We were made for community. We weren’t made for isolation, for walking through life alone. After all, our creator is God in three persons, a God who is Himself living in community. How could He have wanted anything more for us than fellowship with Him and each other? Associating together is at the heart of the Gospel because we follow a relational God. Just as we grow in relationship with the Lord, we seek to deepen and strengthen our relationships with friends, family, and strangers around us.
Prioritizing personal relationships in culture today is often easier said than done. We find it challenging in booming, metropolitan cities, in which the focus of society is career and achievement. It can be equally, if not more, challenging when interpersonal barriers become physical. There are people in this world fighting for community because, geographically, it doesn’t exist for them. They don’t have the chance to take their neighbors for granted; their closest neighbor is hours away. These friends have to be very intentional with how they pursue community.
Making Connections Happen
Over two-thirds of Norway’s landscape is mountainous, which makes living in certain areas of the country nearly impossible. Populations live mostly in the south where the terrain is more manageable. There are people, though, who reside in the north — isolated from the rest. They can drive down to the southern region, but doing so would take as much as 30 hours by car. For Norwegians, this is normal. Yet, they adapt and find ways to connect. The Gideons in Norway recognize their deep need for community.
In spite of distance and hardship, these members remain faithful to God’s call on their life and to each other. They know God has uniquely positioned every member in Norway to win others for the Lord Jesus Christ. So Gideons and Auxiliary in Norway ask: How are we going to respond to His call?
Community in Norway
Geir grew up in Stavanger, and his father was a Gideon. As Geir got older, he stepped into God’s call on his life to share the Gospel as a Gideon. Geir wasn’t as passionate as he hoped he would be to serve; at least, not in the way he had seen his father do for years. After experiencing The Gideons International, though, he learned how truly life-giving it could be. Members offer salvation to non-believers, which is a priceless gift. As Geir was sharing the Gospel with people, he noticed something special happening in his own life. He was receiving the gift of community, fellowship, and accountability he didn’t even know he was missing.
Geir realized that we, as believers, need one another. Who else can we talk about sin and temptation with? Who will forgive and encourage us in this increasingly more secularized society? We come to the Father in prayer, but there is added value in joining a brother or sister in Christ for confession, repentance, and forgiveness. Gideons and Auxiliary are not all the same, but we have a mutual understanding and love for one another because Christ first loved us. Differences make us better, stronger, and our members stand out when we’re together on mission for the Kingdom. People are surprised by our Association, and even find themselves curious. These relationships may be their only picture of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Associating together is at the heart of the Gospel because we follow a relational God. Just as we grow in relationship with the Lord, we seek to deepen and strengthen our relationships with friends, family, and strangers around us.
Martin lives in Senja, which is in northern Norway and, from Stavanger, takes over a day by car to reach. He grew up in a family of believers, so by the age of 14, he claimed the Christian faith as his own. After getting married young, though, things got harder. He was away from family, which had been an integral source of community and support in his walk with the Lord. Martin doesn’t recall how or when it started until he was in the midst of a deep struggle with sinful desire. He was chasing money and achievement in his career. He was doing everything on his own and for himself. There was little time for the Lord. Martin felt like a fraud living a double life; everyone believed him to be a man of God, but he knew that wasn’t true.
His return home to the Father was much like the prodigal son. Expecting nothing, God gave him profound love and showered blessings upon him. Martin learned about The Gideons later, from Geir. The two met in Stavanger when Martin went to buy a car from Geir. Before even stepping on the lot, they sat, talked about God, and shared their stories. It was evident they had the same heart for fellowship with God, others, and His Word. Martin wanted this for his life. God created us for a relationship with Him but also for fellowship with one another. “You meet a part of Jesus when you meet other believers,” Martin realized. After all, we are His body on Earth.
Both Per Inge and his wife, Kirsten, grew up in Christian families. But they came to The Gideons in their own time — or rather, the Lord’s time. Per Inge questioned what it meant to take his faith seriously and make it his own. To him, this seemed to be an abstract concept. He and his wife spent 12 years in Taiwan while Per Inge worked in electrical engineering. This work resonated with his faith in ways he hadn’t expected. There was great power in radio transmission — getting information when you have none and connecting to people outside your community. He met Gideons for the first time while in Taipei, and Per Inge learned there was something purposeful in cross-cultural community.
He joined The Gideons when they moved back to Norway in 1992. “The Association honored fellowship with the right focus on evangelism,” says Per Inge. Kirsten joined a bit later. Her husband was associating with brothers in Christ as well as deeply caring for his family. Per Inge and Kirsten weren’t choosing ministry over family or vice versa; their intentionality for time with each other and their children was more profound as a result of all they learned as members of The Gideons. They actually felt their relationships were stronger because of what community with fellows Gideons and Auxiliary taught them. “Fellowship is what strengthens and sustains our Association,” Per Inge says, and his wife agrees. This is what convinced Kirsten to join. “We encourage, teach, inspire, and motivate one another.”
Centered on the Gospel
The Gospel is foundational to how people are impacted through The Gideons International, which means our members are in the business of people — loving them, supporting them, and bringing them to Christ. God cares far more about who we are than what we do. He concerns Himself little with our occupational achievements and more with our significant relationships. We learn and grow in the faith by communing with the Lord as well as with His children. This is not a walk we can make alone. We each have a personal relationship with the King; but together, we encourage and affirm one another along the way.
God created us for a relationship with Him but also for fellowship with one another. You meet a part of Jesus when you meet other believers.
Because of the secular culture in Norway, our members there feel the need for deep, daily fellowship. Walk alone for a time, and you will see; there will be a profound longing in your heart because we were made for community.