The BCC summer conference is well under way. Participants have gathered here from 38 countries, some of them for the first time. Saturday was welcome day for participants of “Brunstad Buddy”, an introductory program for new guests at the conference.

Text: Johanne Reiersrud – Photo: Randi Hutt 

For those here for the first time, or those who have not been to BCC’s conferences at Brunstad for many years, “Brunstad Buddy” is a new mentor program that will make the participants’ stay as rewarding as possible.

With a large conference area, many attendees, and a varied program, Brunstad can be a bit hectic. But it is also a unique venue for experiencing friendship and fellowship with people from around the world, to which Brunstad Buddy contributes. For those who are not familiar with Brunstad, it means a lot to be met with warmth and extra guidance.

New introductions are mutually beneficial for both participants and mentors of Brunstad Buddy.  Pictured: the kick-off on Saturday. Photo: BCC

Joint idea created new teamwork

Therese Espegard from Drammen, Norway and Naomi van Oord from Melbourne, Australia are two of the project’s ambassadors. They explain that the idea originated last autumn, when local churches from around the world were invited to offer ideas and input to BCC’s event department on how future conferences could be further developed and improved.

Read more: Global idea workshop underway at BCC

Naomi van Oord from Australia is one of the project’s enthusiastic ambassadors, pictured here welcoming the first participants at a lunch on Saturday. Photo: BCC

“This idea came from both of our home churches in Melbourne and Drammen. Volunteers from both places are collaborating on “Brunstad Buddy”, which so far has around 50 registered participants,” explains Naomi (23). She has personally participated in many of BCC conferences in Norway and speaks fluent Norwagian. But she remembers how it was to come here for the first time, unable to speak the language and without knowing very many people.

Showing care, providing information, and building communities

“The team from Melbourne gave us new insight into the experience of being here for those who come from other parts of the world. Together we have pieced together a program which has now been tested for one week,” explains Therese (32). “We are focused on showing care, providing information, and creating opportunities for participants to meet new friends. Materials are available both at the service desk and by email, and help new attendees plan their itinerary before and during the conference. So far the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.”

A warm welcome: Every day friendly “Brunstad Buddies” are ready at the service desk to help both young and old conference guests who need extra support. Photo: BCC

A welcome package with Norwegian chocolate

Upon arrival, all Buddy participants receive a personal welcome package. “It includes an information booklet we have created, a new and updated map of Brunstad, and last but not least, a Norwegian chocolate bar,” says Naomi with a smile. “In addition, those who have never been to Brunstad will receive a guest card with balance of 400 Norwegian crowns, and everyone will receive a gift certificate for an optional activity trip during the conference.”

The welcome package hit the spot and provided good information. Photo: BCC

A group lunch, guided tour, and Norwegian boat trip

Saturday was welcome day and kick-off for the newly-arrived “Buddy” participants. After the morning meeting in the conference hall, they met for lunch at one of the restaurants in the conference center.

A good atmosphere during the welcome lunch, which exceeded expectations. After the meal, the program continued with a tour and boat trip. Photo: BCC

After the meal, there was a guided tour of Brunstad including the cabin village, the new hotel buildings, and the new activity center. “We wanted to give participants a nice day with a taste of Norwegian summer and so we rounded things off with a boat trip in the archipelago, where Vestfjord shows its best side,” says a pleased Naomi.

Olga Lorice Touoyim (42) from Douala, Cameroon enjoyed the boat trip. She is at the conference in Norway for the second time. “I traveled here because the faith and ministry at this place is important for me, and the welcome we received today was extra special. The lunch was a great way to meet others, but the tour of Brunstad and boat trip afterwards were even better. Absolutely amazing!” she says.

Olga Lorice Touoyim from Cameroon (at left) was thrilled with the day, which started with a group lunch and finished with a boat trip.  Photo: BCC

New friends from day one

“This was a group that showed great interest and enthusiasm the whole day,” says Therese. “We saw that several of the participants who were in the same age range connected with each other, and two of the youngest girls arranged to meet the next day already.”

“As the program organizers, it makes us very happy to make it possible for everyone to make new friends; that is one of the main points of this event.  Many of them have been looking forward to coming here and attending the summer conference, and it is a pleasure to help them have as good a stay as possible,” she concludes.

New and old friends enjoy a trip in Vestfold’s archipelago. Photo: BCC

Participants received a guided tour both inside and outside of the conference area, and the Norwegian summer weather was perfect all day long. Photo BCC

A lighthearted moment when some English conference attendees invited Brunstad Buddy to a welcome dance inside the conference center. Photo: BCC