OBITUARY: Today, we first and foremost remember Egil for his clear testimony about Jesus. We thank God for everything Egil meant to others, and we bless his memory.
Egil Grandhagen (born 20 September 1947) has died. After a prolongued illness, he died the night of 20 May. We grieve a good friend and a great mission leader, and in human terms we must add – too early.
Egil meant a lot to many people in the local community where he and Solveig have lived for the past eight years, and for the 'people of the mission' everywhere, with whom he maintained such a good relationship in so many ways.
For 19 years, from 1982–2001, Egil served as the Secretary-General of Norwegian Lutheran Mission (NLM). He was a mild and friendly man, and a clear and visionary leader. Today, when we say that an important part of NLM's calling is reaching the least reached, it is in no small part thanks to him.
"The unreached" was a term he brought back with him from studies in the USA, and reaching those who have not yet had the chance to hear the gospel preached became both his calling and ours. Egil was an early user of the term "the 10/40 window" – the geographical area with the highest number of unreached people. Through his preaching and teaching throughout the 80s and 90s, he influenced whole generations of youth with this message.
He was personally involved in preparing for the establishment of NLM's work in Mongolia, and we often heard him talk about the thrilling details of that work.
Egil had a special gift for seeing people. He noticed and remembered colleagues, volunteers, young and old in a way that made us feel valued.
One of my strongest memories is of him coming for supper at our house when we lived in Kenya. He made time to listen to a young missionary who had a lot on his heart. We are many who can share testimony of the deep personal conversations we had with him, after a meeting when the busy mission leader took time to see the individual.
The youth held a special place in his heart, and after stepping down in 2001, he enjoyed several more years of teaching and counselling young leaders in NLM at Fjellhaug International University College.
While mild-mannered and in many ways modest on his own behalf, he was a clear and strong leader. He staked out the course and led NLM in a safe and good way. He was adamant that God's Word is the authority and guideline for both our life and our salvation.
He was not a man of fighting spirit, but when required, he delivered clear guidance on important issues. Some of his years as Secretary-General must be described as turbulent. There were many contentious issues both in the Christian landscape in Norway in general, and internally in NLM.
Through his clear, but also diplomatic, leadership style, Grandhagen managed to keep NLM unified. He took important issues seriously, while also helping us to lift our eyes and focus on the most important things.
Throughout the 90s, Egil heard stories from people who had been sexually abused by people employed by NLM. This affected him greatly. He spent a lot of time listening to those who had been wronged, and he confronted those responsible.
In this way, he helped give many the understanding, help and support they needed, and he began the hard work of facing and making amends for this difficult part of our history. Although it cost him much personally, he remained steadfast on the side of the wronged, and he laid the foundations for a continued, systematic focus on such issues in the future.
Through Egil's leadership, NLM became a more modern organisation. He penned several documents about leadership in NLM, and he developed and adapted the organisation for growth and development in a new era.
For many employees, the offer of work counseling meant a lot. He personally insisted that this was needed in NLM, despite some resistance from various circles. In this way, he managed to take better care of central staff members who had previously often been left to their own devices, without much guidance in their work.
Today, we primarily remember Egil for his clear testimony about Jesus. "God has arranged for my salvation through Jesus, quite apart from myself", was one of the last things he reminded us. And this is precisely the message it is so important that every human being has a chance to hear.
It is impossible to understand how Egil could become such an important and good leader without mentioning Solveig. She served in her own way, both in NLM and otherwise, and she spent a lot of time alongside Egil on trips and in meeting people. Together, they have meant so much to so many. We keep Solveig in our thoughts and prayers at this time.
We thank our God for all the things Egil meant to us, and we bless his memory.