THE young man on the deck of the ship gazed eagerly toward the Norwegian coast. His name was Knud Pederson Hammer. Formerly a minister in a Baptist church in North Dakota, U.S.A., Knud had become one of the Bible Students (now known as Jehovah’s Witnesses) one year before. Now, in 1892, he was coming back to his native country to preach to friends and relatives.
The majority of Norway’s two million inhabitants were members of the Lutheran State Church. Knud was eager to help sincere Norwegians get to know the true God, Jehovah, and to help them understand that this loving God does not torment sinners in a burning hell. He also wanted to tell them about Christ’s coming Thousand Year Reign, during which the earth will become a paradise.
As the ship approached the coast, Knud scrutinized the contours of this gorgeous land
KINGDOM SEED BEARS FRUIT
Although some in the area of Knud’s hometown, Skien, showed interest in his message, he was not able to remain with them but had to return to his family in the United States. In 1899, however, he traveled to Norway again, this time at the request of Charles T. Russell, who had oversight of the work of the Bible Students at the time. Brother Russell wanted Knud to establish a congregation in Norway. Knud brought some copies of the first two volumes of the Millennial Dawn series of books (later called Studies in the Scriptures), which had been translated into Dano-Norwegian. (At that time written Norwegian was similar to Danish, and the publications could be read in both Denmark and Norway.) Knud witnessed to many people and placed some books, but after a while he again needed to return to the United States.
The following year, Ingebret Andersen, who lived just outside Skien, obtained the book then called The Plan of the Ages, probably one of the copies that Knud had brought to Norway. For a long time, Ingebret had been interested in the “second coming” of Christ, and now both he and his wife, Berthe, became absorbed in what they read. Soon Ingebret started to witness to others. He even went to religious meetings to tell people about Christ’s Thousand Year Reign. Later he visited those who showed interest, and soon there was an active congregation of at least ten Bible Students in Skien.
When Knud heard from a relative about the small congregation in Skien, he returned to Norway in 1904 to find Ingebret. Knud stopped a man on the street and asked, “Can you tell me if a man named Ingebret Andersen lives in this area?” “Yes,” answered the man, “that’s me.” Knud was so excited that he opened his suitcase right there in the middle of the street to show Ingebret the books he had brought. Ingebret, of course, was delighted to meet Knud and to see the abundance of literature.
Knud eagerly told his Norwegian fellow believers about the organization and the preaching work. By the time he returned to his family, then living in Canada, the Skien Congregation had received much encouragement to move ahead.
REACHING OTHER PARTS OF NORWAY
The preaching work in Norway received a welcome boost in 1903 with the arrival of three zealous colporteurs (full-time preachers)
Late in 1903, when Brother Gundersen was preaching in Trondheim in central Norway, he witnessed to Lotte Holm, who accepted some literature. Later, she went home to the Narvik area, above the Arctic Circle, and became the first publisher in northern Norway. Afterward, Viktor Feldt went to Narvik and helped two married couples to become Bible Students. They got in touch with Lotte, and soon this small group gathered regularly to study the Bible. Lotte’s sister, Hallgerd, also accepted the truth, and later they both served as zealous pioneers in various parts of Norway.
Brothers Feldt and Gundersen had particularly good response to their preaching in Bergen in 1904 and 1905. Zion’s Watch Tower of March 1, 1905, reported: “A prominent preacher of the Free Mission church of [Bergen] has become thoroughly grasped by the clear light, and he is now setting forth the full and true Gospel to his always large and attentive audiences.”
That preacher was Theodor Simonsen, who was later expelled from the Free Mission Church for teaching the wonderful new truths he had learned from our publications. The church’s loss, however, was the Bible Students’ gain. Among Jehovah’s people, Theodor was much appreciated as a brother and a speaker. Later, he settled in Kristiania, where there was a growing congregation of Bible Students.
SOME OF THE FIRST PIONEERS
About 1905, there were congregations of Bible Students in four cities: Skien, Kristiania, Bergen, and Narvik. Soon several eager publishers started pioneering and took the good news to many other parts of the country. Those early pioneers came from interesting backgrounds.
The first pioneer sister in Norway was Helga Hess. She was an orphan and lived in Bergen, where she had become a Sunday-school teacher at the age of 17. When she heard Theodor Simonsen speak in the Free Mission church about what he had learned by reading one of the Bible Students’ books, her interest was aroused and she started to read the same literature. She resigned as Sunday-school teacher, and in 1905, at 19 years of age, she set out to spread the good news in Hamar and Gjøvik.
One day in 1908, Andreas Øiseth was chopping wood at the family farm near Kongsvinger when a pioneer called and left the book The Divine Plan of the Ages with him. Andreas, who was in his early 20’s, loved what he read and ordered more literature. After some months he turned the farm over to one of his younger brothers and began to pioneer. During the next eight years, he preached throughout almost the entire country. First he went northward, traveling inland by bicycle in the summer and by kick-sled in the winter. When he came to Tromsø, he turned southward and covered the areas along the coast all the way to Kristiania.
Anna Andersen from Rygge, near Moss, was also one of the early pioneers. She had been a Salvation Army officer for years and had devoted herself to helping the needy. In about 1907 she read some of our publications and realized that she had found the truth. In Kristiansund she got in touch with another Salvation Army officer, named Hulda Andersen (later Øiseth), who showed interest in the Bible. Soon those two women set out on a long trip northward on a coastal steamer, which took them all the way to Kirkenes, close to the Russian border. En route, they went ashore at every port and placed literature. In 1912 or thereabouts, Anna enrolled as a pioneer. For decades she traveled all over the country by boat and bicycle, reaching nearly every town in Norway with Bible literature. She spent quite some time in the south at Kristiansand, where she provided valuable support to the growing congregation.
Karl Gunberg had been an officer in the navy before he became a Bible Student. He started out as a pioneer when he was in his mid-30’s, in about 1911, and supported himself as a navigation instructor. Despite Karl’s rather stern appearance, he was known as a pleasant and humorous person. He preached throughout Norway well into his old age, and his background as a naval officer and navigation teacher proved to be very useful in spreading the good news, as we will see later.
STRENGTHENING THE BROTHERHOOD
In October 1905, there was much excitement over the first assembly held in Kristiania. About 15 were present, and 3 were baptized. In 1906 an assembly was held in Bergen, and from 1909 on, assemblies were arranged every year, with speakers from Denmark, Finland, and Sweden. Some of those brothers also visited congregations as pilgrims, forerunners of today’s traveling overseers.
The highlights of those years were Brother Russell’s visits. In 1909 he visited both Bergen and Kristiania. How the brothers and sisters appreciated the opportunity to meet him and listen to his talks! The second visit, in 1911, received much publicity, and the 61 brothers and sisters who gathered to hear Brother Russell’s public talk were delighted to have an estimated 1,200 in attendance!
Three years later, Brother Russell assigned Henry Bjørnestad to visit the brothers in Norway and Sweden regularly as the first Norwegian traveling overseer.
PICKING UP THE PACE BEFORE 1914
A useful preaching tool became available in 1910 in the form of a tract series called Peoples Pulpit. This helped more of the Bible Students to share actively in the preaching work. Eager to expose religious error and explain Bible truths, the brothers and sisters distributed thousands of copies free of charge, often as enclosures in newspapers.
The Bible Students were anxious to see what would happen in 1914. The book The Time Is at Hand (the second volume of the Millennial Dawn series) explained that the times of the Gentiles would end in 1914 and would be marked by trouble and anarchy, after which God’s Kingdom would begin to take control. The Bible Students also expected that Christ’s joint heirs would then receive their heavenly reward.
This subject often became a topic of conversation. For example, one evening in July 1914, Karl Kristiansen was playing in the Skien city orchestra. During the intermission he said to some of the people around him: “In a few weeks, something is going to happen. First there will be war, then revolution, then anarchy, and then God’s Kingdom will come.” When World War I broke out shortly after that, people came to Karl and wanted to know more.
Farther south along the coast, in Arendal, there was just one Bible Student in 1914. One day this sister met Mia Apesland on the street and told her that according to the Bible, there would be war in the autumn of 1914. “If that happens,” responded Mia, “I will believe.” Soon, when Mia saw that what the sister had told her was taking place, she lived up to her promise by becoming a true believer. Mia, the sister who spoke to her, and a few others formed the nucleus of the Arendal Congregation.
PROGRESS, THEN PROBLEMS
As things turned out, not all the Bible Students’ expectations for 1914 were realized. Nevertheless, they zealously continued their activity. From December 1914 until well into 1915, the impressive slide-and-film presentation the “Photo-Drama of Creation” gave a wonderful witness to large audiences in Kristiania, Bergen, Trondheim, Skien, Arendal, and Kristiansand.
Shortly thereafter, however, some problems arose. Fritiof Lindkvist, who had directed the work in Norway for about ten years, started to go his own way, and in 1916 he left the organization. As a result, responsible brothers in Sweden and Denmark supervised the work in Norway for the next few years. In 1921, Enok Öman was assigned to oversee the work in Norway, which he did until 1945.
There was also some unrest when C. T. Russell died in 1916 and was succeeded by J. F. Rutherford as the overseer of the Bible Students’ activities. Because of unfulfilled expectations with regard to 1914 as well as organizational changes, many left the organization. The consequences were particularly serious in Bergen, where, in 1918, only one brother and seven sisters remained in the congregation. In Trondheim, quite a number left the congregation, and a group in Kristiania also fell away. But those who loyally supported the organization soon experienced Jehovah’s rich blessing.
“Millions Now Living Will Never Die” was the intriguing discourse given by Brother Rutherford in 1918. From 1920 through 1925, this stirring talk was given throughout the world. A. H. Macmillan came from the world headquarters in New York to give the talk in a number of cities in Norway. In Kristiania, every seat in the university auditorium was taken, and many people were turned away. However, Brother Öman climbed onto a box at the entrance and loudly announced: “If you come back in one hour and a half, Macmillan will give the talk again!” Sure enough, people filled the hall again to hear Brother Macmillan give the talk a second time. For some years afterward, Norwegian brothers gave the talk throughout the rest of Norway. Thousands listened eagerly to the convincing Scriptural evidence that many will survive Armageddon and gain everlasting life on a paradise earth. Many also received the message by means of the booklet Millions Now Living Will Never Die!
From 1922 to 1928, the Bible Students distributed hundreds of thousands of tracts containing resolutions that had been adopted at conventions, such as A Challenge to World Leaders, A Warning to All Christians, and Ecclesiastics Indicted. Many Bible Students got started in the preaching work by distributing those tracts.
Still, growth was rather slow. Although the pioneers and zealous publishers preached persistently, others needed help to get more involved in the preaching work. Moreover, the publications were still mainly in Danish, Dano-Norwegian, or Swedish, but not Norwegian. What could be done to give the work further impetus?
The April 1925 Norwegian-language Bulletin (now Our Kingdom Ministry) made a thrilling announcement: “We hereby send you the first issue of The Golden Age in Norwegian. Subscriptions can now be obtained.” That was the March 1925 issue of The Golden Age (now known as Awake!). The Norwegian Golden Age soon had a wide circulation, not only in Norway but also in Denmark. By 1936, when the name of the Norwegian Golden Age was changed to Ny Verden (New World), the magazine had 6,190 Norwegian subscribers.
BETTER ORGANIZATION AND NEW FACILITIES
In May 1925, more than 500 Bible Students from various parts of Scandinavia gathered for a convention in Örebro, Sweden. At the convention, Brother Rutherford announced that a Northern European Office would be established in Copenhagen, Denmark. William Dey would come from London to supervise the activities of God’s people in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and the Baltic countries. The various countries would still have a local overseer, and Enok Öman would continue in that capacity in Norway.
William Dey, originally from Scotland, was an energetic brother who did much to help speed up the preaching work. An able organizer, he also encouraged the brothers by his pleasant disposition and good example in the ministry. During September and October 1925, he traveled throughout Norway and organized congregation activities according to the guidelines from the headquarters, speaking in English and using an interpreter. Brother Dey served as overseer of the Northern European Office until World War II.
For some time, the brothers had been looking for a more suitable place for the Norway office. In 1925 a brother who had inherited some money bought a three-story building in Oslo and sold it to the organization for about half the price. The timing could not have been better! This building served our needs very well until 1983.
AN ORGANIZATION OF ACTIVE WITNESSES
The year 1931 saw an important milestone in the history of God’s servants throughout the world. In that year they adopted a new name
It was evident that Jehovah was blessing the vigorous preaching work in Norway. The average number of publishers increased from 15 in 1918 to 328 in 1938. Jehovah’s people were not just Bible Students; they were active witnesses.
One example was Even Gundersrud, who was baptized in 1917 and associated with the Skien Congregation. At first, his wife tried to prevent him from attending meetings by hiding his shoes. But that did not stop him
The Skien Congregation’s enthusiasm was typical of the attitude of congregations at that time. The brothers there preached extensively in nearby cities, towns, and rural areas. On weekends they often went out in open trucks or boats, preaching and arranging meetings. Soon new groups and congregations were formed in that area. Other congregations, likewise, were hives of theocratic activity.
GOOD PROGRESS IN BERGEN
One of the active publishers in the Bergen area was Torkel Ringereide. In 1918 he found a brochure published by the Bible Students. He sought out Brother Dahl, the only brother in the Bergen Congregation at that time. Brother Dahl held meetings in his home with the rest of the congregation
Torkel was a fearless man with a powerful voice. For years he was the only public speaker in the congregation. Normally, he gave talks every Sunday, forthrightly exposing the hypocrisy of the clergy and their false religious teachings. The talks were often announced in the newspapers, and the number of interested ones attending meetings far exceeded the number of Bible Students in the area.
Torkel encouraged the audience to share the truth with others. In 1932, Nils Raae was one of those listeners. Nils had known the truth for a year, but he was reluctant to begin preaching. The congregation was about to start an extensive campaign with the booklet The Kingdom, the Hope of the World, and Torkel gave a talk about the need to take part in the ministry. “It was a superb talk,” said Nils, “and it made my feet tingle.” In the conclusion of the talk, Torkel quoted Jehovah’s words recorded at Isaiah 6:8: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Torkel then said: “May we all answer as Isaiah did: ‘Here I am! Send me’!” This was just the motivation Nils and his wife needed. With no further hesitation, they started out in the ministry.
The brothers and sisters used to frequent Torkel and Helga’s home. They were always discussing the truth, and this gave new and young publishers much encouragement. The Bergen publishers often went out to preach in the surrounding districts by boat and truck. Afterward, they gathered to tell experiences and enjoy happy association.
OSLO’S ZEALOUS PREACHERS
During the 1920’s and 1930’s, the preaching work was also flourishing in the Oslo area. One of the publishers was Olaf Skau, who was baptized in 1923. In 1927 he was appointed as service director in the congregation, and for decades he was an enterprising and caring overseer. He organized the preaching work in Oslo and also arranged weekend trips by bus or truck to the areas around the capital. Late at night he would still be awake drawing maps and planning preaching expeditions.
Publishers from Oslo preached in cities and rural areas from Halden and Fredrikstad to the south of Oslo to Hamar to the north, and from Kongsvinger to the east of the city to Drammen and Hønefoss to the west. The publishers arrived in the territory by about 9:00 a.m. and preached from house to house all day. Frequently, their visits included public meetings. This activity helped lay the foundation for new groups and congregations and was deeply appreciated by the few brothers and sisters in those areas. During one nine-day campaign in 1935, the 76 publishers in Oslo placed 13,313 booklets, an average of more than 175 booklets per publisher!
Olaf’s wife, Esther, suffered from arthritis and was confined to a wheelchair. Yet, their home was a popular gathering place for the brothers and sisters. Olaf usually did the cooking, often serving delicious chicken wings, for which he was well-known. But it was the spiritually upbuilding gatherings, fascinating Scriptural discussions, and Bible quizzes at the Skaus’ home that many older Witnesses still remember. “We never left the Skaus’ house with an empty heart,” recalled Ragnhild Simonsen.
“RIGHTLY DISPOSED FOR EVERLASTING LIFE”
In earlier years people were more religious and had more Bible knowledge than they do now. Many were willing to discuss Scriptural matters, and as in the first century, “those who were rightly disposed for everlasting life became believers.”
Durdei Hamre is an example of such. In 1924 she accepted a booklet, which she read that same evening and through the night. “I went to bed as a Pentecostal,” she later said, “and I woke up as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
In the mid-1920’s, one of the eight Fjelltvedt brothers attended a public talk about hellfire and obtained a booklet on the topic. What he read convinced him that the hellfire doctrine is false. Soon thereafter, when the family was gathered at the family farm, he excitedly shared what he had learned with his seven brothers and three sisters. They discussed the booklet till late that night. In a short time, all the siblings and many of their marriage mates became Bible Students. Later, many of their children and grandchildren became zealous publishers, and some carried the truth to other areas.
People’s spiritual interest was evident in 1936 when M. A. Howlett from the world headquarters in New York was the speaker at conventions in Bergen and Oslo. In Bergen, 810 attended the public talk, including some ministers of religion and a bishop. Only 125 of those assembled were Witnesses. In Oslo, where 140 Witnesses were gathered, 1,014 attended the public talk!
“THEY ARE STARTING TO COME!”
How excited Jehovah’s Witnesses were in 1935 when the identity of the “great crowd” mentioned at Revelation 7:9-17 was made clear. God’s people were delighted to learn that worshippers who hope to live on a paradise earth could join the anointed remnant as dedicated servants of Jehovah. From that year on, the focus of the preaching work was on gathering the great crowd, who would survive “the great tribulation”
In 1935 some pioneers with the heavenly hope were preaching in a rural area near Lillehammer. Ten-year-old John Johansen listened eagerly as the pioneers told his family about God’s purpose for a paradise earth. By the time he was 13, John had such a strong desire to share his happy hope with others that he borrowed his father’s bag and went out to preach in their neighborhood
One day in 1937, Olaf Rød and another brother were at Olaf’s home discussing the great crowd. They were the only two Witnesses in Haugesund, and they were wondering how this huge ingathering would take place. Suddenly, there was a knock at the door. Olaf opened the door, and there stood Alfred Trengereid. He had found and read a copy of The Watchtower and liked what he read. Without delay, he then got into his boat and rowed to Haugesund to get literature from the man he knew to be a Witness
BOATS HELP TO GATHER THE GREAT CROWD
When the preaching work was first starting in Norway, the prospect of preaching to the isolated inhabitants of countless islands and remote coastal areas was daunting. Hence, in 1928 the branch office bought a motorboat that was large enough to accommodate two or three pioneers and robust enough to navigate Norway’s jagged coastline. But who was qualified to captain such a boat? The experienced pioneer Karl Gunberg volunteered. His background in the navy and experience as a navigation teacher proved to be very useful. The first boat, named Elihu, put out to sea from Oslo, headed south, and stopped at ports along the coast. However, one stormy winter’s night in 1929, the Elihu was wrecked not far from Stavanger. All were grateful that the brothers on board reached the shore safely.
In 1931 the brothers obtained another boat, which they named Ester. Again Karl set out, assisted by two other brothers. The Ester covered territories in western and northern Norway for the next seven years. In 1932, Karl felt that he was getting “too old to embark on more adventures.” So he stepped ashore to serve as a pioneer in eastern Norway and left the boat in the hands of Johannes Kårstad. In 1938 the Ester was replaced by a boat named Ruth, which was used until 1940, when World War II put a stop to the maritime preaching activity. The sailing pioneers had covered vast areas and placed much literature. In 1939 the two brothers on the Ruth, Andreas Hope and Magnus Randal, reported that in just one year, they had placed more than 16,000 books, booklets and magazines and had played 1,072 phonograph talks for 2,531 listeners.
In addition to many wonderful spiritual experiences, the brothers on the boats saw some awesome sights. “Day after day we headed north,” reported Andreas Hope, “in and out of fjords and around towering headlands. The scenery was magnificent, majestic, and wild.” In winter, north of the Arctic Circle, they gasped at “the breathtaking radiance of the northern lights [aurora borealis].” And in summer they were dazzled by “the brilliance of the midnight sun.”
A ZEALOUS PIONEER SISTER
During the 1930’s, the number of pioneers increased rapidly. Having few conveniences, they had to make do, yet they covered vast territories, preaching the good news and distributing Bible literature. Their unflagging zeal helped lay a solid foundation for future growth.
For example, Solveig Løvås (later Stormyr), from Oslo, had been searching for the truth and had attended various religious meetings. One day she attended a meeting of Jehovah’s Witnesses and realized that she had found Bible truth. She was baptized in 1933, and two years later she traveled to northern Norway to serve as a pioneer. Although she limped a little because of polio, in six years Solveig preached in most of the cities, towns, fishing villages, and small communities from south of Bodø all the way to Kirkenes. Thousands of people accepted Bible literature. In just one year, Solveig obtained more than 1,100 subscriptions to our magazines!
One person who showed great interest in Solveig’s message was the carpenter Dag Jensen in the village of Hennes in Vesterålen. For years he had obtained our literature from other interested people. When Solveig came to Dag, she arranged for him to have a magazine subscription, and then she moved on to witness in other territories. On his own, Dag started to preach, lending the little literature he had to other interested individuals.
On the island of Andøya, Solveig approached a group of burly fishermen in their shack. She gave a bold witness, played phonograph talks, and offered magazine subscriptions. One young fisherman, Frits Madsen, was interested and subscribed to our magazines. When she had covered the territory, Solveig traveled on. Such was the pattern time and again
SHEPHERDING GOD’S SHEEP
January 1939 saw the start of a new arrangement for traveling overseers. Norway was divided into four zones, or circuits. The circuit overseers (then called zone servants) were to spend more time at each place than they had before. They put much more emphasis on assisting the congregations, organizing new congregations, and helping interested people take up the ministry. Andreas Kvinge was appointed to serve as circuit overseer in Circuit 4, which extended 1,600 miles [2600 km], all the way from Florø to Kirkenes. In that vast stretch of land, there were just three congregations
Andreas traveled northward with his wife, Sigrid, mainly by bicycle. He tried to help publishers and interested ones to progress in the truth. Pioneers such as Solveig Løvås gave Andreas additional information about interested ones who needed spiritual assistance. For example, she told him about Dag Jensen at Hennes and Frits Madsen on the island of Andøya.
In 1940, when Andreas met Dag for the first time, “he was shaving, and his face was full of soap,” recalls Andreas. “I will never forget those beaming eyes surrounded by lather. He forgot completely about shaving.” Andreas helped Dag to make spiritual progress. Dag was enthusiastic, and soon he helped his wife, Anna, and many of his friends and relatives to learn the truth.
In the village of Bleik on Andøya, Andreas sought out the young fisherman Frits Madsen. With Andreas’ help, Frits and his wife became the foundation of the congregation that was later formed there. In many other places, Andreas and his wife visited those who had initially been contacted by Solveig and other hardworking pioneers. Andreas and the other circuit overseers arranged meetings and formed congregations. As was true of the first-century Christian congregation, some in Norway were planting, and others were watering; but in a mighty way, “God kept making it grow.”
WORLD WAR II ROCKS NORWAY
In April 1940, Norway was dragged into the second world war when German troops invaded the country. After just 62 days of combat, the entire country was under the control of Nazi Germany. By then, several towns had been subjected to intense bombardment. Some days after the invasion began, the Gestapo arrested the branch overseer, Enok Öman, and imprisoned him for a week. After a short interrogation, the officers released him. Some weeks later the Gestapo again took Brother Öman in for interrogation.
The brothers feared that the Nazis would send them to concentration camps, as had been done in Germany. But the Nazis took no such action, and the publishers continued preaching with determination and zeal. Actually, people seemed to be more receptive to the good news because of the war, and many home Bible studies (then called model studies) were started. The brothers still received the Danish Watchtower from Denmark, while Consolation (Ny Verden) continued to be published in Norwegian. The brothers still held meetings and assemblies, and amazingly the number of publishers increased.
CONFISCATIONS, ARRESTS, AND THE BAN
But trouble was brewing. Yet again, German policemen came to the branch office, asked for literature, and interrogated Brother Öman. Late in 1940, they confiscated the book Enemies because of statements in it regarding Fascism and Nazism. Early in 1941, the police arrested and interrogated several pioneers. German and Norwegian Nazis sometimes attended meetings to spy on the congregations. Then, the Nazi authorities came and confiscated the office’s supply of two booklets, Fascism or Freedom and Government and Peace.
Suddenly, in July 1941, the Gestapo initiated a countrywide effort to put an end to our preaching work in Norway. Five German police officers came to Bethel, confiscated what was left of the literature, and took the Bethel family to the police headquarters for interrogation. Brother Öman had to report to the State police every day, which he did for 12 weeks.
In a well-coordinated operation, the Gestapo raided the homes of responsible brothers and confiscated all literature published by the Watch Tower Society. They told the brothers that they would be sent to concentration camps if they did not stop preaching. The Gestapo arrested several brothers and sisters and detained some for a few days.
In Moss the police came to the home of Sigurd Roos and confiscated his literature. Sigurd, his wife, and another brother were arrested. The police demanded that they stop preaching and stop using the name Jehovah. The publishers explained that they would never stop preaching about Jehovah and his Kingdom. Eventually, the police acknowledged: “Well, we cannot take your faith away from you.” After a few hours, they released those steadfast publishers.
The Nazis also went to the home of Olaf Skau, in Oslo. They ransacked his house and confiscated Bibles, literature, and phonographs. They also sealed Olaf’s book cabinet. The officers did not find the publisher record cards, which had been hidden in the oven. Later, the Nazis returned with a truck to take away the books. The leader was SS-Untersturmführer Klaus Grossmann, a feared Nazi. When Olaf asked Grossmann what they would do with the Bible literature, the officer said that they would make paper pulp out of it.
“But don’t you have any fear of Jehovah?” asked Brother Skau.
“Jehovah had better be careful!” answered the Nazi arrogantly. When the Nazis surrendered four years later, Grossmann committed suicide.
The Gestapo arrested Andreas Kvinge in Bodø in July 1941 and asked him where the Witnesses in northern Norway could be found. “I do not know where they are today,” Andreas replied truthfully. Imagine how Andreas felt during the interrogation when the officers scattered the contents of his bag all over the floor
“We know that our activity is now banned,” responded Andreas, “so I can sign that I am aware of this. But even though it is forbidden to hold meetings and distribute magazines and books, we will continue to use the Bible and speak to people about God’s Kingdom.” When it was clear that Andreas would not compromise, the Gestapo released him.
Finally, the Nazi authorities confiscated the house that the brothers were using as the branch office. They permitted Brother and Sister Öman to remain, but the other members of the Bethel family had to leave.
MEETING TOGETHER UNDER BAN
When the Nazis tried to stamp out Jehovah’s Witnesses, the brothers simply shifted their theocratic activities underground. A few brothers did some traveling to visit and encourage the brothers and sisters. Søren Lauridsen, who had served at Bethel for a while, traveled in southern Norway. And in northern Norway, Andreas Kvinge kept on visiting Witnesses in his circuit
Although the authorities prohibited meetings, groups of brothers and sisters continued to assemble to encourage one another. Normally, small groups gathered in private homes, but sometimes they met secretly in larger numbers. How delighted they were in 1942 to have 280 at the Memorial held at two venues in Oslo, with 90 partaking of the emblems!
The Witnesses were even able to arrange secret assemblies at isolated farms or in the woods. The largest of these gatherings was in 1943 in a forest outside the village of Ski. About 180 brothers and sisters assembled from the area around the Oslo Fjord. During one of the intermissions, when the delegates were enjoying a meal, suddenly three German soldiers on horses appeared. What should the brothers and sisters do?
A German-speaking brother approached the soldiers and found out that they wanted to go swimming but had lost their way. Of course, the brothers were eager to show the soldiers where to go.
“What kind of gathering do you think that was?” one of the soldiers asked the others as they departed.
“Probably some kind of choral society,” his companion replied. The brothers and sisters were not about to correct the soldiers but heaved a sigh of relief as the horsemen disappeared into the forest.
Many publishers had stashed publications in novel hiding places. The term “underground” took on new meaning when the brothers buried literature in the ground and dug it up when needed. Brother Skau, who was an electrician, hid one carton of books behind a transformer at his place of work. Brother Øiseth hid literature in a beehive, and Brother Kvinge had a cache in a potato bin.
Concerned that the literature depot in Harstad might be discovered, Lotte Holm went to retrieve all the cartons of literature. She boarded a boat, carefully stacked the cartons on the deck, and sat down on the stack. As the boat departed, Lotte was dismayed to see how many German soldiers were on board and anxiously contemplated how she would unload the literature without being exposed. However, she need not have worried. When the boat docked, the soldiers felt sorry for the old lady who had so many heavy things to carry, so they helped her ashore with all the cartons and even carried them to her home for her. Little did those polite soldiers know how much their kindness benefited the Witnesses at that time.
In spite of the ban, brothers continued smuggling the latest copies of The Watchtower into Norway from Sweden and Denmark. They translated study articles into Norwegian and distributed typewritten copies countrywide. A complex network of couriers traveled by train, bicycle, or boat to get the timely spiritual food to true worshippers throughout the country.
THEY KEPT ON PREACHING
During the war, a situation developed that proved to be a test for the brothers and sisters in Norway. When our work was banned in July 1941, the brothers were advised to be careful so as not to provoke the Nazi authorities. Therefore, many preached informally to friends and relatives or visited people they had spoken to in the past. Some brothers, though, felt that this approach was too passive and that there was nothing to be lost by preaching from house to house using only the Bible. Although there was some disagreement about how the preaching work should be done, both groups had a strong desire to serve Jehovah faithfully in the face of opposition.
What could the brothers do? The war made communication with world headquarters in New York impossible, so it did not seem likely that the matter could be settled quickly. Would the brothers allow their differences to weaken their faith? Or would they continue preaching as best they could and wait for Jehovah and his organization to settle the matter?
It is evident that Jehovah was blessing their faithful service, for the organization enjoyed the same growth during the war as it did in the five years prior to the war. In spite of the war, the ban, and the different ways of doing the preaching, the peak of publishers increased from 462 in 1940 to 689 in 1945
UNITED IN JEHOVAH’S SERVICE
After the war ended in 1945, William Dey came to Norway in July and August to help the brothers reorganize their activity. Brother Dey arranged meetings in Oslo, Skien, and Bergen and appealed to all the brothers to unify their sincere efforts. He pointed out that they had experienced Jehovah’s blessing, had seen an increase, and could move ahead with confidence in Jehovah’s guidance.
In September 1945, Nathan H. Knorr, at world headquarters, contacted Marvin F. Anderson, a 28-year-old American brother of Danish descent who had served at Bethel in New York and was serving as a circuit overseer in the United States. Brother Knorr asked Brother Anderson if he was willing to travel to Norway to take care of certain matters and to stay in Norway “a good many years.” Brother Anderson agreed, even though it would be some months before he could actually get to Norway.
In the meantime, Brothers Knorr and Henschel visited Norway in December 1945. Their loving direction helped the brothers forge a strong bond of love and unity. At the same time, Brother Knorr announced that Brother Dey would take over from Brother Öman as branch overseer. A month later, Brother Anderson arrived in Norway, and in February he was appointed branch overseer. With World War II behind them, Jehovah’s servants throughout Norway set out in the ministry with renewed vigor, confident of Jehovah’s blessing.
JEHOVAH’S ORGANIZATION ON THE MOVE
By the time Marvin Anderson arrived in Norway, the branch was bustling with activity. In September 1945, the publishers were supplied with one booklet in Norwegian and four in Swedish. The following month, the October 1, 1945, Watchtower was published in Norwegian, as were more publications in time.
An amusing situation illustrates the value of having literature in the Norwegian language. One of the Swedish booklets was entitled Hopp
When Brother Anderson became branch overseer in 1946, the branch office was very cramped, thus he stayed in a room with five other brothers. Non-Witness occupants who had been living in the building since the Nazi era had to be relocated to make room for the growing Bethel family.
Brother Anderson energetically went to work in his new assignment. The branch office was renovated, and new equipment was obtained, including a foot-powered printing press. In 1946 an exciting new school was initiated in the congregations
The first conventions after the war were held in Oslo, Bergen, and Trondheim in September and October of 1946. In all, at the three sites, 3,011 attended the public talk “The Prince of Peace,” and 52 were baptized
In December 1946, after an interruption of more than five years, the circuit work was resumed. A number of young brothers, some of whom had served at Bethel, were assigned as circuit overseers (then called servants to the brethren). One of their primary objectives was to train the publishers in the house-to-house ministry, and they tried to work with as many as possible in each congregation. Gunnar Marcussen, one of the young circuit overseers at the time, relates that in some congregations he worked with between 50 and 70 publishers during a week-long visit. Gradually, the publishers became more skilled in presenting the Kingdom message, and they ceased using testimony cards and phonographs, which had been used since the 1930’s. Greater attention was also given to making return visits and conducting Bible studies.
PROMOTING PIONEER SERVICE
After the war, publishers were encouraged to enroll as pioneers to help the growing number of those who were showing an interest in the Kingdom message. Consequently, several publishers who had stopped pioneering when our work was banned in 1941 now resumed full-time service. Though economic conditions were difficult, 47 brothers and sisters had begun pioneering by the end of 1946.
One of those pioneers was Svanhild Neraal, a sister who traveled north to the county of Finnmark in 1946. Svanhild had pioneered there in 1941 with Solveig Løvås and had experienced the bombing of both Kirkenes and Vardø. Svanhild could not forget the interested people she and Solveig had met, so she returned to Kirkenes, now devastated by the war. Local people thought Svanhild was out of her mind, going to that area without even a place to stay.
Nevertheless, Svanhild trusted in Jehovah, and during the first winter, she slept on the kitchen floor of a small house where five other people lived. Postwar conditions were extremely difficult, and she endured many hardships. Often she waited in the snow and icy rain for boats that did not arrive as scheduled, if they came at all.
Svanhild had many interesting experiences preaching to the Sami people. If she was not able to get out to their isolated communities by bus, she went by riverboat or by bicycle. Hospitable Sami often invited her into their tents made from reindeer hides and listened intently as she witnessed with the help of interpreters. At mealtimes they invited her to share their meal of reindeer meat. Some who heard the good news from Svanhild later accepted the truth.
Kjell Husby, who was serving at Bethel at that time, said that the branch always knew where Svanhild was, simply by the addresses of the subscriptions that she submitted. In the three years she was in Finnmark, she obtained 2,000 subscriptions for The Watchtower and placed 2,500 books!
“FISHERS OF MEN”
After the war, congregation publishers also shared eagerly in the preaching work, with heartwarming results. During the war, Dag Jensen, mentioned earlier, had preached to friends and relatives in the little village of Hennes in Vesterålen. Many showed interest and studied the Bible using our literature. When the war ended in 1945, Dag was baptized. The following year, when a congregation was established in Hennes, 16 individuals were baptized at Dag’s home. Five years later, the congregation had about 50 publishers, and in 1971, Dag reported that more than 20 from that congregation had started to pioneer.
Dag’s love for Jehovah and his zeal for the ministry were contagious. “When Dag walked into a home,” recalls Åshild Rønning, who grew up in the congregation, “you could not fail to see his happy and enthusiastic disposition. It was like having the sun in the house.” Dag was always very encouraging to children, such as when they had assignments in the Theocratic Ministry School. “He made us feel that what we did was important,” says Åshild. With that kind encouragement, Åshild herself started pioneering in 1962 and has also had the joy of sharing “the glorious good news of the happy God,” Jehovah, with others.
Why did so many from this place become zealous Witnesses? Although most in the small community were not churchgoers, they believed in God and the Bible. Moreover, many of the Witnesses were known in the community as good family heads who had the support of their loyal wives. One of these family heads was Arnulf Jensen, Dag’s nephew, who was baptized in 1947. On weekdays, he earned a living as a fisherman, going out to sea in his fishing boat for several days at a time. But every Friday evening, he came home, even if the fishing was good and other fishermen stayed out to make more money. Arnulf made sure that he was at home on the weekends to attend the meetings and take part in the preaching work with his wife and their eight children
“WE CARRY OUT AN IMPORTANT WORK”
The missionary training given at the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead in New York has been of great benefit to the brotherhood in Norway. Hans Peter Hemstad and Gunnar Marcussen, who graduated from Gilead in 1948, were the first two students from here. They were assigned to Norway and served in the traveling work and at Bethel, first as single men and later with their wives. From 1948 to 2010, about 45 from Norway graduated from Gilead School. More than half of them were assigned to Norway and have served as full-time preachers or traveling overseers or as members of the Bethel family.
Among other early Gilead-trained missionaries to arrive in Norway were Andreas Hansen from Denmark and Kalevi Korttila from Finland. In 1951 they were sent to East Finnmark, where they covered great distances by boat, by bicycle, and on skis. Often, they built on the spiritual foundation that Svanhild Neraal had laid some years before. As a result, after just one year, the number of publishers in their territory increased from 3 to 15!
Kjell Martinsen from Hennes in Vesterålen graduated from Gilead in 1953 and was assigned to Norway. At 22 years of age, he was sent out in the traveling work in Vestfold and Telemark. Though he found it to be intimidating to serve as a traveling overseer at such a young age, he has many happy memories of the warm welcome and loyal cooperation he received from more-experienced brothers. Kjell served as a traveling overseer until 2001 when, with his wife, Jorunn, he settled in Svolvær in Lofoten to serve as a pioneer.
Karen Christensen came from Denmark in 1950 to pioneer in Egersund and Kongsvinger, where there were no congregations. She covered the territory on her bicycle. After graduating from Gilead in 1954, she was sent to Kongsberg. In 1956 she married Marvin Anderson and has served at Bethel since then. Karen has now enjoyed more than 60 years in the full-time ministry. “We are not important people,” Karen acknowledges, “but we carry out an important work.”
From 1948 to 1951, the increase was particularly good. In 1951, there was an increase of 29 percent in the average number of publishers, reaching a peak of 2,066. At the same time, however, Jehovah’s servants in Norway faced some legal challenges.
The case that attracted the most attention was in connection with street witnessing with The Watchtower. In November 1949, some publishers who were doing street work in Oslo were taken to the police station and then let go after a few hours. Undaunted, the Witnesses did street work again the following weekend. Then, on December 6, 1949, all the publishers who were doing street work in Oslo were arrested. They were told that they were not allowed to offer the magazines on the street without police permission. The police claimed that their work could cause congestion and disturbances and obstruct the flow of traffic. Seven of the publishers were questioned and taken to court, where they were required to pay a small fine or were sentenced to three days in jail.
Because this was not just a matter of obtaining police clearance but involved the right to exercise their religious beliefs freely, the brothers appealed the case to Norway’s Supreme Court. In the newspaper Dagbladet, Jehovah’s Witnesses’ news representative John Roos pointed out that our street witnessing had never caused any disturbance. “If religious preaching is carried out on the street without disturbance of the peace, without obstructing the traffic, and without causing crowds,” he reasoned, “is it necessary to ask for the permission of the police? Or does freedom of religion give any citizen the right to such preaching?” While waiting for the Supreme Court’s decision, the Witnesses continued doing street work in spite of continued arrests and increasing fines. Some publishers were arrested up to ten times.
On June 17, 1950, the Supreme Court reversed the city court’s decision, and the publishers were acquitted! This and other favorable decisions confirmed that Jehovah’s Witnesses have the legal right in Norway to offer Bible literature, both on the streets and from house to house, without asking for police permission.
In the 1950’s and 1960’s, many memorable conventions strengthened the organization and drew the Witnesses closer together. Nathan H. Knorr and Milton G. Henschel, from the world headquarters, were two of the speakers at the national convention held in Lillehammer in 1951. Delegates flocked to the convention from all parts of the country. How excited the delegates were to see 89 baptized and to have 2,391 present at the public talk! In subsequent years delegates from Norway were thrilled to attend international conventions in London and New York. Then, in 1955, about 2,000 Norwegian Witnesses attended an international convention in Stockholm, Sweden.
The 1965 “Word of Truth” international assembly held in Oslo at the Ullevål Stadium was certainly a highlight. There was, however, a challenge. Norway’s national soccer team was playing against another national team in the stadium the evening before the program was to begin. An army of Witnesses waited outside the gates until the soccer enthusiasts departed, and then they swarmed in to prepare the stadium for the assembly. They labored all through the night
The hospitable Norwegian brothers and sisters accommodated more than 7,000 foreign delegates, most of them from Denmark. A tent camp was set up in a field just outside the city. It was ideal while the weather held. However, the 6,000 who camped there will not quickly forget the rain, which turned the ground into a quagmire during the first days of the assembly. Everyone was grateful when the weather improved for the last two days. Despite the unpleasant weather, local and visiting delegates basked in the warmth of happy Christian association, and they were refreshed by the timely spiritual program. How delighted they were to have 199 baptized and a record attendance of 12,332 for the public talk given by Brother Knorr!
“WITNESSING IS OUR LIFEBLOOD”
In addition to witnessing from house to house and on the streets, many brothers and sisters have enjoyed good results when witnessing informally. In 1936, Konrad Flatøy, who worked as a stoker on a ship, offered the mate a booklet. The mate, Paul Bruun, accepted the booklet and read it the same night.
“I immediately realized that this was the truth,” Paul said, “and the booklet showed me the difference between true and false religion.” As Paul learned more, he started to witness to others, and during the war, he conducted a Bible study with an interested sailor. As the sailor’s Bible knowledge increased, he felt that he could not operate the onboard machine guns. When the authorities found out about the sailor’s stand, they ordered Paul to stop the Bible study. He refused, so both he and the sailor were put ashore in London. A month later, that ship sank after being hit by a torpedo. Subsequently, the sailor went on to become a baptized brother and Paul was invited to attend Gilead missionary school. After graduating in 1954, Paul was sent to the Philippines as a missionary. Later he returned to Norway and served as a circuit overseer, with the support of his wife, Grethe.
In 1948, Holger Abrahamsen worked transporting workers to and from a big dredge in Narvik harbor. His motto was, “Witnessing is our lifeblood; without it, we are dead.” So Holger never missed an opportunity to witness to his passengers. One such passenger, Olvar Djupvik, became interested and told his fiancée, Anne Lise, about the Paradise hope. Both got baptized, and later they raised their four sons as servants of Jehovah. One of them, Hermann, served as a missionary in Bolivia with his wife, Laila. Hermann and Laila returned to Norway and are now serving in the traveling work here.
TAKING CARE OF JEHOVAH’S SHEEP
During the 1960’s and 1970’s, important organizational adjustments were made at the branch office and in the congregations. Roar Hagen followed Marvin Anderson as the branch overseer. Then, in 1969, Thor Samuelsen was assigned to oversee the branch. In 1976, a Branch Committee was appointed to take oversight of the branch, with Thor Samuelsen, Kåre Fjelltveit, and Niels Petersen being the first members of the Norway Branch Committee.
In October 1972, bodies of elders were appointed to serve as spiritual shepherds in the congregations. Mature men in the congregations were helped to qualify to shepherd the many new ones who were accepting Bible truth. Since then, Jehovah has blessed his people richly as they have served loyally under his loving oversight.
THE SAMI RESPOND TO THE GOOD NEWS
For several decades, many pioneers and others have preached the good news to the Sami people, including reindeer herders deep in the mountain plateau of Finnmarksvidda. Although most Sami speak Norwegian, publishers at times have had to use interpreters. One of the first Witnesses who preached extensively in the Sami language was Aksel Falsnes, who was partly of Sami origin and spoke Sami, Norwegian, and Finnish. His sister, who lived in southern Norway, had come into the truth and had sent him one of our publications, which he read with great interest. There were no Witnesses in the part of Troms where he lived, but in 1968 some pioneers and a circuit overseer visited Aksel and helped him make spiritual progress.
Aksel proved to be a zealous publisher. He often put his bicycle in his rowboat early in the morning, rowed across the fjord, and then used his bicycle to get from one community to another. With his knowledge of the Sami language, Aksel was able to give a good witness to Sami people in the far reaches of Finnmark.
Aksel was a hardy person, and he traveled long distances on skis to reach isolated homes. For example, late one winter he skied from Karasjok across a mountain plateau to Kautokeino and then on to Alta. All he could take with him was a simple backpack with a few personal items and some literature. After a few weeks, he arrived at the home of friends in Alta, having covered the entire distance of about 250 miles [400 km] on skis!
In the early 1970’s, several Sami came into the truth. In Hammerfest, a Sami woman and her husband began studying with Jehovah’s Witnesses. Soon, some of her relatives in Alta became interested. Arne and Marie Ann Milde, special pioneers in Alta, started a Bible study with these sincere people and often had 10 or 12 in attendance at the study. Eventually, about half of them became Witnesses.
“It is a challenge to preach in the Sami territory,” says Hartvig Mienna, a Sami pioneer in Alta who uses his snowmobile to reach isolated people. “The distances are great, and many of the people are bound by their tradition. But they are hospitable, and we have been able to start several Bible studies with them.”
YEARS OF EAGER ANTICIPATION
There was a steady increase in publishers from the mid-1960’s till the mid-1970’s. But expectations regarding the year 1975 proved to be a test of faith for some brothers. When the great tribulation did not come in 1975, a few left the organization; and between 1976 and 1980, there was a slight decrease in publishers. Others who felt disappointed slowed down in their Christian activity for a while. How, though, did the majority feel about continuing in their service to Jehovah?
“There was anticipation and some excitement with regard to 1975,” admitted Hans Jakob Lilletvedt, “but my faith did not depend on it.”
“We did not dedicate ourselves to Jehovah with a particular date in mind, so we just moved on without making any changes,” said faithful, longtime Witnesses, John and Edith Johansen.
“I am going to serve Jehovah forever,” reasoned Lea Sørensen. “Whether the end comes in 1975 or later is not important.”
A NEW BRANCH OFFICE
The workload at the branch increased toward the end of the 1970’s. Thus, more Bethelites were needed as well as additional residential and work space. Consequently, in 1979 the Governing Body approved plans to build a new branch office outside Oslo. Toward the end of 1980, the brothers found a well-suited site at Ytre Enebakk, about 20 miles [30 km] from the center of Oslo.
In order to keep construction costs to a minimum, volunteers were invited to build the complex. It was quite a challenge to acquire construction equipment, provide food and accommodations for nearly 100 people, and coordinate the entire project.
A total of more than 2,000 local and foreign brothers and sisters ‘offered themselves freely.’ (Ps. 110:3, ftn.) Many helped out by donating potatoes, vegetables, fruit, bread, eggs, fish, clothing, and equipment. Some felled trees in the forest, while others cut the logs into planks at the small sawmill on the construction site. Countless others helped by making loans and giving monetary contributions.
Some skilled workers could help only for a limited time, and much of the work had to be done by unskilled volunteers. John Johnson, who was responsible for all electrical installations, describes how inadequate he and other construction overseers felt. “The volunteers learned how to do the work and did a remarkable job,” says John. “It was amazing to see how problems were solved and how it all turned out. It was evident that Jehovah God was directing the construction.”
Thanks to the diligence of the volunteers, the generosity of the brothers and sisters, and the blessing of Jehovah, the work proceeded well. Construction started early in 1981, and on May 19, 1984, during the visit of Milton Henschel of the Governing Body, the new branch office was dedicated. The construction project itself was a source of great joy and brought the Norwegian brothers closer together. In the years after the building project, many of the construction volunteers enrolled as auxiliary or regular pioneers.
SPEEDING UP KINGDOM HALL CONSTRUCTION
It was back in 1928 that four of the Fjelltvedt brothers constructed the first hall for Jehovah’s worshippers in a suburb in Bergen. By the beginning of the 1980’s, several congregations had built or purchased their own Kingdom Halls. But many congregations were still conducting meetings in unsuitable rented halls. During the branch construction, some brothers discussed how they could speed up the construction of Kingdom Halls. They knew that teams of brothers in the United States and Canada were erecting quickly built Kingdom Halls, and they wondered, ‘If the brothers over there can do it with Jehovah’s help, why can’t we?’
Some brothers worked on drawings and formulated specific details, and after a pilot project in Askim in 1983, they erected three quickly built Kingdom Halls in 1984
During the next ten years, about 80 quickly built Kingdom Halls were constructed in Norway. Later, Norwegian brothers traveled to Iceland to help build three Kingdom Halls. Even though most of the congregations in Norway now have their own Kingdom Hall, there is still much to do in this field. Old halls need to be renovated, some halls need to be expanded, and new halls still need to be built.
“THE BROTHERHOOD HAS BEEN STRENGTHENED”
Kingdom Hall construction has provided practical and attractive places of worship, and it has given a good witness to local communities. For example, three brothers met with city officials in Fredrikstad to arrange the construction of a Kingdom Hall in 1987. The officials laughed when the brothers said that they would complete the hall in three days. But even on the first day, Friday, it became apparent to the officials that the Witnesses would complete the hall as planned. On Saturday one of the officials brought his brass band to the construction site and had them play music for the volunteer workers
Today there are two Regional Building Committees that supervise Kingdom Hall construction throughout Norway. Willing brothers and sisters have also made themselves available for bigger and more demanding building projects. For example, in 1991 and 1992, the brothers had to expand the branch office. And in 1994, they built a beautiful Assembly Hall in Oslo. In 2003, a construction team erected a large Kingdom Hall in Bergen, which can be used for congregation meetings as well as assemblies.
The cooperation and unity of purpose these projects engender have also had a good effect on Jehovah’s servants. “This has helped the congregations to be even more close-knit,” says a brother who has helped with Kingdom Hall construction since 1983. “The brotherhood has been strengthened
INCREASED ACTIVITY AT BETHEL
After the new branch office was completed, it was possible to increase the staff and do more to benefit the preaching work in Norway. For example, an increasing amount of literature has been translated into Norwegian. A milestone was reached when the entire New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures was published in Norwegian in 1996. (The New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures had already been released in 1991.) Now virtually all literature published by Jehovah’s Witnesses is available in Norwegian, including the reference work Insight on the Scriptures.
The new branch facilities also included a much-needed recording studio. Beginning in the 1960’s, convention dramas were recorded in Kingdom Halls and in the attic and the basement of the previous branch building. Conditions for recording were not ideal, and it was often necessary to interrupt recordings because of traffic noise. But the recording studio in the new facilities has greatly expedited the production of dramas, videos, and vocal renditions of our Kingdom songs. The branch also produces recordings of The Watchtower and Awake! in Norwegian and has made the entire Bible and several other books available on CD and on the Web site www.jw.org.
SERVING WHERE THEY WERE NEEDED MORE
While congregation publishers preach in their own neighborhoods, many publishers and pioneers have traveled to unassigned territories as far north as Longyearbyen on the Svalbard archipelago. Some publishers have moved to various remote places to proclaim the good news and, where possible, help to establish congregations.
When Finn and Tordis Jenssen got married in 1950, they knew that there was a need for publishers in Hammerfest, one of the northernmost cities in the world. Finn and Tordis did not have much money; but they had strength and determination, and they had bicycles. So they set out on their bicycles from Bodø to Hammerfest, a trip of about 560 miles [900 km]. When they had covered about half the distance, some friends kindly helped them monetarily so that they could do the rest of their journey by boat. In Hammerfest, Finn and Tordis got busy preaching and inviting people to the public talks that Finn gave each weekend. Jehovah blessed their diligent efforts, and soon they were able to form a small congregation.
One of the speakers at the district convention in Trondheim in 1957 encouraged publishers to consider moving to a place where there was a need for preachers. Viggo and Karen Markussen, who lived in Stavanger, were paying careful attention, and Viggo nudged Karen with his elbow. Karen immediately realized the implication of that. ‘Our days in Stavanger are numbered,’ she thought. But what would their three daughters, all of whom were publishers between the ages of 11 and 14, think of a move?
When the Markussens discussed the talk after the convention, the whole family agreed that they could make themselves available to serve where there was a greater need. In response to their correspondence, the branch office asked them to move to Brumunddal, where there was no congregation. Thus, in 1958, Viggo and Karen sold their modern house, Viggo sold his furniture shop, and the family moved to a simple log cabin close to Brumunddal. Jehovah blessed their self-sacrificing spirit, and in the following years, many of those with whom they studied came into the truth. By the time the girls left home and Viggo and Karen were assigned to serve in the circuit work, there was a zealous little congregation of about 40 publishers in Brumunddal.
Young single brothers have also been able to advance Kingdom interests by moving to places where there was no congregation. In 1992 a group of pioneer brothers, most of them about 19 years of age, moved to Måløy, in Nord Fjord, to follow up interest that had been shown there. They got busy in the preaching work and immediately started conducting meetings in their rented house. A newly interested woman with whom they studied was very hospitable and became like a mother to the young brothers. Later, an elder and his wife moved to Måløy and a congregation was established. The young brothers had a wonderful time in their assignment, conducting many Bible studies, caring for numerous congregation assignments, and strengthening the vibrant new congregation. “That was a spiritual adventure and a unique opportunity to grow spiritually,” one of the young brothers said. As a result of the hard work of these and others, there are now about 30 publishers in the Nord Fjord Congregation, and they conduct between 50 and 60 Bible studies.
WITNESSING IN OTHER LANGUAGES
In the past 20 years or more, there has been a steady increase in the number of immigrants living in Norway. Congregations have therefore made a concerted effort to witness to them in their own language or in a language they understand. The first foreign-language congregation in Norway, established in 1986, was called the Oslo Latin Congregation, because it hosted both Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking people, mostly from Latin America. About the same time, some publishers started organized witnessing to English-speaking people in the Oslo area. The publishers met many interested ones, especially from Africa and Asia. Some they found while doing street work; others they met at refugee reception centers. They also made good use of telephone directories to find people with foreign names who might speak English. Many Bible studies were started, and in 1990, the Oslo English Congregation was formed.
Since then, many Norwegian publishers have endeavored to learn foreign languages. Together with publishers of foreign origin, they have helped to establish groups or congregations for people who speak Arabic, Chinese, English, Persian, Polish, Punjabi, Russian, Serbo-Croatian, Spanish, Tagalog, Tamil, and Tigrinya.
The sign-language field has also experienced fine growth. There are a few thousand deaf people who use Norwegian Sign Language, and the organization is working hard to help them. In the 1970’s, brothers started interpreting some meetings, assemblies, and conventions into sign language, and since then, several publishers have learned to sign. Sign-language groups have been established in some congregations, and in 2008 the first sign-language congregation was established in Oslo. Nationwide, there are about 25 deaf publishers, who make good use of the publications that have been translated into Norwegian Sign Language and are available on DVD.
HOSPITAL LIAISON COMMITTEES
Because Jehovah’s Witnesses do not accept blood transfusions, it has sometimes been difficult for Witness patients to receive the medical treatment that they need and are willing to accept. In order to assist Witnesses in such situations and provide information about alternative treatments, the organization established Hospital Liaison Committees (HLC) in Norway in 1990. From 1990 to 2010, the brothers on the Oslo HLC held about 70 meetings with medical staff at hospitals in their area and provided assistance in more than 500 individual cases. Their diligent efforts have helped them contact many cooperative doctors, and the medical information the HLCs have provided has moved more doctors to use alternatives to blood transfusions. The helpful support provided by Patient Visitation Groups is also very much appreciated by patients and their families.
Illustrating the value of the HLC arrangement is the experience of Helen, a young pioneer sister. In 2007 she became seriously ill and was sent to a local hospital. Her blood count was dropping rapidly, and the medical personnel put pressure on her to accept a blood transfusion, saying that a transfusion was the only thing that could save her life. With the help of a member of the HLC, she was transferred to a hospital that was larger and better-equipped. When Helen and her mother arrived, a brother from the HLC was there to meet them, provide reassurance, and help them get the needed care. The hospital agreed to give Helen a treatment that stimulates the production of red blood cells. Within a few days, her blood count improved, and soon she was out of danger. Now Helen is in good health again, and she appreciates the fact that the hospital respected her deeply held convictions. Helen and her mother say, “Seeing how Jehovah’s organization functions and how the brothers and sisters supported us and prayed for us is something that we will always be grateful for and will never forget.”
COUNTERACTING A MALICIOUS MEDIA ATTACK
Especially between 1989 and 1992, Jehovah’s Witnesses in Norway were objects of a smear campaign and much negative publicity in newspapers and magazines as well as on radio and TV. One of the main reasons for the opposition was our adherence to what the Bible says about the treatment of disfellowshipped ones. (1 Cor. 5:9-13; 2 John 10) Because of the negative publicity, Witnesses endured unpleasant encounters in the ministry, at work, at school, and also with family members. Although Jesus’ followers are not surprised when they are reproached, the situation was not easy to cope with.
“This was a difficult period,” explains one brother, “but it had benefits too. It made me review the Scriptural basis for my beliefs. It was faith-strengthening to reflect on the good spiritual food we receive from the faithful and discreet slave. As a result, I think that we have been fortified to face tests of faith.”
“It was inspiring to see the courage of the brothers and sisters in that period,” recalls a circuit overseer. “We realized that the best response we could give was to devote ourselves even more to the field ministry, including street witnessing. Happily, many Witnesses responded in a positive way.”
Note how, in contrast with the unscriptural thinking promoted by the media, one formerly disfellowshipped person felt about the Bible’s direction on disfellowshipping. “When I was disfellowshipped at 20 years of age,” says Fred, “I started to think seriously about my life. The situation was not pleasant, but the disfellowshipping action had a positive effect. It was as if Jehovah were saying to me: ‘Now you must pull yourself together, son! Unless you mend your ways, you will fare badly.’ It was a necessary lesson that made me abandon my sinful course. Instead of being occupied with excitement and fun, I began to take the truth seriously. In addition, some of my friends developed a more wholesome attitude.” Happily, Fred repented, changed his ways, and was reinstated. He now serves as an elder.
“READY TO FACE JEHOVAH’S DAY”
In spite of widespread materialism and increasing apathy in the territory, Jehovah’s servants have continued giving priority to faith-strengthening spiritual activities, such as daily Bible reading and attendance at congregation meetings. A growing number of publishers have increased their share in the ministry by enrolling as regular pioneers. One brother expressed the sentiments of many when he said: “If I am not ready to face Jehovah’s day tomorrow, I will not be ready the day it does come. We just have to keep moving ahead. It will come one day.” It is no doubt this sort of attitude that has contributed to the steady growth apparent since 2001.
A spiritual provision that has had a stimulating effect on the congregations and has given many brothers fine theocratic education is the Ministerial Training School (now called the Bible School for Single Brothers). “The opportunity to study the Bible so intensely for eight weeks,” reflects one student, “let me experience the truth in a way that I had never experienced it before. Everything in the Bible became much more vivid and real to me!” In the past two decades here, more than 60 graduates have helped strengthen congregations and stir them to increased activity.
RAISED AS JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES
Many who have been baptized as Jehovah’s Witnesses over the years learned Bible truths from their parents. Some Norwegian publishers are third-, fourth-, or fifth-generation Witnesses. “I have often reflected on how fortunate I was to be born into a family that gave priority to serving Jehovah,” says Ivan Gåsodden, a great-grandson of Ingebret Andersen, the first Bible Student in Skien. “Personal study, regular Bible reading, and good friends who shared my goals helped me take a stand for the truth.” Ivan’s sons, André and Richard, also cherish their spiritual heritage as one of their most precious possessions.
“I am very grateful for how my life started out,” says pioneer Bente Bu, a granddaughter of Magnus Randal, who served on the pioneer boat Ruth. “Starting life this way spared me many problems, and I want to use my life for the benefit of others.”
Some who had a spiritually weak period in their youth have subsequently become devoted Witnesses of Jehovah as adults. Thomas and Serine Fauskanger from Bergen, for example, were both raised by Christian parents, but their spiritual progress was slow. What helped them to change the way they viewed worshipping Jehovah?
“In 2002 a young brother who had gone through the Ministerial Training School came to our congregation,” relates Thomas. “He helped me to get involved in the ministry and to pursue spiritual goals.”
When Thomas was 25, he married Serine, and in 2007 they moved to Båtsfjord, Finnmark, to help a pioneer couple take care of the spiritual interest there. Soon, Thomas and Serine also became pioneers. In 2009 they spent three months in unassigned territory in the fishing village of Kjøllefjord, where they and some publishers who accompanied them started more than 30 Bible studies. Thomas and Serine then moved closer to Kjøllefjord to help cultivate the interest. Now they regularly drive about three and a half hours each way to help interested ones. Their lives are full, but Serine says: “My life is now uncomplicated and happy. We have few things but also few problems.”
LOOKING FORWARD WITH FAITH IN JEHOVAH
Life has changed considerably since the Bible Student Knud P. Hammer and others began to preach in Norway. At first, Jehovah’s servants stood out because they taught Bible truth in a religious society that was dominated by churches wielding great influence and teaching false doctrines. Over the decades, countless sincere people were delighted to learn about the Bible and readily took a stand for true worship.
Now, the religious climate in Norway has changed. Fewer people believe in God, and it is considered presumptuous to claim that there is only one true religion. It takes time and effort for interested ones to acquire Bible knowledge and build up their faith in God and the Bible. It often takes longer to learn how to live by Bible standards. Nevertheless, Jehovah continues to draw sincere individuals, whether they live in isolated fishing villages or in modern multistory apartment buildings in crowded cities.
As is the case all around the world, Jehovah’s Witnesses in Norway treasure their “privilege of fearlessly rendering sacred service” to the Sovereign Lord, Jehovah. (Luke 1:74) As they scour this vast territory for righteously disposed people, they get glimpses of the awe-inspiring, paradisaic beauty and serenity that the Creator has purposed for the entire earth. Along with their loyal brothers and sisters earth wide, Jehovah’s worshippers in Norway eagerly anticipate the day when God’s Kingdom will carry out the divine will in every corner of our exquisite planet.
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That did not stop him
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“I went to bed as a Pentecostal, and I woke up as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses”
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“Well, we cannot take your faith away from you”
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‘Now you must pull yourself together, son! Unless you mend your ways, you will fare badly’
An Overview of Norway
Norway is known for its magnificent fjords and breathtaking mountains, as well as its thousands of islands. Excluding the Svalbard archipelago midway between the mainland and the North Pole, the country covers an area slightly larger than Italy. Although Norway can experience intense cold, especially in the Arctic north, the warm Atlantic currents and wind systems keep most of the country more temperate than other countries located at similar latitudes.
Most of the five million inhabitants are ethnic Norwegians, and about 10 percent are immigrants. Many of the Sami people (formerly known as Lapps) still live by fishing, hunting, and trapping, as well as by keeping reindeer.
The official language, Norwegian, has two written forms
Oil and gas production and manufacturing industries are the country’s main sources of income. Fish is a major export commodity. Only about 3 percent of Norway is cultivated land.
Fish, meat, potatoes, bread, and dairy products make up most of the Norwegian diet. Fårikål (mutton and cabbage stew) is a well-known traditional dish. As a result of the influx of many immigrants in recent years, the diet has become more international.
He Poured Himself Out for Jehovah
BIBLE STUDENT FROM 1905
PROFILE A former Free Mission preacher who became a traveling overseer.
▪ WHEN Theodor learned from our publications that the hellfire doctrine is contrary to the Bible, he started to refute the false teaching in his sermons in the Free Mission church
Theodor gave this last talk at the Free Mission church in 1905, and he became a Bible Student that same year. Afterward, he gave countless talks to hundreds of appreciative Bible Students. Theodor supported his family financially by painting houses, while he devoted his weekends to preaching and teaching. With his excellent Bible knowledge and calm and logical way of speaking, Theodor proved to be an effective teacher. He also had a fine singing voice and usually introduced and concluded his talks by singing a song to the accompaniment of his zither.
In 1919, when his family situation made it possible, he began serving as a traveling overseer. He did so until 1935, visiting congregations in Norway, Denmark, and Sweden. It was exhausting work, which included not only encouraging congregations and isolated groups but also giving talks in towns where there were no Bible Students. To illustrate: On one 12-month trip, he had 190 places to visit between Kristiansand in the south and Tromsø in the north. In those days, traveling overseers stayed in most places no longer than a day or two before traveling to the next stop on whatever transport was available.
Even though few of the places he visited had Bible Students, many interested people showed up when he gave a public lecture. For example, when he visited Bodø in 1922, he and Anna Andersen, a pioneer who was visiting there at the same time, preached and invited people to a public talk. Two of those who attended his talk, Johan and Olea Berntsen, showed particular interest. After the talk they invited Theodor and Anna to their home to answer their Bible questions. As a result, the Berntsens became the first Bible Students in Bodø.
Theodor was used to record most of the phonograph record talks that were produced in Norwegian in the 1930’s. He served faithfully until he finished his earthly course in 1955.
He ‘Walked With God’
PROFILE Served as branch overseer from 1921 until 1945.
▪ WHEN Enok was a youth in Sweden, the Bible account about how Enoch “went on walking with the true God” made a deep impression on him. (Gen. 5:22) Enok wanted to do the same as his Biblical namesake. But it was not until he was 31 years of age, when he read the first volume of Studies in the Scriptures, that he learned more about walking with God. He was baptized as a Bible Student and started to pioneer. Later he served at the Sweden branch office.
In 1917, Enok was sent from Sweden to Norway to serve at the branch office, and beginning in 1921, he was assigned to oversee the work in Norway. At that time, the Watch Tower Society’s office was in one room of a building in which Sister Maria Dreyer had an apartment as well as a pedicure salon. After Enok and Maria were married in 1922, they used her entire apartment for the branch office. They worked together at Bethel until Maria’s death in 1944. In 1953, Enok remarried and entered the pioneer service again. With his heavenly calling always in sharp focus, Enok faithfully ‘walked with God’ until his death in 1975.
“He Was a Ray of Sunshine”
PROFILE An enthusiastic preacher despite having a debilitating muscle disease.
▪ WILHELM had a muscle disease that had paralyzed his legs and made it difficult for him to speak. Nevertheless, as soon as he heard the good news in the mid-1930’s, he started telling others about the wonderful truths he was learning. He used his motorized tricycle to engage in the preaching work and regularly went to the Sortland harbor in Vesterålen to play phonograph recordings of Bible talks and place literature. Because of Wilhelm’s disability and isolation, it was not until 1949 that he was baptized. But he was a zealous preacher. Many who traveled along the coast learned the truth from him, and some of them became Jehovah’s Witnesses.
When Wilhelm got older, he lived in a nursing home in Tromsø. With the assistance of other publishers, he continued witnessing by mail. Because of his good-natured and pleasant manner, he was a source of encouragement to others, including the staff at the nursing home. When he died, the manager said: “It always made us happy to go into his room. Because of his faith, he was a ray of sunshine.”
He Kept His Promise
PROFILE Served on pioneer boats for eight years.
▪ IN 1929, Johannes was in the hospital recovering from tuberculosis. He started reading the Bible and promised God that he would serve Him when he recovered from his illness.
Shortly before he was discharged, Johannes read with great interest some of the Bible Students’ books. Later, he acquired more books, which he read four or five times each, and it was not long before Johannes was sharing his newfound truths with others. As soon as he recovered fully, he went to Bergen and called on Brother Ringereide, who suggested that Johannes start pioneering. Although Johannes had barely started preaching, he did not hesitate to enroll as a pioneer.
From 1931 to 1938, he served on the pioneer boat Ester, and then he pioneered about one year on the Ruth, plying the waters along the entire coast as far north as Tromsø. In 1939, Johannes became a traveling overseer in the eastern part of Norway, in addition to serving part-time at Bethel for a while. After World War II, he married Sigrid and pioneered with her. In 1995, Johannes finished his earthly course in Fredrikstad.
Preaching on Level Ground
PROFILE In full-time service since 1946.
▪ RANDI’S parents were baptized as Jehovah’s Witnesses in 1938, and later, Randi took a stand for the truth. In 1946, she accepted an invitation to serve at Bethel, where she met a young brother named Kjell Husby. She and Kjell courted, married, and entered the pioneer ministry. They had a spiritually rich life together in various forms of full-time service until Kjell’s death in 2010.
In recent years, problems with Randi’s legs have made it difficult for her to climb stairs or walk up steep inclines. But she manages reasonably well on level ground and is often seen witnessing on the streets and in stores in Trondheim. To share the good news with everyone she meets, Randi makes sure that she carries literature in no less than eight languages. Also, Randi’s friends in the congregation drive her to numerous people who regularly accept the latest magazines from her.
Randi does not have the strength to do as much as she used to. But she continues to find joy and satisfaction in her whole-souled service, knowing that Jehovah does not ‘forget her work and the love she has shown for his name.’
He Experienced the Transforming Power of God’s Word
PROFILE A former criminal who broke free from demon harassment and drug abuse.
▪ VIKTOR started to use hashish and other drugs as a youth and drifted into a life of crime. He had always been interested in the Bible, and in 1979, tired of his rough life, he wondered if God’s Word could help him. However, his investigation into various religions left him feeling frustrated and dissatisfied.
Eventually, weighed down with depression, Viktor contemplated suicide. Then, he received a letter from his cousin in Bergen who had begun studying with Jehovah’s Witnesses. Viktor went to Bergen and joined the study. At first, he tried to prove that the Witnesses were wrong. But because he had always been concerned about the environment, he was happy to learn that God will “bring to ruin those ruining the earth” and will transform our planet into a paradise.
Viktor immediately started attending meetings with his cousin, and he was impressed by the kindness and hospitality he observed at the Kingdom Hall and in the homes of the Witnesses. What he heard and saw convinced him that he had to change his life and stop taking drugs. As a result of his persistent, heartfelt prayers, Viktor experienced the transforming power of God’s Word and holy spirit.
Viktor’s path to baptism was not easy. Only with Jehovah’s help was he able to break free from the harassment of the demons and recover from two relapses with drugs. He was helped when an elder reassured him that “as a father shows mercy to his sons, Jehovah [shows] mercy to those fearing him.” (Ps. 103:13) Viktor continued to grow spiritually and was baptized in 1981. He still needed to serve a prison sentence for a past crime, but soon after he was released, he started to pioneer. Since then, he has had the joy of helping many others to become servants of Jehovah. He has been particularly successful when preaching in prisons, and two of the inmates with whom he studied have come into the truth.
Viktor has established himself as a reliable family head and elder. He continues to serve as a pioneer along with his wife, Tone, and their son. “The ministry was one of the things that changed me,” Viktor now says. “I am deeply grateful to Jehovah that I can pass on precious spiritual treasures to others.”
He Wanted to Do Something Better
PROFILE A soccer player who wanted to serve Jehovah.
▪ WHEN he was 20, Tom had a promising career playing soccer for one of Norway’s best teams. Tom’s mother was already one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. One day, a young pioneer who came to visit Tom’s mother offered him a Bible study. Tom accepted but pointed out that he had no intention of becoming a Witness.
Tom was touched by the warm welcome he received when he started attending meetings. He also noticed that everyone looked up the scriptures during the program. “It must be the Bible that makes these people so nice,” Tom reasoned.
Eventually, Tom was sure that he had found the truth and that he wanted to serve Jehovah. How, though, would he persuade his soccer team to release one of their promising players? Amazingly, after he explained to the soccer management that he wanted to use his life for something better than soccer, they released him from his contract.
Tom was baptized in 1983 and began pioneering in 1985. In 1987 he moved to Hammerfest with Viktor Uglebakken in order to help out where the need was greater. Later, Tom was appointed as a circuit overseer, and he now serves at Bethel with his wife, Kristina.
1892 Knud Pederson Hammer begins preaching in Norway.
1900 First congregation is formed.
1904 Office is opened in Kristiania (Oslo).
1905 First assembly is held in Kristiania.
1909 and 1911 C. T. Russell visits Norway.
1914 First traveling overseer is appointed.
1914-1915 “Photo-Drama of Creation” draws large crowds.
1920-1925 “Millions Now Living Will Never Die!” is given countrywide.
1925 The Golden Age (Awake!) is published in Norwegian.
1928-1940 Boats used to preach in coastal communities.
1940-1945 Witnessing continues despite wartime opposition.
1945 The Watchtower is published in Norwegian.
1948 First Gilead-trained missionaries arrive.
1950 Supreme Court upholds right to preach with literature.
1965 International convention is held in Oslo.
1984 New branch is dedicated.
1990 Hospital Liaison Committees are appointed.
1994 Assembly Hall is dedicated in Oslo.
1996 Complete New World Translation is released in Norwegian.
2011 New peaks in regular and auxiliary pioneers, publishers, and Memorial attenders.
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1920 1935 1950 1965 1980 1995 2010
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Gulf of Bothnia
Gulf of Finland
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Knud Pederson Hammer
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Reine, northern Norway
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The Skien Congregation in 1911, with Ingebret and Berthe Andersen
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Hallgerd Holm (1), Theodor Simonsen (2), and Lotte Holm (3)
[Pictures on page 98]
Early pioneers: (1) Helga Hess, (2) Andreas Øiseth, (3) Karl Gunberg, (4) Hulda Andersen, and (5) Anna Andersen
[Picture on page 100]
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The Norwegian Golden Age
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Members of the Skien Congregation often went out in an open truck to witness in surrounding areas
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[Pictures on page 114]
Karl Gunberg was captain of the boat Elihu
[Pictures on page 115]
Johannes Kårstad oversaw the boat Ester
[Pictures on page 116]
Andreas Hope and Magnus Randal served on the boat Ruth
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The aurora borealis in northern Norway
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Andreas and Sigrid Kvinge
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A secret assembly in a forest near Ski
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Marvin Anderson with his wife, Karen
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The foot-powered printing press
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1946 convention in Bergen
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Svanhild Neraal, 1961
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Arnulf’s boat was often used for the ministry
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Gunnar Marcussen (1) and Hans Peter Hemstad (2) were the first students from Norway to graduate from Gilead
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Tent camp for the “Word of Truth” international assembly
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Hartvig Mienna and other publishers using snowmobiles when preaching to the Sami
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Branch construction began in 1981
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The branch office today
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Oslo Assembly Hall
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Bible instruction within the family has resulted in generations of faithful servants of Jehovah