Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Lord's Work in the Faroe Islands

Back in the 1950s, I was in Copenhagen with my family on our way back from our first term in the former Belgian Congo. While visiting relatives in Copenhagen, I had occasion to attend an assembly of the Christian Brethren, sometimes referred to as Plymouth Brethren. At the meeting, a young man who at the time was studying medicine at the University of Copenhagen gave an unforgettably impassioned and joyful testimony of how he had come to faith in Jesus Christ.

Two things especially impressed me about this young man. One was that he was overcome with emotion when trying to express the depth of his commitment to Christ, filled with praise for having found Him as Savior and Lord. The other was that he wasn't a Dane at all, but rather had come to the University from the Faroe Islands to study medicine. It was undoubtedly the first time I had ever heard of the Faroe Islands. All through these many years since, I have often thought of that impassioned testimony and wondered whatever had become of him, even though I did not even remember his name. I also have warm memories at this assembly of meeting a fine Christian brother, Mr. Paisley, owner of a language school in Copenhagen, and a Christian Brethren missionary and his wife from Scotland, Mr. and Mrs. J. J. Adams. The Adamses invited me and my family to have "kaffee" with them at their apartment in Copenhagen and what a gracious time of fellowship that was. Mr. Adams, a wonderful man of God, was a great encouragement to us and our work in the Congo. Mr. Adams ministered in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark and spoke his own brand of "Scandinavian" that he said allowed him to be understood in all three countries.

As the old hymn declares, "God works in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform." When I was in Denmark this past spring, I attended a Sunday service at the Baptist church in Viborg. There was a visitor there that morning, Heri Jacobsen, who was from the Faroe Islands. After the service I chatted with him and told him of my experience hearing the testimony of the young Faroese medical student so many years before in Copenhagen. I asked Heri if there was any chance that he might know the man of whom I spoke. Heri reflected a moment and then said, "I think I know the man you're talking about." Heri gave me an address for a Dr. Rodmundur i Lida in Torshavn, Faroe Islands. I later followed up with a letter to Dr. Lida in which I recounted that memorable meeting in Copenhagen.

What a joyful surprise it was shortly after to receive a wonderful letter from the now retired Dr. Lida, who, it turns out, had returned to the Faroe Islands after completing his medical studies and a brief residency in the United States, ultimately becoming the little country's chief surgeon.

The Faroes are a group of islands (among them Kalsoy, Kunoy, Vodoy, Eysturoy, Stremoy, Bordoy, Svinoy, Fugloy, Sandoy, and Suduroy) situated between the Norwegian Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, approximately halfway between Iceland and Norway. The many bays, fjords, and mountains are a feature of the islands' rugged and treeless typography. The land does not support extensive agriculture, though there is a good bit of sheepherding because of the grasslands. A most important aspect of the economy is fishing. Access between the various islands in the past was limited to crossing open water, though now there is a well-developed infrastructure with connecting bridges and tunnels, some of them miles in length.

The Faroe Islands have had a long history with Denmark, but became an autonomous region of the Kingdom of Denmark in 1948. The Faroese manage their own affairs, except for national defense and foreign affairs which are still represented by Denmark. The islands' population is less than 50,000 and the native islanders speak Faroese, a language akin to the Scandinavian languages. The Faroese have a culture all their own, though it has many commonalities with the cultures of Norway, Iceland, and Denmark. A majority of the inhabitants are Lutheran and part of the Danish Lutheran Folkekirke. Ten percent of the population gather with the assemblies of the Christian Brethren (known as Brødrasamkoman), reflecting a strong evangelistic missionary endeavor since the 1860s. There are two Bible translations available in the Faroese language. Many Faroese are involved in commercial fishing. Through the faithful witness of believers connected with the Brethren assemblies, many fishermen have over the years come to trust Christ as Savior and Lord.

Lutheran revival movement efforts are found in the islands. Indre Mission (Inner Mission) has a number of gathering places throughout the country called "mission houses" (www.mission.fo/index.asp?pg=41). There is a Pinse (Pentecostal) church in Torshavn (Filadelfia.net.dynamicweb.dk/). Christian broadcasting is represented by Radio Lindin (www.lindin.fo/index.php?id=283). I expect to include further information about the Lord's work in the Faroe Islands as I become better informed.

PRAY for the people of the Faroe Islands and the continued spread of the gospel of Christ among them through the efforts of the various evangelical churches and organizations.

PRAY for the leaders and activities of the Lutheran revival movement organization, Inner Mission (Indre Mission), centered in its network of mission houses throughout the islands.

PRAY for the elders and congregants of the assemblies of Christian Brethren, the largest of which appears to be Ebenezer Sankoman in Torshavn (www.ebenezer.fo), and for continued growth through aggressive evangelistic and Bible teaching ministries.

PRAY especially for the now retired Dr. Rodmundur i Lida who continues to minister the Word of God in the Faroes and in Denmark (he ministered last spring at Brønshøj Forsamling in Copenhagen -- www.bkrf.dk/).

PRAY for the leadership and ministries of Filadelfia Sankoman (Pentecostal church) in Torshavn.

PRAY for the the workers and extensive outreach of Radio Lindin, the non-denominational Christian radio station for the Faroe Islands, broadcasting the gospel from its studios in Torshavn.