Make Your Dream A Reality With A Home Exchange

In 1988, we did a home exchange with a Norwegian pastor and his family. It was a dream come true—well almost.

My wife, Diane, and I actually dreamed of doing a home exchange with someone in a country where everyone spoke English. Six months before our family headed to Norway, we were all learning the Norwegian alphabet. Still, four days after arriving in Larvik, Norway, our three children (ages 13, 11, and 10) became students in the Norwegian public school. Nine days after our arrival, I preached my first sermon in Norwegian.

I remember hearing someone say, “God doesn’t order what God doesn’t pay for.” In other words, if something is meant to be, God will provide a way for it to happen. Often, problems are not problems to keep us from pursuing our dreams; they are nuisances we put up with until we realize our dreams. We just have to be good stewards of what we have—and trust that our dreams are a God-given vision of the future.

My favorite definition of stewardship: Using God-given resources for God-given goals.

Diane and I dreamed of a home exchange. The idea was not as popular back in 1988, as it has become today. Then, one did not have the option of using the Internet to search out opportunities for a home exchange partner. Nor, in 1988, could one communicate with someone on the other side of the world via email and Skype to negotiate an agreement about details for a home exchange. But that wasn’t really a problem. It was just a really big nuisance.

Our home exchange was actually a ministry exchange. We swapped homes—and jobs—for a year. During our exchange, I served as pastor in the Church of Norway. Pastor Sjur Isaksen served as the pastor of Gloria Dei Lutheran in Cedar Rapids, Iowa for that year. Our respective parishes continued to pay our salaries, but we took on each other’s ministry responsibilities.

In 1988, Diane and I were not familiar with any organizations that would help us arrange for a simple short-term home exchange. We had only heard of pastors doing a home and ministry exchange with another pastor—and that is how our dream took shape as reality.

Upon our return to the USA, after our home exchange (1991), we created a non-profit organization, St. Hans Ministry Exchange, Inc., so we could encourage other Christians to do home exchanges. Then, we wrote a book (Fair Exchange: A Ministry Exchange Between the USA and Norway, St. Hans Press, 1992) to chronicle our family’s experience.

The Reverend Herb Chilstrom, then presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) commented about our ministry exchange in a letter to us. Bishop Chilstrom wrote, “I believe that a number of clergy in the church dream about doing exactly what you did through the exchange program.”

Diane and I encourage everyone, not just clergy, to include a home exchange in your dreams for travel and a short-term mission experience. I know of at least one online resource to which you can turn: ChristianHomeExchange.com.

This summer (2012), the Florida congregation that I serve as pastor blessed us with a clergy sabbatical. As part of this sabbatical, Diane and I did a home exchange for 3 weeks with a pastor in England. Just for the fun of it, we preached once to each other’s congregation, during our house swap.

A home exchange is a great way to plan an affordable family vacation or a clergy sabbatical.

In any event, I urge you: Do what you can to turn your dreams into reality. Dreams often provide the fuel we need to discover our call to be good stewards.