Same message—new approaches
Army in Normway shows God’s love through practical action.
by Rebecca Solevag –
The Salvation Army’s street level hospital in Oslo offers rest and medical care to drug addicts with health problems.
Since 1888 The Salvation Army has reached out to the Norwegian people with the message of God’s love and a practical ministry. Today the territory, consisting of Norway, Iceland and the Faroe Islands, is still vigorously active in its outreach, continuously finding new ways of telling the same love story.
Sally Ann shop
It is a busy Saturday morning in a fashionable shopping district in Oslo, Norway. In the Sally Ann shop and café some customers enjoy coffee and a sandwich while others explore the selection of silk cushions, wood toys, designer handbags, beaded napkin rings, and hand cut greeting cards. Can The Salvation Army become a global driving force in fair trade? This is the goal of the Sally Ann fair trade project by The Salvation Army. Started in Bangladesh in 1997 by Norwegian-Danish officers, the shop in Oslo now helps sustain over 500 workers in four different countries. With emphasis on western tastes in design and quality, the shop carries products—primarly gift and interior design products—manufactured in Bangladesh, Kenya, Moldova and Peru. In June another Sally Ann shop will open in Sweden’s capital, Stockholm.
Thrift stores and thriving communities
The Salvation Army’s thrift stores, organized under the name Fretex, is the country’s largest company for occupational rehabilitation, training 850 people. In addition to the 45 shops countrywide, the company has 13 work rehabilitation and recycling centers. Fretex’s blanket factory produces warm blankets for emergency relief, and has non-government organizations (NGOs) such as the Red Cross as customers. “We give people a reason to believe in the future,” is the company’s slogan.
In the small town of Lena, The Salvation Army officers opened the doors wide and invited children to join their activities. Hard work and prayer resulted in children of all age groups attending different programs. BabySong, where mothers or fathers sing with their babies and have lunch together, has been a popular educational concept in the territory during the past ten years, so too, in Lena. In many corps, BabySong helps in bringing new families into the Army community.
“A few years ago only a handful of people attended our Sunday services. Now almost every family in this town has a family member attending some activity during the week,” says Captain Ester van Gooswilligen. “We want the corps to be a place where people are happy and feel at home.”
A change for the better
Help to the poor and drug rehabilitation is what the Army is best known for in the territory. Special centers as well as corps have outreach programs where poor families are helped with food, clothing and counseling. Every summer children and parents who can’t afford to go on vacation are invited to attend a Salvation Army camp.
In drug rehabilitation the Army aims to meet the needs of people who otherwise have no options. Health and housing are target areas. Last year The Salvation Army opened a hospital for drug abusers with health problems, getting the idea after they surveyed the health situation among the capital’s addicts and homeless. Finding that this group has special health problems, they realized the need for a low threshold hospital. The 10-bed hospital has doctors, nurses and social workers specially trained to work with this group. “At the street hospital I was taken seriously as a patient and accepted as a person of value,” says Hans Jostein, a former patient.
There are daily doctors’ rounds, wound treatment and other medical care. Nutrition is a key word, and in the combined kitchen and dining room patients and employees enjoy their meals together. The patients are often malnourished and weak, so emphasis is on rest and peace.
Love is action. “We in The Salvation Army have a responsibility towards the people we meet in our centers and institutions. The employee becomes a reflection of the organization. We have to win trust every day in our communication with patients and residents, and try to help them find a new direction in life. Not everyone wants to make a change, and we need to respect that,” says manager and Salvationist, Marit Myklebust.
Facts about Norway, Iceland and the Faroes Territory
Membership: soldiers: 5,930, adherents: 1,213, children and youth: 8,749. Since 1998 the children and youth membership has increased 85 percent, mainly because of the popularity of BabySong groups.
In Norway, The Salvation Army is known by everyone and supported by many. In an opinion poll from March 2006, 32 percent say it is very likely that they will support The Salvation Army this year. Twenty-one percent say “quite possibly.” In an open question as to which organization the public prefer to support, The Salvation Army came in second place, just behind the Red Cross. Twenty percent prefer The Salvation Army.
Work among immigrants is increasing. Corps reach out to women and children, with language courses and babysitting, and to students, with English language services and social gatherings.
The Harbor Light Center had 62,000 registered visitors in 2005. Oslo’s homeless and drug addicts visit the center daily to eat, take a shower, get clean clothing or seek consultation from a nurse or social worker. They served 435,000 sandwiches and 30,000 hot meals.