What makes BCC members willing to invest in Brunstad? (1)

The major expansion of Oslofjord Convention Center has not gone unnoticed, and the fact that hundreds of BCC members have put their names on future suite leasing contracts is no secret. Occasionally, one hears allegations that the church mixes business and religion at Brunstad, but despise that, we meet a family who is more than willing to invest in the future here.

Text: Johanne Reiersrud – Photo: BCC/private

In a quiet residential area outside Stathelle in Telemark, family Tombre Nilsen are busy getting back to daily life after a long summer holiday. Two adults and five children between 7 and 14 years of age live here.

Helene and Erling work respectively as accountant and General Manager in two different businesses. With five children enjoying a variety of sports and other interests, they have, like many parents, a very busy schedule. The family is one of many that have invested in an apartment at the Oslofjord Convention Center project at Brunstad, where they travel several times a year.

Erling and Helene, Cedric (13), Celina (14), Vanessa (11), Mariell (9) og Levi (7) have had a lovely summer holiday, among other things, spent at the annual BCC summer conference at Oslofjord Convention Center. The family has a long-term suite leasing contract there, and consequently travels to Brunstad several times a year. Photo: private

What do the conferences at Brunstad mean to you?

The conferences at Brunstad, especially the summer conferences, have been one of the highlights of the year right since we were little, Helene tells us. I was born and raised in France, and every year the whole family travelled to Brunstad, which was something we looked forward to months beforehand. To be able to meet friends again and make even more friends meant a lot for us.

And we see the same with our children, when they arrive at Brunstad they disappear as soon as we have parked the car. The eldest ones, who have also been along in the Easter Camp for youth, have made many new friends through these events, and they count the days between the times they get to see each other at Brunstad, she says.

Helene (no. 3 from the left) has herself good childhood memories from summer holidays at  Brunstad in the mid 80’s. Photo: private 

What is the most important thing for you as adults, at the annual conferences at Brunstad?

I continue to find it moving, every time I come into the full meeting hall during a meeting, seeing people from all over the world who share the same faith and conviction as me, says Helene. The meetings are uplifting and strengthening and always give me the desire to live according to the Word of God that we hear.

And outside the meetings the days are filled with masses of activities for children, and many good experiences with friends and family. This year we enjoyed the long summer evenings with friends from France, Turkey, Switzerland, Stavanger, Oslo and our own church here in Grenland. It was a wonderful break from our busy daily lives, a vitamin boost, she tells us.

“I continue to find it moving, every time I come into the full meeting hall during a meeting, seeing people from all over the world who share the same faith and conviction as me”

Now and then we hear criticism claiming that Brunstad is now only focused on «big buildings and lots of money » What do you think of such criticism?

– When we pull in to Brunstad and see the enormous construction site, I can understand that it looks overwhelming, replies Erling. At the same time, we see how everything is full to capacity at conferences – both lodging and the conference center. And we know there are many more that want to come, so I personally see it as very positive that the Brunstad Foundation took this major project on, giving a chance for others to take part.

– Of course, the church could have continued as before, with simple lodging in tents and campers, but that would also have limited the options for many international guests, he adds.

– I am very glad that Brunstad has advanced and been developed as it has, and that so much thought has gone into making the very best for everyone, shares Helene. – Thousands of people in poor living conditions is not exactly the best idea from a hygiene perspective either.

It’s fantastic that the place has been developed with children and youth in mind, to make it the best possible for them. We have five children of our own, who will be more or less adults in 10 years’ time, so when you think about the next generation who also want to share in Brunstad life, it’s not too big.

With friends: Celina (n0.2 from the left) enjoys boatlife in the beautiful fjords around Brunstad in Vestfold. Photo: private

Do you understand those who think this has become «too fancy»?

– The buildings are designed and built according to current building standards and requirements, Helene says. I see no point in building below-standard, and it makes no financial sense to build something unattractive. I am really glad they took esthetics into consideration and built in the best possible way for everyone.

The apartments are furnished to be as functional and space-efficient as possible, so I am really impressed how simple and elegant it is without being extravagant. The best thing with the new buildings, in my opinion, is that it provides a very pleasant framework for time together.

To be able to walk between the hotel buildings this summer was an incredible social experience, and at the same time, the construction was so well done, with excellent sound insulation, so those who needed quiet weren’t disturbed.

From the opening on the BCC July conference this summer, when the suites where ready to welcone the first guests into the new hotes at Oslofjord Convention Center. Photo: BCC

What do you think about Oslofjord Convention Center operating the property commercially in addition to BCC’s use?

– It makes perfect sense to use it for other commercial activity when the place isn’t being used by BCC. It would be much too expensive otherwise, and there is no reason for the place to stand empty for weeks at a time, when this use can also contribute to financial growth in the area. As I see it, it’s simply common sense to let other client groups rent it, now that the property has been developed in such a good way.

How do your investments at Brunstad affect the family’s financial situation?

Some years ago, the Tombre Nilsen family was given the chance to invest in a long-term suite leasing agreement at Brunstad. In the next part of the interview, they tell about what that has meant for them financially, and also share about how they support the local church in Grenland. That article will be published on bcc. no in a few days.