Pocket Change

From the Winter 2010 issue of Relationships magazine.

When Thor Odland, and his wife, Kate, joined Stavanger, Norway’s international staff in February 2005, they met with both an interesting physical and spiritual climate. Termed "the land of the midnight sun," Norway is known for long summer days and winters that see an average of just about six hours of light each day. While the summer sunlight lasts for up to 21 hours, those winter months, Odland says, tend to be "cloud-covered, rainy and dark."

According to Odland, a first-generation, American-raised Norwegian, the culture there has elevated materialism and sexual promiscuity. "Norwegian inclination toward the subject of God is lost in their self-sufficiency."

When prayer opened the door for Young Life to join hands with the Norwegian State Church's confirmation program a few years ago, Odland and his staff began putting on club for a small group of students each week. What began with about 30 kids has grown to become an avenue for relationships with a group about four times that size. During this year's final club, in an attempt to give kids a chance to respond to the Gospel message, Odland held up a 100 Kroner bill (the equivalent of about $15), saying: "I want to give this to someone. It's a gift and I want you to have it."

Every kid in the room raised his or her hand, vying to be selected to receive the money. One brave young man stood up, opened his palm and Odland gave him the bill. Odland explained that Jesus' redemption is similar, because it's a gift that simply needs to be claimed. In a time and place where darkness is all too common, light is spilling in. In a culture where Jesus is fictionalized, truth is speaking up. In a corner of the map where economic status is prized, Jesus is prodding hearts and minds with pocket change.