Remembering Arne Fjeldstad
The following are remarks I made at the Memorial Dinner for the late Dr. Arne Fjeldstad, my brother-in-law. He was a media missionary and the head of the Media Project. I gave this little speech on December 3, 2014 in Kristiansand, Norway. The foundation that underwrote his ministry graciously provided the opportunity for Kirsti (my wife) and me to travel there to pay our respects at his funeral. He will be missed. Arne was only 57 years old.
Good afternoon. I’ve had the privilege to know Arne Fjeldstad off and on for more than 30 years. I am married to Kirsti, Hilde’s only sister. By the time, we got married in 1980, Hilde was already dating Arne.
In fact, Svarre Jolstad was the minister who said the wedding that wasn’t very far from here in Kristiansand many years ago. He also participated in Arne and Hilde’s wedding. Here he was today participating in our celebration of the home-coming service for Arne Fjeldstad—or really our celebration of his going to heaven.
Now Arne was so close to all of us. He was always using his priestly abilities and calling in many ways. As an ordained pastor, Arne was always available to lead worship services in a variety of settings. There were rare occasions, where church was not available to us; so Arne led us in Christian worship. When our daughter was married in a Coptic service, it wasn’t in English. So we had an exchange of the vows in a church-like setting at the reception, and Arne was the one who did the vows. He presided over that part of the wedding, and when you see him in the video, you can tell he was really in his element.
But, of course, he was in his element as a journalist. People were talking earlier at this memorial dinner on how journalism is a reflection of God—since the Lord is our God who communicates.
Think about this phrase: “In the beginning was the Word…and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” But think about that: “In the beginning was the Word.”
People from all over the world have been influenced by Arne to bring up a level of professionalism in journalism for the glory of Jesus Christ. And in fact, the Gegrapha organization that was mentioned earlier today—they used a very good phrase in a eulogy that they wrote for Arne. They were talking about the fact that too often Christian journalism around the world was of poor quality. Instead what Arne would do was go all over the place, “encouraging the church to value journalism as something better than poorly done public relations ‘feel-good’ pieces.”
He would bring it up to a level of professionalism. So there were people impacted by Arne from all over the world.
Just to give a brief taste of this. Consider these “FOA’s”—Friends of Arne.
And there are FOAs all over the world. We heard earlier from Jenni Taylor of England. I’m in media. I work as a TV producer and co-host of a television program founded by the late Dr. D. James Kennedy, who founded Evangelism Explosion, which is used around the world.
I was going to England, and I contacted Arne and said, “Do you have anybody you can lead me to who can speak on the subject of the threat of radical Islam?” He said, “Oh yes, Jenni Taylor of Lapido Media.” He put us in touch, and when in London, we interviewed Jenni Taylor and she did a wonderful job. And she was an FOA—a Friend of Arne. When he died, she also wrote a beautiful piece about Arne and his work to intelligently fight against “religious illiteracy,” as found, for example, in the secular media.
Last night, we had a meeting with an international coalition that came to visit Hilde and Silje Maria, including some of the generous funders of Arne’s work who even helped pay the way for several of us to come to Norway to participate in this funeral. And at one point, we were talking about murder mysteries because Arne sometime liked to relax by reading them. When you think about a murder mystery, if you’re familiar with them at all, you know that if you figure out—especially this is true of Agatha Christie—if you figure out who has the motive…it doesn’t matter how she tries to deceive you about them not supposedly having the means, the person with the key motive is usually the one who did it.
And so often in this world, for good or for ill, religion is the key motive. And that is so often not told. In a sense, especially with the positive things of Christianity, it’s the greatest story never told because too many journalists don’t understand it. And Arne understood that, and Arne did what he could, all around the globe to mobilize professional Christian journalists and encourage them to do well.
So, for example, an FOA named Promise Hsu from China, he said “In him [talking about Arne], I saw a great communicator who talked less about himself than about his appreciation of God the great communicator.”
He went on to say, “In [one] sense, all Christians are journalists, God’s Good News messengers.
And Arne understood that and, as noted, he tried to encourage us to get out of the ghetto and into the world. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.
Another FOA, Dr. Cornelis Hulsman, Editor-in-chief Arab-West Report based in Cairo, Egypt said this of Arne’s work: “Points of view differ on Christian-Muslim relations in Egypt, Arne was able to listen to both sides and act as a bridge between them. We will dearly miss him and wish God will console his wife Hilde…”
I could probably quote many other FOAs, but let me just say this, Caroline Comport who is here now and who worked in his office. After learning of his death, she sent me an email saying, “I am heartbroken to hear the news about Arne’s passing. He was my boss at The Media Project. He was the kindest, fairest, most hard-working man I’ve ever met. Arne is loved by many, many people around the world.” People in China, Ukraine, and so forth. He traveled to 100 countries.
I want to close with an article from Gegrapha based in New York City. They wrote this, and I think it’s a tremendous tribute to Arne: “The world of journalism has suddenly lost a kind man and a tireless warrior for religious equality and press freedoms around the world. … His humility, Christian faith, work ethic and investment in leaders in media in the developing world will leave a legacy that quite literally spans the globe. Well done, good and faithful servant.”