Trygve Bjørkås (89) had his last home in Jørpeland. After years abroad in Asia, his whole family including wife, children and grand children all settled down in the coast village in Rogaland in South West Norway.
His work in Asia started among the about 50000 children affected by poliomyelitis in Taiwan. The Norwegian mission had a hospital in Pingtung where 10000 of them got operations, braces and crutches. Most of the children came from the countryside where nobody could follow up training after surgery. The mission decided to build an orphanage where children could receive education and schooling.
Olav Kristian Strømme was a Norwegian Lutheran priest. He is known for the many aid projects he raised money for. Through red first page advertisements in newspapers, he encouraged people to donate money to projects that Norwegian missionaries had started. He heard about the need for dormitory for the children after treatment in the hospital. Soon he had collected money to build a home for 200 children. Trygve Bjørkås was given responsibility for the children and named the dormitory Victory Home.
Madam Chiang Kai-shek, the wife of the president, once went to visit Victory Home she saw as model for her planned polio center at Yang Ming Mountain in Taipei.
After four years in Taiwan, Trygve Bjørkås moved back to Norway with his family, living in Rykkinn in Bærum outside Oslo.
After four years in Norway, the family returned to Asia where Trygve started pioneering work among lepers in Vietnam. But the war didn`t let them stay long in Vietnam, so after a time they returned to Taiwan for an other year.
In 1976 Trygve and Borghild Bjørkås started their main work as missionaries by moving to Manila, Philippines. Two years later, in 1978, the Bjørkås couple toured congregations in Norway with their singing, charming and dancing staff of social workers. Trygve was very charismatic and committed. The tour created many donors for their work. But the staff maybe got a fake impression that people are very rich in Norway.
In 1981 Harald Stene Dehlin released his book Engler i slummen (Angels in the Slums) about their work. In 2001 Norwegian Mission Alliance released the book Når Kjærlighet Krysser Grenser (When Love Crosses Boundaries). It has a chapter about their work in Philippines.
In 2011 Trygve moved for the last time back to Norway and the rest of his family. He passed away on April 29th 2022, 89 years of age. The funeral was held from the Pentecostal church Klippen on May 13th.
His youngest daughter An-Magritt read his eulogy:
“On Friday January 20th, 1933, Trygve Halvard Jensen was born in Blåmannsvika on Kvaløya,just outside of Tromsø. He grew up with his grandparents on the farm Bjørkås and took that as his surname when he became an adult.
Trygve attended primary school in Henrikvika, and afterward moved on to Heimly Framandskole, a secondary school. One of his teachers recommended that Trygve should attend the Diakonia College in Oslo, which was something he would later do. Before that, he worked on a fishing boat with his uncle and grandfather. They fished several seasons in Lofoten, and then he worked several seasons at a fish farm in Båtsfjord. When at home, he would do some carpentry work, like helping build his mother’s house.
Trygve decided to listen to his old teacher, and his journey led him to Oslo and deacon studies at the Diakonia College. This was a lovely time, with wonderful revival meetings held by John Olav Larssen that made a huge impression on him. In Oslo, he became a deacon, and met the love of his life, Borghild, who he married in 1961.
After completing his studies, he joined the military and went with the UN forces to Gaza as a 2nd lieutenant. He enjoyed the military, so much so that he took the prerequisite course to enter the Norwegian Military Academy and considered a career in the military.
But God had another plan.
The boy from Blåmannsvika also had a calling to missions, something that his dear Borghild shared (- to a much greater degree, he always said). They applied as missionaries to the Norwegian Mission Society (NMS), whose letter of acceptance went missing and never reached them. When they didn’t hear back, they sent an application to the Norwegian Mission Alliance, who were very pleased to have a couple interested in missions. The next step was 6 months of English language studies in England, before leaving Oslo by cargo ship, the Tarn, to Hong Kong.
The Bjørkås couple first went to Taiwan (1964). There, new language studies awaited in Taichung city, this time Mandarin, before they started their work at Victory Home in Pingtung where the focus was treatment of polio patients.
Four years later, they returned to Norway with three children who couldn’t speak a word of Norwegian. They stayed in Norway for four years, managed to have child number four, before their next mission which was working with lepers in Vietnam. There, they built a village for lepers called New Morning Village.
The war forced them to leave Vietnam. Trygve managed to evacuate his family, before returning to see if there was any chance of continuing the work. However, he grasped the gravity of the situation and boarded one of the last flights to leave Vietnam.
Leaving Vietnam was a source of great sorrow for both of them. A missionary that they had met in Vietnam, Paul Contento, recommended that they consider missions work in Manila, Philippines.
While they were deciding, they returned to Taiwan for another year.
In 1976, Trygve and Borghild arrived in the Philippines. They day after their arrival, they took a taxi to “Smoky Mountain”, the once famous rubbish mountain in Manila. And it became very clear to them, this was where God wanted them to be. The later part of that year saw the arrival of child number 5.
Bit by bit they found good people to work with, and bit by bit they build up 15 multipurpose centres in different parts of Manila, where those who lived in the community could go for Bible teaching, schooling, nutritional education, doctoral and dental help. Trygve and Borghild spearheaded a sponsorship program, where people in Norway supported children through school. By the time they finished their work with NORMA (Norwegian Mission Alliance), in the Philippines in 2003, about 40,000 children had been provided with an education, and their families had received support, so God used the work to touch many lives. Perhaps understandable that Trygve was nicknamed “God’s bulldozer” in a Norwegian newspaper.
The staff that Borghild and Trygve worked together with became their family. There were office workers, houseworkers, nurses, social workers, and nutritionists. Many of them say to this day that Sir Trygve is the best boss they have ever had. Several aid projects sprung out from NORMA, two of the largest were Shalom Learning Centre and Papa John Centre (named after John Olav Larssen). We were newly informed by the board of the Papa John Centre, which has become a school, that they want to change their name to honour our Pappa, to the Trygve Bjorkas Memorial School.
Eleven years ago, Borghild and Trygve moved back to Norway and to their house on Fjelde here on Jørpeland. Trygve continued to support projects in the Philippines in any way that he could and returned there regularly during the first few years. When he was in Norway, hetook many long walks. Bit by bit, the walks became shorter, but for many years he walked to Klippen (his church) nearly weekly so long as his kidneys permitted. Many have told us that they miss the sight of him walking down the road with his hands behind his back.
In 2018 Trygve’s kidneys deteriorated so much that he had to start dialysis treatments in Stavanger. Initially, Trygve quite liked these trips, he always loved car trips and enjoyed the hospital food, and he looked at it as his work day. However, during the last year those treatments began to wear him down. Since January, someone has accompanied him to his treatments. After taking his last treatment on April 2nd, my Pappa stayed home, still with a smile at the ready and a quick quip on hand. Until the morning of April 29th, when our Heavenly Father welcomed his son home.
Trygve was a good man, a kind man, a generous soul, with a wonderful sense of humor, an infectious smile, and a sparkle in his eye. He was a joker who liked to surprise, challenge, and sometimes shock people. He was both patient and restless and could not abide injustice. He and our Mamma always had time for us, and our house was always open to others. He gave everything he had to anyone who needed it, even if it left him with very little. Our Pappa had a servant’s heart. All that he did, he did wholeheartedly, there was never any halfway, and he never gave up.
He surrendered his heart to his Lord, gave his heart to his Borghild, shared his heart with his family and friends, and left much of his heart in the Philippines. But, as he knew so well, whatever we give we receive in a much greater degree.
May his memory be a blessing.”
Kristin, Thor, Ove, Borgar, An-Magritt (children) Borghild (wife)