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Cold and Dark. But Warm Hearts. (Memories of missionary service in 1970s Norway)


Marilyn Campbell still takes a keen interest in all EMF news, though it is more than forty years since she and her husband Ivan (see photo of an article in a 1974 'Vision of Europe' newspaper) returned from Norway, a land to which they had been sent out as EMF missionaries in 1970. Ivan went to be with his Lord just a few years ago. As EMF renews its commitment to pray for the Nordic countries, and looks to support new workers there, it is good to recall the faithfulness of John and Oline Taylor (now retired) and of Ivan and Marilyn Campbell, who have served in the (literal) darkness of North Norway. Marilyn tells her family's story here...

Ivan and Marilyn in 2010


'Ivan grew up on a farm in Co Tyrone. He studied & worked in Belfast from he was 16. He attended, greatly appreciated the ministry, and became an  active member of Berry Street Presbyterian Church, where Rev Glyn Owen,president of EMF at that time, was the minister.

Ivan came from a strong mission-minded family, with several cousins serving in Africa, Asia and S. America. He was always interested in mission, and engaged in outreach in Belfast and South Ireland. Rev. G. Owen no doubt encouraged his interest in Europe. Ivan was an aeronautical engineer,working in the drawing office at Shorts Aircraft factory Belfast, when he left to go to Belfast Bible College in 1966.


I was born in Belfast, but grew up and was schooled in Dublin due to my father's work. I came to know and love the Lord there, and was interested in mission, greatly influenced by missionary autobiographies. I went to Belfast RVH (Royal Victoria Hospital) to train as a nurse when I was 18 and also attended Berry St. church when off duty. I had been involved in school outreach &  Nurses Christian Fellowship..


We were married in 1968 and went from honeymoon in Ireland to Watford School of Biblical Studies* as mission candidates. We were interested in N. Norway, having heard John Taylor was working alone there. We then met John and Oline, who were also married in '68 and were returning to Espenes. 
After Watford and deputation meetings, we went with baby Carys to join John and Oline in Espenes on 1st May 1970. We had a very helpful time with them, learning Norwegian and the way of life etc. before leaving mid September '70 to go further north, at least a full day's journey to Nordreisa, where we worked with a Christian humanitarian mission which EMF was associated with in those days. We engaged in outreach in the block of flats we lived in, and to elderly, local youth, and children. I must say folk were very patient with our fledgling Norwegian!! Ivan was eager to be involved in church-based work and contacted the pastor of the Frimisjon in Tromsø. The Norske Misjonsforbundet, or Frimisjon as it was known then, was likened to FIEC in Britain. Ivan was impressed with what he saw of that work, and was called into it to minister in Malselv**, a strategic area between Narvik & Tromsø.
 There were 5 small churches & some outposts, mainly born out of spiritual awakening some 30 years before. We were in Malselv from 1971 to 1978, warmly welcomed and supported. Ministry involved preaching and prayer meetings each weeknight at 8pm in each small church, with a childrens'/ youth meeting at 5pm in each centre. The teens gathered to our little flat on Saturday evening.
An early outreach youth meeting, where eventually the Malselv church used today was built

On Sunday the churches came together for united morning worship. Often Ivan was off to an outpost in the afternoon or evening. In all of this, his quiet time with the Lord was his anchor.
The Campbell family in 1974
In 1978 Ivan was called to help in a vacant, struggling work in Vesterålen, a group of islands.
Baptisms in Vesterålen
After prayer and consultation we went with our now 3 children, with the 4th on the way!! A very different situation geographically,weatherwise & spiritually.  Again very warm-hearted folk, strongly influenced by the charismatic movement. They were very appreciative of Bible teaching. This work involved a lot of travel, ferries on rough seas, and winter roads. The same pattern: 3 congregations plus outposts, preaching ministry and childrens' and youth work!
Borgen campsite where Christian youth camps were held each summer.


Ivan became very ill in Autumn 1980, and was in hospital for several weeks, doctors querying liver cancer. He was in hospital, a long winter's journey by road and ferry from his family, and was to be sent to Tromsø, another day's journey away.  It was decided with medical consultants & EMF that we should bring him home. He was transferred to the RVH in Belfast. It was a year and a half before he was well again.
The hardest thing there was probably lack of communication. We didnt have a phone for most of our time there. The Taylors and we lived, mostly, long distances from one another. North Norway is a huge region, with poor roads, and ferries to be negotiated often in winter weather. Communication with homeland, EMF and family was by letter. 
Norway was quite secular then, especially in the North; it has become much more so. We noticed a huge difference in moral standards and sexual activity; pregnancies outside of marriage were normal acceptable standards in general, which impacted particularly work with children and young people. 
Other people might be better judges as to how well we spoke Norwegian. It became our heart language; at that time not many spoke English (very different now!) So it was used in all our communications, used often at home & in our personal devotions. My Norwegian Bible was in daily use.


Despite the challenges, God was faithful in blessing and expanding the work in northern Norway, as you can see from my memories and photos of the work above. 
Another reflection, looking back after all these years, is about God's faithfulness to us as a family through an incredibly challenging departure from Norway as a result of Ivan's illness. Ivan was the rock of our family, and that security to us all was largely gone, for a period. My memory is of the support and prayers of God's people and of God's provision for us and in restoring Ivan. 


Ivan and Marilyn just a few months before Ivan was called Home


We have 5 children (now 17 grandchildren!!) We left Norway with 4 children: Carys, Paul, Andrew & Mark. Joy was born April 81, 4 months after we came home. When we returned we missed our very good friends whom we had to leave so suddenly & unexpectedly, and a beautiful country we had come to love!
 Now I live in Belfast. Four of our children and families live nearby; one family lives in England. Several of our children have been involved in short or long-term mission, in Uganda, DRC, Kenya, and Afghanistan; our youngest daughter with husband and four boys spent eight years in Morocco.

In everything, as I look back, we see God’s constant faithfulness.'

Ivan went to his Eternal Home in March 2018

We thank the Lord for this wonderful testimony. EMF has been seeking to push forward, with the Lord's help, towards establishing more footholds for the gospel in the Nordic countries (the Balkans too!). Last year Martin Hjellvik was taken on as an EMF missionary, as part of the mission's 'Expanded Vision'. Please pray with us as we look to our God to raise up workers for these needy lands and to provide for these folk as they take up the baton passed on to them by missionaries like John and Oline Taylor, and Ivan and Marilyn Campbell.

*This was the training school for EMF missionaries at the time.

** Mentioned by John and Oline Taylor in a recent prayer request: '‘We attend a Bible study and prayer meeting in Målsev on Wednesdays; the church is to help offer a Bible to all the homes in Målselv next year. Pray that this will give opportunities to reach this area with the gospel'.


Prayer Points

Please pray:

  • for the North of Norway, a place where few choose to go to preach the gospel, but which is extremely needy.
  • for a generation of tough, focused workers to be raised up to reach isolated communities.
  • for EMF's 'Expanded Vision', aiming to highlight the tremendous needs of the Nordics and tha Balkans

Praise the Lord with us for famiies like the Campbells and the Taylors, who have been faithful servants, and thank our Father for raising up workers like Martin Hjellvik.