Norm Edwards stands in a cramped room in Poti, Georgia with a few dozen worshiping Georgians.
He is in his element. It’s warm in the old building where the group stands shoulder to shoulder and sings with expressive honesty that transcends language. Norm stands out here, but at six-foot five, he stands out wherever he goes.
He belongs in this worship service. As the Eurasia Northwest Area Director, he was here 10 years ago. “I came and sat down with Bishop Oleg and talked about it,” remembers Norm, “and I left feeling uncertain if there was any interest in planting a church in this area. I left praying. That was about 10 years ago.”
Norm has a particular drive and infectious enthusiasm, which make long-term ideas feel possible. His passion is most evident when talking about projects like this church. “There were times when the problems seemed insurmountable, so to see it come to fruition is really great. They are so happy; they've been through a lot. You look at their faces and see it's been incredibly difficult, but their faces demonstrate a complete joy of the Lord. The gospel is very attractive and those around them will see that joy. It's irresistible really. That's how the gospel draws people.”
What’s happening in this church in Georgia is precisely what Norm wants to accomplish in the seven countries of Eurasia Northwest. In Georgia, Armenia, Moldova, Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, the mission is to plant the church where it is not and to make the gospel accessible to everyone.
For Norm, this has truly been an international journey. Growing up in Canada, his family left the Catholic church to attend a Pentecostal church, which led him to Springfield, Missouri to attend Central Bible College (CBC) and Assemblies of God Theological Seminary. In college, he met Heather, and after one foolish break up on Norm’s part, as he describes it, they got married.
In time Norm and Heather felt called to missions with no idea God would take them to Russia. “I didn't know anything about Russia. I didn't speak a word of the language,” recalls Norm. “We arrived in Moscow in 1998 with our container, our belongings, and our 3-year-old daughter.”
Settling into life abroad, God has used them in powerful ways. Eight years ago, Norm became Area Director for Eurasia Northwest. His job is providing oversight, pastoral care, and visionary direction for the Assemblies of God missionaries in the area. “I'm extremely fulfilled when I can help our missionaries. When we share a vision, people catch the vision and I can help them accomplish it,” explains Norm. “That fires me up.”
Throughout the years Heather has had the joy of working with the international business community, which affords her the opportunity to journey with internationals in spiritual development. “In those circles I'm always just Heather's husband, which is just awesome,” says Norm. “I love it.”
Together, with a group of talented and dedicated missionaries, locals, partnering American churches, and the national churches of the area, they have a simple plan. They want to plant the church where it is not.
Norm and Heather live in Kiev, Ukraine, with their daughters Ashley and Savannah.