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  • Maggie Wallem Rowe

How a Norwegian Swimming Pool Became Holy Water

 (Who’s Watching You? You Might be Surprised)

"Father Mike" with his Norwegian swim buddies

You know that thing that Jesus said about going to make disciples of all nations?  Sure, it applies to the missionaries we send out and the pastors we pay, but exactly where are we ordinary people supposed to find disciples?


Sometimes they find you. Here’s what happened to Mike at a fitness center in Stavanger, Norway. 


(Total aside: Some of you have been wondering why you didn’t receive my regular Tuesday letter-post yesterday.  We returned to North Carolina from Norway last week, but I left again Saturday to assist with a women’s retreat in Maryland focused on Christian healing prayer -- Sandy Cove Ministries “Restore Me” gathering.   Arrived home at 2:30 this morning due to some severe weather delays.  I’ll share how God was at work at Sandy Cove in a future letter!)


It was 8 am on Tuesday, April 30. Our flight to Amsterdam was scheduled to depart at 10:10 am. Just minutes before we needed to head to the airport, Mike walked into the apartment with his hair still wet from the pool.


“Maggie,” he said, as he grabbed our luggage to tote to the car, “I don’t know what God’s up to, but something sure is!"


The “something” was what we now call “Father Mike’s Band of Merry Men.”


And this is what happened.


A lifelong swimmer, Mike finds a pool wherever he goes to continue the water workouts he began as a teenager. He swims over 4000 yards each time, alternating speed, stroke, and send-offs in order to maximize benefit.  He’s spent a lifetime as a volunteer aquatics coach as well as pastor, first coaching YMCA youngsters, then college athletes, and currently members of the Smoky Mountain Aquatics Club.


When you love what you do, it’s natural to want to help others improve.


But what Mike never could have anticipated in our ten weeks in Norway was that younger men were watching this older guy in the pool.


Jeff– an American believer living in Norway – had begun to swim with Mike on our first stay in 2019. They’ve become good friends on our return trips.  Erland was the first to join them, followed by William and Christian. Then David, Trygve, and Kristiaan asked to swim under Mike’s direction.

Sharing a skill is something any of us can do. If we have knowledge others can use, it’s natural for them to want to join us, doing what we do, asking questions along the way. Whatever you call it-- coaching, mentoring, or discipleship--it can change lives.

Gradually over the ten weeks, Mike's informal coaching became something more. Discovering this older American was in Norway to serve as a pastor, Mike’s swimmers began to discuss him when he wasn’t there. Jeff heard them in the shower room one day referring to him as “Father Mike,” joking that when he was present, they were swimming in hellig vann (“holy water.”)


On the morning of our departure, Mike’s little band of merry men – as he had come to call them – insisted that he come to the pool for a farewell party, asking him to please consider staying on. This we could not do, but Mike is staying in touch, sending them workout drills via email.


As we rushed to the airport, I commented a bit wistfully that it was too bad Mike couldn’t continue to develop the relationships that had begun in the water and continued on land.


“No, I can’t,” he said, “but Jeff can.”

Mike's swimmers took a bike trip after we left and posed behind one of my ancestor's graves

And he has.

Just this morning, Jeff contacted Mike with group news and photos. He’s following in Mike’s wake there, nurturing friendships that began with a common affinity for fitness, and perhaps will become something far more lasting.


As you live your life under God's direction, you never know who’s watching you, following in your footsteps or swimming in your lane.


Now it's your turn. Can you share a time that God brought someone into your life in an unexpected way whom you've been able to coach, mentor, or disciple?

  • Maggie Wallem Rowe, 2024









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