2017 Recap

This year has been no joke, looking back there have been a lot of tears shed, tears of joy and of grief, both in ministry and in our personal lives.
As 2017 was coming to a close I found myself getting anxious, "Is this really happening? We're going to make it through the year!", as I reflected on this the first few days of 2018 I remembered watching Salomon with a tube up his nose after he was just born, to keep his tongue from suffocating him, I remembered him dropping in oxygen levels, turning gray and blue as it looked like he was dying before my eyes I held his limp, unconscious body as
the nurses and doctors pumped oxygen through a mask on his face on the third floor at the children's hospital here in Reykjavík, meanwhile my wife was stuck down on the 2nd floor as Mikael was getting pumped full of high dosage chemo.
When taking into account the time spent at the hospital for chemo along with the time spent at the hospital keeping a close eye on Salómon and waiting to find out what in the world this illness was that no one could figure out, I realized we had spent over 1/3 of the year at the hospital in 2017.
Ministry has also caused some tears as well, when you feel as though God is working in someone to transform their life, yet all of a sudden that seed of the gospel is snatched out, or did not grow roots to get through the worries of life and that hope and joy you had thinking about their future in Christ was snuffed out.

But this year has also brought with it moments of joy, as our children just do something so adorable, and so needed at the perfect moment, as you see people getting baptised and the reality it points to as the Holy Spirit has been at work in them, as you see your people mature in faith, boldness and fervour in sharing the gospel, and the church growing in attendance.

Every month in 2017 was better attended than the same month in 2016, sometimes by up to double in attendance, every month except for one our people gave more than the year before, every month we nearly doubled in our volunteer size on Sunday gatherings, and all but one month we had more children than the year before...
God by his providence lined up opportunities to speak to the international world about the need in Iceland and into the reality of Icelandic culture with regards to abortion, after the birth of my son I had the distinct pleasure to speak on the BBC when they did a small featured piece on Iceland and abortion getting the privilege to meet amazing people and use my words to speak in defence of the ones that have no voice.
I've had the privilege to share the gospel on Lindin FM102.9, X-ið FM97.7, and Útvarp Saga FM99.4, through some of the rough times we got to do an
interview with one of the larger news papers in the country DV, which turned mostly into an article about the fact that we started a church, interestingly enough, and this year over 10000 people watched our documentary about the spiritual landscape of Iceland, Christian by Default.

We got to host 4 Theology courses for the locals attended by anywhere between 12-18 people wanting to know more about God and his Word, we had plenty of groups come over to hit the streets, fix the buildings, fellowship with us and encourage.

Let's just say, that all in all, 2017 has been a very, very busy year, full of tears of joy and sorrow, but through it all God has been our strength, even though our situation is very different from what Paul faced I find myself understanding just a little bit better the words of Paul:

2. Corinthians 4:8-12
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.

What comfort we have in Jesus, what a shelter in the storm, what a rock that does not give way when the waves crash, and what strength we can draw from the well that always gives generously replenishment to the weary, and whose resources are never exhausted.

The Months

Really most of December consisted of getting by, and now almost two months later I still feel a little bit of an effect from the sickness caught early December.
For a couple of weeks I lost my voice, one week I could not make it to the service gathering of the church, all of the Sundays of January have consisted of storms coming over just as our church gathering is about to begin, and so it's been no joke.

There isn't much to tell you outside of the regular ministry of the Word, meeting with people, small groups, but there is some, so let's jump into it.

The Ministry

I always thought of burnout as a very subjective thing, it seemed to me that when people got very tired, the phrase would no longer be called "extremely tired", but rather that the extent of the tiredness had graduated to status of burnout, so I never really looked out for it, thinking I was just very tired.
As often is the case my wife had greater wisdom and had been concerned for some time about my health and signs of burnout she saw, it wasn't until she approached me, asking me to scale back the work as she is seeing some worrying signs of burnout, that is actually a medically defined term that I looked at the list she brought me of symptoms of burnout and I realized that I do have all of the symptoms that correlate with severe burnout except for fainting.

I looked over the list in self examination and I realized I had chronic stress leading to physical and emotional exhaustion, cynicism and detachment, and feelings of ineffectiveness and accomplishment, I was getting very forgetful and foggy in my mind, dealing with a lack of concentration on a scale I had never had before, Insomnia that was causing me to sleep sometimes 3 hours per night as I lay in bed extremely exhausted but for some reason unable to fall asleep, by this point I had been physically sick for over a month, had a lot of heart palpitations, chest pain, headaches and shortness of breath, loss of appetite, anxiety, depression and was getting increasingly frustrated and angry.
I found myself loosing enjoyment, getting more pessimistic, and isolated, apathetic, irritable and not happy with my work performance and the list goes on.

I found myself looking at this list brought to me by Svava and I realized I needed to tackle this, it turns out that the lack of rest in a life filled with syringes, nurses appointments, doctors appointments, physical therapy for your children and yourself, meeting with social services people, while doing your best to work and coming back to health problems at home, while constantly being contacted by a beckoning phone with it's various e-mails, tweets, messages, calls, texts and facebook messages, mixed with having no down time, whacky schedule, worrying about finances and church responsibility and being there for your wife and kids, trying to tackle your physical health and diet and beating yourself up for not working like you want to, is a pretty bad mix of things to have for a long time and does something to your soul.

So I took the advice of my wife, which she had been trying to give to me for a while, and decided to scale back work for a time being for longevity's sake, and so I will be scaling back to do just about the regular ministry of a pastor for a few weeks, give myself to the teaching of God's word from the pulpit, with the people and give myself to prayer.

For a couple of weeks I have scaled back, and thank God for the fact that my optimism, concentration have increased dramatically, my enjoyment is coming back, my heart palpitations, appetite, chest pain, frustration and anger have either gone away or decreased significantly, and the a flame is slowly starting in me to want to do more for the kingdom and the fame of my Saviors name! I'll try and keep calm for a bit longer just for the sake of wisdom, try and replenish some more, but I am so thankful to God for his grace and an amazing wife.
The Stranded Baptist
One thing I am going to do to try and make it a bit easier (and honestly more fun) to keep people in on the loop on what's going on In Iceland is to start a little show called The Stranded Baptist.
The thought is to do a weekly episode for Youtube and Podcasts, discussing theology, news of the day and gospel ministry in Iceland and have this available on our YouTube channel and soon enough we'll have them available as audio files on iTunes so that you can listen in on some of the stuff going on in Iceland.
Travel dates for 2018
We've also managed to nail down at least roughly when I will be travelling in this coming year, as we've been landlocked for about two years with Mikael's chemo and Salómons health I am excited to connect with some people outside of this island and be able to travel and tell people more about the Iceland Project.
February 11th-26th - Knoxville, TN, USA
I'll be attending the missions conference at Sevier Heights Baptist church as well as travelling to neighbouring states and cities in order to sit down with some pastors and discuss involvement with the Iceland Project.

April 10th-18th - Dumfries, VA, USA & Louisville, KY, USA
I'll be flying in to Virginia only to stay for a few hours then driving down to Louisville, KY for Together for the Gospel conference to attend the conference, be edified and encouraged and meet with as many pastors and ministry leaders as I can to talk about Iceland Project involvement.

May 1st-July 28th - Dumfries, VA & Colorado Springs, CO
After not having had a vacation in two years, and being almost five years into the church plant this year we've decided to take a sabbatical for three months mostly to replenish and enjoy our time as a family, although I will be going to a 8 day 9 Marks Intensive for the beginning of May to learn more about the practical outworkings of a healthy ecclesiology.

October - Mongolia
At least two from our church will be going to Mongolia in October for the Radstock Roundtable event, Radstock Network is a network of churches that plant churches that we are a part of, one of their events will be in Mongolia, we will be going to meet up with other churches in the network, hear about the gospel work in different nations, learning from them, hearing more about the unique gospel work going on in Mongolia, doing some evangelism to the Mongolian people and prayerfully considering if God would have us connect with some of our brothers and sisters toiling away in Mongolia and support them as a church by praying for them, giving financially to support or even sending some teams to help if that is helpful.

The Family

Mikael Máni Gunnarsson
The big news on Mikael is that... I cannot believe this time is here... We're looking at schools for him to join!
Of course being autistic we are looking at the best schools to suit his situation, already we've been in contact with a great school, but in the fall he will officially start!
Another big news, because of his autism and the cancer treatment a lot of stuff has been delayed, including getting off diapers, it looks like he's ready to start not wearing them during the day now and has settled his beef with the toilet... For now.
Over all, he's doing fantastic.
Sigurrós Myrra Gunnarsdóttir
Sigurrós is being her intense self, she's an absolute joy, thriving in pre-school, loving (sometimes too loving) to Salómon, and learning to interact well with Mikael.
It is tough, having to basically try and figure out how we can, now that she can talk but not understand everything, explain to her about her brothers autism, and why he can get away with certain things that she cannot, but in all she's an absolute joy, and I believe she will be an immense blessing to both of her brothers as she has been an amazing blessing to her parents already.
Salómon Leví Gunnarsson
Salómon still has no signs of epilepsy! The first one with his condition to not have that quickly following birth, and we are so thankful to God for him.
He is still very limp, his muscles weak, and has not learned to swallow food or milk, but we are joyful for medical advances that have allowed us to help him.
He is becoming more aware, getting better after getting his button put into his stomach for feeding and smiling more often, and laughing, it is a joy to see him grow and mature.
The Marriage
With the symptoms of burnout taking place Svava has had to put up with a lot, but by the grace of God I'm thankful for an amazing wife, for the support and her wisdom, and thankful to God for hearing our prayers and the drastic change that we've seen even just in the last couple of weeks.

The Prayer Requests

-Pray for the fundraising for Logan & Carla.
-Pray for our marriage, strength and endurance.
-Pray for Salómons future.
-Pray for wisdom with regards to Mikael's schooling.
-Pray that people to come to know Christ, that our church would grow in the health of our people and numbers.
-Pray for a former church member, God knows the specific prayer we have in mind there.
-Pray for renewed strength and endurance for our family to continue to work well, and for the people of our church God has called to step up into leadership roles.
-Also pray for Ayanda, our newest church members and is new in the faith that God would work richly in her.
-Pray for Kalmar who may in all likelyhood be getting baptised this Sunday and becoming a member.
-Pray for the upcoming trips would be fruitful.
-Also join us in prayer as we look to the future and all the practical changes that need to take place as Salomón grows, a bigger car, handicap accessible and larger home and for wisdom on how to get all that done.
-Ultimately pray that the gospel would be preached, disciples would be made, labourers would rise up for the harvest, churches would be planted so that ultimately God would be glorified in and through our work here.

The Partnership

Join Us As A Partner
Do you want to partner with us in the spread of the gospel in Iceland? You may not have been here yet, but you can partner with us by praying over the updates we just sent and by financially giving either with a one time gift or by setting up a monthly support to take part in gospel efforts in Iceland.

How To Give
Pillar Church of Dumfries has made it easy for you to give to the work in Iceland and serves us in such incredible ways to get the funding from our donors to us every month, here's how you can give:

For processing payments:
PO BOX: Pillar Church, PO Box 622, Dumfries, VA 22026
Put “Loftstofan” in the memo.

We also have an online option for our supporters to use what's called STRIPE ACH.
If you plan on using this option you must remember to choose "Loftstofan" as the fund for your donation, otherwise your donation will not get to us.

If you click on the button below you can give a one time gift or set up recurring payments through your bank account. This is the cheapest ONLINE option on our end as the fees for processing are $0.25 (compared to if you choose to use your debit cards or pay through PayPal which is 2.3% + $0.25 per transaction).

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