This summer we returned to Norway excited to see our dear friend Edvin Bolstad again in Skjolden. Last Autumn he had been diagnosed with cancer shortly before losing his beloved wife Brit. Sadly, on our arrival in Skjolden this summer, we learned that he had already returned home to Oslo. That summer Edvin had been busy around his house in Skjolden, but after returning home he was then admitted to a care home. Still eager to see him, we drove out to see him on our way home and enjoyed some precious minutes with him. It was an emotional time and it felt very much like a goodbye. Little did we know that Edvin would pass away only 9 days later. Edvin lived from 12.08.1942 to 17.08.2023 and died aged 81. In his final months he often expressed his desire to go and be with both Brit and with his Saviour Jesus Christ. Now that is his reality. Tomorrow there is a thanksgiving service for him in Norway. Sadly, we are not able to make it, but in this post I reflect back on the impact that his life has had on our own.
The Elvheim Story
Many will know that Elvheim (meaning river home) is a former Youth Hostel located a brief walk from Edvin’s summer home in Skjolden. This small village was where he grew up. Many years later after serving as the first Norwegian leader of the Norwegian Navigators he connected some of our Navigator friends with this place. At first this meant groups camping up in the mountains, but God answered prayers for a building to host these Discipleship weeks. This came in the form of the recently acquired but pretty run down Elvheim – a former Youth Hostel. The house has been an ongoing renovation project ever since and it is incredible to see the difference there has been over these past 20 years. In those early days I can distinctly remember yielding sledge hammers together with Edvin at Elvheim!
We ourselves didn’t formerly get onboard with the ownership of the house until 2011. We had, however, been travelling to Skjolden with teams since Debbie first visited in 2003 and then together we travelled in from 2006. The Elvheim project has been such a blessing to so many people but I cannot underline enough the fact that none of this would have happened without Edvin’s initiative. During the early years, Edvin served as Chairman of the board, before later stepping away from that role. Over these incredible two decades we have seen the love and care that Edvin & Brit gave to those in the Elvheim family and it was has been such a privilege for us to be part of that too.
Help during the hard times
I have three particularly special memories of Edvin happened during some tough times we went through. The first relates to our time travelling into Latvia. Initially, this was an integral part of our summer trips. We would come to Norway for Discipleship week and then take groups to Latvia to help run in a summer camp. We did this between 2006 and 2012 and they were great years. However, towards the end of that time we faced some relational struggles with other leaders. In these things Edvin was eager to walk with us. Ultimately, these challenges would contribute towards the ending of our travelling ministry in Latvia though we are still connected with many of our dear friends from this time.
The second thing was the death of our friend James Witham in 2013. I’ve wrote a couple of months ago about James to mark the 10 year anniversary of his death (link). When James went missing, Edvin was our first port of call. In fact he called in the mountain rescue teams and that summer he spent a lot of time with us. In the aftermath of what happened he sought to care for us amidst the heartbreak. We owe a huge debt of gratitude towards Edvin especially for the way that he helped us to pick up the pieces. In particular, one hike to Store Soleibotntind (2083moh) really stood out. It was a long and demanding hike and we talked at length about all that had happened. That summer we spent three months in Norway as we had planned to do as a kind of mini sabbatical. For me at least it was incredibly needed and hugely restorative. For me Edvin played a big role in that.
Over the years Edvin and I walked and talked regularly. It was one of those biggest highlights of being in Norway and a key part of why we kept on coming back. These challenges deepened our relationship with Edvin and so it was quite natural for Edvin to check in with us during COVID19. Every now and again he would call me on messenger to check on how we were getting on.
A source of abundant blessing
Edvin was also a source of much fun and enjoyment for the family. He & Brit were generous with their time and money and because of them our kids spent quite a bit of time in the local swimming pool or even on occasion enjoying meals out. The absolute best thing however, was always the hot tub. For quite a few years, Edvin & Brit would host us (and often our teams also), at his house for food and and then we would join Edvin in the hot tub. The photo below shows something of this and you can see how he was at the centre of the fun the whole family were enjoying that summer!
We owe a huge amount to Edvin for his godly example of walking with Jesus and we will miss him deeply. Edvin was a brilliant example of someone who sought to walk alongside others to help, encourage, comfort and challenge them in their walk with Jesus. Words cannot express the depth of loss we feel at his passing away. Edvin & Brit are both now with Jesus which Paul tells us is better by far. Yet their loss leaves our lives and the lives of many, many others much poorer. The challenge for each is to follow in their example and be such great examples for others also. One day we know that we will see them again and we look forward to it with great expectation! We were grateful to have the chance to thank Edvin in person for his investment both in us and in the Elvheim project shortly before he died. To us he was a dear friend, mentor, encourager and brother in Christ.
To God be the glory for the way that He used this wonderful, godly and wise couple to work out His purposes.