By 0. H. Oace
I want to write a little about the old lay-preachers—some of them became pastors over here. They continued their work for the salvation of souls and were faithful unto death.
Ole Anderson Bergh was born in Eidsberg parish, southeast of Oslo, February 1, 1819. As he was a gifted boy, the minister of the parish helped him to get sufficient education to become a teacher in the public schools.
He came as public school teacher to the parish of Ømark. Here he labored both as teacher and lay-preacher. He was the instrument in God’s hand to lead many souls to Jesus, especially among the young people, both in the parish of Ømark, near Sweden, and in other parishes. Among others who were converted were the 4 sons and 3 daughters of Kasa in Ømark. (It was at a funeral in 1845, where the young school teacher, 0. A. Bergh, had given a most fervent testimony on repentance, that the Kasa children were converted.—Ed.)
Three of these so-called “Kasa-boys” became most earnest witnesses and soul-winners. The oldest of them, Ole, came here to America.
One of the sisters of the “Kasa-boys,” named Sidsel, was married to teacher Bergh January 10, 1846. They were the parents of 3 boys and 1 girl. The girl died young. The boys grew up. Their names were Johan Arendt, Edward and Olai. They became converted and were later to become witnesses here in America, Edward as lay-preacher, and Johan Arendt and Olai as ordained ministers.
After some years the Ole Bergh family moved to Oslo. Here Ole had a store for a while. But his dear Sidsel, nee Kasa, died in Oslo in 1855. Bergh was left alone with the three motherless young boys, whom he had to leave with relatives to be taken care of.
In 1857 Ole Bergh was married for the second time, to Anna Righolt with whom he had nine children. They were all dead by 1885, except one who was married to Andrew Snesrud at Kasson, Minn.
In 1860 Ole Bergh and family came to Goodhue County. The youngest boy was left with his uncle Brynild Kasa till 1869. Then he came over also.
Ole Bergh settled 3 miles west of Kenyon, Minn. He came among the Norwegian Synod people. He was the song leader (klokker) at the church services for pastor B. J. Muus and also a religious school teacher in the congregation for a few years until the question of the “Justification of the world” and the “Sunday question” came up. Then he could not be silent. He spoke out and wrote a protest against this kind of teaching.
(A large number of the old Synod preachers believed that in absolution, as at communion, the “forgiveness of sin with the Grace of God was given and bestowed, whether the communicants were real believers or not.” Yet they did not teach that all were saved in the end. Many of them held that the Third Commandment, about the Sabbath Day, was a part of the ceremonial law. Against all this Bergh protested.—Ed.)
In 1868 the Hauge-Elling people ordained Bergh and Hans E. Sether, another lay-preacher, at the same time. Bergh had traveled with God’s Word in Norway. Now he had to do it again, here in America.
He moved to near Kasson, Minn., which became his home for the rest of his life. But he traveled widely. He was several times in St. Paul. Once he was in our home. He wanted bread and milk for breakfast, in bed, as was so often the custom in Norway.
One of our boys had been sickly from childhood. But he confessed Christ and was never ashamed of Him. Mother said in a sad voice to Bergh: “Perhaps our boy will be sickly all his life.” Bergh comforted her by saying: “You ought to be thankful that you have a sickly boy in your home; it is a blessing from God.” She received much comfort from these words and repeated them often. Yes, blessed be the memory of old Ole Bergh.
It could not be avoided that Bergh was hated. All God’s people must share in the world’s hate. He who bears witness for God will often be hated the most, but he should search himself lest he give the world a just cause to hate him.
Old Pastor Bergh died in the home of his son, Edward, near Northfleld, Minn., in November, 1907.
(Many souls were converted through the old-fashioned preaching and labors of old Bergh, both around Kasson, Kenyon and other places. He also wrote a book on “The Spiritual Priesthood” of God’s people. He was one of the outstanding pioneers who were along and transplanted the Hauge movement to America.—Ed.)
Pastor 0. 0. Bergh
Olai, the youngest of the Bergh boys, was born at Skiptvet, March 1, 1852, just before the Rergh family moved to Oslo. He was only three years old when his mother died. But he got a very fine Christian training in the home of his uncle, Brynild Kasa. He was left with him when father, stepmother and his two older brothers left for America in 1860. He joined his parents at Kenyon, Minn., seven years later.
After some years of school he was ordained by the Haugeans in 1884. He was minister around Volga for some 35 years. His wife was a living Christian. Their home was open for God’s people. Olai Bergh loved and encouraged all lay-activity and the gifts of grace.
In St. Paul Bergh did not feel so much at home in the church he joined when he came there to live. So he joined the St. Paul’s Church, Minneapolis, which A. Lawrence served. In that church there had been revivals and the young and old could pray, testify and praise God together in both languages. There he felt at home.
Olai Bergh died suddenly. On February 8, right after he had taken one of his sons to the depot in St. Paul, he was taken very sick. He lived only about three hours. He often used to say, when something happened or was told him: “Ja, saa er dette ogsaa naade.” “Yes, even this is grace from God.” So he said when death came.
Bergh had given directions before he died what songs to sing, some old songs out of the old Hymnbook--Landstad’s. He did not care so much for solos and up-to-date singing. We felt the nearness of the Spirit as we sang those songs Bergh had wanted. “This was also grace from God.” Olai Bergh was very deaf toward the last; it’s over now.
I have heard that he was somewhat quick-tempered, especially if accused for things he was not guilty of. But he was a sinner saved by grace. He died on the 8th of February, 1930, at the age of 78.
Olai Bergh was a fine Christian brother in every way. He always was so whole-hearted and steadfast in all soul-winning work and lay-activity. The old Haugean principles were ever so dear to his heart.
Edward 0. Bergh—He was a Christian from his heart
The farmer and lay-preacher, Edw. Bergh, was born August 8, (year left out; perhaps in 1849) at Ømark. He was the second son of old 0. A. Bergh. God must have loved little Edward very much, because his father gave him a stepmother in 1857. They came to America, as said before, in 1860 and became the pioneers in Goodhue and Dodge Counties, Minnesota.
On the 23rd of August, 1883, a terrible cyclone struck the settlements. The E. Bergh family escaped in a little cellar. But they lost their home, cattle and horses. We in St. Paul could see the cyclone in the distance. The air looked like a boiling pot—red, green and yellow, and we said: “Look at those awful spirals which run up and down.”
In the course of time E. Bergh left Kasson, Minn., and moved to Rice County, west of Northfield. Here he had to go still deeper down into the valley of sorrows: His wife and, I believe, six of his children died of diphtheria--all within one week. It goes through my heart when I think of this.
Edward Bergh had certain marks in his features which reminded us that life is not only play. He married again. Our friend Justin Bergh, Boroden, Alberta, is a son from the last family.
E. Bergh used a word I have never heard from any one else: “He, or she, is a heart-Christian” he would say often. This fits Edward Bergh himself. He had been tested in the fire of many trials. But his faith was more precious than gold. In their home you would receive rest, refreshments and the benefit of spiritual conversations..
He was sent out as lay-evangelist for the former Hauge Synod. He labored as such faithfully, without much noise, and found some precious souls for the Lord. He sang the Gospel from the bottom of his heart.
Together with a number of others, Edward Bergh went to Ceral, Alberta (perhaps about 1908). He continued the work of lay-preaching also in Canada. He crossed the border-line between time and eternity February 23, 1917. I dare say his soul is now in the hand of God and no torment can touch him. He was a “heart-Christian.”
Anders was like so many who think that if they live a moral life they have good reason to find an open door into God’s heaven. They have worked in the church, they are baptized and confirmed, and are just as good as others.
But the eyes of Anders became weak early in life. Already at 19, he said, he was unable to read. What an awful blow!
Onsager was born in 1844 at the north end of Lake Randsfjord. He grew up to be a strong man, had much hard work and was a maker of tiles and bricks.
He left Norway in 1870 and came with his family to Wisconsin. He needed physical strength here also—to use the axe and cut down timber became his work. He was along and built a church, in spite of his poor eyesight, at Mauston, Wis., I believe.
But God was good to him. Christian people moved into the neighborhood. These became the means God used in his awakening and conversion. He had gone to visit them on the third day of Christmas. He called them “these Oslo people.” But they spoke to him about his soul, and told him that true conversion and new life were necessary to gain heaven. These Christians were like Priscilla and Acquila were to Apollo. They showed him the way of God more in detail.
On the way home he had a vision. He fell down and laid in the snow a long time in an unconscious condition. Later he met Elling Eielsen and his friends. Among them Onsager found a real Christian fellowship. They called him one of their own, and he sang and testified about his Savior. Otherwise his greatest spiritual work was to visit the sick and needy, read and pray with them, and to do personal work.
He had also a prayer list. This he had written in his memory, for he could not see to read or write. He kept on, while praying, mentioning names of many who lay on his heart. He thought it was fine when somebody volunteered to lead him by the hand, as for instance brother Erik Andersen often did.
Onsager loved his Savior and His children. God took him in November of 1928. God will see to that none will lose his reward. But it is a reward all of Grace.
(Onsager was one of the dearest brethren in the Lord I have met.—Ed.)
The Well-known Men
By 0. H. Oace
Though one of the purposes of this book is to bring out what God has done through the forgotten men, not the well-known men, who have received plenty of publicity already, our beloved brother Oace has at the age of 92 written a great deal, mostly about the well-known men. Sorry we have not the space to print it, but will take about a sentence from each sketch.
On Pastor G. C. Gjerstad: He was full of courage, He strongly condemned the old high-church ritual with absolution and laying on of hands in communion. He strengthened God’s people.
On T. K. Jacobs: He was very faithful and an unassuming servant.
On Pastor J. B. Falkanger: He was an old layman the Hauge Synod ordained. I believe that he as a lost sinner died trusting that Jesus had forgiven him all his sins.
On Pastor Gaardsmoe: We were together on the trip from England to the United States. We gathered on the deck, read, testified, sang and prayed together.
On Pastor F. H. Carlson: He was a Swede and a Godly Christian pastor. He never kept on after it was time to quit. In his evening meetings there was full liberty to take part for other Christians.
On Pastor K. Hageseth: He possessed a very attractive personality, which no doubt came from his personal communion with God.
On Pastor J. Halvorsen: He was an ordained laymen’s pastor who had to live on a salary of $50 a year. So he had to put on his overalls and work for his living. Many of his church members were well-to-do. Halvorsen had many trials in his life, until God let his servant depart in peace.
On Pastor R. Hill: He and Utheim went as delegates from the Hauge Synod to Norway to find a professor for the Hauge Seminary. They found “provst” Weenaas. As they forgot to have a written understanding with him, Hill remembered it one way and Utheim another (perhapsWeenaas still another), so they had much trouble afterward.
On Pastor C. C. Holter: In his farewell sermon he made a sad speech (Oace does not say in which church). “I don’t know,” he said, “whether I have led any one to give God his heart, which is my strongest desire; also, it is my desire that those who have life in God may keep it.”
On Jens Johansen: He was a Lofoten Island fisherman, who was called “old Jens” from the time he was a young boy. The Hauge Synod ordained him. He was found dead in his bed. Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord. (“Old Jens” was one of the finest laymen’s pastors I have met. He had a real loving and fatherly heart. He was sure to understand you.)
On R. Rasmussen: An intrepid sailor and mate on the “Vikingship” to the world’s fair in Chicago in 1893. We called him Viking-Rasmussen. He was a powerful lay-preacher. The Hauge Synod ordained him. He had terrible hardships in his life from the beginning to the end. He died out in the Badlands in Dakota. God took him home.
On Pastor J. J. Ekse: He was outstanding in getting the laymen to help him in his work.
On Pastor A. A. Dahl: God gave him a good wife and he worked at Taylor, Wis., and Ada, Minn. He was a friend among friends. When people were asked how they had it, when Dahl was with them, their faces lit up and they said: We had it so good. Both he and his wife were unusually good.
On Pastor A. 0. Oppegaard: He was a tailor from Norway. The Hauge Synod ordained him. He served sixteen congregations. Where he labored were found many Hauge Lutheran Bible Christians (underscored by Oace).
On J. J. Breidablik: He was especially noticed because the world got so restless when he preached. He did not call the unconverted “good Christians.”
On Iver G. Aschim: He had seven preaching places north of Duluth (Oace mentions each one by name). He sent his wife to visit the sick, read with the confirmands and led meetings. She was as good as an assistant pastor (hjaelpeprest)—(perhaps she was better). (Aschim deserves an honorable mention among us lay-people for standing up for our beloved brother 0. J. Kasa when he was ousted in 1889.)
On Arne Boyum: He was a laymen’s pastor. I remember him from a meeting in Minneapolis: He wept and spoke to us in the good old laymen’s fashion (laegmandsvis). Once he said: “The young people ought to use more sense when they talk about the old people.”
On Iver Lybeck: I knew him from Norway. He was a beloved brother, who could bring guidance and comfort just when you needed it the most. God has brought two of his Sons in through the narrow gate.
On Andreas Pedersen: A fisherman and lay-preacher from Northern Norway, whom the “Nordlendings” called “Prate-Andreas”—Prating-Andrew.
On Jens Stueland: He wanted everybody on deck (name of his book: “Alle Mand paa Daek”). He was teacher, lay- preacher and farmer. I heard him speak, among other places, at Webster, Minn. It was very good.
On G. Nordmarken: He was a slave of sin whom God Himself converted. He was an outstanding lay-preacher and leader of the Ottertail Inner Mission Society. (The one I never have been able to hear from.) He did not spare the outward Christians who did not have God in their hearts. I believe Gudbrand died daily, and was cleansed in the blood of the Lamb.
On Christian Hansen: When I heard him he came with a clear-ringing testimony of sin and grace. He was a lay- preacher who bore witness both in word and act.
On Pastor H. E. Sether: He was converted through Ole J. Kasa. His worldly father was very angry at this, and told Hans to make his choice between Christ and the farm. Young Hans answered: “If the Sether farm stood on pillars of gold (guldstolper) I would not want it, if I had to give up Christ.” So he came to America in 1867. The Haugeans ordained him. He was a humble brother. We praise God for him.
Pastor Osten Hanson: He came from Telemarken and God met him here and persuaded him to become his child. He was president of the Hauge Synod for many years, so he needs no further testimony.
On Pastor Torgerson: He was an ordained lay-preacher and was always prompt in keeping all money matters in good shape.
On Pastor A. Utheim: A lay-preacher from Norway, whom the Haugeans ordained. He was a very gifted speaker. He had a very good wife.
On K. Strand: He worked well, but was a little hard to suit.
On Hanson “med trefoten,” or “with the wooden leg”: God had to use especially strong means to bring him back from his sinful ways. (He was converted when he lost both his legs in a grain-binder.)
We are very thankful to our beloved brother Oace for the 23 closely written pages out of which I have culled these brief but pointed remarks about all these men of God. Sorry we have not space to print more.
Please remember our dear old brother and his invalid wife in your prayers. They are both in their 93rd year.