For the third year in a row, the Seventh-day Adventist Church has gained considerable attention at an annual fair in the town of Arendal in southeast Norway. The week-long event, held August 12-17, 2019, is named Arendalsuka (Arendal Week). The 17-foot-long (6-meter-long) church booth showcased the work the Adventist Church does with ADRA in Norway, the benefits of healthy lifestyles, and the work of the Norwegian Bible Institute.
According to local church leaders, the booth presence is a significant contribution to an event that boasts of being “Norway’s largest political meeting place,” with the stated aim of strengthening democracy. Running since 2011, the event has become the place to be for politicians who want to be in touch with numerous non-government organizations (NGOs) showcasing their work during the week.
During Arendalsuka, downtown streets are filled with more than 200 booths run by organizations ranging from the Church City Mission to the Norwegian Association for Rock Blasting Technique. Around 80,000 people visit during the week, learning about the various organizations’ work both through what happens at the stands and 1,258 small and large events highlighting issues of social significance.
It is also a good location to meet top politicians in an informal setting. As a meeting place to make new contacts, Arendalsuka is unique, church leaders said.
Visiting the Adventist Church booth, members of the public enjoyed tasting samples of vegetarian food. A plant-based diet is unusual in Norway, but both young and old were willing to try the nut roast with tomato sauce that was on the “menu” for Wednesday.
Three teenage girls tasted the roast and thought a little when asked, “How is the taste, on a scale of zero to six?” “Five, or five plus,” the girls replied. They took with them one of the latest issues of Sunnhetsbladet, the Norwegian Adventist health magazine.
A chef working on one of the oil rigs in the North Sea said he would like a stronger taste. Another taster suggested a little lemon to accentuate the flavor. Most people said they enjoyed the food samples, which are good for both the stomach and the environment.
“It’s so useful to be here, and it’s so easy to get in touch with people,” said Sunnhetsbladet editor Svanhild Stølen. She became engaged in many interesting conversations with people who wanted to know more about vegetarian food as well as the work of the Adventist Church. “We have to be where people are,” she said.
Arendal Seventh-day Adventist Church elder Torbjørn Fors took afternoons off from his physiotherapy clinic to meet people who came by the booth. He said he was excited about the opportunity to make the congregation visible in the local community.
“It is a delight to be present here, because people are tuned in to meet someone to talk to,” he said.
Arne Lerøy is one of those who stopped at the stand. He stated that he is full of praise for the lifestyle guidance he received from Adventists when he was a patient at the Jeløy Kurbad facilities many years ago. “There I learned about healthy eating and how to take care of my health,” he said.
Gunnar Holanger, 93, has been a member of the Arendal Adventist congregation for almost his entire life. He spent time at the booth but also strolled around to other exhibitors to tell them a little about what the Adventist Church is doing locally, nationally, and globally.
At one of the booths, booth organizers met Torbjørn Hørte, a local politician, running for a seat in the upcoming local government elections. He was full of praise for the Bible study programs on Hope Channel Norway.
“The Bible study programs you produce are great. You read the Bible text and encourage people to read the Bible yourself. I like the way you encourage viewers to read the Bible for themselves,” he said.
Several others who came to the booth were also excited about Hope Channel TV. One mentioned the series about Martin Luther and shared he had been blessed by it.
Designed especially for Arendalsuka, two marquees with print on all the walls that the Adventist Church acquired are able to profile different aspects of church activities and offerings. They are now available for other congregations across Norway to use at local fairs and events.
The city of Arendal has a population of 44,000 that doubles at the time of Arendalsuka. The Adventist presence at the fair is part of the community outreach, bridge-building program of the 4,500 Adventists who live in a widely scattered population of 5.2 million people.