It’s been said before that God works in mysterious ways. In Dale Kellar’s case, God worked through an audiobook about the Black Plague in order to inspire Kellar to help bring the gospel to Iceland.
Ever since Kellar and his wife, Linnea, graduated from college, they had missions in mind and waited on the LORD for His direction. While they waited, Kellar honed his skills as a pastor in northern Michigan and Detroit. Both natives of metro Detroit, they moved back to the Detroit area in January 2020, and only a few months later, the COVID-19 pandemic began. Churches were shuttered for long periods of time.
“I’m working at this factory and getting sinfully discouraged and frustrated,” Kellar remembered. “I kept asking, ‘God, why do you have us here?'”
For Kellar, the season felt like a huge roadblock in his pursuit of vocational ministry. However, God used that season of his life to introduce a new opportunity—one that Kellar and his wife had prayed for. While working at the factory, Kellar listened to an audiobook on the Black Plague—what better topic is there to explore during a pandemic? The author offhandedly mentioned that the nation of Iceland, remote and isolated as it was from the sickness in Europe, was one of the safest places to be during the first wave of the plague.
The wheels began to turn in Kellar’s mind. If Iceland was so isolated from the spread of ideas (and diseases), what was its spiritual climate like?
Iceland is a 39,000-square-mile island north of the European coast and just south of the Arctic Circle. Composed mostly of volcanic rock, its dramatic landscape has provided the backdrop for films like the “James Bond” franchise, “Star Wars” and “Interstellar.” The small island is home to 371,000 people, one of the least densely populated countries in Europe. The way Kellar describes it, Iceland is a place where everyone wants to visit but not many people willingly move there to live. In the summer, temperatures reach a high of 55 degrees Fahrenheit on average, and the winter months see only an average of three hours of sunlight each day.
According to demographic data, 67% of the population is considered Christian, but the primary denomination of the island is The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Iceland, a state-sponsored religion largely controlled and funded by the government. Pastors of these churches do not need to hold specific doctrinal beliefs or even be a Christian. While there are certainly a handful of faithful pastors and believers who choose to remain in the national church, the secularization of the denomination is leading to a rapid decline in membership and activity. In actuality, about 0.03% of the population consider themselves to be evangelical, which in Iceland’s population adds up to around 200 people.
“All these puzzle pieces began to connect,” Kellar said. “God basically used COVID to launch us into missions. He takes what He wants and He uses it for His glory.”
Over the past two years, the Kellars have become connected with Reaching & Teaching International Ministries (RTIM), which seeks to train qualified pastors and their families to plant churches and spread the gospel around the world, and by doing so, the organization equips local pastors overseas to do the same. Their sending church is Five Points Community Church in Auburn Hills, Mich. Throughout the process, God’s direction for them has remained loud and clear.
They visited Iceland on a vision trip in September 2021 and began building their support team in February 2022, with the goal of beginning their new journey next summer. Prior to that, they’ll undergo a residential program with the Center for Intercultural Training in North Carolina.
When they arrive in Iceland, the Kellars will join the membership of Loftstofan Baptistakirkja (Upper Room Baptist Church) in Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital city. The pastor of Lofstofan, Gunnar Ingi Gunnarsson, planted the church in 2013 along with a few other families who had prayed to see healthy churches thrive in Iceland.
With only around 50 members, Loftstofan is still one of the most faithfully attended churches in the country. In fact, the leadership of Loftstofan have indicated that it is one of only three or four churches in all of Iceland that still preach the biblical gospel message. In the midst of a culture that views Christianity as a relic of the past, the fellowship at Loftsofan is healthy, vibrant and multiplying as they seek to put the gospel on display to their neighbors and the nations. The church is the initial church plant of The Iceland Project, which seeks to plant healthy, gospel-preaching churches across the country. The Kellars have a long-term goal of leading a core team of believers to launch and plant a new local church in another area of Iceland, wherever the greatest need at the time can be discerned.
“This season has reminded me that I’m not in control of my life,” Kellar said. “If you had said to me a few years ago, ‘Hey, want to move to Iceland to help plant a church?’ I would have laughed and said, ‘Where’s that?’ Our sovereign God directs us where He wants us to be no matter what.”
The Kellars have adopted John 1:5 as their family’s motto for their vision of missions in Iceland: “Ljósið skín í myrkrinu og myrkrið tók ekki á móti því.” (“The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.”)
They long to see the light of the gospel of Christ shine forth in a land both physically and spiritually dark. The Kellars are overjoyed to be called to play a small part in the work of the ministry that God is already doing in Iceland through His people who are serving there.
In terms of support, the Kellars ask first and foremost for prayer as they raise funds and prepare to move their young family to a new country—they understand that none of this endeavor would be possible without the power of prayer.
If you feel led to join the Kellars’ support team financially, please visit rtim.org/give and select Dale and Linnea Kellar under the list of RTIM missionaries. Please include your information so that the Kellars can send you a thank you note.