A radio star is born…

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Those of you who keep up to date with our meanderings will know that Chris is in the UK at the moment. He is busy catching up with our families and friends and those who generously support us with prayer, love and finance. One of the Churches Chris visited last week was West Auckland Community Church, an awesome Vineyard Church tucked away in the dales, who support us in prayer, with finances and by keeping the visibility of our blog high in their internet community. West, as it is affectionately known by us, host a community radio station (yes, they are that cool) called Breakout Radio and they invited Chris to update them on what we have been up to in the past two years. You can find a recording of the interview here. Hope you enjoy it! I am flying to the UK shortly to join Chris and Kim as we celebrate the wedding of our son James to the lovely Emma. Good times indeed. Be blessed. God loves you ❤

 

An open letter to the Daily Mail…

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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.

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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 earthquake 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.

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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.