Report of Centenary Conference of the Norwegian Baptist Women’s Work – 2-4th September 2016
Report by Margaret Brown
This event was held in Trondheim, Norway where the Baptist women’s work began in the Baptist Church there one hundred years ago. The conference was held in the Radison Royal Garden Hotel, Trondheim over the weekend of 2-4th September 2017. The six members of the EBWU Committee were invited to attend and were so blessed by being there. Altogether 115 ladies attended, the oldest being 95 and the youngest 25; quite a few former leaders of the Women’s Union were also present.
Everyone was touched in some positive way, and there was a real sense of the Lord’s presence among us. Time was spent looking back, giving thanks for the past and looking forward to the future with God. It was wonderful and such a blessing to be able to share together and get to know one another a little, to chat, to learn, to pray together. A prayer room had been set up, just off the main hall where anyone could go and make use of, for prayer or just to sit quietly and know god’s presence.
The theme was taken from Acts 17:28 ‘In Him we live and move and have our being.’ The two main speakers were Aase Johanne Aune and Mette Ellinor Boye. Our praise times were ably led by a group from Lillehammar, Norway.
The conference began late afternoon on Friday, with welcome and introductions of various people. In the evening Ase spoke on Friday evening brought her first message. She spoke of her spiritual journey as a child, often referring to older hymns which meant much to her. She learned that God is in everything – He is in our senses and in our memories, ‘in Him we live and move and have our being.’ She then moved on to ask what life was like in 1916 when the work began. It was the middle of the war, commodities were in short supply and often expensive, but these women who began the work had something greater than bread. They had a calling! They fulfilled their calling and God did what He said He would do. Things can happen when we give out in Jesus’ name. We give what we have. We can receive a calling at any time, in any place. Then we are on holy ground; life is holy, maybe not so wonderful all the time, but holy nevertheless, as we fulfil our calling. These first women listened, they saw the vision, they obeyed, and God blessed. Go into the time you are living in, the burning bush can be anywhere and God is calling your name. Whoever you are, whenever you are obedient, that is holy ground. We have dared to believe that Jesus walks with us.
On the Saturday morning Mette spoke. What do we think of ourselves? Often we have thoughts that we are not good enough. We must learn to stand firm as a Christian woman, not to be pressed down but to sit down in the right place. The Lord has the right place for us. In Luke 15 three stories are told of the lost sheep, coin and son. That is the gospel, that’s salvation. I can go into the holy place because of what Jesus has done. There’s a longing in God’s heart for His children to come home. It is not about what we have done, it’s all about God’s love for us. Sitting comfortably with God – that is my place. It is nothing that I do, it is because I am His daughter. When thoughts come to bring us down, God says, ‘you are My daughter and I love you. You are precious to Me.’ When we say we can’t, God says we can. He tells us to sit down and listen to Him, He will show us. Just be with God as His daughter. Take your place, be visible. Make room for your tent; God has created us with skills, use them, we must dare to take that room otherwise there will be an empty place where we should be (Isa.54:2). We are different and need one another to complement each other. Don’t compare, take your own place within the body (1Cor.12:14). Fill the room you have been given.
Share the vison, share the life, share generously. Encourage, bless and release. Jesus taught the disciples, sent them out, listened when they came back, counselled them and let them go again. We need spiritual mothers to nurture, encourage, protect, counsel and let go. Bless the younger women coming up encourage them, mother them. We also need to know when to let go. We don’t need to disappear, but to stand in the sidelines and cheer the others on, encourage them, mentor them. Even in old age we can still bear fruit. Stand together with the younger ones. Take your space where God has placed you.
Following lunch some of our number went to Nidaros Cathedral where an organ recital and meditation took place. It was very restful sitting in the cathedral enjoying the music and the meditation. The Cathedral dates from1070 and is built over the tomb of St Olav, the Viking King who brought Christianity to Norway.
Later we enjoyed hearing about the various projects which the Norwegian women support – the Karen on the Thai/Burmese border nursery for children including refugee children; the Chin in Burma clinic giving medical and dental help; in Congo with birthing huts and knitted baby jackets and hats; in Sierra Leone in Break the Silence, aimed to stop female genital mutilation and violence against women; in India with Freeset, a business providing work for women who have been involved in prostitution where they can now earn a living with dignity. All these very worthwhile projects involve the women reaching out with the love of God towards others.
Ase then spoke, asking if there was room for tears in the kingdom of God. In society where well-being and happiness seem to be everything anything else is rejected. Yet, there has to be room for tears and wailing. Jesus never guaranteed no storm, but He did guarantee He would be in the boat with us. Sorrow is not something that can be ended at a certain time. There are so many varieties of tears and sorrow. Look at Job and the prophets; the prophets were not sent to tell the people that everything was ok. They were sent often in sorrow and hardship to speak the truth of the Word of God. We can walk with Jesus in darkness and in light. Do we have room for the testimony of darkness? How can we reach people to-day in pain if we are prophets of happiness? There is pain in our lives and pain in our churches. We can share the darkness with Jesus prior to the light coming. There is not a great openness to share the darkness within the church, but there is opportunity to share with those outside. Ecclesiastes 3:15-18 speaks of judgement and justice in dark places. There is room for crying and we are to speak the truth in love. Not everything has to be made public; in small groups or even one to one we can be personal. What is the Long Term Perspective? We are urged not to be weary of doing good (Gal.6:9). It seems the greatest threat to-day is the rush to be busy all the time. There is no proper answer to this. There is a Biblical principle of relaxing and calming down, resting. Rushing around and the kingdom of God are not compatible. He does not want us to be stressed out. The tree planted by water puts roots down and does not dry out (Jer.17:7&8). We must rest to put our roots down and take in refreshment. The olive tree can be 40 years old before it produces fruit and can live for 100 years. It can last through drought because its roots are deep. Old trees give an enormous amount of fruit and often the best comes from the trees growing in dry conditions. Be like the olive tree, even in old age. John 15:16, ‘You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last.’ Remain in the Vine, be fruitful, let Jesus lead you into the light. We are dependant on God physically and spiritually.
In the evening we enjoyed a sumptuous feast – good food, good company and good talk. Greetings were brought to the conference by a variety of people and organisations. Ruth Bratveit, the currant Leader of the Norwegian Baptist women co-ordinated this part of the programme.
The conference concluded with the morning worship service held in Trondheim Baptist Church. This was led by Synnove Angen, who included a number of people taking part in the service. Dimitrina Oprenova shared the Word of God from Hebrews 12:1-3, encouraging us all to press on and persevere because the Lord Himself is with us.
It was a joy to be part of such a conference It was a great time of reflection, encouragement and inspiration and the Lord certainly blessed us. We give Him the praise and the glory.
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