(Written by Mary Beeke)
It’s a good thing our marriage is smoother than the beginning of our trip to celebrate our twenty-fifth anniversary! After thirty-one hours in Chicago, two canceled overseas flights (mechanical problems), numerous attempts to re-book via different routes, and much frustration, we were finally on our way. We missed Oslo, Norway, and the scenic train ride from Oslo to Bergen. We flew to Copenhagen, then to Bergen and arrived with twenty minutes to spare to catch our boat. In all, it took us fifty hours to get from our home to our boat in Norway.
The Hurtigruten boats deliver goods to towns along the west coast of Norway. They are also outfitted for passengers to tour the beautiful fjords—inlets from the sea with high mountain walls. The Geiranger Fjord was the highlight of our trip. We took an excursion overland and were treated to a panoramic view from the top of the fjord, and later to a rushing stream that had carved its way through a narrow canyon. We saw mountain-top views with waterfalls and hairpin turns. After two nights on the boat, we disembarked at Trondheim, and spent the day in the city. Norway is booming economically due to offshore drilling for gas and oil. Its citizens earn high wages and can afford the high prices of goods there. Lutheranism is the predominant religion.
On Saturday, we flew to Copenhagen. We had a six-hour layover, so we ventured into the city on the Metro, and toured the city by canal boat. Sun turned to clouds, then rain. As we bought tickets, the girl said, “We don’t have any glass-covered boats today.” After one minute on the water, a glass-covered boat floated by—it was a different company! We bought plastic rain ponchos and weathered the wind and the rain. From Copenhagen, we flew to Manchester, England, where David Woollin (PRTS student and RHB employee—marketing and development) picked us up and drove us to the home of his parents, John and Ann Woollin, in Whitby. David was an immense help in arranging this trip around the Aberystwyth Conference as well as in driving us around the United Kingdom (UK).
At Whitby Evangelical Church, Joel preached in the morning, and David in the evening. On this trip to the UK we have sensed a shift in some of the churches. Instead of mostly gray heads, we saw families with young children, as well as middle-aged folks. Because of the non-religious nature of society, the church is very creative in evangelism. They do Vacation Bible School, youth camps, beach outreach (activities with town children on the beach for a week), food pantry, and “street angels” (retired couples wait outside bars Friday and Saturday nights until at least 2 a.m. and help drunk people by calming them down or driving them home). They are also on the lookout in their community for opportunities to do everyday evangelism. A couple years ago, an older lady fell in the store. A church member helped her and visited her later. The elderly lady was very lonely; she started coming to church, was saved, and is now drinking in the Word of God.
We walked around Whitby Monday morning. It was very busy because of a Regatta taking place. The Synod of Whitby met in the abbey in 663 AD—the ruins stand on a wind-swept cliff over the town. In the cemetery, a tomb memorializes a couple who were both born on September 19, 1600, married on September 19, 1620, and after having twelve children, died within five hours of each other on September 19, 1680. Many shipwrecks have taken place on this coast. Whitby Jet is petrified (tropical) Monkey Puzzle tree which washes up on the shore just outside Whitby. It is made into jewelry, and my sweet husband bought me a pendant for our anniversary.
John and Ann Woollin are very friendly, and John has quite a sense of humor. He said if we ever have trouble sleeping, we should lay on the edge of the bed and we’d soon drop off. He probably inherited his humor from his father. David says once when they lived in the country some hikers asked for directions and his dad told them to go left and then around the corner. He then cut through the woods to that spot, only to meet the hikers again, who asked for directions. He said they had perhaps met his twin brother who gave them directions. He uses his outgoing personality to talk to anyone, and to help whomever he can and bring the gospel whenever possible, including as a “street angel.” His prayers are serious and earnest.
By mid-afternoon, we set out for the Aber conference in Aberystwyth, Wales (a five-hour trek), driving through several quaint villages in the North Yorkshire Moors. Along winding, narrow roads we saw numerous sheep dotting the hills, green pastures framed by stone walls, and stone houses with bright flowers. All things bright and beautiful, the Lord God made them all.