The turnaround in front of Brunstad is full of life, despite the fact that it is just past 7 o’clock. It is the morning of April 11. There are 230 excited young people packed and ready to go. For many of the young people in the Youth Exchange Program (YEP), this is the highlight of the year: a trip to Pagedal in the Netherlands.
The YEP young people board four busses – three of which are double-deckers, to travel to Pagedal, in the northern part of the Netherlands.
The energy level is high as the four busses pull out of Brunstad toward their first destination – Copenhagen. Although the bus ride is long, the young people, who have become good friends during this past year, know how to entertain themselves.
“It is important to keep up the energy level the whole time,” says the bus hostess Anne Riksfjord (21) from Tønsberg. She and several others from YEP are engrossed in their second round of the dice game, Yatzy.
The landscape outside becomes flatter and flatter with more and more windmills, and the bus driver announces that we have arrived in our beloved neighboring country, Denmark.
A royal welcome
As in past years, the YEP group will spend the night with friends from the church in Copenhagen and Køge.
“We look forward to YEP’s annual visits,” says Keld Borch, who has the responsibility for the youth in Brunstad Christian Church, Copenhagen.
The young people exit the bus and are met by 150 Danish friends who are waving flags and who have rolled out a red carpet for the occasion.
After this royal welcome, they enjoy a fantastic feast with good food, and “soft consonants.” [a reference to Danish language pronunciation compared to Norwegian] The feast is unforgettable with edification, Danish humor at its best, and different songs and band performances from YEP.
Full of thankful people, the four busses continue – this time toward their final destination: Pagedal. The 10-hour bus trip ahead does not intimidate the young people.
“I have talked with the people on my bus, and they have great plans to write songs, play card games, watch movies, do quizzes, sleep, sing, and much more. In addition, the bus hosts have planned a few things,” says Anne with a smile.
To get the circulation back in their feet, and to release a bit of pent up energy, they make a one-hour stop at a rest area in the German town of Bremen. Jump ropes and volleyballs are brought out, and the small, local gas station suddenly has a lot of traffic.
Red sweatshirts everywhere
About 15 of the people in YEP come from various places in the Netherlands. They make sure everyone knows when they cross the border into the Netherlands. The border crossing is marked by loudly sung national songs, applause, and cheers.
In Pagedal, many things await the young people in YEP. The busses have barely arrived outside Pagedal center, and you can already hear whirring life both from the swimming pool and the volleyball court. Young people in red YEP sweatshirts can be seen everywhere on the property.
High involvement and edification.
They enjoy the time in the Netherlands to its fullest. Most people go to the Efteling amusement park; others enjoy canal boats, shopping, or go-karts in Groningen. It is not planned as a relaxing trip for young people; one of the days is an activity day the YEP young people will remember for a long time. YEP group is divided into teams who compete in all kinds of things, including shooting with bows and arrows, games of laser tag, scooter races, and last but not least, an obstacle course.
“The obstacle course is without doubt the most fun and exhausting thing I have done,” says Donne Bowen (27) from South Africa, while trying to catch her breath.
Without doubt, it was a successful day. With stiff muscles, the visiting YEP group prepares for yet another feast, this time together with the YEP young people who are stationed in Pagedal. Jan-Hein Staal, one of those who bear the responsibility for the church in the Netherlands, presents the theme for the evening. The young people learn about Paul, his youth, his Jewish background, and his radical conversion. He is an example of living a whole-hearted life of discipleship and a ministry of sacrifice.
“For me it was especially important, what we heard about reckoning ourselves dead to sin and alive for God,” says Marit Johanne Bovolden (28) from Hamar.
At the end of the evening, edified but tired young people go their separate ways to pack their bags before the long return trip the next day.