I was so shocked to be selected. I am quiet country pastor in my early forties. I’ve always gravitated toward the academic and the introspective far more than lights, camera and action. Some of my closest friends were astounded I had even wanted to apply to be on a reality show in Norway. I can’t even explain how much I wanted to do it, and how once I applied, I longed to be selected. I had absolutely no doubt I should do it and that it would be an immensely good experience.
The next months were mostly fantastic as I prepared to go. I studied some Norwegian in the car on my way to and from hospital visits. I ran four miles every morning and was feeling great. I tried to prepare my church for my absence – which was the most difficult part. When I told the church council what I had been accepted to do, they gave me their blessing and seemed very excited for me and I was so happy and relieved about that. As I had hoped would be their reaction, they were glad that I could learn more about Norway and make connections with the country of our origin. They agreed to let me use my vacation and then if I was gone longer than my allotted vacation, I agreed to pay for pulpit supply in my absence. Unfortunately, as time went by, I found not all were happy for me and some were even upset that I hadn’t told them before I applied. I heard grumblings that some felt it would be a bad thing for me to participate in a reality show. Of course, this began to dampen my spirits but I knew I had to keep everything in perspective. I couldn’t make everyone understand why this was so important for me to do. I couldn’t make everyone agree it was a wonderful thing that their pastor could experience such a thing. Not everyone automatically saw my point of view – that our church had been here for 140 years before I ever arrived and they would be fine without me for 2-10 weeks. I didn’t want to upset anyone – but I also knew I couldn’t plan my life around the reactions and feelings of a few who thought this wasn’t a worthwhile venture. I needed to go. Those who didn’t understand that would learn to accept it. I was going to Norway! Woo-hoo! For the first time in a very long time I had something so deeply cool and it was all for me! I chose to be happy about that.
A camera crew was sent to our home a couple weeks before I left for Norway. First, they interviewed me and then they filmed us as a family – playing basketball, playing a game, the boys helping me pack, and me jogging down to the cemetery. I have never looked over my house with such a critical eye as I did when I knew there would be cameras filming in those rooms. I realized with dismay that many of my decorations, well, just suck. I have never invested any time, money, or energy into decorative items and so my house was basically decorated in a rag-tag bunch of items I had been given over the years: a dream catcher here, some colorful scarves there, a whole LOT of ugly religious art bestowed upon me by dear parishioners whom I love. I decided if I was ever going to put any thought into how I would like to decorate my rooms instead of just hanging up some things by default since there was a nail there and someone gave me something to hang on it, the time was now.
I started scouring pinterest for inexpensive decorating ideas. I made some cool wall hangings for the bedrooms and they turned out great. I cleaned and straightened and purged all the rooms until everything was so tidy it looked like we were half moved-out and the children were afraid to touch anything for fear of me getting after them for upsetting my precisely staged household.
It was the day before Palm Sunday when the director, Astrid, and three members of a camera arrived at our house. After filming at the parsonage all day Saturday, they came to church on Sunday and filmed there at worship and lunch. Some of the church ladies made some Norwegian foods and we sang the Norwegian national anthem. It was a very lovely day. The director wanted to film the congregation waving “goodbye” to me and so we did that. I was so glad to have the church featured in the filming because it was really my church’s love for all things Norwegian that had made me more interested in my own heritage. Growing up in Minnesota, I had really taken my Norwegian heritage for granted because so many people there had Scandinavian roots. Leaving that behind for many years and then coming to live here felt like coming home in many ways and these years here have taught me so much about my own history.
I absolutely loved the camera crew and the director – they were so nice and pleasant to work with. After they left I felt even more peaceful about being a part of Alt for Norge because it was already such a good experience. I was certain there would just be more good stuff to come. Soon.
Here is the beautiful video Alt for Norge made from their visit to my home in Texas: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQYgiT9Wq_8