Marcus & Amber Yoars

Echoes from the mission field

Introducing a New Addition to the Family …

No, we’re not pregnant! :) We are, however, starting our fourth week here in Hemsedal at KRIK Høyfjellssenter, and things couldn’t be going better. God allowed us to quickly make a deep heart connection with many of the students and staff, and that’s been key to what the Lord continues to do here.

Marcus can write more about this next time since there is much to share, but before more weeks fly by (as they already have since we arrived in Norway), I wanted to introduce you to a very special person in the lives of the Yoars family. Kari Henderson (pictured above) is part of “Team Yoars” in Norway, having joined us a few weeks ago in Stavanger. She’s with us here in Hemsedal and has been an incredible help not only as a nanny to the boys (which has given Marcus and me more time to help serve the students and staff), but also in translating (she’s fluent in Norwegian). However, there’s more to the story when it comes to my Kari Julianna, as I call her …

In 1997, I stepped out of my senior year in college (for a year) and by faith moved to Colorado Springs, Colo., to work with a ministry serving the poor and homeless. I had the opportunity to live with the couple running this ministry, work alongside them and nanny for their children. At the time, their oldest son, David, was 5 years old, and Kari was 3. Since then we’ve been family. Marcus and I have watched the kids grow up (including John Markus, who’s now 14) and been part of their lives all these years. God has always entwined our lives in the craziest ways.

Kari’s mother (and my dear friend), Solveig, is from Norway. Though she’s raised her children and lived in the States most of her adult life, Solveig’s career has largely been in Norway as a recording artist. In fact, few Christians in Norway older than 30 haven’t heard of Solveig Leithaug, as she’s known here. In the summer of 1998 I travelled to Norway with Solveig and the family, and from there God truly gave me a heart for this country that led me to pray for the nation and its people for more than 10 years. I’ve travelled to many countries, but Norway captured me in a unique way and I knew I would be back.

Fast forward to 2013 and Kari was graduating from high school. Marcus and I drove to Nashville to be part of the celebrations, and during that time God began to stir our hearts for Kari. We both believed in her so much and knew we wanted to pour into her in the near future. We also saw how amazing she was with our boys, and how much Brayden and Xander loved her. As the doors continued to open for us in Norway, we had a sense that Kari would somehow be part of it, at least for a season. Meanwhile, we were completely unaware that while she was part of a YWAM DTS in New Zealand, God was also putting on Kari’s heart a deep desire to return to Norway.

So here we are, almost 20 years after I nannied for Kari in Norway, and now she’s doing the same for my children. How cool is that?!

God is so amazingly detailed with our lives. (As yet another twist in this story, Solveig was in fact part of Marcus and my meeting in 2001, and she’s been instrumental in helping to connect us with people here in Norway.)

We’re excited about what lies ahead for Kari. God is going to do amazing things in and through her—she’s an incredibly gifted singer and true worshipper. (This week she’s on tour singing with her mom and has already been helping Marcus when he leads worship in different places.) We’re honored to be part of Kari’s journey and are trying to seize this precious time we have with her. Through the years so many people have poured and sowed into us, and I love that we will forever get to do the same thing for others.

Arriving in Hemsedal

We’ve had an amazing three weeks since our last post visiting old friends and meeting new ones in Bergen and Stavanger, two cities that share the same beautiful Norwegian coastline but showcase their unique personalities as soon as you enter them. In Stavanger we stayed with our dear friends, Steve and Anne Kristen Bruns, and their wonderful children, Julia, Jenny and Mattias. We attended a conference called Åpen Himmel (Open Heaven) at their church, IMI Kirken, where we were able to connect with so many incredible people coming from all over Norway.

We stayed in Stavanger longer than expected, but this ended up being a huge blessing for us. One thing it allowed us to do was get to know the staff at IMI Kirken better. We were so impressed not only with the hearts of the people there and the unity among the leadership, but also the healthy culture Senior Pastor Martin Cave and Lead Pastor Egil Elling Ellingsen have helped to create throughout the church. Imagine combining the best parts of some of America’s leading churches known for discipleship, missions, outreach, healing and “hosting” the presence of God … and you’ve got an idea of the treasure that is IMI Kirken. Their missional approach is making major kingdom impact not only in Stavanger, but throughout Norway and as far as Thailand, Cambodia and Laos. In our opinion, it helps that they’ve had two of the most amazing people we know—Steve and Anne Kristen—helping to steer this through their church network called Agenda1.

In Stavanger we were also able to work on our visa applications in a way we hadn’t expected. Though Marcus had researched the process extensively from the U.S. and we’d been advised to apply shortly after arriving in Norway, we weren’t planning on doing this from Stavanger. Yet we stumbled upon the fact that Stavanger is one of only three cities in Norway with a foreign workers office that can help reduce the application process time. Had we not been there, it’s likely we would’ve had to leave the country after our tourist visa expires. In addition, we were all able to get appointments (which you need to officially submit your application) over a two-day period—something that normally could’ve taken weeks if not months. Once again, God went before us and opened doors we couldn’t have! Now please stand with us in faith that there will be no hitches at the tail end of this process and that we’ll be granted our visa in the coming weeks.

The big news for us now is that we’re in Hemsedal, in the breath-taking mountains of central Norway, and can actually unpack our things. Woohoo! After living out of our suitcases since June 15, we’re ecstatic about being able to “settle down” in one place for the next two months. It begins to wear on you when you haven’t had any routine for more than three months, so we’re thrilled about getting back on a schedule—both for us and the boys.

Just as important is that we’ve been able to quickly plug into the amazing ministry here at KRIK Høyfjellssenter . We’re helping out with KRIK’s Fjellbibelskolen (Mountain Bible College), where 20-30 young adults come for a 10-week “Time Out” program that is the spiritual equivalent of drinking from a fire hose … with some extreme-sport team-building outings on the side.

We arrived Monday, just in time to see the last gasp of fall colors on the trees (thank You, Lord!). Already we’ve experienced a variety of weather typical for these mountains—from bright-blue skies to ominous clouds to the season’s first snow on the mountain peaks. For the last two days the high winds have howled through the valley and our cozy wood cabin has creaked continuously. Today I (Amber) already have my wool layers on (exciting!), but I’ll admit, I’m saddened to watch the fall leaves getting blown off the trees, signaling an abrupt end to my favorite season. From where I’m writing this I can still see a little patch of yellow and red trees—I’ll pretend they’re left just for me to enjoy a couple more days.

Our surroundings are stunning, yet even more beautiful right now are the people around us, many of whom we’ve already melded our hearts with. It’s rare to find a group of staff and students this unified and sincere in their love for each other, and they’ve welcomed us with open arms. The Bible college offers two programs a year, each with slightly different profiles and content. The average age of the students is 25, which means most of them are already beginning their careers or at the end of the university studies. They’re here because they’ve decided to take a “time out” to set everything aside and focus on God. Talk about moldable hearts and teachable spirits!

This week the topics were “Understanding the Father’s Heart” and “Hearing God’s Voice,” and Marcus had the opportunity to teach a few sessions yesterday. First, though, they asked him to share more of his testimony before teaching, and during that time I saw a special thing happen. He talked about his father and what he did in university work as a missionary to Hong Kong and how he invested his life into the Chinese students there. Marcus mentioned that he first met Jesus because of what he saw in his dad. And he shared about his father’s memorial service in 1999—how thousands came to honor the legacy of a man who spent most of his life investing in students’ lives for the kingdom.

Marcus then told them about our own process of being called to the mission field and how it connected to his parents. But when he told the students how much he loved his dad, and that he was standing before them largely because of his father—because of the legacy he’d left him—my sweet husband broke. It took him a few seconds to compose himself, but I will always remember that moment and hold it dear to my heart. Many of the students understood the depth of what he was saying and were crying too. And later, as Marcus wove together his testimony with his teachings, it was as if the Holy Spirit were guiding the entire session. I was so proud of Marcus. I always love seeing him with his teaching hat on—he’s such a gifted teacher (like his dad, I imagine). But I’ve also been proud of how he’s stepped out in faith several times already this week to deliver God-appointed “words” that have gone right to the heart.

As for me, I’ve loved every moment as I’m starting to build relationship and get to know the students and the KRIK staff. I’ve already had some incredible one-on-one times with young women, many of whom have pulled me to the side for a talk and ended up pouring out their hearts to me. We’ve encouraged, counseled, guided and prayed with so many, and yet we’re only a week into this … yes! This is exactly why we’re here, and it’s so fulfilling to once again be in a place where every day we’re being used to mold and shape lives—now as a family. Thank You, Lord … You are so good!

Goodbye, America; Hello, Norway!

We’ve finally arrived in Norway—Bergen, to be exact—and are loving every minute of the cool, fall-like weather in summer. In fact, as I’m typing this a beautiful fog silently crawls over the water and islands outside our window. The slow steadiness couldn’t be in more contrast to the pace of our lives since I left my job and we moved out of our house. It’s been a constant yet irregular rhythm with no routine and a million loose ends that needed to be tied each day. Finally, the to-do lists are all checked off (well, sort of) and the airplane tickets now mere stubs.

Yes, after almost two years of dreaming, praying, planning, praying, connecting, praying and preparing—all based on this driving sense of mission God put in us—we are finally here on Norwegian soil. Our first few days have already flown by as we’ve been staying with our dear friends, Lyder and Anne Leithaug, in Bergen. Saturday we ascended one of the city’s seven mountains (prophetic? Nah …) and took in the breathtaking panoramic views of this fascinating coastal city that blends modern and ancient everywhere you turn. Sunday we joined believers at a local charismatic church, Credekirken, took a walk through the neighborhood and fought off jetlag (we’re doing remarkably well so far on this front).

We’ll be in Bergen the remainder of this week, then head down to Stavanger to attend a conference at one of the largest evangelical churches in the nation, IMI Kirken. There we’ll connect with pastors and leaders from around Norway—something we know will be critical to our developing plans this year. We pray the Lord continues to open doors during our time there with divine connections, just as He’s done all along.

But before I get carried away with what we’ll be doing in the coming weeks and months—which we’ll highlight in future blogs—let me capture what we’ve been up to in the last few weeks.

The first half of July didn’t include much sleep as we worked hard to put our house on the rental market and deal with selling, giving away or storing most of our belongings. We headed to family in Birmingham, Alabama, without having a renter, but—praise God!—within a couple of weeks had renters living in our house.

The following weeks were split between Birmingham and East Texas, enjoying precious time with our families and friends—including living in an RV on our friends’ ranch and waking up to the sounds of chickens, cows, horses, dogs and who knows what else. Brayden and Xander had the time of their lives with their aunts, uncles and cousins; Amber stayed busy with family affairs; and unfortunately I had to work much of the time (I’m still working as a freelancer for Charisma, managing the magazine behind the scenes).

By the time we arrived back in Orlando for our final stretch, we were mentally ready to be in Norway; you can only say goodbye for so long until you’re ready to actually leave. But before our Thursday night flight, we were blessed with a once-in-a-lifetime experience, thanks to our precious church community. Last Sunday our sending church, One Church, prayed for us and officially sent us out. Obviously, this was meaningful enough for us; but what made it even more beautiful was how the Holy Spirit moved through the morning and made every word, song and part of the worship services point straight to Jesus rather than any person or event. It was as if our sending out was simply an extension of what Jesus really wanted to do that day, which was glorify His name and remind His people of His work not only in Orlando or even the U.S., but around the earth. This had been Amber’s and my prayer all along, so it was even more powerful for us.

That night the Spirit’s seal and blessing continued as a large group of our friends held an unforgettable send-off party for us at the Feeding Children Everywhere offices. There we were surrounded by people who have meant the world to us during our seven years in Florida, and we couldn’t have felt more loved, appreciated and blessed. It was such a humbling experience for us as they prayed over us, offered words of encouragement and blessing, and even committed to supporting us financially. We are truly blessed.

By the time our good friends Martijn and Amy Van Tilborgh, who have helped immensely during our transition and as former missionaries know all about our journey of faith, watched us board Norwegian Air flight 7052, we were beyond exhausted yet overflowing with gratitude. Gratitude to friends who blessed us beyond measure as we were sent off. Gratitude to our family for understanding the path we’re taking. And most of all, gratitude to the Lord for His faithfulness and leading throughout.

This journey is all about following Jesus, and Jesus’ heart is for people. So though I’m sure we’ll miss the “things” we’ve left behind—our home, the convenience of American living, Florida’s beaches—this journey is about people. Thank You, God, that it’s the people in our lives—both those we’ve left and those we have yet to meet—where You continue to reveal Yourself more and more.

Things Are Moving … And So Are We!

It’s official: The Yoars family is on our way to Norway! After almost two years since we felt God calling us into full-time missions, we’re finally able to tell others about this incredible journey of faith He has us on. Since this will be news to most of you reading this, we’re excited to share the details of what’s been going on, where in the world—literally—we’re headed and what we’ll be doing.

About two years ago God began working on our hearts in that beautiful, life-altering way that only He can. We sensed a longing like never before to abandon everything and “go” in His name, even though we had no idea where we needed to go to or what we should do. As we sought the Lord more, the calling to be overseas missionaries deepened as He helped us connect the dots between our upbringings, our past experiences and the skill sets He’s equipped us with. In particular, I (Marcus) began to have my eyes opened to the legacy my parents left me from their nearly 35 years as missionaries in Hong Kong and how that has shaped the way I see the world.

While we walked through this process under the counsel of our church’s pastor and his wife, God brought some amazing confirmations that we were walking in His will—everything from how our children reacted to the possibility of us leaving Florida to supernatural affirmations that He would provide. In fact, during one weekend we had at least five couples approach us and, without knowing our situation, tell us that if we ever went on the mission field they would love to support us. Yet probably the greatest sign has been the supernatural peace we’ve had that, despite all the unknowns of our journey (and there are many!), God is with us. We’ve certainly needed that as we’ve counted the cost more. In the natural, it’s scary—I’m leaving a great job and career, we’re putting our house up for rent and we have no assurance of financial security. Yet we’ve jokingly said in recent weeks that even if we end up homeless in a few months, we know God will still provide—and we mean it! When you’re walking by faith, what else matters but following Him in obedience?

So what exactly are we doing? We hope to leave for Norway in August, depending on what happens over the next few weeks. First, we need to raise funds (again, we’re just now getting to share the news!); and second, we’re waiting on some things to line up regarding our visas. Either way, the doors of opportunity continue to open for us, and they include: teaching young adults at a Bible school in Hemsedal; developing a family ministry and mentoring young church staff at a church in Tromsø; and training missionaries and assisting staff at various YWAM (Youth With a Mission) bases throughout the country. Outside of Norway, we’ve been in talks about helping to develop a Bible school in Scotland and a missionary training center in Turkey, though these would likely be later. So though we are Norway-bound, it’s possible the “land of the midnight sun” will simply be a catalyst for future assignments. We know much will unfold once we get there, and others have already confirmed that half the journey is in leaving. Besides, if we had all the answers and knew all the details, where would the faith be?

Because of that, our first year will be an exploratory one in which we’ll be “scouting out the land.” We will spend the time getting to know the culture and language, and most importantly, building relationships with people as God continues to open doors and connect us with churches and ministries around the nation. Our goal is to come alongside and serve whoever may have need of our skill sets–and from what we’ve encountered so far, there are plenty of people for whom this is an answered prayer.

As we step out of the boat, we know this is not a journey we can do alone. We need help. In fact, a couple of months ago, God gently took me aside, so to speak, and reminded me that just as much as He’s called and anointed Amber and me to go, He’s called and anointed certain people to send. I had grown cynical with “partner” letters always asking for money and didn’t want to go the same route. Yet the Lord quickly showed me that there would be times in the future when we would desperately need the support of those joined with us on this journey—and that how much money they donated had almost nothing to do with it.

Would you consider supporting us however you can? Whether that’s committing to intercede for us on a regular basis over the next year or supporting us financially on a regular basis, we’d be honored if you join us either way as we begin our journey. (For prayer support, click here; for financial support, click here.)

Stay tuned over the next few weeks as we find out more. We’ll be blogging and posting updates as plans unfold more, but regardless, we’d appreciate your prayers in the meantime. May God continue to grace us with His wonderful presence as He goes before us every step of the way.