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Odda is a small port at the end of a Norwegian fjord with a population of about 10,000. I went there in the winter of 1975 when I was serving in the British Merchant Navy. When I was at sea the most important thing when a ship arrived in port was receiving letters from home. The second most important thing was a run ashore. Going ashore usually involved visiting bars rather than doing the tourist stuff. The only problem in Norway was that alcohol was very expensive.

The prospect of a run ashore in a small Norwegian town where you need a bank loan to buy a round of drinks would not be attractive to most seafarers. But in Odda a visionary Christian couple went to the supermarket, stocked up with beer, and then opened their home as a sort of impromptu seamen’s mission. And they did not charge for the beer. Whenever a perplexed Jack Tar asked why they would do such a thing, the couple were able to quietly share their faith.

That Norwegian couple made a great impression on me and I have never forgotten their hospitality or their generosity. I wonder if other Christians criticised them for buying beer for seafarers. I wonder if members of their church worried about them and considered them strange. But I also wonder about the seeds sown by their sacrifice, and how many seafarers from around the globe remember the gift of a beer or two, shared in a warm family environment in a small town in Norway. I guess the Norwegian couple could have chosen to curl up together every night on their sofa to watch television. What are you watching tonight?

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