and love concluded in one final blog post. It’s hard to believe the places we’ve been, people we’ve met, cultures we’ve embraced, food we’ve tried, and faith we’ve gained. What an honor to receive such a generous fellowship from Luther Seminary. We are so deeply grateful to the donors who made this year of learning possible for the two of us, and have been blessed by the faithful blog followers who have offered their words of encouragement along the way. May the JOY of the Lord be yours!

Signing off,

Kevin & Amber Marten Bergeson

P.S. If you want to stay updated on our upcoming plans, drop your name in the comment box and we’ll be sure to add you to our mass e-mails!

oslo needs you.

Wandering the streets of Oslo today is nothing like it was two weeks ago. The loud bustling city has turned in to a floral monument, and the sound of laughter is now masked by the “shhh”ing from mothers trying to teach their children what respectful quiet means. This is the first time I have ever been in a city following this kind of devastation. When I went for Hurricane Katrina clean-up, it was 6 months after the storm. Now, in Oslo only one week after the storm, it’s a much different vibe. The woman selling flower in the square adjacent to Oslo Cathedral has marked her roses up from 25 kroner to 50 kroner each. $10 for a rose, she’s making good money right now, because nearly every citizen of Oslo is buying flowers by the bundle and throwing them at the foot of the church as a small gesture of love. Men and women, young and old, graze the fence line looking for sweet poems and letters to read. Dumpsters full of broken glass, plywood covered windows, and neon vests litter one of the most beautiful parts of the city. The door to Oslo Cathedral is now decorated with a policeman carefully eyeing all who enter. It’s easy to forget about the sadness and grief that long stays with a community. CNN may have moved onto “better” news, but the people of Oslo, and all of Norway are still in need of your prayers. I hope you’ll join me in the coming weeks as we continue to pray for the hospitable, loving, and generous Norwegian people.

gratulerer med dagen, my love!

Kevin is 32 today!!! Happy birthday to the love of my life. We’ve been celebrating over delicious cake and a bountiful card shower thanks to so many of you! He was totally surprised and is saving them for our journey to Oslo today! Sherrie & Larry, Dad, I think he’s most excited to open the “candy” (yes, he read the customs labels first)! LOL! Please leave a comment and send Kevin a birthday greeting! Gratulerer med dagen, my love!


Friends, I have a SUPER URGENT prayer request and am hoping you will join me in prayer as we ask God for a freaking miracle right now. In Sheffield, UK, there’s a little four-year old girl with a blood clot on her brain. Her name is Bethany Baker, and I am begging you to pray for her right now. You don’t know her, but it doesn’t matter. Whatever you are doing, please STOP, take a minute and let’s pray for a miracle. PLEASE LORD!

Here’s the latest update I’ve seen (I will continue to post them as I get them):

I’m having a hard time keeping up with the reports, so please click on this link if you would like to keep praying for Bethany.

July 31 Thank you for praying for Bethany. As far as we last heard the doctor has said that there has been no change on balance today. She is still not breathing without the ventilator (life support machine) off and has no response to pain. It is hard at this stage to say if the movements she has been making are significant or not. Please continue to intercede for Bethany. We need a miracle to happen. Please continue to pray for Alan, Sarah,Rachel and Ellie and the people who have gone to support them in Bristol. Thank you.

Here is another update for prayer for Bethany: Update – no real change with bethany today (some movement, light breathing, no real response to stimulus) – we
need to persevere in prayer as the process develops. Please think about your own personal ruthmn of prayer that is sustainable – prayer points – 1. Brain stem to function (swelling to decrease and stem
to function) so breathing increases an strengthens 2. For the family – encouragement, hope, wisdom and peace. Also that S&A work out a rhythm of time with bethany, prayer&worship, rest, time with the girls etc
3. Clarity from medical professionals (hard for S&A when they receive differing opinions of bethany’s progress) thanks for your prayers.

Update July 30th- Consultant did an assessment where he let her co2 levels rise 2 try and trigger her 2 breathe – she showed some signs of trying 2 regulate her co2 by doing some muscle contractions but not enough 2 sustain life yet. All seditive is now gone so she needs to respond in the next 24-36 hours.

Update on Bethany Baker – there has steady progress all day – she is flickering her eyes, breathing a very little bit herself and taking food – it appears the brain stem is engaging. She is slowly coming off sedation over next 24hrs. Please pray for her to be able to breathe on her own & no complications with infections.

Bethany Update – Small signs she may be triggering breath – we need this to move to breathing on her own. Praise God she has tolerated food and the brain fluid is clear. Still going down on sedation – small encouragements – keep praying. We’ve had lots prophetic about the lion’s mighty roar and the armies gathering for battle – Keep praying for breakthrough.

the end of the road…

I’m sorry Sweden, Scotland, England, Israel/Palestine, Turkey, and Hong Kong. A committee met and I’m sorry to announce you lost. The winner of this years “Prettiest Country Kevin and Amber Visited Award” goes to NORWAY! A very prestigious award, indeed.

One of the funniest quotes I heard this week, “Everyone should go to Norway…just incase they don’t get into heaven.”

Over the last 9 days we’ve been in Stockholm, Gavle, Sandviken, Uppsala, Karlstad (Sweden), then on to Oslo, Bergen, and now Nordfjordeid (Norway)! The train from Oslo to Bergen was honestly one of the most beautiful 7 hours of my life. Foggy for part of it, but definitely beautiful. We were exhausted, but didn’t want to risk missing the view for more than a blink at a time. In and out of tunnels, around fjords, over rivers, and through mountains. Within seconds, the view could change from a breathtaking glacier to a steep overhang. There were a few times I would look over the edge of the train and couldn’t even see the ground, just a long long LONG drop off with a raging rapid below.

On a completely unrelated note: did you know busses could ride on boats? On our way north from Bergen, we pulled up to the edge of a body of water. Slowly a large white boat was making its way across the water. We were on a huge charter bus. “No way! We cannot put this huge bus on a boat!” Wrong. Turns out, if you floor it enough, you can drive a jet onto a Norwegian ferry! We may have been the only ones taking pictures and giggling throughout the entire ride, but it was definitely a first for both of us! Before I get too ahead of myself, here are a few photos from our trip to Oslo. A huge thank you to Elise and Atle for loaning their apartment to us while they were away on holiday!

Thanks to our friend Jeni, we added a stop in Bergen to our itinerary at the last minute. She said it was a quaint town and worth seeing. So we spent two nights in Bergen and managed to land some free lodging while we were at it. A complete stranger named Hilde offered her apartment to us while she was away on holiday. It was a 10th floor flat that overlooked the entire city of Bergen. We lucked out on that one. I’m not sure anyone has spent two weeks in Norway on the low budget we have. We haven’t paid for a single night of lodging. A few photos from beautiful Bergen.

Remember waaaay back, like a whole 10 months ago when we were in Hong Kong? Our very first Sunday evening in Hong Kong, we had a fantastic evening with a Norwegian couple named Rolf and Åshild. Here’s a snippet from that blog post:

“Church, a meal afterwards with more introductions and then an invitation to socialize at a nearby home where we spent the bulk of our time talking to a senior volunteer who after 17 years in his church in Norway decided to take a year off and spend some time here with his lovely wife. In the best English he could, here’s the advice he gave to Kevin and I: “Live near to Jesus and be filled with joyness.” Joyness is my new favorite word.” That was Rolf speaking over 10 months long ago.

Today I am writing this blog post from Rolf and Åshild’s home in Nordfjordeid, Norway. A small town of about 4,000 people deep in the western fjords. We knew it was going to be beautiful, but never imagined staring out the car window for hours with our jaws on the ground. Not only is the scenery beautiful, but the hospitality has been too. Åshild is the queen of kindness. We have learned so much from her. From turning lights on to welcome people, to always having dessert, to how to peel a hot potato, she is brilliant. But her kindness is not just wrapped up in deeds. She is kind in words as well. Never wanting to speak ill of anyone, she is constantly double checking her English translation to make sure she has been understood correctly, and has not unintentionally offended. Her thoughtfulness has really helped me see that you cannot always assume people have the same sense of humor. Sarcasm doesn’t translate for everyone.

That said, in a nutshell, I’ve come to the conclusion that I am definitely Norwegian. That conclusion is not based on any actual data yet, but simply on food. Meat, potatoes, lefse, bakeries, and cheese. Especially BROWN CHEESE! We’re planning to bring back a few blocks of brown cheese so our friends back home can have a taste. So good!!! On our first day in the fjords, Rune (R & Å’s son) offered to take us to Ålesund, a quaint little town, and then on a long ferry ride through one of the most famous fjords in all of Norway. Unfortunately, it was rainy and cold on the day we went, but by golly, we made the most of it!

Four days after we left Oslo, the terror attack happened in the heart of the city, and then on the island. We all sat staring at the television in disbelief. Our Norwegian hosts translated the newscast for us, and we scanned for English updates. A week later, after all the images have been released, the death count has been raised, then raised again, I am stuck on the phrase, “What a bastard.” I seriously want to grab that murdered by the neck and strangle him. Anyone else want to join me?  Just the thought of trapping young people on an island, pretending to be police, killing over 100 people. Norway has lost its innocence in a devastating way. His behavior is so contradictory to the Norwegian way of life. The world’s kindest people now tainted by tragedy. Three of Rolf and Åshild’s children live in Oslo, and had one been in her office when the bomb went off, odds are, she would be dead. Luckily, she was away on holiday, and we met her a few days after the explosion. She spoke with a blank face as she explained how bad it could have been. Please continue to pray for the people of Norway.

Really, it’s hard to believe we will be in America in less than a week. My stomach hurts as I write this post because such a big part of me does not want to return. I’m excited to see family and friends, but at the same time the thought of being stuck in one place makes me anxious, already. I’m not even home yet. We’ve witnessed such changes in our hearts, our faith, our minds. Suddenly we look at our suitcases full of stuff and think, “We don’t need all this junk!” When we left for Hong Kong we had 6 HUGE luggage items. We dropped down to three pieces when we returned to America in April. We left two of them in Oslo and are down to one small suitcase, and still feel we’ve overpacked. Honestly, one of the things I am most looking forward to upon our return is giving away half of our storage bin. Say goodbye to the hundreds of books, excessive clothing options, and all the little gadgets. Time to downsize. We got great practice living the simple life when we spent 3 days at Rolf and Åshild’s cabin. The only cabin on a small lake in the fjords. Peaceful, no electricity, no running water. Only each other, a fireplace to snuggle up next to, a freezing lake to jump in for a shower, ankle deep watery hiking paths, and a small rowboat to entertain us. Kevin and I had our own little bungalow (pictured in the bottom photo in this series), so each night, we walked down a wet path to a pitch black cabin. We’d feel around for matches and eventually get a few candles lit so we could get ready for bed. Honestly, it was such a great way to spend a few days. Cheese for breakfast, shrimp for lunch, and pancakes for supper. This is the good life!

sweet sweet sweden!

God bless the country that serves mashed potatoes and meatballs as fast food! Sweden is the best! We’ve actually been here almost a week now, and I’m just finding time to share a bit about our visit. We’ve been on the go from town to town, visiting new friends, and meeting distant family members. About two years ago, a Swedish relative found Kevin on facebook and was able to connect and share the genealogy, his name is Anders. He visited Minnesota in 2009, and then came again in 2010 for our wedding with his 3-year-old daughter Alexandra. They were kind enough to pick us up from the airport in Stockholm while sporting their “Minnesota” t-shirts! We all played the tourist card for two days in Stockholm. Riding boats, seeing a few museums, visiting old churches, and eating all the mashed potatoes and meat we could find. Alexandra is a meat-a-tarian. She’ll eat a hamburger or meatball over icecream, pretty sure. Except from that last bit, she and I have the same grown up food palette! :)

Back in the 1870’s and on, about one million Swedish immigrants landed at Ellis Island. New York looked nothing like Sweden, so they continued west until they found Minnesota (and the surrounding states), carbon copies of the Swedish landscape. If you blindfolded me and dropped me off in the middle of this country, I’d swear I was in northern MN! It’s so similar. The houses and barns are all a beautiful burnt red (called Falu Red). Some houses are yellow. It looks like a few giant ketchup and mustard jars exploded here. The Falu Red originated in copper mines, and it still used today to help preserve the wood. It’s gorgeous!

Last January, when the VP application deadline was due, we chose to add Sweden to the itinerary when we learned less than 4% of the population attend church around here. Why? What’s going on in Sweden? We went to church this weekend at Kanal Kyrkan (Canal Church). It was only a ten-minute walk through a lovely park. Not a bad way to center ourselves before worship. When we arrived, there were only three cars out front. All four of us got a little nervous. Were we the only ones? As we entered, a few ushers greeted us with a “Hey” and a “Hi Hi.” Inside the sanctuary were about 25 gray haired people waiting quietly for the service to start. Up front, there was a man tuning his electric guitar. Alexandra is four. When we sat down in the pew, we realized she’d need something to do. So I walked out the door on a mission for a kiddie bag. No luck. I found a shelf with some children’s books, got excited, then realized they were for sale, not free for use. The usher was looking strangely at me, so I gestured and said, “Paper? Pen?” He ran upstairs and found one pen, a pink crayon, and 10 sheets of blank white paper. We were grateful. Sitting in the front row was a man in his mid-thirties with his arms stretched across the back of the pew. “They have a young pastor here,” I said.

By 10:00 a few more faces had trickled in, and a 70-something woman got up and grumbled, “Velkomen Kanal Kyrkan.” Definitely the wrong person for the welcome committee. We chuckled. Everything was in Swedish, so we listened carefully for any words we might recognize, and boldly belted out/butchered the Swedish hymns. The guitarist and a soloist did three “special music” pieces during the service. About midway through, a young woman in her early thirties walked up to the pulpit. She was wearing black capris, a coral off the shoulder shirt, and had short, shaggy blonde hair with bangs that fell down in front of her eyes. She began speaking, and I kid you not, I listened to every single word she said. I didn’t understand any of it, but just her manner of speaking was simply enchanting. She got about 5 minutes into her talk when Kevin leaned over to Anders and asked, “Is she the priest?” Yes she was! I wanted to smack myself for assuming the guy in the front row was going to be preaching. In fact, he didn’t get up and lead at all during the service. Let’s hear it for awesome women preachers who speak in all languages!

When she finished, 70-year-old-crabby-pants-lady got back up and said the one word we recognized, “Collect.” Offering time. The ushers walked around with these square tin boxes (with a cross on it of course) that looked like teapots with handles on both sides. I tried to get a photo below. When the usher came to our row, I reached out to grab one of the handles and pass it along. He wasn’t letting go. He had to reach all the way over me to get the money, but wouldn’t let me pass it. Boo. Now flip to the back cover of your hymn book, and let’s read the Lord’s Prayer together. The service ended with an organ postlude and a dismissal from Mrs. Grumpy Goose. The End. All in all, I’d say the service was bipolar. One minute the organist was singing Psalms from his pull-around mic on the organ, the next there was a special music piece where the female vocalist was singing a spiritual in English. One woman speaks monotone and without energy, then the preacher captivated us. We sat the entire time. The most engaging time for me was when we were being talked at (can you believe it??) by the preacher. That was based solely on her vocal inflection and poise. She could’ve been speaking heresy for all I know.

When you walk through the streets of Sweden you see what looks like Uptown, Minneapolis on a Saturday afternoon. Lots of ages, various hair colors, tattoos, colorful clothing, and animals. Lots of young people on skateboards, bikes, smokers, runners. In my opinion, Kanal Kyrken was trying really hard to reach these types of people, and please the long-time older members at the same time. I’m not sure it worked all that well for them. It really made me wonder if it’s even possible to engage both genres in one worship service. Have you seen any examples of this working well? If so, please tell me about it!

I’d say one of the other highlights of the trip was seeing the family farm his grandpa’s family came from (dating back to the 1600’s), the cemetery and church many distant family members are buried in, worshipped and were baptized at, looking at old photos, further understanding the family tree, and especially meeting Anders’ brother Henrik, his wife Dali, and their two little girls. Dali was one of those kindred spirits to me. I so enjoyed her humor, her artistic side, and hearing about her passions in life! We had great fun together at the summer house while the boys talked politics and attempted to mow the lawn! How’s that coming Henrik?

Walking through a cemetery full of people you have never met is a bit strange. Family members whose names we may have heard once in a genealogy conversation, but never more than that. Britta, another branch of the family tree met us as the church/cemetery to help make sense of all the ‘Norbeck’ names on the stones. “She was a teacher, I remember her well,” she said when she read Stina’s headstone. “Back in those days teachers couldn’t get married, so when Stina got old, we all took care of her.” Britta later invited us to her house for supper where we saw more photos and heard stories about her children. Finally, some living breathing family members! :) She made us a 5 course meal: appetizers, salad, meatballs and potatoes, then she brought out some chicken, then dessert. We rolled ourselves home with lingonberry on our breath. A great night!

When we arrived at the family farm (which sadly, was sold to a new family not too long ago), we parked across the street and pondered whether or not we should go up and talk to the new family. Anders gave us an encouraging, “We have to!” and we got out and walked up the driveway. The current residents were out on their deck and stared our entire walk. LOL! Turns out, they are a very lovely family, who welcomed us. They showed us the old barns, summer house, and even let us in their house to see some of the oldest parts of the original home. They have a blend of ketchup and mustard on their property. My favorite was the red “summer house” the family used during the “dirtier” months to keep the larger home clean during the summer. That logic seemed a little backwards to me considering how messy houses, and especially entryways can get in the winter with snow, sand, and salt on boots. I guess there’s no telling how dirty the famers got in those days. So the summer house is now a Loppis (a shop), where a whole bunch of old things are sold. It’s like a glorified garage sale, but in a sweet old house. The wallpaper, flooring, curtains, and colorful stuff inside were a huge dose of eye candy.

I was probably in there twice as long as the others, because the awesome old stuff was mesmerizing. I think I was more sentimental about it than Kevin was…and it’s not even my family! We had to buy something from the old family farmhouse. I found a scarf for 5SEK so we’d have something to remember our trip by. Now we’ll always have a little (and easy to pack) remembrance from our trip to Norrberg.

Now we’re on our way to my homeland: Norway! But only after stopping by to see a few more friends in Sweden…this blog post will continue, believe it or not…yes, it’s the longest one in my history…stop back and check it out! :)

celebrating america…in scotland!

Happy 4th of July! Any guesses to where we are now? My back is in hyper-active mode, sleeping in a different place almost every night for the last week, and riding more Megabusses than I care to count. We rode back from Oxford to Sheffield on Saturday evening, and were back on the bus right away Sunday to keep heading north, this time into Scotland! But not without a required trip to “Toby’s Carvery!” Basically Old Country Buffet, but with more carved meats and sauces. Well, that, and you cannot get more than one serving of meat. Pip, Jo, and Nathan treated us (thank you guys!!), and Pip brought us to the bus station to load up for the big journey. Pip has been a super-soul-sister during our time in Sheffield. Totally awesome, fun, spontaneous, and CRAFTY! I’m definitely going to miss her!

Scotland, hands down, flippin’ amazing! Green and gorgeous! Though I can honestly say, I’ve never seen so much tartan in my entire life. Wow, it’s everywhere! We’ve been taking advantage of the extended sunlight, sometimes looking at the clock and gasping at how late it is. Our bus didn’t arrive in Edinburgh until 6:30 p.m. and we managed to get in a few good hours of roaming before bed. As we walked I kept seeing amazing structure after amazing structure. Which is the castle? They all look like castles!

‎”Where are you from?” asked the man at the ticket counter. “America!” we proudly replied. “Happy Independence Day,” he said. We’re celebrating today at the Edinburgh Castle, Scotland! We got to the castle early enough to see the band marching out front. As you can see from the first photo below, they were all pretty serious and stiff. NOT! The castle showcased everything from living chambers to prison cells. One of the museum sections we walked through had an old door locking in American Prisoners of War. One of the prisoners had carved a boat with a large American flag flying from its bow. Look for it in the wooden door photo below. I felt convicted when I saw that flag. I was thinking about how many 4th of July festivities are centered around bbq’s and beer, without any real acknowledgement of what on earth the fireworks are all about. The mock-up prison quarters were enough to have me saying a huge thanks to God for brave soldiers of the past and present. Pretty sure I’ll never forget this July 4, and look forward to celebrating freedom with an even better understanding in the years to come!

There were American flag t-shirts galore…it was tourist central everywhere we went, so we ended up roaming to some quiet parks to escape the madness. It’s always fun to see what you can stumble upon when you walk aimlessly. An American flag was spotted hanging from a tree in a public park. Some group of people were celebrating the 4th…we were tempted to go join them! More than anything, we found countless charity shops. And yes, if you’re looking for a discounted kilt, there’s a whole section dedicated to them! We’ve been trying to take it easy on souvenirs since our bags are already overweight, so I found a bright pink silk scarf for £5. Pretty sure that didn’t add even an ounce to our bags. Kevin decided the cashmere sweater and furry hat would have to wait until our next trip.

Even though we were dog tired from a long day of walking, we managed to muster up some steam and climb a giant cliff for a fantastic view of the city. We could see into the Palace Garden, the crown spire on the Cathedral, and all the way to the castle and beyond. Hands down, Edinburgh is one of the most fantastic cities I’ve been in. It’s a wild mix between trendy and historic. A posh palette with ancient architecture. I know I say this about pretty much every city we visit, but I’ll say it again, “You should try to get here at some point in your lifetime!” Signing off from Scotland, Cheerio!

feeling smarter by the minute…

Welcome to Oxford, England. Home to colorful books, smart people, and G & D’s Ice cream. We’re here on a side trip to meet students from King’s Centre Bible College in Oxford. Four KCBC students were in Sheffield for Pilgrimage a month ago, and they invited us to visit them at their college. Not knowing if it would work, we loosely said “we’ll try,” and got to work rearranging our schedules. It turns out, all the extra work was well worth it. We found some cheap bus tickets aboard Megabus, and enjoyed the views of the English countryside on our four hour bus ride. Kim, a native New-Zealander met us as we alighted the bus, and walked us back to KCBC for a community meal. About 30 people, sitting on the floor in a carpeted warehouse room, sharing everything from Bakewell Tart’s to vinegar crisps (not chips), from cream covered strawberries to diet coke. They all kindly greeted us, shared their food, and helped get us what we needed. These students come from the UK, America, Switzerland, New Zealand, & France. The coursework at KCBC is a year long study, and most students leave Oxford when they finish…going back to secular jobs. We especially enjoyed our time with Kim and his wife Chantelle…our “kindred spirits” in Kim’s words. Kevin and Kim are the same age, and so are Chantelle and I. We’re hoping to get them to America in September so we can tour the country with them while we look for jobs! Cross your fingers!

Oxford is a stunning city. The architecture, ivy, and bookstores are jaw-dropping! One of the photos in this post you’ll see Kevin consumed in books in Blackwell Bookstore. It’s one of the most impressive buildings I’ve seen, and more books than anyone could ever read. Barnes and Noble, eat your heart out! We stopped for drinks at The Eagle and Child, C.S. Lewis’ favorite hangout spot. Christ Church, where Harry Potter scenes were shot, the field where Alice in Wonderland was written, oh goodness, I could go on! Well, let’s not forget the khakis and button up shirts. City of preps, that’s for sure. We extend our deepest thanks to our new friends from KCBC, especially Cami for cooking an “American” breakfast for us one morning (way better than any breakfast we’d had in America!). Signing off from Oxford!

let’s share worship ideas!

This may not be breaking news for you, but I believe it more and more each day: Church leaders need to share ideas for the sake of the kingdom! Kevin shared an article with me a few months ago. I’ll summarize it: “Scientists conduct experiments and slowly discover little cures, treatments, and evidence. Rather than sharing what they just discovered, most keep the data to themselves. Some say it’s out of fear that other scientists will jump all over their conclusions, discouraging the scientist. Others say it’s out of a selfish desire to want to be the one who came up with the cure.” Ok, that was my loose recollection of it, but you get the point. All this to say, let’s share ideas! :) Are they undeveloped? No problem! Share what you’ve got! Here are a few we saw at St. Thomas, Crookes today!

1. Reach a hand out to the person in front of you. Don’t touch them, just extend a hand. You most likely have no idea who they are, but pray for them. Out loud. Pray that the Spirit would be revealed in a new way. The band is playing loudly, and people are all talking loudly. A noisy buzz of prayer rises up. Everyone gets prayed for. There’s something powerful about praying for a stranger, and feeling prayer coming from behind you.

2. Before communion, people raise their hands to let everyone know they would like to receive prayer for healing. Before/after receiving bread and wine, you can go to them and pray for them, or pray for them from your seat. People gather around, lay hands on them, and pray for miracles, healing, freedom!

3. For the first time in my life I heard the lead pastor say, “If you have a phone, please take it out.” I was expecting him to say, “Please turn them off so they don’t disturb communion.” Instead, he said, “Everyone who has a phone, take it out and send a text to someone. Tell them you are in church and you are praying for them.” While waiting for communion, people began sending and receiving texts.

4. St. Thomas, Philly experience. FLAGS! Mind you, Philly meets in a warehouse, so there’s tons of room to do this. Medium sized flags (not quite the size of the American flags at Perkins, and bigger than that ones you hang outside your home on Memorial Day). Put them on a wooden stick and let people wave them during praise songs. Kids, and adults alike go skipping around the sanctuary waving flags in worship.

Have you had any awesome worship experiences lately? If so, tell us about them! We’ll compile a list and share them with everyone!

St. Thomas, CrookesSt. Thomas, Philly

visual preaching in the UK

We’re only in Sheffield for another week. Can you believe it? Our stint in the UK has been half the length of our time in Hong Kong and Jerusalem, but the ‘NON’-language-barrier has made it much easier to get involved and set up conversations with willing groups of people. In the last week, we’ve had the privilege of teaching two cell groups here in Sheffield. “Cell Groups” are small groups of people who meet weekly for study, prayer, and support. They are an offshoot of a larger group (called a missional community). Once a month, all the cell groups come together and serve their common mission. Are you completely confused yet? I erase half of the blog posts I write about this stuff, because it’s seems to be so hard to explain. Laughs.

One group did a fantastic modernization exercise around The Magnificat (Mary’s song). The other group created “tweets” to define church as we dwelled in the story of Pentecost. In 140 characters or less, how would you define “What is the church?” I gave them a few minutes to think and write about it. They shared their answers, and we did it again. Only this time, we took out any words that a non-Christian wouldn’t understand and used the most plain language possible. What’s the point of this exercise? Have you ever had a non-Christian ask you what the church is? That creates a huge open door for evangelizing. Problem is (and I’m guilty of this as well) so often when we describe what the church is, we use words like “faith, fellowship, forgiveness” all of which are fairly foreign to them. So how can we shape our language to have the most impact? Here’s what our Pentecost group thought:

BEFORE: The body of Christ is where everyone has a place and a role to play to bring Gods kingdom (heaven) to earth.
AFTER: A safe community of people where everyone has a place. Everyone respects, loves, and supports everyone else.

BEFORE: The church is family and where I belong.
AFTER:  The church is family and where I belong.

BEFORE: God’s answer to the world’s problems in its perfect form. Unfortunately imperfect, but still a wonderful creation. Massively innovative through history.
AFTER: God’s answer to the world’s problems, massively innovative and influential throughout history. Unfortunately imperfect, but still a wonderful creation.

BEFORE: The church is a community of unlikely ‘put together people’ who share belief, faith, to speak of the Gospel.
AFTER: The church is a community of  unlikely ‘put together people’ who believe in Jesus as the Son of God.

These are just a few of the responses we got. Interesting, aren’t they? I especially loved the words “unlikely people.” So true isn’t it? God bringing people who, according to their own strength, may never meet or connect. Shoot, that’s the story of our travels. God has brought us new friends, ideas, and mission from strangers. With God all things good can happen (too bad we’re in the picture screwing it up). Lucky for us, no matter how messy, God is here to bring about the very best for us.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 36 other followers