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  • Maggie Wallem Rowe

We're On Our Way Home...Or Are We?

April 27, 2024 - our favorite hike above Lysefjord

Hi, friends!


By the time today’s letter lands in your inbox, Mike and I will be in Amsterdam awaiting our connecting flight back to the United States after ten weeks of interim pastoral ministry in Norway.


We are grieving the leaving, as this place and its people have become so very dear to us.  Over the past 4+ years, we’ve spent nearly nine months serving an international church in the Stavanger area. Southwest Norway truly has come to feel like home. Yet so do the mountains of western North Carolina.


If home is where the heart is, is it possible to divvy it up so there’s enough to leave behind? How do you toggle your affections between two places?


The sign says it all. We met Christian and Judith and their kids on our first stay here in 2019.

Many of you have moved multiple times, and you know how difficult goodbyes are. And those of you who’ve served in the military or missionary work know what it’s like to have a “passport country” yet feel equally at home in a new one.


But you know where it all begins? With saying yes.  


In the midst of packing our suitcases and picking up extra gjetost (that famous Norwegian brown cheese) and hjemmelaget jordbær syltetøy (homemade strawberry jam) to take back with us, I’ve been asking the Lord if He has a word for us this week.


And this is what I heard –


Tell them to try the door.


A couple of weeks ago when two of my American cousins were visiting, we took Debbie and Sue on a family pilgrimage to Jørpeland where our grandfather grew up. We walked down his old street– Wallemsvegen – and around the corner past the site where our great-aunt Martha had run a little country store for decades before she died in 1988.


All the locals had known Martha the storekeeper, who had a big personality and an even bigger heart. On our last stay here, I met a woman about my age who had worked for Martha as a teenager. “I vas afraid of her,” Tove told me, “because she vould yell, but she vas also kind.”


We’ve visited the neighborhood several times before, but since a modern bath supply company with limited hours now occupies the site, we assumed Martha’s original store had been torn down. We’ve always walked on by.


This time, though, my husband decided to just try the door.  It opened.  


A few moments later, Mike poked his head back out and hollered for my cousins and I to return. To our amazement, the owners who had purchased the building from Martha were in.  When they learned who we were, they invited us into their apartment above the store.


Line and her mother Torunn showed us furniture and paintings that belonged to the aunt we never met – even the original wood-burning stove from the century-old store. Torunn even produced the obituary for our great-grandmother who died the year I was born.

Torunn & Lene on Aunt Martha's chairs Martha's old woodstove My father in front of the store, 1963


These generous women shared our family’s local history with us. We were entranced, and so very grateful. We’re now friends, and we’ll visit the Johansson family next time we’re here.


All because my husband decided to try opening the door.


Friends, whatever your age, God has new things for you. Places you’ve wanted to visit, experiences that for whatever reason you’ve been hesitant to try. Opportunities to learn a new skill or master an old one.


 Maybe it’s a relationship you had given up on, or a job you assumed you wouldn’t qualify for. If you aspire to write, perhaps it’s time to pull that article or book idea out of the drawer and attend a conference where others will mentor you. Or maybe a special opportunity awaits you in your own living facility, church, or hometown.


God puts portals of possibility in front of each of us.  Just try opening the door.


With so much love,



 P.S. – Last week we talked about those unique relatives we all have (“And You Think YOUR Family Has Issues?”), and I promised to share some guidelines on setting boundaries and when it’s right – and wrong – to say no. I haven’t forgotten but we'll save that discussion for an upcoming letter. It's time to head home. :)



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Nancy Smith
Nancy Smith
7 days ago

What a beautiful story. It was incredibly kind of the new owner to invite you and AND fill you in on some family history. Many people are glad you are state side now though. ;->

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