The vision about a training school for youth in Norway was born under a starry Ethiopian sky in 1966, as missionary Gunnar Gustavsen was pondering how the message could reach out to the countless souls in the world. He then was inspired by the quote from Ellen G. White:
”With such an army of workers as our youth, rightly trained, might furnish, how soon the message of a crucified, risen, and soon-coming Saviour might be carried to the whole world!” (E. G. White, Education,p. 271).
Since then, he made several attempts to initiate a training program and worked on a concept that would fulfil this purpose. As a result of his perseverance, Matteson Mission School was established, and, despite predictions about such an initiative only lasting for a few years, we can now look back on more than 30 years of history with a small army of alumni whose lives have been changed.
Gunnar was never interested in erecting a “monument” for himself. He wished to facilitate an environment where young men and women could let God shape their characters according to His plan. “That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; that our daughters may be as corner stones, polished after the similitude of a palace” (Psalm 144:12). He frequently reminded his students that, at the end of the day, it all boils down to surrendering 100% to God.
“In choosing men and women for His service, God does not ask whether they possess worldly wealth, learning or eloquence. He asks, “do they walk in such humility that I may teach them My way? Can I put My words into their lips? Will they represent Me?” (E. G. White, Ministry of Healing, p. 37)
Gunnar’s way of thinking, and his practical approach to faith and Christian service, has challenged many to give God priority. Several generations of Adventist youth, as well as neighbours and people in town, remember Gunnar as an untraditional communicator; one who wisely and naturally integrated God in life and conversation.
Asking advice from Gunnar was always interesting, as his answers were well considered and frequently outside of the box. Knowing that character development is a precious and costly exercise, he encouraged an attitude of service. Many a youth had their self-understanding enlightened by some of his acquired wisdom, like the statement: “The most common form of laziness is doing only what one likes”. Gunnar encouraged Christian growth and appealed to sound reasoning. He also spoke to the heart and never encouraged heart-less service. With passion, he advised: “Consider the matter well and make a decision with your reason – and then charge it with feelings!”
Gunnar Gustavsen passed away on May 7, 2016 at the age of 90. His dear wife, Solveig, was a faithful support, and will always be remembered for her hospitality and genuine care for young and old. Solveig passed away on November 19, 2017.
The Granheim foundation is committed to ensuring that many more youth can receive the benefit of Gunnar’s legacy.