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

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.

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!

Saddle up your horses…

Despite rumours of snow filled streets in Hvolsvöllur and Hella and temperatures of minus something in Selfoss, Icelanders are excited because brightening days and the appearance of tiny spring buds mean summer is in the air and in Iceland that means only one thing…ROAD TRIP. All over Iceland, portable BBQs are being dusted off and lopa peysas are being neatly folded into back packs and squeezed into overfilled jeeps. Before you set off on your travels though, download your copy of Issues and Images of Iceland and impress Icelanders with your knowledge of all things Icelandic.

Things to make with Icelandic skyr…

Iceland has many culinary delights awaiting the intrepid traveller. As a family we love trying most anything. My everyday favourite however, has to be Icelandic Skyr. Skyr is actually a soft cheese, although it has the texture of strained Greek yoghurt. It is eaten just about every day in Iceland by children and adults alike. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I was recently informed that due to its high protein (12%) and low fat content (0.5%), some Icelandic body-builders use Skyr instead of protein drinks in their quest to develop healthy muscle mass. I love using Skyr in cooking. Its relatively cheap, comes flavoured and unflavoured and can be used anywhere you would normally use thick Greek yoghurt or low-fat cream cheese and it keeps well. Skyrterta is one of my favourite desserts, mainly because you can vary it endlessly and is much better for you than most cheesecakes. If you forget about the sinful little pot of whipped cream in the recipe that follows, you can almost get away with thinking it is actually good for you. It’s certainly healthier than anything you will buy in the shops and it tastes divine. But, don’t just take my word for it, give it a go. If you are unlucky enough to live in a land that does not yet sell Skyr, strain a pot (or two) of thick Greek yoghurt in a sieve or colander thickly lined with kitchen-roll overnight in the fridge and use as directed. As with any recipe containing uncooked egg, do not serve to the very young, the very old, the sick or to pregnant women.

Icelandic skyrterta

Photo by Aron Hinriksson

Ingredients:

Topping:

  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 180g vanilla sugar (see recipe for pumpkin cheesecake)
  • 500mls lightly whipped double cream
  • The juice and finely grated rind from one large lemon
  • 450g unflavoured Skyr
  • 8 sheets of gelatine
  • 400mls creamy milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Crust:

Method:

  • Grease and bottom line a 23-25cm, deep-sided, loose bottomed cake tin with greaseproof paper. Set to one side.
  • Reduce the biscuits to crumbs using whatever method you prefer.
  • Tip the crumbs into the bowl containing the melted butter. Stir until the crumbs are well coated with the butter.
  • Press the crumbs into the bottom of your cake tin and put in the fridge while you get on with the topping.
  • Put the gelatine sheets in a large bowl of cold water for at least 10 minutes or until they feel soft and squidgy.
  • Bring the milk to the boil and cool slightly.
  • Drain the gelatine thoroughly and add to the cooling milk.
  • Stir until the gelatine is completely dissolved – this only takes a few seconds.
  • Meanwhile, whip the egg yolks and vanilla sugar until light and frothy – if you lift the mixture up, you should be able to leave a trail of mix in the bowl.
  • Slowly add the milk, lemon juice and lemon rind and mix well.
  • When the mixture is fairly cool, add the lightly whipped cream and Skyr, mixing until well combined.
  • Pour the Skyr mix into your waiting crumb base.
  • Smooth the top with the back of a large spoon and put into the fridge to set. Overnight is best, otherwise a minimum of 4 hours.

This will happily feed 10-12. I like to serve it with frozen berries that I defrost and whiz up in the food processor and to which I add a couple of tbsp of icing sugar to sweeten. Fresh berries are of course fine, I use frozen due to the high cost and short shelf-life of fresh berries here in Iceland. Blueberries and pineapple also work very well. Although you mustn’t put pineapple juice in your skyrterta as it won’t set, no matter how long it stays in the fridge. Whipped cream to accompany wouldn’t be the worst thing you could serve with it. Enjoy!

Variations: Ring the changes by leaving out the lemon juice and rind and instead add tiny chunks of deliciously sticky stem ginger (the kind you find in a jar) and a couple of tablespoons of the ginger syrup to the skyr and cream mix and for the base use ginger biscuits. Top with warmed runny honey and chopped pistachios. You can of course use flavoured skyr to which you could add extra fruit pieces – strawberries, cranberries and blueberries work very well in that case.

My all-time favourite variation: leave out the lemon juice and lemon rind. Reduce the sugar to 100g. Add 50-60g of white chocolate options powder, or any good quality sweetened white chocolate drink. When thoroughly combined and before you pour it into the cake tin, check for sweetness. If not quite sweet enough for you, simply add powdered sweetener or icing sugar to taste.  Use white/dark chocolate chip Maryland cookies for the base and drizzle the top with melted white/dark chocolate. Serve with plump berries of your choice. You can pretend it’s good for you as the white chocolate options are low-calorie. But, good for you or not, it comes highly recommended by me 🙂

I frequently mix a 450g pot of unflavoured Skyr with 25-30g of white chocolate options and 1 tsp of vanilla extract and serve as is in little bowls accompanied by whatever frozen berries I have left in the freezer. Very occasionally, I drizzle some fresh cream over. Serves 2/3 if preceded by a main course meal.

Some interesting articles:

Modern missionaries in Iceland…

So, what will you do in Iceland? It was a question that Chris and I were asked many times before we left England in January 2012. You might as well have asked, ‘How long is a piece of string?’ so impossible was it to answer. Now that we have been here for two months, things are becoming clearer. Although, we suspect that we won’t have a clear picture of what we will be doing long-term until we come back from England at the end of the summer. In the meantime, here are some of the opportunities God has given us to be a blessing to the lovely people of Iceland and beyond.

Our first priority when we arrived in Iceland was to move into our little flat and make it as cosy as possible as quickly as possible.  After unpacking an unseemly number of boxes (mainly my cook books I’m afraid) and strategically placing blue Christmas lights over a number of bookcases struggling to contain said books, I was happy – which means that Chris was happy. Our matrimonial bliss was complete however, when Chris unpacked his collection of DVDs. Due to the size of the flat, there remain lots of boxes to unpack, which makes me wonder how much we really need whatever is in them, having lived without them now for almost three months! Of course, all my kitchen paraphernalia got unpacked pretty promptly – but lets face it, no one will be surprised at that will they 🙂

Our second priority was to get acquainted with the lovely folks at our new Church in Selfoss. We decided the nicest way to do this would be to invite people over for dinner. Given the size of the flat this meant inviting people over in pairs, rather than our usual gatherings, which would often run to rather more than that. Anyone remember the BBQ of 1997 when we invited 40 people to our house and the grown-ups ended up playing on the bouncy castle, much to the annoyance of the children present? Good times indeed! We received a very warm welcome from the people of the Church and despite our terrible Icelandic, we have been able to make ourselves understood in most situations. Our new Pastors Aron and Gunna, went the extra mile to ensure we felt at home straight away, so many blessings to return to thank them for their support and encouragement. Their vision for the Church in Selfoss is inspiring and we feel blessed to be able to play a part.

One of the ways we have been able to support Aron and Gunna in their vision for the Church in Selfoss, was to work alongside them in the Church’s coffee shop, Kaffi Líf. To raise additional funds for the Church’s projects, Aron and Gunna hire the coffee house to locals and tourists. On occasion, they also prepare meals for groups of school children from England. On February 14th we volunteered to help Aron and Gunna prepare and serve a two course evening meal for 56 pupils and their teachers. The evening was a lot of fun, mostly because it was so well organised by Aron and Gunna and in the process we raised much needed finance for the Church. Aron, I haven’t forgotten the shark incident. I will never be able to forget the shark incident!

We hadn’t lived in Selfoss very long when a lady called Kim Fischer contacted us on the blog. Kim was looking for a way to contact another Christian in Iceland, because she had a very special favour to ask. It seems her daughter Taylor wanted to write about Iceland for a school project, but unfortunately the letter her teacher had written to the American embassy in Iceland was returned unread. She came across our website while searching Google for ‘Christians working in Iceland’, lol. When we read about Taylor’s plight, we paid a visit to the local library (also the local Tourist Information Office), where a lovely girl named Esther helped us to gather together, maps, wool samples and a children’s story book. To this goodly stash Chris and I added a box of Icelandic chocolates and a CD with Icelandic children’s stories and posted the lot off pronto to Glendale Elementary School in Flinton, Pennsylvania. Taylor was very pleased with her stash and has promised to send us photos of her final project. So, look out for a special blog in May with news (and hopefully photos) of how Taylor’s project went.

Within a few weeks of arriving in Iceland, Chris got into talks with one of the local Pastors Jóhannes Hinriksson about ways to link together the Pentecostal Churches in Iceland in terms of mission. The Pentecostal Churches in Iceland are independent, in much the same way as they are in the UK and USA. But at the moment there are no strategic plans in place to support mission at home in Iceland and/or abroad. Chris shared the vision God had given him for the development of an Icelandic Mission Movement that would link the Pentecostal Churches together in a shared vision of mission. Pastor Jóhannes became very excited at the scope and coherency of Chris´ vision and asked Chris to write down his ideas in the form of a proposal that could be presented at the upcoming National Pentecostal Pastors Meeting. Chris has now completed the proposal and it has been translated into Icelandic, ready for the Pastors to consider it in a couple of weeks time. If accepted, we will be able to share the detail of the plan with you in April/May. So, watch this space!

In addition to writing the proposal Chris has also been busy preaching. So far he has preached five times in two different Churches and once at a men’s breakfast – oh how Chris does love men’s breakfasts 🙂 Chris has also had opportunities to mentor a number of young men in the faith, something that is very close to his heart. Each time Chris has preached, we have both been blessed to have an opportunity to pray for people. God is so good isn’t He? Chris is also busy writing up all his sermons in full with the view of committing them to podcast. Hopefully in the not to distant future, we will be able to upload them to the blog…heady days indeed.

One evening in early February, Chris and I were chatting to our good friends, Óðinn and Rhiannon about the fact that Lindin Ministries were celebrating their birthday week at the beginning of March. Lindin Ministries is a Christian radio and media station in Iceland. They do tremendous work sharing the gospel and many good works to bless the people of Iceland. We decided it would be good to hold a fundraiser for Lindin and in the end thought it would be fun to organise an English Cream Tea, knowing that it was extremely unlikely that it had been done before. The aim of the Lindin Cream Tea (as it became known) was three-fold. Firstly, it was about inviting friends and family to Church to hear a simple gospel message. Secondly, it was about Rhiannon and I sharing something of our cultural background with the people of the Church in an informal way and thirdly, it was about raising essential finance for Lindin. We held the Cream Tea in two different Churches on two consecutive weeks. The first one took place at Selfoss Church on Sunday 4th March at 11.00 and the second one at Kirkjulækakot Church on Sunday 11th March at 14.00. We decided to surprise everyone by dressing up the tables in white linen tablecloths, pretty red voile, candles and table confetti made from tiny pieces of jigsaw as Lindin’s theme this year was, ‘Where do you fit into Lindin’s puzzle?’. Each place setting was decorated with a heart-shaped card (thank you Eyrún) with a blessing verse beautifully hand-written by Linda Rós.

Never knowingly under-catered, I prepared a batch of 60 scones the week before and popped them in the Church freezer. These were my back-ups, just in case we were stowed out. On the Sunday morning of the Cream Tea, I got up at 6.30 and baked another batch of fifty scones. We charged 500 kr (£2.50) per adult, children ate free. Sigrún, one of the ladies in the Church baked two glorious looking chocolate cakes for the kiddiwinks, so together with the bowls of mixed sweets on each table, they were well catered for. In addition to the cakes and sweets specially prepared for them, the children also received an ‘England’ gift which ranged from England caps, England bracelets, England flags and many more things besides.  Anne, a lovely lady from our Church in Evenwood, had given Chris the bag of goodies some time ago. Who knew they would be used by us in Iceland to bless families in Selfoss and Kirkjulækakot? Bless you Anne and many thanks from the children 🙂

In addition to selling the cream scones at a knock-down price…Rhiannon and another lovely friend Sigga who we have known for many years, sold their handmade jewellery throughout the day at both events. 50% of the proceeds they made that day was donated to Lindin Ministries. Good one girls! For more information on how you can buy one (or more) pieces of their beautifully designed and handcrafted jewellery, check out their online store The Bead Box now. In addition to buying the jewellery, you can also book a Bead Box party in Iceland or England. For more details contact the girls via the online store.

Together both events raised just over 170,000 kr (approx £850) for Lindin Ministries. We were pretty whacked by the time we had cleaned everything up afterwards, but as Chris loves to say, ‘It’s good to be tired doing the Lord’s work’ and I quite agree. On the Tuesday following the Selfoss Cream Tea, Mike and Sheila Fitzgerald, founders and directors of Lindin Ministries invited me onto their International show to talk about the Cream Tea and to chat a little about our lives here in Iceland. Mike and Sheila are so professional I didn’t get too panicked at the thought of thousands of people listening to me prattle on. God is good! The good thing about outreach, is it gets people thinking about what they could do. During the clean-up after the Lindin Cream Tea, Anna, one of the ladies in Selfoss Church, talked to Chris about developing an outreach to encourage people back to Church. Knowing Chris, I suspect the outreach will have the words ‘Back to Church and BBQ’ in them. More information about that once we get the chance to think it through.

Chris and I were blessed to be part of a new ministry to couples that our good friends Valeria and Paulo are facilitating. The first session took place around a lovely meal of beef steak and tender vegetables prepared by Chitó and his lovely wife Sigga – of the Bead Box fame. Yum, roll on the next one! We were also very blessed to be invited to a weekend conference facilitated by Mike and Sheila from Lindin Ministries. Teaching over the weekend was based on a the book called ‘The Remnant‘ by Larry Stockstill. The book calls for a restoration of values such as integrity to the Church family across America. The message of the book is one that works globally though and the message was timely for the Icelandic Churches. Many thanks to Mike and Sheila for a great weekend 🙂

We have of course been doing lots of ordinary things, like helping Pastor Jóhannes and his lovely wife Sissú move house, help our dear friend Helgi clear out his father´s house on the Westman Islands (Helgi´s father has just moved into the local nursing home) and visit new friends for coffee and cakes. Thanks to Unnur and Kristján one of our very first meals in Iceland was an authentic Icelandic meal of salted cod, potatoes and ryebread. It was so good! On another occasion we were unexpectedly treated to a feast of Icelandic lamb courtesy of Ódinn and Rhiannon. It was the first time we had had lamb since we arrived in Iceland at the beginning of January, it was indescribably good. We had forgotten just how wonderfully fragrant Icelandic lamb was. It literally rendered Chris and I speechless, it was that good ❤

We haven’t managed to get to know Selfoss yet, as the weather is not conducive to walking…you can go outside, but you do so at your peril. We have managed to get to the local shops which are just five minutes away, but any further than that usually means either a good soaking with horizontal rain, being pelted with super-sized hailstones or becoming a walking snowman. It is nice to have the choice of course. Oh, and the wind. Did I mention the wind?

A couple of days ago I was having trouble sleeping, I was just drifting off at stupid o’clock in the morning, when our bed jolted violently. A little while later there was another violent jerk, this one was a bit stronger than the first. In the beginning I thought, okay what happens if it gets closer and the ground actually opens up under the bed, then I fell asleep. We found out the next day that the quakes were a bit further down the coast from us and measured M3.3 and M3.7 on the Richter scale. They were due apparently to the Krísuvík volcano in the Reykjanes Peninsula deciding to wake up somewhat. Well, she has been asleep since the 14th century. There have been over 800 smaller quakes in the region over the past week or so. It seems that Krísuvík is the one to watch at the moment. Must be jealous of Katla stealing all the limelight.

In the midst of moving countries, setting up home, making friends, helping out whenever we can, attending Church, catching glimpses of the northern lights, inviting new friends for dinner, visiting new friends, planning and executing a multisite outreach, mentoring, planning a new outreach, falling asleep during earth quakes, baking 50 scones before breakfast, preaching every other week, enjoying and sharing at men’s breakfasts, catching up with old friends, writing up a PhD thesis…Chris and I have been able to draw closer to God. We are so thankful to be here in Iceland and are excited about what the future holds for us here.

Prayer needs: In addition to the opportunities outlined above, Chris and I have other plans in the pipeline that we are not in a position to share with you just yet. With regards to these, please pray that we have the spiritual wisdom to discern God’s will for us in these issues. We don’t want to make the mistake of settling for what is good in God and missing out on His best for us. Please continue to pray for a vehicle. We were blessed to have the use of a friend’s car (thank you Eyrún) for a couple of weeks, which was great. But, unfortunately we are again car-less. Part of the vision that Chris and I have for Iceland is to develop a plan for supporting the smaller country Churches dotted around the island. When you live in a geographically isolated area, it can feel as though no one is interested in the particular challenges you face. Our heart is to resource the smaller Churches with all kinds of ministry gifts, such as visiting ministry teams who will work with the Pastors and leaders of the Churches in order to bless the local communities. It’s a big vision, but we have a big God. Having a car in Iceland is not a luxury item, it’s an essential item. The distances between towns and villages are vast and the weather is violently unpredictable for most of the year. We had visitors this morning, for example, who had driven all night in near blizzard conditions to reach us this morning and they will be driving until almost midnight to reach their destination! Without transport, we can of course bless the people of Selfoss, and as you can see, we have tried to do just that. We believe however, that we are called to the Nordic countries in general and to Iceland in particular, so without transport we believe our ministry will be less effective. Also pray for finance related issues. We need to build a base of people who can make a small monthly donation. If you feel able to support us financially, please contact us directly via the blog and we can send you the Missionary Giving Form issued by AOG World Missions in Nottingham, England.

The Parker family motto: 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”. Joshua 24:15 (NIV).

How to have your cake and your 5-a-day…

Photo by Aron Hinriksson

Pumpkin cheesecake with easy peasy caramel sauce

When the nights are long and bleak and the wind is howling all around, there is only one thing to do…invite friends round for dinner!

This recipe is actually made from butternut squash, a vegetable only recently introduced to Selfoss, a lovely town in the south of Iceland. This version of pumpkin cheesecake is adapted from a recipe I recently plundered from the McCormicks website. I was searching for ‘butternut squash ideas’ so that I could introduce my Icelandic friends Aron and Gunna to this lovely and somewhat under-used vegetable. If you can find a 15oz/425g tin of unsweetened pumpkin purée, use that instead of steaming/roasting the butternut squash. Most recipes ask you to drain the cooked pumpkin for a couple of hours or overnight, I did neither (forgot to actually) and the cheesecake was still a huge hit. It did though need an extra 10 minutes in the oven, perhaps that was the reason. I served the cheesecake with a very quickly made caramel sauce and freshly whipped cream. It both looked and tasted fabulous. Like all cheesecakes, this one is best prepared and baked the day before and positively enjoys an overnight sojourn in the fridge. For the best results, make sure all the ingredients are at room temperature before you begin. A light dusting of icing sugar won’t go amiss just before serving. Makes one 9in/23cm cake. Serves 10-12.

Ingredients: for the crust: 220g of biscuit crumbs (ginger nuts, digestive or graham cracker), 50g butter melted. For the filling: 400g butternut squash purée made by peeling and then steaming or roasting a small/medium butternut squash (remove all stringy bits and any seeds), 300g cream cheese, softened, 140g firmly packed dark brown sugar, 3 large eggs, 1 tbsp flour, 2 tsps vanilla extract (not essence),1 rounded tsp allspice*, several chunks of finely chopped stem ginger in syrup (optional, but very good).

**If you can’t find allspice, combine equal parts of ground cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and black pepper.

Method: Preheat oven to 180°/350°. Lower oven temp by at least 10% if using the fan. Generously butter a 9in/23cm springform cake tin, line the base with parchment paper if liked. For the crust, mix all ingredients in a bowl until the crumbs are evenly coated with the butter. Press firmly into bottom of the prepared tin. Chill crust until needed in the fridge. To make the filling, lightly whisk the cream cheese, brown sugar, eggs, pumpkin purée, flour, vanilla and allspice until smooth – do not overwhisk. Pour into prepared crust. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until top is lightly browned and centre is almost set. Remove from oven and let the cheesecake cool in its tin. When cool, run a small knife or metal spatula around rim of pan to loosen. Refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.

For the caramel sauce: melt 210g of vanilla sugar in a large pan, when completely melted and caramel brown in colour, add 85g of butter, whisking well. Be extremely careful, as the mixture will foam and rise up the sides of the pan. Once incorporated whisk in 120ml of double/whipping cream, again watching out for the foaming action of the mix. Whisk until smooth and pour into an airtight container. Will keep in the fridge for up to two weeks.

To make vanilla sugar: place 1-2 vanilla pods in a large pot of castor (superfine) sugar. Leave for two weeks and then use as normal in all baking that would benefit from the rich, sweet aroma of real vanilla. As you use up the sugar, simply top us as required. I had a pot that I refilled for almost seven years with no loss of flavour.