Evangelism Under Nazi Pressure

A story from Norway.

By ERLING BJAANAES, Evangelist, East Norway Conference

In the autumn of 1940 I was removed to a small island in the Oslo Fiord. The curate of the Church of Norway there was a Nazi of high rank, so from the very beginning of my evan­gelistic campaign I expected trouble. And surely enough trouble came. At the close of the first meeting I was told that the curate was present and wished to speak with me. It was with mixed feelings that I went and greeted him. He asked me which denomination I represented, and I answered, "The Seventh-day Adventists." He demanded that I discontinue my campaign, and said that I must not show myself on the island again. Such a demand only inspired me to work the harder, because I felt that God had some souls on Tjiimo who would hear and accept the truth.

At the second meeting he was again present. Rumors had spread over the island concerning his attitude toward me. This had aroused the curiosity of the people so that the hall was packed.

Everything went well until at the close of the meeting I appealed to the people to buy our literature. This they did, which made the curate furious. He arose and called out, "Adventist propaganda." He waved his arms in the air, but this only made him look the more foolish. All his efforts were in vain, for the people flocked around me and bought all the literature I had. This occurred on several occasions.

At another meeting the curate decided to use stronger methods to discourage me. So this night I took an older worker with me. As we began the meeting, the hall was full of interested as well as curious listeners. But we had not got far before trouble came, just as we had thought. The door opened and in marched fifteen S.S. men in full uniform. They clicked their heels, gave the Nazi salute, and then marched up in front of the platform. The looks they gave us were not very encouraging, but as they made no further trouble, we continued our meeting. We expected to be arrested at the close, but nothing happened. God held His hand over us. The work progressed on the island, souls were won to the truth, and before I left I organized a church.

In 1942 I began a campaign in Sandefjord. Before I began I had been told that this town was hard to work. But experience proved it to be the opposite. I worked there for three years, and each year yielded good results. At the close of the first meeting I asked whether there were any present who wished to have an answer to a Bible question over which they were in doubt. If so, they should write it down, and their question would be answered in the following meeting. The questions fairly rolled in, and the majority concerned topics such as we follow in our cam­paigns. I then decided to ask at the second meet­ing whether the people were willing to let me arrange their answers in the form of sermons and take them up in due course. I explained that the most of the questions needed an hour or more to give a good and full answer. This they were more than willing to do.

This proved to be a good way of advertising. I held the crowds all through the campaign, as people were anxious to hear the question answered. Almost every evening the hall was full an hour before time for the meeting to begin. Some even came an hour and a half early so as to be sure of getting a seat. As I was working alone that year, I had very little time to visit interested ones in their homes. My only way of coming in con­tact with them was to open an office. This I did, and announced my office hours, beginning at 10 A.M. on certain days. I had regular visitors, and often there were so many that I did not finish until II P.M.

At first the Sandefjord curate of the Church of Norway was very much against us. But after a while the ice melted, and he was quite friendly. One Sunday he had one hundred forty boys and girls before him who were to be confirmed. The church was full to the last seat. Unexpectedly he began to talk about Seventh-day Adventists, and said in that connection that his listeners should not be so opposed to us, because the seventh day was indeed the Sabbath. Another time he said that he wished he had such devoted workers as the Adventist pastor. He also said that he wished to attend my meetings, but he dared not because he was afraid his church members would follow his example.

Here in Sandefjord the Nazis tried to make trouble for me again and thought they would stop my work. Many times the rumor was spread throughout the town that I was arrested, or that I would be arrested. With this they thought they would create confusion among my listeners. But this method failed. Once I was called up to their office and asked whether I had anything to do, for they thought I was idle. When I told them that I had three churches to look after, they looked at one another and said that I could go. Surely, God has been good. He has kept a watch over me and given success in spite of sore dif­ficulties.

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By ERLING BJAANAES, Evangelist, East Norway Conference

June 1946

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