An open letter to the Daily Mail…

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ethnaparker:

Hats of to all the people that give up their time to spread a little love 365 days a year, every year. I would like to see their names added to the New Year’s honour roll.

Originally posted on squidgetsmum:

The Daily Mail chose today to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, champion of the oppressed, by publishing this article today.  Here’s my response.

 

Dear Daily Mail,

I’ve got a little boy.  His name is Isaac, and he’s nearly three.  Like any little boy, he loves cars, balls, and running around.  He’s barely ever still.

A few days ago though, he was.  I took him to the supermarket to spend his pocket money, and we passed the donation basket for our local food bank.  It was about half full – nothing spectacular, in fact, mostly prunes and pasta – and he asked what it was.  As simply as possible, I tried to explain that it was for people to give food for other people who couldn’t afford it.

This affected his two year old brain fairly deeply.  After a lot of thought, he decided to spend a little bit of…

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From Iceland with love…

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IMG_0041I’ve been thinking a lot recently about life, or to be more precise, about the many amazing opportunities we have had since we decided to become Christians and get involved with mission. For the past twenty two years we have (or to be fair, Chris has) flitted around the globe, met no end of interesting people, tried some really strange food – pickled sheep’s testicles anyone? And, generally had a ball. And, while all this is true, it hasn’t been a breeze. Far from it. Moving to another country, whether it be for a couple of months or several years, is hard. It’s especially hard if you move to a country that does not share your mother tongue. A few days ago, I was asked if I would like to contribute to a web campaign run by HiFx who are collecting tips from expats on ways to make moving abroad easier. My tip was:

Once you have decided which country and which region you want to live, contact local organisations for help. On two occasions we contacted the Pastor of a local Church and on both occasions their support was invaluable. Both Pastors helped us to find cheap accommodation and were instrumental in setting up employment opportunities. Fifteen years later, we remain friends to this day. So, don’t be afraid, reach out to someone in the local community and you may be pleasantly surprised by the response you receive.

If you are interested in reading more tips on living successfully abroad, you should definitely check out their tips page. Reading the tips from other expats made me think about our own experience of moving to Iceland, first in Dec 1999-Feb 2004 and again in Jan 2012. When we first moved to Iceland in Dec 1999, we spent two years getting ready financially, practically and spiritually. We got ready financially by clearing any outstanding debts that we had, car loans etc and by saving every single month until the day we left. We got ready practically by thinking about what household items might need replaced before we left. For example, white goods such as washing machines and fridges are ridiculously expensive in Iceland, so we decided to replace them beforehand. But, as we didn’t want to pay any import duty on them, we had to plan ahead and buy those items at least one year before our leaving date. Receipts will be checked by customs officials, so whatever you do, don’t lose them! This time around, I lost the receipt for a £16 electric kettle, which resulted in our container being retained at the docks in Reykjavík until I found the kettle on-line to prove how much it cost in the UK! We also spend the two years before we left researching every aspect of Icelandic culture and life. We prepared ourselves spiritually by signing up for a three-month mission training school just before we landed in Iceland in Dec 1999.

Looking back, I’m not sure that we could have done any more than we did. In fact, I’m pretty much convinced that there is nothing we could have done to prepare our little family for flying into the worst winter on record for almost one hundred years, waking up to an erupting volcano just two months later in the February and then finding ourselves at the epicenter of an earth measuring an impressive, 6.7 on the Richter scale in the June. Believe me when I say, there were more than a few startled sheep that day. It would be fair to say that Iceland and Icelanders have filled our lives with all kinds of surprises and adventures ever since.

I mean, where else can you have your photograph taken inside a gigantic ice cave?

Chris in cave in Hofn

Where else can you pop your head outside on a winter’s night and witness the northern lights in all their glory?

Northern LIghts over Church

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where else are you faced with the most exquisite land and seascapes at every turn?

The main settlement on the Westman Islands

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where else can you get a photograph of yourself and a cardboard cutout of President Obama?

Meeting President Obama

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is it all worth it? You bet it is…

This post was written in partnership with HiFX. Revenue from the post was donated to charity

A brief look ahead..

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DSC06855A few people have been asking about Chris’ ministry schedule over the next couple of months. So, here is a brief overview of the things that we know about at the moment. Please be aware that if you would like Chris to come along to an event you are planning, it is best to talk to him approx. 6-8 weeks in advance.

This is a good map for giving you a feel for the distances Chris travels between the small Churches in Iceland. Churches that Chris actively supports include: Selfoss, Westman Islands, Kirkjulækjarkot in Fljótshlíð, Höfn í Hornafirði, Vopnafjörður, Ísafjörður, Stykkishólmur, and Keflavík.

map_of_iceland

Schedule for January/February/March

Jan 3 – 5 Höfn í Hornafirði: fellowship and preaching.

Jan 10 Reykjavík: preaching at Fíladelfía (youth meeting).

Jan 12 Selfoss: preaching at the Sunday service – part 1.

Jan 16 -17 Keflavik: attending Church leader’s meeting.

Jan 19 Selfoss: preaching at the Sunday service – part 2.

Jan 31 – 2 February Westman Islands: fellowship, teaching and preaching.

Feb 5 -10 Poland: attending Royal Rangers Euro leaders conference.

Feb14 -16 Ísafjörður: fellowship, teaching and preaching.

From the beginning of March Chris will be employed by the Pentecostal Church in Keflavík on a part-time basis. Chris will be assisting the Pastor of the Church in a range of development activities. More about that in a future blog post. During his employment with Keflavík Church, Chris will continue to support the country Churches around Iceland.

Projects in progress

CourageousOver the past year, Chris has been instrumental in developing six men’s groups around Iceland. Using the Christian movie ‘courageous’ as a platform to get men thinking afresh about their role in the family and in local communities, Chris has encouraged small groups of men to meet regularly to discuss issues of importance to them and to work through the Courageous study material. All the groups will be meeting up 7 – 9 March in Stykkishólmur to enjoy a weekend of fellowship, teaching and backwoods activities.

That’s all from us for now. Until next time, be blessed and love God. Nothing. Else. Matters.

Chris and Ethna

Nativity reloaded

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HowManySleepsChristmaDEABEGiven that summer (or what was laughingly referred to as summer this year in Iceland) seems like it was here only yesterday, I am struggling with the notion that Christmas is, quite literally, around the corner. I realise commenting on how quickly time flies secures my place in the ‘getting older’ club and for that I make no apologies. The fact is, it really doesn’t seem like five minutes since I was admiring and reviewing nativity videos to accompany our Christmas message last year, and yet, here I am again, admiring and reviewing another traunch of nativity videos.

Speaking of admiring and reviewing…it has been an extraordinary year for Chris and I, at once exhausting and exhilarating. We have been living outside our personal comfort zone and whilst this is an exciting, edgy place to be, being on the edge can sometimes feel like a balancing act. We have, for example, made countless small, and occasionally large decisions, that have reinforced our need to ‘hold’ our material possessions, including finances, lightly. Chris and I think that money matters. In fact, money matters a great deal. People who preach that money is of little import, usually speak from a position of owning a fat purse. It is the love of money that is the root of all evil, not money itself.

Although we enjoy a relatively small income – our joint income is below the Icelandic minimum wage for a single person – Chris and I were inspired to financially support several people and projects over the year and in doing so, have experienced great blessing in our lives. In our new year blog post, we will share some of the many personal challenges/blessings we have experienced this past year. I give you fair warning though, you may have to make yourself a cuppa before you settle down to read it, as we have had an eventful and fruitful year.

While Chris and I are pleased to give God the glory for all that He has done for us personally, a Christmas blog post is not about us. It is about celebrating the birthday of the greatest man who ever lived. His story started before the world began, it continues today and will continue for all time. His name is Jesus. The following video re-tells the story of His birth. We have used this video before. For that I make no apologies either. It is easily one of the best nativity videos we have watched. Enjoy and be blessed. Happy birthday Jesus!

We three kings of Orient are. Bearing gifts we traverse afar…

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DSC06841Alongside Facebook and Skype, the blog is one of the ways we keep our family and friends in the loop with what we get up to ‘on the mission field’ while introducing them to the wonder that is Niceland/Iceland. Because the blog is often written ‘after the fact’, it acts as a sort of potted history of our lives, offering readers snippets of information on this and that. It also gives us an opportunity to take time out and reflect on why we are in Iceland, what we do here and what shape our future may take. Being reflective is such an important part of life as it helps us to think more consciously about what we are doing in the here and now and, as a result, can help us develop a more thankful attitude towards the many blessings we experience. Without the benefit of reflection, it is all to easy to see the thorn and not the rose.

In addition to being a useful way of summarising the many and varied things we get involved with here in Iceland, the blog has also enabled numerous people to contact us and (in some cases) visit us and/or Iceland. As a result, Chris and I have been greatly encouraged and blessed to have facilitated, hosted or otherwise cajoled a number of lovely people to visit us here in Niceland, each one bringing their unique gifts of friendship, teabags and more besides!

IMG_0123Our first visitor of 2013 arrived in Iceland at the end of May this year. Ian Koh, a recent Master’s graduate from Singapore had contacted us via the blog as he wanted to hook up with a Christian Church while he worked for a month as a volunteer on an Icelandic farm holiday. Here is a photo of Ian looking cool and sophisticated in Stykkishólmur. One of the great things about being a Christian, is no matter where you go in the world, you have a friend(s) who are ready and willing to help. To help Ian get the most of his trip to Iceland, when possible he accompanied Chris on his visits to the country Churches around Iceland. This enabled Ian to see much more of Iceland than would otherwise have been possible and to make many friends. Ian has an incredible testimony of how God sustains him daily through the challenge of chronic illness. As it happens, I got chatting to Ian via Google while I was writing this post, so I asked him if there was anything he would like to share on the blog. He messaged back that it would be good to let people know that Singapore is not in China and that Arsenal is the best football team in the world! It was a blessing to get to know Ian and we look forward to getting to know him better when he returns to Iceland next year for another volunteer holiday – við sjáumst Ian!

1146585_623170849851_1171753600_nOur second visitor was another young Christian interested in doing some volunteer work alongside experiencing something of Iceland. Janelle Burris was her name, teaching music was her game. Janelle is currently in teacher training school. She is also a independent contractor (music and voice) and a professional musician. Listen to samples of Janelle’s music here and here. Like Ian, we were able to arrange for Janelle to stay with our Christian friends all over Iceland, and as a result, she was able to get behind the scenes and experience something of the ‘real’ Iceland and the people who live within her borders. As a gifted musician, Janelle ministered in song to several Church congregations and volunteered at the lovely and now quite famous Nytjamarkaður. Janelle is also knitting a lopa peysa…she is one talented lady. Janelle took many unique and beautiful photos during her visit to Iceland. If you are very nice to her, she might just befriend you on Facebook and let you see them ;)

IMG_00000479 (1)One of the things we love to do is invite people we know and respect over to teach and preach at events we are involved in here in Iceland. This year we were blessed by the ministry of our friends Barnhard Steenkamp and Laurence O’Brien. We have known Barnhard for many years. Chris and Barnhard were trainee Pastors with AOG GB (both of them have now graduated) and both of them share a passion for mission. Bernhard and his wife Bridget moved to London from South Africa to work with YWAM. Twenty years later, they are still serving God in London, although they are now Pastors of West London Family Church in Fulham. Laurence serves as a leader/elder in Bernhard’s Church and is passionate about local Church and mission. Chris and I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to the Assembly at Fulham for the generous financial gift they sent over with Bernhard. Thank you for thinking of us and for blessing us with your resources.

Chris invited Bernhard to Iceland to teach at a weekend conference for young people, on the topic of leadership. Bernhard’s teaching was very well received by everyone who attended the conference. Although Bernhard and Laurence were only in Iceland for five days, Bernhard also preached at Selfoss Church on Sunday morning and Kot Church on Sunday afternoon. In between teaching and preaching, the thee boys managed to take in all the sights Iceland could offer in the short time they were there including a trip to the Blue Lagoon and of course a trip to Gulfoss and Geysir. They also managed to find time to stand at the foot of the glacier at Eyjafjallajökull.

Dave and MadelineDave and Madeline Russon contacted us via the blog to let us know they were planning a short ‘Northern Lights’ tour to Iceland and would we like to meet up. Of course we said ‘Yes’. As it turned out, I wasn’t able to meet up on the day, but Chris and our good friend and fellow missionary Paulo Sicoli were able to. Dave and Madeline have  been in Christian ministry for over thirty years. Dave has served as Regional Superintendent for the North East region of AOG. He also served on the AOG World Mission Team. In relation to this, Dave was the Director of AOG World Ministries for several years. Together, Dave and Madeline have been involved with Church planting in the North East of England. They have also travelled and ministered in over 100 countries around the world. Catch up with the latest news from Dave and Madeline here. Dave and Madeline fellowship at Victory Church in Horden, Peterlee. Horden AOG is Pastored by Steve and Gabriel Sinclair and is one of the Churches Chris preached at when he was conducting an itinerary in the North East of England just before he came back to Iceland in July 2012. Steve and Gabriel sent a generous financial gift with Dave and Madeline. We were both surprised and very thankful. Thank you Steve and Gabriel and the Assembly at Horden for your generosity. The financial gifts we received from Bernhard’s Church and from Steve’s Church will help to cover the cost of Chris’ trip to the UK next year to attend the AOG annual conference.

Although Dave and Madeline were in Iceland on a ‘Northern Lights’ tour, not everyone who visits Iceland on a ‘Northern Lights’ tour is lucky enough to see the awesomeness that is Aurora Borealis. But, the night before they flew back to the UK, on the way back from a trip to the Blue Lagoon, Dave and Madeline were treated to a fantastic display. They couldn’t have been happier! Like many before them, Dave and Madeline have been smitten by Iceland. We look forward to seeing them again (and not just because they brought teabags and a big bag of money) in the not to distant future.

1422340_10151807537691903_2043823958_nTowards the end of the summer, we found out that Paul and Jenn Weaver were booked to teach/preach at Fíladelfía Church in Reykjavík. We immediately booked a hotel room for two nights and spent the intervening months looking forward to hearing Paul teaching and (hopefully) getting to know Paul and Jenn in person. Paul is a retired General Superintendent of AOG GB, although from his current teaching/preaching/consultancy workload, you would never guess that either he or Jenn were retired…Jenn is a retired nurse. Booking the hotel was the best thing we could have done, as it meant we caught most of Paul’s sessions at Fíladelfía plus we got to hang out with them for the day in the city. You can hear Paul preaching at the Sunday service here. You can either watch the video of the whole meeting (including the worship) or skip ahead to the 38 minute mark which is where Paul starts preaching. We really enjoyed getting to know Paul and Jenn and have no intention of letting them visit Iceland only once. Be ye therefore duly warned Paul and Jenn…you will be back!

DSC06855I hadn’t met Paul or Jenn before we met up with them in Iceland, but Chris had. Chris remembers talking to Paul about Dyslexia – a disability they both have and to this day remembers how enormously encouraged and comforted he felt when Paul shared with him his own challenges with the condition. It never ceases to amaze me how important our conversations are. Paul never knew how much solace Chris drew from their brief interlude and yet, it was one of the most encouraging conversations Chris has had. And now, many years later Chris was able to tell Paul, just how much it meant to him. We live in a small world, that seems to get smaller by the year. God is Good! Until next time…be blessed.

Book your flight to Iceland now…A Northen lights extravaganza over Hella, Iceland.

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To be fair, there is no bad time to visit Iceland. But at the moment, the skies above Iceland are literally dancing with colour and pizzazz. So much so that cities and towns all over Iceland are switching off their street lights so that everyone can admire this amazing display of nature without light pollution. The lights in Selfoss (where I live) are already switched off!  So, I’m heading out to enjoy the lights with everyone else. Meanwhile, enjoy the photos below. They were taken over Hella (southern Iceland) by talented photographer Sólveig Stolzenwald who very kindly gave me permission to publish her photos on the blog. To see more of Sólveig’s work visit her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/stolzenwald.

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A missionary on the move…

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Many of the posts Chris_1we write on the blog are intended to give our family, friends and supporters a peek or three into everyday life here in Iceland. Sometimes the blogs are about sharing some of the amazing cultural experiences we have had, sometimes they are about the people we meet and sometimes they are about the endlessly creative ways Icelanders mark the passage of time. Today’s blog post is related to none of the above and all of the above. Let me explain…but first, go grab a cup of something warm and comforting and cosy up on the sofa with us awhile…you may be here for some time ;) IMG_0041When Chris and I first moved back to Iceland in January 2012, we didn’t have a clear idea of what we might be doing. All we knew was that it was time to go back. We knew there would be work to do (there is always a shortage of workers in the Church), but we weren’t sure what we would be doing. To understand what we have ended up doing, we need to travel back in time a little…or a lot. In fact, we need to take you back to when we first moved to Iceland in December 1999. Which, for the record, was the worst winter Icelanders had experienced in almost one hundred years. And, don’t get me started about the volcanic eruption that followed soon after our arrival in February and the massive earthquake in June 2000…Anyhoo, I digress.

One of the things that Chris believed God showed him was the vulnerability of the country Churches around Iceland, particularly in relation to how isolated they were from fellow Christians for much of the year. But, at the time, we were given other work to do and as many of you know, we spent four of the five years we were in Iceland growing Útvörður Íslands, a national youth movement that is still going strong under the banner of Royal Rangers, Iceland. Here’s a couple of photos from one of the monthly weekends we held.

Utvordur.jpg

Cycle forward to January 2012 and we arrive back in Iceland after a sojourn of seven years in England. Over a period of several months, and after talking to people around Iceland about the kind of support they would like, Chris and I believed that the time had come for us to get involved with supporting individual Churches around Iceland. As you know, Chris and I prepared a presentation for the annual Pastor’s meeting in March 2012 at which the work of supporting the small country Churches was given the go ahead alongside a plan to further develop the existing (but non-functioning) mission movement. For the past twelve months, Chris (with occasionally me alongside) has been travelling to a number of small country Churches including, the Church at Stykkishólmur, Höfn í Hornafirði, Vestmannaeyjar, Vopnafjörður, Ísafjörður and Kirkjulækjarkot. Chris has also been working in the Church in Selfoss (our home Church) and has just begun preaching at the Church in Keflavík - more about Keflavík Church in a later post ;) Chris and I believe that supporting the country Churches has to amount to more than just the usual routine of blowing in, blowing up and blowing out. Our instincts were borne out when we talked to the people of the Churches and they confirmed that what they felt they needed was on-going support and commitment, including, teaching, preaching, fellowship and Church development. Over a period of time, Chris developed a model of Church development that he presented to each of the Churches and he asked them to prayerfully consider if they wanted him to work with them. All of the Churches Chris approached said they wanted to work with him over the longer term.

The past eighteen months have gone past in a bit of a blur as Chris has travelled literally thousands of kilometres around Iceland bringing individualised support to the Churches. Although they each decided to follow Chris’ model of Church development, each Church has specific needs. There are many aspects to the development work Chris works through with the Churches, but he begins the process by asking them to work through the following questions:

1) Where do you see your Church now?

2) Where do you see your Church in one year?

3) Where do you see your Church in five years?

4) What are you going to do to make the change happen?

5) What kind of Church do you want to be? A Church of maintenance or a Church of mission?

He then gets them to think about the process of development in terms of a wheel – the old-fashioned type with a hub and spokes. In this representation, Jesus is the nut holding everything together, the Church is the hub and the rim is our impact on our community. At the end of the weekend, Chris leaves the Churches with a large paper grid populated with the five headings how, what, when, where, and who. When Chris returns a few weeks later, he works through the completed grid with the Church, giving them ideas on how to get started with the implementation phase. The next part of the process is for the country Churches to come together twice a year for a time of fellowship, prayer, sharing and teaching. Because of the problems associated with travelling around Iceland during the winter months, the Churches on the East coast will meet and the Churches on the West coast will meet. It is hoped that in doing this, the Churches will forge stronger bonds and be more able to support each other throughout the year.

Although there is a lot of travelling and preparation work involved, it’s not all work and no play ;) We believe an important part of supporting the Churches is to build relationships and friendships that we hope will last a lifetime. Because each Church is different, they way our relationships have developed is unique and special in each Church. Some of the friendship-building activities we have got involved with over the months includes:

Ice and cave exploration in Hofn

Out and about in Stykkis

Berry picking in Vopna

Enjoying Isaf

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The lovely Kot

Rekjavik

As Chris travels around Iceland over the winter he’ll be talking to Church pastors and their congregation about their progress so far. Expect to hear good news and fireworks! Until next time, we leave you with a lovely photo of a recent sunset in the south of Iceland. Many blessings, Chris and Ethna ;)

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Sumar á Selfossi – summer in Selfoss

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If Icelanders know how to do one thing well, it’s celebrate, especially if said celebration involves gathering friends and family together, dressing up and eating good food. Preferably, all three. I woke up today to discover that today the good people of Selfoss were celebrating Sumar á Selfossi. Given the amount of time the good people of Selfoss (had obviously) spent preparing for this special celebration, one could be forgiven for inquiring how I didn’t know about it earlier. I put it down to a post-PhD viva/corrections fog. Anyhoo, the first I knew that today would be no ordinary day, was when Chris woke me from my slumber with the happy announcement that breakfast was on the town. Literally. Each year, businesses and other kindhearted folk club together and provide a free breakfast for the hungry citizens of Selfoss, all 5,000 of them!

IMG_0481So, we gathered, in the rain (well, it is summer after all), everyone in good spirits, and waited patiently for breakfast to be served. We weren’t disappointed. Breakfast included, sliced meats and cheese, fresh bread buns, sliced tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers, meat and cheese spreads, fresh fruit, yoghurt and yoghurt drinks, cartons of fresh milk and chocolate milk, and coffee and kleinur (Icelandic doughnuts). A veritable feast. We had photos, but they didn’t turn out ;( But, you can take our word for it, the food was great.

IMG_0462 IMG_0472 Alongside the food there was live music and a play. Yes, at 9.00 in the morning we were treated to an enthusiastic performance that included lots of running around and silly voices. They were rather good, I must say. Afterwards, everyone involved in the production were individually thanked and presented with flowers. A nice touch I thought.

In addition to the early morning breakfast, there was also a decent sized fair and a competition to see who had the best dressed street. To make sure every street is in with a chance, the town is divided in five zones. Each zone is allocated a colour, i.e. red, orange, blue, green or red. Each zone is tasked with decorating their area in their colour. It wasn’t just the individual streets that were colour-coordinated though, children, animals and houses were also given a colour-coordinated make-over. We spent the afternoon, driving around the town (along with a lot of other people) admiring everyone’s handiwork. Most streets will be finishing the day with a BBQ. But, because we live on the main street – mostly businesses, few houses – we didn’t have a BBQ to go to…sad, I know. Gleðilegt sumar gott fólk af Selfossi ;)

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To everything there is a season…

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Missionary…it’s a bit of an old fashioned word, one that is rarely used nowadays, although use of the word mission is somewhat ubiquitous in the world today. People, it seems, like to be on a mission, to live mission-driven lives, or at least purpose-filled ones, I know I do. So, what do you do when you find yourself (rather unexpectedly) without a mission in sight?

I have experienced periods of uncertainty before, no doubt I will again. This was not, however, one of those times. This was simply about me marking time. I had a period of time to fill, a season if you will, and I wanted to fill it doing something useful. To be sure, it felt a lot like ‘winging it’, (not sure if you are allowed to wing it as a missionary, everyone expects missionaries to be sharp, focused, purposed). Sometimes, however, being a missionary is simply about doing what your hand finds to do. I started looking for something to do…and surprise, surprise, it didn’t take me long to find something. One of the things I’ve discovered about God throughout the years, is that, if we truly want to ‘get stuck in’, God in His infinite love and wisdom, will find something for us to get stuck into. Enter the Nytjamarkaður (a second-hand market).

Front of the marketThe Nytjamarkaður is a charity operated out of the Pentecostal Church in Selfoss (to which Chris and I proudly belong). Profits from the market support ABC children’s work in Burkina Faso, a registered charity that has supported hundreds of children to attend school and a range of projects supporting low-income families in Selfoss. The Nytjamarkaður needed some help, I won’t go into too many details just yet, let’s just say, the business had moved into the badlands, you know, that place where dragons be. I was told the market was disorganised and chaotic. This piqued my interest. That it would probably be too much for one person to take on. Now, I was more interested.There was talk about simply closing the whole thing down. Now I was really getting excited. That there wasn’t much money around, so I couldn’t expect to get paid very much. That was all I needed to hear…I signed up.

Prior to taking over the management of the Market in January 2013 I talked to Pastor Aron Hinriksson about the history and purpose of the market. I was deeply touched by the passion that Pastor Aron showed for the projects supported by the market and understood immediately the impact the market had on the lives of children in Burkina Faso and low income families in Selfoss. The market was not, however, achieving its full potential and there were a number of serious problems that needed to be addressed. I, by some happy coincidence, have had a lot of experience in helping organisations to change and curiously, was at a place in my life when I could work for a very small salary. Inspired, therefore, by the mission of the market, I decided to offer my skills, knowledge and expertise in change management to boost the image and income of the market. I believed this could be achieved by improving the systems and processes currently in place, and by providing the Market’s customers with a service that was so good they would ‘gossip’ about the market to their friends and neighbours.

The first step in the process of change was to introduce a quality control system. This involved closing the market down for almost three weeks in January in order to check every item currently in stock and throwing out all items that were damaged or not fit for purpose.This process of clearing out happened alongside a massive clean-up programme which went on for several weeks after the shop re-opened on the 19th January. By the end of February, every room in the Market was cleared of rubbish, thoroughly cleaned and where needed, facilities were improved. It was, for example, now possible to offer customers a pleasant changing room and separate customer toilet, something that had not been possible for some time and staff regained their coffee room which was now free from rubbish and excess stock. Stock that had been put into boxes three years earlier was sorted and either put out for sale or sent to the Red Cross for processing.

Book cornerOnce the Market was clean and organised, work started on the development of a book/coffee corner. This involved taking down a dividing wall and dismantling the shelving that was currently there and throwing out countless black bin bags of rubbish. The new book/coffee corner was formally opened on the 23rd March with an afternoon of coffee, cakes and face painting. All the shelving for the new book/coffee corner was purchased at Byko a local hardware and building company. Byko gave the market a generous 50% discount on all building materials for the project. Thank you Byko ;)

The children’s department was also completely refurbished, mostly with shelving from the old book corner and elsewhere in the market and organised into various age ranges. The shelving in the show room at the back of the shop was re-organised and several new clothes rails were erected. The main show room at the front of the shop was re-designed to include more shelving space and to ensure customers had clear and easy access to every item that was for sale.

For me, an important part of the change-over process would involve the market selling a range of new items. Selling new items impacts upon the market in a number of ways. Firstly, new items look nice. They are bright, shinny and attractive to look at and importantly they lift the overall standard of both the shop and the existing merchandise. They also attract a much higher price than used goods. After much discussion, the first range of new goods to be sold in the market was hand-crafted jewellery by local designer Rhiannon Mary Brown.

Rhiannon generously donated her current collection of necklaces, earrings and bracelets. Jewellery work eveningRhiannon’s jewellery has proved to be so popular with local people that she recently had to organise a jewellery-making evening to replenish the market’s dwindling supplies. Rhiannon´s jewellery can be purchased online here. Alongside offering new or unused items for sale, I also felt it was important to acquire new display stands to display items such as CDs and DVDs. A local company – A4 – was contacted with a view to purchasing two display stands. CD standsThese are very expensive to purchase in Iceland but I felt they would be worth the outlay. A4 responded by generously donating two display stands to the market, absolutely free of charge. Outstanding A4! I also wanted to start selling a range of all-occasion cards. I contacted ABC Skólinn (a charitable organisation providing training on issues related to world poverty) and asked them if they could help us out with some hand-crafted cards. They responded by giving the market over 500 cards to sell. Amazing!

LopapeysaAn important element of helping the market achieve its monetary goals during the summer months is to ensure the market is well stocked with items popular with tourists. Selfoss receives thousands of tourists every summer and they are all keen to purchase ‘a little bit of Iceland’ as they pass through. The lopapeysa (a hand knitted Icelandic wool sweater) is popular with Icelanders and tourists alike, as is local clay pottery, however both are painfully expensive when purchased new. We already had a small range of hand-crafted pottery but unfortunately we had very few lopapeysas for sale. I decided to place an advert in the local paper, and on the market’s new Facebook page, asking people to donate their old lopapeysa. We have had an encouraging response and our little collection is being added to daily.

At the rear of the Nytjamarkaður there is a 20 ft container which opens up into the shop. It was supposed to be used for storage. Unfortunately, the container was so full of rubbish it was dangerous to get in and out of. In reality, the container was just one massive rubbish bin with double doors. Over a period of months, the container was partially cleared and cleaned so that we could begin to actually use it to store ‘out of season’ merchandise. This was (and is) an ongoing challenge, as the market receives stock every week with new items arriving on a daily basis.

A recruitment programme for volunteer workers began just before Easter. The market has been successful in attracting a number of skilled and knowledgeable workers, although due to the amount of work still to do, the recruitment process will continue for the foreseeable future.

Countless other improvements are made, often on a daily basis, to ensure the Market not only looks good, but also that it offers customers a shopping experience to remember, i.e. free home-baked cakes and coffee and other goodies every week, face painting for children occasionally, a free toy or book for every young child that visits with their parents, deep discounts for regular customers and a variety of daily special offers. Pavement sign

Our most recent acquisitions were a lovely advertising sign for the pavement and the purchase of a new glass display cabinet to display our growing collection of rare books.

It would not have been possible for any of this to happen if it were not for the good people of Selfoss who continue to donate their ‘pre-loved’ goods and who shop at the market on a regular basis. Nor could it have happened without the staff who work/volunteer at the market, week in and week out and also those who contribute, by for example, building a much needed kitchen area, baking cakes, repairing broken goods, laying carpets, taking excess stock to the Red Cross every day, driving to the skip with broken stock and other rubbish, building shelving, painting and many other unseen jobs. I would like to say a huge thank you to each and every person who has been involved with the development of the market. You have directly contributed to it’s success.

My original goal for the market was to increase the income of the Market from its (then) current level of approximately 400,000 ISK per month. I believed that during the winter months, the market could achieve an income of approximately 750,000-800,000 ISK per month and that this could reach as much as 1,000,000 ISK during July and August each year. I believed that as the new processes and strategies were implemented, the Market would see a slow and steady increase in revenue. I believed this would take one to two years to achieved. This was not in fact what happened. What did happen was that by the end of February 2013, just six weeks after it was formally re-opened, the income of the shop had almost doubled to 715,000 ISK. This increase in income has been sustained month on month. In June, however, the income of the market looks set to almost triple. In real terms, this means that the income of the market has grown from approximately 400,000 ISK per month to over 1,000,000 ISK. in less than six months – a full year earlier than expected. Some of that extra income has had to be invested back into the market, for example, to buy new equipment and building materials in order to make the changes in the first place. In the longer term, however, the increase in income will be used to fund more charitable projects in Selfoss and abroad. In other words, the more we get, the more we plan to give away.

You might well be wondering why I’m telling you all this… The reason I felt it necessary to talk you through the changes in the market is because I feel I have achieved everything I set out to achieve, except for one final thing. The final part of the change process is the recruitment of a new manager to take the market into the future. I believe it is the job of a new manager to build upon the current strong foundation and to take the market forward.

Rhiannon Mary BrownAfter many discussions and much prayer, Rhiannon Mary Brown was appointed as the new manager of the market. Rhiannon will begin work on the 1st July 2013. Although I will no longer be working at the market on a day-today basis, I will retain oversight for the development of the market and will work closely with Rhiannon to ensure she has the support she needs to take the market forward. It is an exciting time for all of us who are involved with the market. Keep both us and the work of the market in your thoughts and prayers. The best is yet to come.

It’s been a positive tour de France…or should that be Iceland?

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An Icelandic sheep

An Icelandic sheep (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As you know, it’s been some time since our last blog post proper. So, we were thinking, that perhaps the best way to introduce you to the lovely people we have been visiting would be to give you an overview of the people, places and events that have populated our diaries and then to dedicate one blog post to each family or group we have been visiting. On our travels we have met some really interesting people. To be fair, you only have to turn a corner to find interesting people in Iceland. There are, for example, relatively few people who don’t play an instrument, tend a small-holding, keep a summer cottage for family gatherings or who are aren’t imbued with an entrepreneurial spirit. On the contrary, when in Iceland, chances are you will rub shoulders with an instrument playing, museum keeping, singing, fishing, hiking, skiing, career-changing superhero/heroine just about every day. In fact, so frequent are these meetings that we have (sort of) got used to the vaguely troubling thoughts that accompany such meetings such as the impulsive desire to learn to knit, sew, hike, glacier-climb, keep sheep, play an instrument, etc etc. Thoughts such as these (you will be relieved to note) are quickly dismissed, although I will admit to buying a book of Icelandic knitting patterns published by the Hand knitting Association of Iceland. The only problem is, I will have to improve my understanding of Icelandic before I can knit any of them…phew, saved by my terrible Icelandic skills!

Anyhoo, I digress. Here is a list of the Churches we have been involved in supporting since Christmas 2012, together with the dates that either Chris or Chris and I visited:

Vestmannaeyjar (Westman Islands) – February 15-17.

Ísafjörður – February 22-24.

Höfn í Hornafirði – March 8-10 and April 26-28: Home Mission gathering

Stykkishólmur – January 25-27, March 18-20, May 10-12.

Kirkjulækjarkot í Fljótshlíð – February 1-3: Lost Generation conference. March 1-3: Pastor’s AGM. March 28-31: Prayer conference. April 12-14: Leaders training w/e.

Coming up!

Ísafjörður – May 24-26: supporting the local Church.

Stykkishólmur – June 8, 9 + 10: development work. July 4, 5,6 +7: helping at the national Pentecostal summer/family camp.

Vestmannaeyjar (Westman Islands) – June 14, 15 + 16: development work

The work we have been (and continue to be) engaged in varies from Church to Church as it depends on what the people of the Church feel they need. Future blog posts will focus on the development work Chris has been involved in at each Church and will include interviews with Church members on how the work they have done with Chris has helped them to become more outward facing.

Some articles they may be of interest:

 

So, where have you been my whole life…?

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Northern LIghts over ChurchOr, at least, where have you been for the last six months? Regular readers of the blog have noticed the lack of posts over the past six months. Thank you for noticing. It is fair to say that Life suddenly became overwhelmingly busy as I wrote the final chapters of my PhD thesis on dementia and then began a new job – more about the PhD and the job later. And, for the longest time, after the death of my beloved brother, I simply didn’t have the heart to write.

We have, though, been keeping notes of our adventures in Iceland and over the next couple of weeks I am going to transform those notes into blog posts. We hope you find them interesting and we hope they give you an insight into what modern missionaries get up to. We hope also that as you journey with us vicariously, Iceland and her people become as familiar and as dear to you as they are to us. Every blessing, Chris and Ethna :)

The Icelandic National Anthem

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Ó Guð vors lands (O, God of Our Land), is the national anthem of Iceland. The lyrics are by Matthías Jochumsson and the music by Sveinbjörn Sveinbjörnsson. The anthem has three stanzas, but most people only get around to singing the first one. The melody is considered somewhat difficult to sing, probably because it requires a vocal range of a minor fourteenth. The anthem is essentially a hymn, which has caused a few problems over the years. But those who love it point out that Iceland has a state church and that Christianity is by far the most popular religion. Thanks for the info wikipedia!

Sung by Icelandic choirs from London, Stockholm, Oslo, Lund, Gothenburg and Copenhagen. Filmed by Paul Barlow

Ó Guð vors lands (O, God of Our Land)

Ó, guð vors lands! Ó, lands vors guð!
Vér lofum þitt heilaga, heilaga nafn!
Úr sólkerfum himnanna hnýta þér krans
þínir herskarar, tímanna safn.
Fyrir þér er einn dagur sem þúsund ár
og þúsund ár dagur, ei meir:
eitt eilífðar smáblóm með titrandi tár,
sem tilbiður guð sinn og deyr.
:; Íslands þúsund ár, ;:
eitt eilífðar smáblóm með titrandi tár,
sem tilbiður guð sinn og deyr.

Ó, guð, ó, guð! Vér föllum fram
og fórnum þér brennandi, brennandi sál,
guð faðir, vor drottinn frá kyni til kyns,
og vér kvökum vort helgasta mál.
Vér kvökum og þökkum í þúsund ár,
því þú ert vort einasta skjól.
Vér kvökum og þökkum með titrandi tár,
því þú tilbjóst vort forlagahjól.
:; Íslands þúsund ár, ;:
voru morgunsins húmköldu, hrynjandi tár,
sem hitna við skínandi sól.

Ó, guð vors lands! Ó, lands vors guð!
Vér lifum sem blaktandi, blaktandi strá.,
Vér deyjum, ef þú ert ei ljós það og líf,
sem að lyftir oss duftinu frá.
Ó, vert þú hvern morgun vort ljúfasta líf,
vor leiðtogi í daganna þraut
og á kvöldin vor himneska hvíld og vor hlíf
og vor hertogi á þjóðlífsins braut.
:; Íslands þúsund ár, ;:
verði gróandi þjóðlíf með þverrandi tár,
sem þroskast á guðsríkis braut.

Oh, God of our country! Oh, our country’s God!
We worship Thy name in its wonder sublime.
The suns of the heavens are set in Thy crown
By Thy legions, the ages of time!
With Thee is each day as a thousand years,
Each thousand of years, but a day,
Eternity’s flow’r, with its homage of tears,
That reverently passes away.
Iceland’s thousand years,
Iceland’s thousand years!
Eternity’s flow’r, with its homage of tears,
That reverently passes away.

Our God, our God, we bow to Thee,
Our spirits most fervent we place in Thy care.
Lord, God of our fathers from age unto age,
We are breathing our holiest prayer.
We pray and we thank Thee a thousand years,
For safely protected we stand;
We pray and we bring Thee our homage of tears,
Our destiny rest in Thy hand.
Iceland’s thousand years,
Iceland’s thousand years!
The hoarfrost of morning which tounted those years,
Thy sun rising high, shall command!

Our country’s God! Our God’s country!
Our life is a feeble and quivering reed;
We perish, deprived of Thy spirit and light
To redeem and uphold in our need.
Inspire us at morn with Thy courage and love,
And lead through the days of our strife!
At evening send peace from Thy heaven above,
And safeguard our nation through life.
Iceland’s thousand years,
Iceland’s thousand years!
O, prosper our people, diminish our tears
And guide, in Thy wisdom, through life!

Lyrics by Matthías Jochumsson. Music by Sveinbjörn Sveinbjörnsson

 

It feels like home to me…

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Well, it’s been a bit of a strange year so far for the Parkers in Iceland. We arrived in Iceland in early January 2012, to be greeted by one of the coldest, snowiest winters to hit Iceland since 1984. Snow started falling in Iceland in Oct/Nov and forgot to stop until the end of May. Although those poor souls who had bravely pulled on a snowsuit every day for almost nearly seven months were getting a mite tired of the ever present white stuff, Chris and I were thrilled. We had missed Iceland and we especially missed the white stuff. Sad, I know. I am pleased to report however, that the blessed white stuff is back with a vengeance and as you can see from the photo taken just a couple of days ago, even the sheep were taken by surprise.

As you know from the last blog post, we returned to England to itinerate in the NorthEast of England. We managed to visit 20 Churches, the majority of whom we had a good working relationship with already and 2/3 we hadn’t had previous contact with. Five Churches decided to support us financially for at least the next twelve months. A select group of family and friends have decided to support us with a monthly gift for at least the next twelve months. We know the financial situation of our friends and we know that they are not giving out of abundance, they are rather, giving sacrifically. We are thankful for every one of them for their financial gift and for the way they have supported our vision for Iceland. Thank you one and all. We are also thankful for every Church donation we received and for every Church that has decided to support us into the future. Thank you so much for investing in us and in the Icelandic Church.

When we first moved back to the UK, the idea was to itinerate and try to raise the finances necessary to cover Chris’ salary for at least twelve months. Because only 5 of the 20 Churches in our region decided to support us financially over the longer term, we were left with a big gap in our finances. Others (aka sensible people) may have taken this as a sign to give up. But not Chris and I. Instead we choose to remember something we believed God had spoken into our hearts many, many moons ago. So that you understand the significance of what Chris believes God said to him, you need to know something about this lovely man of God who I am blessed to call my husband.

When Chris first became a Christian way back in 1992, he believed God spoke into his heart about how he would be trained up for ministry. Those of you who know Chris, know he is dyslexic. Chris’ dyslexia was compounded by the fact that he had attended more schools than most people have hot dinners (Chris’ father was an NCO with the Army). Unfortunately, this meant that no one person/teacher took responsibility for Chris’ education and as a result, when Chris emerged from the education system at 16, his general level of education was low (mainly because he was frequently sent out to work with the gardener or whoever else was around at the time) and his literacy skills were very poor. In fact, when Chris and I married in 1981, he was unable to write a cheque as he couldn’t spell well enough to fill in the amounts. Not to worry though, I wrote enough cheques for both of us :)

Several months after Chris became a Christian, he started to feel pretty down. He desperately wanted to preach, teach, lead ministry and get involved with various projects in the Church and start a few of his own. But, knowing his literacy skills were poor, he despaired that he would ever amount to anything. One day, as he sat quietly mulling things over with God, Chris felt God say (and here I take the liberty of paraphrasing as I wasn’t actually there), ‘Stop feeling as though you can’t do anything. I am going to teach you everything you need to know.’ The words were a gentle salve to Chris’ hurting heart, filling him with hope and, as you can imagine, quite a lot of questions. Just how would God accomplish this?

Over the years, God has proved Himself faithful in so many ways and when Chris needed to learn a particular skill, God sent a special man or woman to equip Chris with everything he needed. More than that, in every project Chris started or contributed to, God surrounded him with an endless supply of helpers and encouragers. Those of you who know Chris personally, will know he started, or contributed to multiple projects in England, Romania, The Gambia and Iceland and in each of those projects, God has used Chris’ unique skills to bless many hundreds of children, young people and adults. Over the years, Chris has developed and grown into a gifted preacher, communicator and mentor. He has though, never forgotten the day that God told him to stop fretting.

Because we have seen the outworking of this promise on an almost daily basis, we had no reason to believe that if God had asked us to go to Iceland, He wouldn’t sort out the things we couldn’t. So, Chris returned to Iceland and simply got on with the job of making the vision God gave him a reality. Within days of arriving back in Iceland in July, Chris discovered that the Church in Kirkjulækjarkot (Church by the river) had been planning ways to raise financial support for us as a family. Chris was invited to a meeting at the Church and was informed that the Pastor (Jóhannes Hinriksson) had decided to give up his salary at the Church so Chris could be appointed as a part-time Assistant Pastor. Jóhannes was about to take up a new job that would leave him with less time to run the Church on a day-to-day basis. So, he really needed someone on the ground. The Church Council was unanimous in their decision to appoint Chris to the post. Chris has been in post for approximately five weeks and he couldn’t be happier. Because the work at Kot will take up approximately two/three days a week, Chris has plenty of time to get on with developing the vision of the mission movement. As you know, Chris was appointed as an Elder to the Church in Selfoss earlier in the year. He will continue in that role, supporting the Church in Selfoss for the forseeable future.

There are a number of reasons for sharing this information with you. First, we want to be transparent in the things that we do, so that you know what our needs are and so that you can rejoice with us in the many blessings we receive.  Second, it is good to give God the glory when we see His plan working out in our lives. Too often, His intervention in our lives goes unrecognised. Lastly, we hope that in sharing something of our lives that you will be blessed and encouraged to keep going. Be encouraged that if God has asked you to do something, then even if things seem a bit bleak at the moment, His plan will come to pass. Still your fretting heart and know that He will sort out the things we cannot.

“For the eyes of the LORD search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.” (NLT) Chronicles 16:9.

Enjoy the video below, it captures perfectly the sense of peace and strength we experience when resting in the centre of God’s Will…it feels like home to me.

Continuing the great adventure in Iceland

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It’s been a while since we’ve done a ‘proper’ blogpost so when Anna Roberts from AOG UK asked us to answer some questions on our new life in Iceland, it felt right to share those responses with you here on the blog. Chris and I returned to the UK at the beginning of May for a three-month itinerary. We visited 20 Churches across the UK, sharing the vision for our project in Iceland. The purpose of the itinerary was to raise financial support for Chris so that he could devote himself fulltime to developing our project in Iceland. We were unsuccessful in raising all the funds we needed, so we may have to think about another itinerary next year. Despite this setback, Chris is back in Iceland working hard on the first stage of the project. I will be following him shortly. If you are interested in learning a bit more about the work we will be involved in, download the PowerPoint presentation at the end of the blogpost. If after reading the blog you are interested in finding out how you can get involved in the project, please contact us, we would love to hear from you.

What is your vision for your second trip to Iceland? What do you want to see change and happen?

When we first went to Iceland in 1999, we worked with children and young people from (mainly country) Churches around Iceland. This time around we believe God asked us to work with the National Pentecostal Church of Iceland. Some time ago, God gave Chris a vision for Iceland. In the vision was a plan for linking the Icelandic Pentecostal Churches together via mission. Pentecostal Churches in Iceland work in a similar way to Pentecostal Churches in the UK, in so as much as they are all independent Churches in fellowship with each. Unlike their UK counterparts however, the Icelandic Pentecostal Churches do not currently have a robust infrastructure to support, guide and lead mission.

There are many aspects to the vision that God gave Chris and even after a short time back in Iceland, some of those things have already come to pass. But, I’m getting ahead of myself! In the beginning, Chris and I wrote down the vision and Chris shared with it a local Pastor – Jóhannes Hinriksson. Jóhannes was very excited about the plan and asked Chris to elaborate it further and to be prepared to present it to Pentecostal Church Leaders at their upcoming AGM. Leaders from every Pentecostal Church in Iceland were represented at the meeting, which took place over a long weekend. After Chris presented the vision God had given him for the Church, leaders were asked to vote on whether it should be accepted by the National Pentecostal Church as a project that would come under their management and supervision. The vote was unanimous.

What Chris proposed was that he and a small team of people would develop a ‘home missions’ department that would take responsibility for encouraging and supporting people to get involved with mission to geographically isolated regions of the country. Due to a combination of vast distances and difficult driving conditions, few people are in a position to visit country Churches on a regular basis. This means that some Churches are cut from fellowship, teaching and support during the long months of autumn, winter and spring.

What we envision is that Churches will contact Chris and the team with details of the support they need. That support could include a request for a small team to travel to the village and support the Church in their outreach programme, or it could be a request for help in painting the Church, or support to develop a presence on the Internet. Whatever need the Church has, the home mission team will develop a plan to support it. Meanwhile, Chris and the team will have a database containing contact information for people who have expressed an interest in contributing towards a project, together with details of their skills, talents, knowledge, preferences and availability. The idea is of course that the need of the Church will be matched to people with the relevant skills to help.

There is a launch conference planned for October 2012. During the conference, Chris and the team will expand on the vision, sharing their thoughts on how the project will unfold in the following 6-12 months. The project has caused considerable interest and quite a few people have already signed up to attend the October conference to see how they can contribute.

If you’ve a bible verse or passage that is a part of that please share it!

Our family Bible verse has always been Joshua 24:15: “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

What are you most looking forward to the most?

Well, that would have to be our first call from a Church asking for support! And of course, Chris and the team being able to respond by sending out workers. What a lovely day that will be.

What is difficult about going back out on mission after having been home – and you know what it’ll be like?

Well, this time we are going back to Iceland without our children – James and Kim. James and Kim were very involved in the development of the work first time round in Iceland, so it will be strange to go back there without them. They have promised to visit though! To be honest, there is nothing terribly difficult about going back out on mission to Iceland. Perhaps this is because we are going back to do something completely different, so there is a sense that we have moved on. We didn’t go back thinking we would pick up where we left off, which is always a bad idea, as of course everything and everybody moves on. Learning Icelandic is a challenge of course, anyone who has ever tried to learn it will testify to that! Most Icelanders speak English though and that is both a blessing and a hindrance. Because their grasp of English is so much better than our grasp of Icelandic, we often end up speaking English. Icelandic is though such a beautiful language, one poet (whose name escapes me) once famously wrote that he learnt Icelandic so that he could think. And, why not?

What, from your last time in Iceland, were you most inspired by/pleased with?

Chris and I were in Iceland from January to May earlier this year. During that time we were invited to join a weekend conference run by fellow missionaries Mike and Shelia Fitzgerald, a wonderful couple who hail from the US. They are the directors of Lindin Radio in Iceland, the only Christian radio station in Iceland broadcasting the Good News 24/7. During the conference, several people gave testimonies about how the children and young people’s work that we had helped to pioneer in Iceland was still going strong. They talked about the tremendous blessing the work had (and continues to be) to the Church, but particularly to the smaller country Churches. We were blessed beyond measure to know that our work had been so well received and was still blessing the children and young people. You can’t ask for more than that!

What preparations are you currently making for going back to Iceland?

Chris went back to Iceland at the end of July to begin putting things into place. He is already busy developing plans, meeting people and preparing for the conference in October. His feet haven’t touched the ground since he got there, which of course, suits Chris very well. I am still in the UK, writing up the final chapters of my PhD thesis, which is exploring aspects of dementia care. As soon as that is submitted, I will be returning to Iceland, ready to start the next part of our great adventure in Iceland.

Resources

Pentecostal Mission Movement_presentation

You know you’re from Iceland when…

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There are lots of lists doing the rounds at the moment on the subject of, ‘you know you’re from Iceland when…’ this one from the howdoyoulikeiceland.blogspot.com is one of my favourites. If you come across any more, send them to me and I’ll dutifully post them :)

CORRECTION ALERT! I have been reliably informed (by an Icelander – thank you Jóhannes) that one of the factoids below is incorrect. The bit about trolls is in fact wrong:

Trolls don’t live in suspicious looking rocks, it’s elves, or Huldufólk to be more precise. Trolls on the other hand get turned into stone when exposed to sunlight.

CORRECTION ALERT! I have recently been contacted by Bergþór, who wanted to clarify one of the points highlighted below:

“okay, you pretty summed it all up very nice there. But there where some aspects that I didn’t agree on like… You believe in trolls (when foreigners are in earshot), and think they live in “suspicious looking rocks”.
Here you are mentioning the Hidenfolk, or elfs they live in the rocks… trolls kom from Esja and/or Hekla”.

You’re suspicious of pink fish, and wouldn’t want to eat it out of choice.
But you like eating rotten fish (and sheep’s heads).
Despite the cold, ice cream is a very popular choice of snack.
You consider a Toyota Hi-Lux a “runabout” and an F150 a small car.
There is no such thing as having overly large wheels on your vehicle.
You know that Icelandic jumpers are actually waterproof and wind-proof so may be used in all conditions.
Driving 150km to the cinema is regarded as normal.
You classify route 1 as a “main road”
Reykjavík is a big city.
You like Opal as you’ve been conditioned to like the flavour from an early age with the same brand sweets.
You have an involuntary impulse to say “How do you like Iceland?” when meeting a foreigner for the first time.
You use a credit card for all purchases, especially for less that Kr100.
You have been caught speeding by the police at least 5 times in the last year. When you get caught speeding you get a “25% discount” if you pay on the spot with a credit card.
You have Christmas lights up in your room all year round.
You have an urge to be a student in Denmark.
You eat rhubarb jam with beef.
Soup is considered a dessert.
The biggest parties revolve around horse and sheep festivals.
Whilst waiting for the correct time to go to the bar, you make as many circuits as necessary in your car on a “Rúntur” around the town, stopping at regular intervals at the local petrol station.
Although not particularly interested in whaling or whale meat, you like to take part to wind up the international community.
You have a personal blog, and treat this as the primary communication system with your friends.
Cod liver oil is non-negotiable.
You think any plant taller than 15cm is a “tree” and 5 together are known as a “forest”.
You believe in trolls (when foreigners are in earshot), and think they live in “suspicious looking rocks”.
You can actually pronounce the beer Egilsgull.
You have never heard of Magnus Magnusson, despite him being the most famous Icelander (ok after Björk)
There is no such thing as a time when you can’t say “Haa?”
You like using the letters ð and þ, but get confused by the letter z.

Iceland calling…12 points!

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Gréta Salóme and Jónsi will represent Iceland in the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest in Baku, with the song ‘Mundu Eftir Mér or ‘Remember Me.’ It’s a song about an elf and a mortal…I think it’s a winner!

NEWSFLASH: I have been reliably informed by my good friend Bryndís Sveinsdóttír that the song is not about an elf and a mortal but rather it’s about a bishop’s daughter and a farmer’s boy who worked for her father. Her name was Ragnheiður and the boy’s name was Daði. Her father had her make a chastity oath when he heard about her being in love with Daði. It is said that 40 weeks later she gave birth to their child and later died as a cause of that. Very romantic! I much prefer this version :)

Vitnisburður Ethnu á íslensku

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Ég hef aldrei haldið bakgrunni mínum leyndum og þegar ég starfaði í Darlington AOG birti ég vitnisburð minn í fréttabréfi kirkjunnar. Í gegnum árin hefur Guð notað vitnisburð minn til að færa mörgum konum lækningu og von og þó ég þakki ekki Guði fyrir að hafa upplifað misnotkun, þá er ég þakklát fyrir það góða sem hefur komið út úr þeirri lífsreynslu gegnum árin.

Ég hef ákveðið að fara ekki út í smáatriði misnotkunarinnar hér, það nægir að segja að þegar ég var 7 ára gömul var mér rænt af nágranna og haldið fanginni í nokkra klukkutíma. Á þeim tíma varð ég endurtekið fyrir kynferðislegu ofbeldi og mér hótað. Mér voru gefnir peningar (til að ég þegði) og sagt að ef ég segði frá yrði fjölskylda mín drepin. Ég kom frá mjög fátækri fjölskyldu, svo það fyrsta sem ég gerði þegar mér var sleppt var að eyða peningunum sem ég fékk í búð á staðnum. Ég kom heim nokkrum klukkustundum seinna og hélt fast um stóran poka af nammi. Móðir mín sagði að hún hefði strax vitað þegar hún sá mig að eitthvað slæmt hefði gerst. Það var hringt í lögregluna og pabba minn. Þegar þeir komu var árásarmaðurinn flúinn. Það kom brátt í ljós að hann hafði misnotað mörg önnur börn á svæðinu, en óttaslegnir foreldrarnir höfðu ekki þorað að hafa samband við lögregluna. Þegar hann var farinn komu þau öll og sögðu sína sögu. Þetta var sorgardagur fyrir bæinn. Seinna var hann eltur uppi og skotinn í höfuðið af óþekktri manneskju og hann liggur í ómerktri gröf nærri staðnum sem við bjuggum.

Áhrif þessa atburðar á fjölskyldu mína voru hræðileg. Engin orð fá lýst afleiðingum þess sem gerðist þennan dag. Ég varð mjög lokuð, talaði ekki við neinn, varð hrædd við allt og alla. Foreldrar mínir ásökuðu sig, faðir minn barðist í þögn árum saman. Það að ég hafði verið fangi í húsinu á móti og hún ekki vitað um það, nærri eyðilagði blíða og kærleiksríka móður mína. Að hún hefði verið að sinna sínum daglegu stöfum meðan mér var nauðgað var eitthvað sem hún fyrirgaf sjálfri sér aldrei. Já við þjáðumst öll og vorum særð, en á mismunandi hátt. Misnotkun hefur ekki aðeins áhrif á manneskjuna sem brotið er á, heldur alla fjölskylduna. Eftir nokkra mánuði, lokaði hugur minn á allar minningar frá þessum dögum og það var ekki fyrr en ég var nærri sautján ára og reynt var að nauðga mér (og tókst ekki, þar sem ég sparkaði í klofið á honum og hljóp inn í búð eftir hjálp) um hábjartan dag, í afgirtum garði fyrir framan búð, að minningarnar byrjuðu að koma til baka.
Ég bað mömmu mína að útskýra hvað hafið gerst þennan dag fyrir mörgum árum. Hún gerði það og í fyrsta sinn gerði ég mér grein fyrir stærð málsins. Svo mörgum börnum nauðgað eða þau beitt líkamlegu ofbeldi, svo margar fjölskyldur niðurbrotnar, einn maður látinn, fjölskylda hans sundurtætt. Þetta var of mikið til að meðtaka. Í þetta skipti, ýtti ég minningunum djúpt niður. Núna vissi ég hvað ég var að gera. Þetta var eitthvað sem ég vildi ekki muna … aldrei nokkurn tíma.

Tveim árum seinna kynntist ég og giftist Chris. Lífið hefði átt að vera draumur en það var það ekki, fyrir hvorugt okkar. Chris komst fljótt að því hvernig það er að búa með manneskju með dimma leyndardóma fortíðarinnar. Sífelldar martraðir, ástæðulaus ótti við allt sem hreyfðist og dapurt geð sem skyndilega snérist í svartnætti. En ég hélt áfram að ýta minningunni niður, þangað til börnin okkar tvö fæddust. Þegar ég horfði á þau leika sér hamingjusöm í garðinum dag einn, varð ég allt í einu yfirbuguð af reiði yfir að barnæska mín hafði liðið í einmannaleika, ólýsanlegri sorg og tilfinningalegum sársauka. Frá þeirri stundu varð ég þunglyndari og þunglyndari.

Á þessum tíma var ég farin að sækja föndurhóp hjá Darlington AOG. Í tvö ár sótti ég þangað eða þar til börnin byrjuðu í skóla. Dag einn, ákvað ég að fara á kvöldsamkomu á sunnudegi. Allir voru hissa á að sjá mig þar, ég hafði aldrei talað um kirkju við neinn þegar ég sótti föndurhópinn. Ég var alin upp í kaþólsku kirkjunni og var búin að fá nóg af trúarbrögðum (eða það hélt ég). Á samkomunni þetta sunnudagskvöld heyrði ég rödd sem sagði skýrt “ég elska þig”. Ég heyrði þetta eins og talað væri upphátt og ég þekkti þessa rödd strax. Þetta var sama röddin sem ég hafði heyrt þegar ég var sjö ára, og hendur árásarmannsins voru þétt vafnar um hálsinn á mér. Þá heyrðum við bæði einhvern kalla ákveðið nafnið mitt. Það dugði til að brjóta þau illu álög sem við höfðum bæði verið föst í. Hann lét mig detta á gólfið og leyfði mér að fara. Þessi rödd hafði bjargað lífi mínu einu sinni og þarna bjargaði hún mér aftur. Ég tók á móti Kristi þá strax. Ég hef aldrei efast eða hikað í trú minni síðan. Hvers vegna ætti ég að gera það? Ég á allt sem ég þarf í Drottni mínum.

Líf mitt breyttist á undraverðan hátt eftir að ég frelsaðist. Þunglyndinu var létt af mér og kom aldrei aftur. Jafnvel líkami minn virtist léttari, það var eins og miklum þunga hefði verið lyft af öxlum mínum. Ég lærði að hlæja og gráta. Það mikilvægasta af öllu fyrir mig var að ég lærði að elska án skilyrða. Það var ný reynsla. Eftir að hafa alla æfi vantreyst fólki og ekki getað snert það, gat ég treyst fólki og sjálfri mér í aðstæðum sem ég hafði aldrei getað áður. Innan nokkurra mánaða sótti ég um í hjúkrunarnámi. Þegar ég lauk námi eftir þrjú ár, 1995, hófst það sem átti eftir að vera ótrúlega gefandi starf innan heilbrigðis og félags sviðs og í fræðimennsku.

Eins og hjá flestum hefur líf mitt mótast af reynslu minni, bæði góðri og slæmri. Sagt er að það sem drepur þig ekki gerir þig sterkari og í mínu tilviki þá held ég að það sé satt. Ef ég hefði ekki orðið kristin á þessum tíma er ég viss um að líf mitt hefði orðið allt annað en það sem ég nýt í dag. Kanski hljómar það eins og gömul lumma en styrkur minn kemur frá sambandi mínu við Krist. Án hans reikna ég með að hryllingur fortíðar minnar hefði yfirbugað mig. Eins og annað fólk (dýrðlingar sem aðrir) er ég sterk á sumum sviðum en veik á öðrum.

Ég er sterk í því að sjá aðstæður í heild sinni og geta um leið komið auga á hluti sem þarf að laga, þetta er hæfileiki sem ég nota stöðuglega í vinnunni, bæði í veraldlegu og kristilegu starfi. Ég er sterk í að viðurkenna mistök mín og er ekki hrædd við að bakka og leiðrétta það sem miður hefur farið. Ég er t.d. fljót að gera mér grein fyrir því þegar ég hef ekki rétt fyrir mér og alltaf tilbúin að leiðrétta og jafnvel ganga á minn rétt. Ef mér er stillt upp við vegg, þá vil ég frekar láta einhvern halda að hann hafi rétt fyrir sér, jafnvel þó svo sé ekki, því ég veit af fyrri reynslu að Guð mun seinna sýna viðkomandi villu hans. Mér hefur æfinlega fundist að það “að hafa rétt fyrir sér” sé ofmetið. Þó ég segi þetta, þá eru sum atriði sem þarf að berjast fyrir og vinna, málið er að velja hvaða málefni eru þess virði að berjast fyrir. Ég trúi því að veikleikar fylgi einfaldlega styrkleikunum; það er ekki hægt að hafa annað án hins. Þannig gerði Guð okkur. Í veikleika okkar köllum við til hans, í styrkleika okkar gefum við honum dýrðina, hvort heldur sem er þá er sigur á báða bóga.

Líf mitt heldur áfram að vera varðað ævintýrum á göngunni með Guði. Þegar þetta er skrifað er ég að ljúka doktorsgráðu í rannsóknum á heilabilun (PhD in dementia research). Heilabilun skiptir mig miklu máli bæði af persónulegum og faglegum ástæðum. Þegar þessu er lokið vonast ég til að geta unnið á Íslandi og notað þekkingu mína og hæfileika svo að fólk með heilabilun og umönnunaraðilar þeirra geti notið þjónustu sem er hönnuð fyrir þarfir þeirra. Ég vonast einnig til að vinna með fólki sem ekki er með minnissjúkdóma til að kenna þeim hvernig þau geta dregið úr hættu á að fá heilabilun síðar á æfinni. Verkefnin eru mörg og ég óttast að fólk með heilabilun mæti afgangi. Ég á samt stóran Guð sem þráir að blessa börnin sín og að vita það, er hvatning til að vinna eins vel og ég get og skipta máli þar sem hann hefur sett mig.

Hvað nú um veikleikana sem ég sleppti að tala um áðan…? Þrátt fyrir veikleika minn fyrir ódýrum matreiðslubókum og eldhúsáhöldum, þá eru eftir 21 ár á göngunni með Guði mínum fáir ytri lestir eftir, það er þó nóg eftir af þeim hið innra. Ég forðast samt líkamsþjálfum á næstum sjúklegan hátt, þó fór ég einstaka sinnum með Chris í morgungöngu þegar við bjuggum á Englandi. Ég skammast mín fyrir að viðurkenna að það var svo sjaldan að þegar sonur okkar James sá minn hluta af rúminu mannlausan kl. 6:15 einn morguninn fyrir nokkrum mánuðum, gerði hann ráð fyrir að ég hefði dottið fram úr og sofnað aftur á gólfinu hinum megin við rúmið. Honum datt aldrei í hug sá möguleiki að ég hefði farið á fætur snemma til að fara í göngu!

Þýðing eftir Lilja Óskarsdóttir

Happy first day of summer!

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Although you would never know it from the freezing wind, today Icelanders celebrate the first day of summer. All over the country, memories of one of the coldest and longest winters in living memory are banished, hearts are gladdened and fantasies of a warm summer where one may gander about in t-shirts and shorts are nourished. Yes, all is right with the world. No wonder Icelanders made it a national holiday :)

How do you like our volcano?

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Anyone who has ever visited Iceland knows the first question they are asked upon release from Keflavík airport is, ‘How do you like Iceland?’ In fact, you will be asked the question roughly ten times a day until the aircraft door is shut firmly behind you as you leave Keflavík airport. Icelanders, not behind the door at making fun of themselves as well as the former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown (we don’t have much cash but we have plenty of ash Mr Brown), have two t-shirts hanging in the tourist shops windows in downtown Reykjavík. The first one says, ‘So, how do you like Iceland?’ and the second one says, ‘I love Iceland, now stop asking me.’

The recent volcanic eruptions have done little to dampen Icelander’s enthusiasm for enquiring about your frame of mind about Iceland. Except, now of course, there are even more exciting places to quiz you about. We don’t mind one bit being asked, ‘How do you like Iceland?’ because we like Iceland, a lot. In fact, við elskum Ísland. And, to be truthful, if Icelanders didn’t ask us how much we liked Iceland several times a day, I fear we would stop random Icelanders in the street and tell them how much we love it – you already know about my penchant for stalking unsuspecting Icelanders in airports.

So, when Chris and I were asked if we would like to spend the weekend on the Westman Islands – Vestmannaeyjar and share our story with the Pentecostal Church there, we jumped at the chance and we are so glad we did. We spent the weekend at the home of the Pastors of the Church in Vestmannaeyjar – Guðbjörg Guðjónsdóttir and Guðni Hjálmarsson and had a blessed time with them and two of their three lovely children.

The Westman Islands are named after the first inhabitants of the islands who came from the west (Ireland actually) and are a cluster of islands off southern Iceland. The largest of the islands – Heimaey, is home to approx 4,600 inhabitants. Surtsey (the newest island) was born in a volcanic eruption that started in 1963. It is the newest island in the world.

A photo showing how close the lava flowed to many of the houses on the island.

Vestmannaeyjar are probably most famous for the eruption that started in January 1973 when a 1600 metre fissure opened on the east side of the island. The closest houses where only 300 metres from the eruption. Everyone had to be evacuated from the island. Miraculously,  the fishing fleet was in harbour because of bad weather the previous day and it was these boats that were used to transport all 5,000 islanders to the mainland via þorlákshöfn. Unbelievably, the evacuation of the island took only five hours. An estimated 250 million cubic meters of ash and lava was discharged during the eruption that lasted for five months and ten days. Before the eruption, Heimaey measured approx 11.3 square kilometres. Now,  it measures approx 13.5 square kilometres. 360 houses were ruined by lava flow and many more severely damaged. I confess, I still don´t understand why my request to sleep in a boat at the harbour during our stay on the island was pooh poohed. Given that islanders had escaped in boats during the last eruption, it seemed like a perfectly reasonable idea to me.

Chris and I arrived in Vestmannaeyjar on Friday evening after an uneventful 30 minute trip onboard Herjólfur (the ferry). We spent most of Saturday exploring the island with Guðni and Guðbjörg and really enjoyed hearing all about the long and varied history of the island. Keen to show us everything, Guðni drove us right up the 1600 metre fissure that had carried the molten lava down to the harbour. I think it is really exciting to see fissures, craters and the like on TV. Driving to the foot of the (still warm) volcano, centimetres from the giant fissure was however, way too close for my liking and I was palpably relieved when we began our descent back down the windy gravel track.

Ethna sharing stories in the Westman IslandsOn Sunday, Chris and I shared stories about our life before we came to Iceland with the congregation of Guðni and Guðbjörg´s town-centre Church. I talked about our journey to Iceland so far and Chris preached a lively message on living large in Christ and of not being ashamed of the gospel.

The people of the Church gave us a very warm welcome. Isn’t it great, that no matter where you go in the world, when you are a Christian, you are never far away from a friend? After Church, I mentioned to Guðni and Guðbjörg that it would be great to collect some chunks of lava Chris preaching in the Westman Islandsfor the folks at home to look at. So, after tea on Sunday evening we walked up the slope of the volcano to gather some samples.  Guðni and Guðbjörg sauntered up like a couple of mountain goats, Chris did pretty well also. I made it in the end but by the time I got to where the lava was strewn about in gay abandonment, I couldn’t actually feel my legs. As we were winding our way back down the mountain (staying upright while walking sideways in a gale, isn’t easy), clutching our Icelandic treasure, I couldn’t help but hope that the folks back home appreciated our efforts to bring them a little piece of Iceland.

Due to uncertain weather conditions, we cut short our trip by a couple of hours and returned home to Selfoss on Monday morning on the 08.00 crossing, a journey of two hours forty minutes. Although the sea was choppy, we arrived well rested after sleeping most the way in a comfy cabin. All in all, we had a great time in Vestmannaeyjar. The weather was unbelievably mild, sunny even at times, although you still needed a good jacket if you were out and about. The company was superb and the volcano behaved admirably. To answer the question, ‘How do you like our volcano?’ Our answer can only be, we liked it very much!

You ain´t seen nothin’ yet…

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This is one of the many reasons that Iceland was chosen as the number one holiday destination in 2012 by Lonely Planet. This time lapse video was shot by Kiddi Kristjáns at lake Kleifarvatn and two other places during March 2012. I still remember one glorious night when we lived in Hvolsvöllur, Kimberley and I watched with awe the most incredible display of aurora borealis we had ever seen. We were eventually driven indoors by the sub-zero temperatures, but it was so worth it! It just never gets old.

You know you’re from Iceland when…

ethnaparker:

Given the flurry of interest in this post recently and the critical nature of the updates posted, I have decided to reblog this post. Stay alert peeps.

Originally posted on parkers_in_iceland:

There are lots of lists doing the rounds at the moment on the subject of, ‘you know you’re from Iceland when…’ this one from the howdoyoulikeiceland.blogspot.com is one of my favourites. If you come across any more, send them to me and I’ll dutifully post them :)

CORRECTION ALERT! I have been reliably informed (by an Icelander – thank you Jóhannes) that one of the factoids below is incorrect. The bit about trolls is in fact wrong:

Trolls don’t live in suspicious looking rocks, it’s elves, or Huldufólk to be more precise. Trolls on the other hand get turned into stone when exposed to sunlight.

CORRECTION ALERT! I have recently been contacted by Bergþór, who wanted to clarify one of the points highlighted below:

“okay, you pretty summed it all up very nice there. But there where some aspects that I didn’t agree on like… You believe in trolls (when foreigners…

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