Sunday, August 17, 2008

Southern Jutland’s Tønder Frikirke

Once again Pray for focuses on the ministry of the Frikirke (free church) in the southern Jutland town of Tønder (pronounced TON-ner), situated only a few kilometers from the border with Germany. The town’s population explodes when it hosts the Tønder Festival folk music event (, held annually since 1975, that has become one of Denmark’s largest festivals. The event is always scheduled for the last weekend of August, this year from August 28 to 31. There will be many musical groups involved coming from a number of countries. Last year’s attendance reached 23,000. The Festival utilizes 9-10 smaller indoor venues as well as a large tent that can accommodate as many as 2500 festival-goers.

Each year the Tønder Frikirke, located in the town’s central district, keeps the church building open and maintains a coffee service for tired festival-goers who are invited to drop in for coffee and conversation. Though not on the schedule as a formal part of the Festival itself, the church presents Christian musical events on Friday and Saturday evenings. This year the Friday night music will feature old-fashion gospel and country-blues musicians Mikael Olesen and Hans Juhani from Valmenighed church in Århus. Saturday evening’s event will showcase the dynamic Gospelkoret Room4Joy, a gospel choir from Grinsted’s Vestermarkskirken. The Festival weekend gives the Tønder congregation many opportunities for witnessing, a ministry that benefits festival-goers as well as church members.

The pastor of the Tønder church is René Nielsen, seconded by his wife Mette. The work has not been easy, but there are signs that the Lord is working. One of the challenges for this fall is to develop and implement the church's vision for relocation and building to effectively meet the ministry demands and needs of the new century.

My dear friend Pastor René tells me that several years ago the church held a monthly Children’s Festival on Saturdays with a number of child-focused activities, such as drama, theater, Bible stories, music, and the like. On one of Saturdays, an Iranian mother made an appearance with her children, but said she was otherwise too busy to attend church services. Last year at Tønder Festival time, Pastor René met her again and invited her to come and sit awhile in the open church. She did so and since then has been to almost every service and event at Tønder Frikirke. She is now in a home-group together with other Iranian ladies. This summer Pastor René took nine Iranian people to a nearby Bible Camp. He says, “We are in contact with many foreign people and it is a challenge for our church.”

PRAY as the Tønder Frikirke opens its doors to festival-goers and provides a warm welcome and friendly conversation during this year’s Tønder Festival, August 28-31.
PRAY that Frikirke members will be empowered by the Spirit of God to offer a winsome witness for Christ to festival-goers who choose to accept the church’s hospitality.

PRAY that the ministry of the Tønder church’s guest musicians, the Mikael Olesen-Hans Juhani duo and Gospelkoret Room4Joy, will attract many to the Friday and Saturday evening concerts by offering a Christian alternative to the secular music featured at the Tønder Festival. As Mikael Olesen says, "Thanks for praying--our wish for the evening is to bring some of God's character and presence and we need Him for that."

PRAY that God's wisdom, oversight and provision for the church in forging and implementing plans that would allow Tønder Frikirke room for growth and a more effective ministry to the community.

PRAISE God for giving the church a fruitful ministry to Iranian and other immigrants to Denmark who have settled in the Tønder area.

PRAY that God will encourage the church to move forward aggressively under Pastor Nielsen’s ministry and that townspeople will respond to the church’s outreach ministries and witness to the saving grace of Jesus Christ.