Kathi in her Scandanavian rainboots at the front of the beautiful church in Oksendal. The altar, carvings and other decorations were used in the previous church which dated back to the 1700s.
Back view of the Evangelical Lutheran Church at Øksendal
The boathouse once used by Jon Husby. When the tide
came in, it was easy to get boats down the ramp.
While searching for her Norwegian roots in the village of Øksendal, Norway, stepdaughter Kathi discovered the farm where her great grandfather, Jon Andersson (Sjølseth) Husby, had lived and worked. Although the house was not the original, several original structures, including the boat house at the edge of the fjord, remained on the property. She felt overwhelmed to stand where her ancestors once lived and commented, “I still don’t quite know what to do with my feelings of being connected to something much larger than myself.”
As she inquired after local Husbys in a little store, one customer introduced himself. He was Børd Bøye, pastor or preste of the local Evangelical Lutheran state church. She attended church the following day, thinking that she would have a better chance of meeting family there.
The present church building had been constructed in 1890, so the family members that Great-grandfather Jon left behind when he went to America would have worshipped in that location. The altar and decorative pieces inside were from the original church built in the 1700s and would have been familiar to him.
Only a few adults attended the service, apparently for their children’s benefit since it was a special Thanksgiving service. Kathi had discovered that most adults in Øksendal seem to believe that religion is a root cause of the world’s problems, (a common theme, in Kathi’s opinion, when people become prosperous and self-reliant.) Although the entire service was in Norwegian, she tried to follow along with the singing. Afterwards, everyone had hot dogs at the back of the church to celebrate Thanksgiving and then left.
Pastor Bøye offered to show Kathi the bell tower. They climbed up a dark, steep stairway that gave way to a ladder, then scaffolding, then foot-and-hand holds. He opened a panel in the wall so she could see out and take photographs. All of the old furniture was stored in the attic. She felt awed to see the very seats her ancestors had used when they worshipped.
After they climbed down from the bell tower, Kathi sat with Pastor Bøye on the steps of the church and talked. His story broke her heart. He had been at the church for eleven years and had made no discernible difference to the adults at all. He shared his dream that the people of Øksendal would become a blessing to others and themselves and that they might grow in their relationship to God and to each other. He longs to see every home a praying home.
As I heard this, I remembered Kathi’s great-grandfather, who brought his vital faith with him to America, and all the other Norwegian pioneers whose faith gave them the strength and courage to build new lives in a new land.
Kathi prayed with Pastor Bøye before she left. She promised to share his dream with us in America and to ask us and our churches to pray for him and this community, which seems to have forgotten God.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the readers of this blog would, through their prayers, help to ignite a spiritual reawakening among the descendants of those the stalwart immigrants left behind in Norway?
4 thoughts on “A Promise for Oxendal”
As a first generation Norwegian immigrant I can identify with what you are saying. Our families and friends back in Norway are certainly in need of spiritual renewal. Norway was recently voted the #1 country to live in and though I'm very proud of my homeland I can see how prosperity often fosters an insentivity to our awareness and need of God. There was a time when Norway produced more missionaries per capita then any other country, but I'm sad to see that the general population is denying their spiritual heritage. Pray for Norway! This beautiful little country is precious in the sight of God and He has done great things for our people throughout history. God is faithful and His mercy never fails.
Wonderful writing as usual however, your photography and camera are thrilling even to the point of magnificent. As usual I open your photography in [open link in a new window] this gives you a magnified view of the photograph. On my computer right click on the mouse button and the computer does the rest. Sorry for taking so long in posting a comment.
a shepherd in wolves clothing
Greetings from Texas from a half Norwegian. I googled Oksendal and found your blog. My mother was Marian Hegeberg, daughter of John and Mary Hegeberg, who immigrated from Oksendal. They settled on Fir Island in the Skagit Valley. Brothers and sisters were Martin, Elmer, Nels, Bill, Bertha, Jenette, and Eloise. I long to someday make the trip to Norway; perhaps God will open that door one of these days. The blog is very informative and enjoyable. I enjoyed the Haiti story as I was blessed to go for 2 weeks in January after the earthquake. God is doing great things there. Blessings to you. John Williams
Dear Mr. Williams,
I read your blog and wanted to say hello from Conway, WA and to let you know I was your uncle Nels Hegeberg's “hired girl” at his home before he moved to the retirement home in Mount Vernon. He has been our neighbor and friend for many years as we lived on a farm close by and we spent a lot of time at Berg & Hegeberg's Gas Station and Soda FOuntain at the Conway Corner. I still visit Eloise at her retirement home in Mount Vernon.
Regards, Mari Densmore