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Superpowers of Love: Bjarne Gislefoss and Alfhild Jensen【Parent-Child Reading Guide】

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Our Superman, Bjarne Gislefoss

Mr. Bjarne Gislefoss of Norway was raised along eight siblings by his widowed mother, the father having died suddenly when he reached adolescence. Even in hardships, the family believed that only through fearing the Lord would He bring them peace and joy. Gislefoss’s family and church lives strengthened his faith in Jesus from an early age.

At sixteen, Gislefoss decided to become a missionary and receive his calling. He volunteered at an asylum, but was appalled by the unprofessionalism and lack of respect for fellow human-beings there. The patients were locked in prison-like enclosures and treated as animals. He realized then there were many unknown dark places holding people in need of care.

Gislefoss studied nursing at Diakonhjemmet Lillekurs, and worked in Oslo's prison hospital upon graduation, while carrying on with night school. His mother, having toiled most of her life, fell ill during this time. Gislefoss considered quitting his job and education to look after his mother at home, but she said no. "A person is worth nothing without a strong will," she pontificated. "Strengthen your will, and serve others with all your might! Trust in the Lord, and He will put you where you can be of use."

He stayed on his job at the prison hospital and bonded with the inmates. Having listened to the prisoners confess their very private weaknesses, Gislefoss was inspired to find people healing and solacein both the physical and the spiritual. "Nurses tend to the wounded; those of the holy order tend to the wounded souls." Much as Jesus loved us, Gislefoss gave himself to God’s bidding, with a view to serve those in need with healthcare and the Good News. He joined the Norwegian Mission Alliance and was sent to evangelize Taiwanese. He started in Taipei and continued his work at the Puli Christian Hospital.

Our Wonder Woman, Alfhild Jensen Gislefoss

Ms. Alfhild Jensen of Norway was raised by her sexagenarian maternal grandparents. The grandmother was a devout Christian with a burning desire to serve the Lord. The church and her grandmother had a great influence on Jensen, who believed that human beings were redeemed by Jesus to spread the Gospel and to serve fellow people. The ideal career for her, from an early age, had been to become a doctor, a nurse, a teacher, or a missionary-job that lead people closer to Jesus, closer to God.

After juggling between work and study through high school, Jensen was accepted, at 21 years of age, into the Department of Medicine at the University of Oslo (Universitetet i Oslo). There were only 13 women in her class of 83 students.

The outbreak of World War II displaced families and shut down schools across Norway. Jensen was already 31 when the war was over and she finally graduated. She then took a job in America and acquired the much vaunted certification to work as an anesthesiologist.

She came across the Norwegian Mission Alliance's recruitment ad for "an anesthesiologist, preferably also a missionary" in Taiwan. She submitted her résumé; before long, she arrived on the island and was hired at the Pingtung Christian Hospital.

Norway-where life was hard, resources were scarce, but people still shared

Norway, the home country of Alfhild Jensen and Bjarne Gislefoss, recognizes Christianity as the state religion.

Located on the western part of the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe, Norway was historically poor due to its mountainous and fjordic terrains, and because it was subjugated by Germany during World War II. Even so, most Norwegians, despite their own pain and hunger, were taught to provide aid for the powerless near and far, as manifested by a children’s song that goes, "let us share, share..." The postwar development of North Sea oil brought wealth to the country, and with the surplus from the oil industry the Norwegian government was able to set up a fund to share this blessing of God with the generations to come.

Everything in life and existence is found in "Love your neighbor as yourself." The commandment is not only recited and sung, but also put into practice and passed on.

Norwegian Mission Alliance (Misjonsalliansen) small, inconspicuous, and influential

Compared with other evangelical groups in Norway, the Norwegian Mission Alliance is smaller in scale and less formal as an organization, but no less devoted in following Jesus’s footsteps.

By the time Dr. Kristoffer Fotland set up shop in Taiwan, only four other Norwegians were stationed across the island, including Bjarne Gislefoss. They communicated frequently and came to the aid of each other in their missions. They established working relationships with local and other foreign groups, and sometimes sought financial or medical assistance from the parent organization. Under their watch, Puli and Pingtung Christian Hospitals became regional medical centers and pioneering treatment for several contagious diseases.

Through the Norwegian Mission Alliance and its Taiwanese offshoot, Alfhild Jensen and Bjarne Gislefoss came to Taiwan and brought healthcare and the Word to the poor and sick, fulfilling their calling to overseas evangelism.

The Superpower of 1 plus 1>2

I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)

Alfhild Jensen and Bjarne Gislefoss both came from broken families of little means. Nonetheless, with boundless faith in God’s care and blessing, passed over generations and witnessed by their pastors, both managed to work their way through medical training and embark on chosen careers in evangelism.

Having submitted and devoted himself completely to God, Gislefoss became a valued assistant to doctors. He served in Mackay Memorial Hospital and various sanatoria (for leprosy, tuberculosis, black foot disease, etc.) and midway homes for minors before joining the Puli Christian Hospital at its aboriginal clinic.

God loved this loyal servant and listened to the prayers asking for a companion for Gislefoss who met Dr. Jensen, the love of his life, in beloved Taiwan. They shared the same faith and the same will. Together they helped establish the Bethel Bible School for Tribal Girls, the Mary’s Tribal Maternity Hospital, and the Polio House, laying the foundation of Taiwanese aboriginal welfare ministry. For a long time, the Norwegian Mission Alliance raised awareness and funds for the Polio House at the Puli Christian Hospital, even sending Norwegian doctors over to perform orthopedic surgeries on the infected children.

By virtue of their missionary work, Alfhild Jensen and Bjarne Gislefoss were regarded by thousands in Puli as parents or grandparents, despite not having any child of their own. Without permanent residency, the octogenarian couple had to travel once every year between Taiwan and Norway, withering away in tens of hours of flight. The people of Puli resented it and started a petition for Grandpa and Grandma. Hundreds of thousands of signatures were collected over merely a fortnight. Jensen and Gislefoss were finally granted permanent residency in Taiwan after another six months.

Everyone is made in the image of God and blessed with special gifts. Through the love for God and for fellow people, the work done by Alfhild Jensen, Bjarne Gislefoss and the people of Puli transcended blood relations, race and nationality, time and geography, to make a positive and lasting impact. Only through love and connection with Jesus do people's gifts turn into the superpower of 1 plus 1>2!

Get your children to know God, to live Jesus's teachings. Let them develop a genuine desire to help and share. Then they will experience and obtain love's superpowers emanated from God.

*Dr. Alfhild Jensen passed away on October 31, 2010, at the age of 92.

*There was a video recorded in 2018 by the staff of the Puli Christian Hospital to wish Bjarne Gislefoss a happy birthday.

*Photo credit: the Puli Christian Hospital .