Monday, January 26, 2009

Good News from Tønder

The southern Jutland town of Tønder, located not far from the border with Germany, has been mentioned several times in Pray for, especially in relation to the famed Tønder music festival (see the August 17, 2008 prayer posting).

In March of 2006 when I made a trip to Denmark the first persons I met were Pastor René Nielsen and his lovely wife Mette. Pastor Nielsen is pastor of the Tønder Frikirke, in dual association with the Apostolsk Kirke and the Pinse Kirke denominations. I was not with the Nielsens for long, but long enough to sense their burden for the city and the need for the church to move forward in some new directions. Pastor Nielsen and I had a wonderful time around the breakfast table praying for a breakthrough in the work. Before I moved on to Sønderborg, he showed me around the church building located in the center of town. It appeared to me at the time that it was not a building that would lend itself well to substantial growth. It was rather small and very lacking in space that would foster growth.

I have continued to pray for Tønder as I am sure Pastor Nielsen and Mette and the church itself have done faithfully. It was such a delight recently to have an email message from Pastor Nielsen that communicated some of the great excitement and gratitude he and the church are experiencing at what God is doing for the Tønder work. First off, the old church building has been sold and a new location has been found for Tønder Frikirke that hopefully will have all of the features needed for a significant outreach in the community and surrounding area.

Getting the leaders and members of the church to come to agreement about sale of the building was not an easy one. As often happens in significant change for a church, some were not fully convinced that now was the right time to sell and move. The resulting tension can have a negative effect on a church’s future and ministry. However, the Lord intervened in a wonderful way. He used an elderly woman member who stood up in a congregational meeting and said prophetically, “God has spoken to break up and move on, and I think we should do so.” One by one the members of the congregation stood up and agreed with this dear lady to sell the old building and look for a new site. As Pastor Nielsen puts it, “Within two months everything had been done. God had a prepared the way and now the old building has been sold and we have bought a new one. Praise God! Now we have several months in which to renovate the new building before moving into it on April 1.” The Lord has not forgotten Tønder! Frikirke and He is on the move.

A significant evidence of God’s blessing is the church’s revived children’s ministry. There were hardly any children in the church, but now acting on what Pastor Nielsen and the church felt was God’s direction there is contact and ministry with about 40 kids and their families. Every Wednesday there are after-school meetings where workers help the kids with their homework, followed by a Royal Rangers meeting and ending in a time of eating together with the kids and their parents. The net result is a marked increase in the number of people now attending the worship services.

At the beginning of 2008, René was asked to help with the reorganization of a Danish humanitarian organization. Ultimately he was left with the major responsibility and has had a lot of work of rebuilding and reorganizing. He is now the head of the organization that needs to reestablish its Christian foundations. This plus the new developments with the Tønder church are keeping him very busy and using up a lot of his energies. It is important for church members to him and to involve themselves heavily in the renovation of the new property.

Pastor Nielsen writes, “Thank you for your prayers. Please continue to pray for us.” Let's agree to do so.

PRAISE God for answers to prayer in the sale of Tønder Frikirke’s less than adequate facilities and the congregation’s unity in responding to the Lord’s provision of a new and more adequate location for ministry.

PRAY that Pastor Nielsen’s health and strength will not be eroded because of the heavy schedule he carries these days with local church responsibilities as well as time-consuming leadership involvement with a Danish humanitarian organization.

PRAY that the members and attenders of Tønder Frikirke will go through this time of change with renewed vision, commitment and unity and that the move to a new building will open up as yet unrealized possibilities for evangelistic outreach in the community.

PRAY that the Lord will use the renewed children’s ministry as a fruitful means of evangelistic outreach with many coming to faith in Jesus Christ and those already believers standing firm and maturing in the faith, using their spiritual gifts in ministry.

PRAY that Pastor Nielsen’s influence and leadership in the humanitarian organization will help return it to its previous Christian foundations.