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Oftebro family reunion 2004

The family reunion was arranged in Lyngdal, Norway, from 4th to 6th of August 2004, and had chosen the large sports arena , Fibo Trespo hallen, as its basis. The following keywords give links to descriptions of the different elements of the reunion programme:

Participants | The programme | Cultural elements | Exhibitions | Lectures | Book stand | Photo and video | | The weather | Accomodation | Best of the west | Press clippings | Planning | "Family dugnad" (family bee) | Economy


440 persons attended the family reunion. The oldest participant was over 90 years of age, while the youngest, our girl baby from Zimbabwe, was only a few months old. 11 foreign countries had “Oftebro” representatives attending, 60 persons from USA, 12 persons from South Africa, 11 persons from Canada, 6 persons from the United Kingdom, 4 persons from Zimbabwe, 4 persons from Denmark, 4 persons from Australia, 4 persons from France, 3 persons from Italy; 2 persons from New Zealand and 1 person from Germany. Our Oftebro couple from Japan had signed up for the reunion, but unfortunately they had to cancel their visit. In addition we had the pleasure of entertaining special invited guests like the Mayor of Lyngdal, Hans Fr. Grøvan and his wife, chief archivist at the Mission school in Stavanger, Nils Kristian Høimyr and his wife, representatives of the Lyngdal Historical Club, and mr. Kåre Christensen, today’s resident at Oftebro, and his daughter. 
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The programme

The reunion event had a tight and exciting programme. Friday night was dedicated an informal get together, which at the same time offered possibilities to start studying the extensive exhibitions. The programme on Saturday offered guided bus excursions to a series of early Oftebro homesteads in Lyngdal, a reunion plenum meeting with lectures on family related topics by family lecturers from inland and abroad, and a banquet dinner spiced with cultural and entertaining breaks. On Sunday one joined the church service in Lyngdal church, where our own “Oftebro” minister, Philip West Jr. from Rhode Island, USA, gave the sermon. Later this day one witnessed the unveiling of a memorial at Klokkergården museum, erected by the city of Lyngdal, supported by the Oftebro Family reunion and by the Mission School in Stavanger, honouring the missionary pioneers from Lyngdal. Before one finished off the reunion event with a closing ceremony in the reunion hall, one met the resident at Oftebro in his garden, and was reminded where the story of the Oftebro family started. Parallel to this programme there was a special programme for the children, offering challenges in painting and in sports.
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The Oftebro choir sings a lullaby by Tobias Oftebro (III)
Photograph: Grethe Oftebro

The result of the drawing contest for the children
Photograph: Wischmann & Sånn

Service in Lyngdal church with Pastor Phillip West
Photograph: Wischmann & Sånn

The cultural elements

The reunion programme covered a series of different cultural elements. An Oftebro choir, established for the occasion, and conducted by Hilde Oftebro, performed a series of traditional Norwegian songs, as well as family related songs. Several guests from abroad gave entertaining talks about Oftebro family life in USA, in Canada, in South Africa and New Zealand. During the banquet one could enjoy the different Norwegian national costumes worn by many of the Norwegian guests, and Lyngdal’s own Kjell Elvis gave the audience a convincing reunion with “The King”.

As a part of the reunion banquet one enjoyed an “exodus video,” produced for the occasion by Nils Ole Oftebro and his family, who also acted in the video.

The church service in Lyngdal Lutheran Church was a touching event where Philip West Jr with his inspiring sermon kept the audience alert; where the Oftebro choir performed; and where Zulu hymns, recorded for the occasion in Ommund Oftebro’s church at KwaMondi in Zululand, sounded from the loudspeakers while the audience gave their ample collection to the KwaMondi congregation of today.

At the unveiling of the missionary memorial, where the ceremony was directed by the Mayor of Lyngdal, and where the Oftebro choir performed, our own Mark Oftebro from Zimbabwe, great great grandchild of Ommund Oftebro, gave a speech, representing the departed Oftebro missionaries to Zululand.
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of the memorial of the pioneer missionaries from Lyngdal
Photograph: Wischmann & Sånn

Mark Oftebro, Zimbabwe, gives a speech during the unveiling of the memorial
Photograph: Michelle Oftebro

Guests in bunads on the podium
Photograph: Phil West

The Oftebro choir during one of its many performances. Conductor: Hilde Oftebro
Photograph: Wischmann & Sånn


In the reunion hall there was an exhibition of items related to the Oftebro family. More than 400 family pictures, most of them historical, were arranged in family order and illustrated by corresponding, informative, graphic family trees. In addition to the pictures one could find family documents giving information on the family ancestors, relevant newspaper clippings and much more.

A special series of pictures described the early Oftebro homesteads in Lyngdal and their relation to the families that once lived there. Furthermore a lot of old family items, like furniture, paintings, silver, jewellery, tools, music instruments, skis, books, letters and much more could be studied.

A complete, graphical family tree, 18 m wide, was presented in duplo on the wall. Colour code on each individual personal tag led, by corresponding colour codes on the graphical family tree, each individual to his/her right location on the family tree. And above the family tree the wall was decorated with the flags of all the participating 12 nations.
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The numerous family pictures were eagerly studied and discussed
Photograph: Phil West

From the exhibition area in the reunion hall. In the background the Oftebro family book is displayed
Photograph: Kjetil Oftebro


At the family meeting lectures were given on a series of topics like the Oftebro ancestors from 1330 until 1775 and the family tree from 1775 until today. One lecturer dealt with the early Oftebro homesteads, others presented the early Oftebro immigrants to USA and Canada, and the Oftebro missionary pioneers to Zululand. Information corresponding to the lectures can be studied in the family book.
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Book stand

A preliminary manuscript for the Oftebro family book was continuously presented in the reunion hall. The guests were urged to check the manuscript, and especially the family register, in order to complete and correct the register before the book was to be printed. In this way one was able to collect a lot of new information, and to erase mistakes that had found their way into the register. The book is being presented on its own page on this website.
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Photo and video

During the reunion event one valued a thorough documentation of the guests for future family research. All family groups were photographed by a professional photographer. The photos could be purchased later, and all the photos were made available on a CD together with other relevant pictures from the reunion arrangement. In addition all 440 participants were photographed on one big group photo, also available for the guests to buy. This group photo can be studied on the CD mentioned, and in the family book.

All the reunion arrangements were filmed by a professional video photographer, and made available on video tape and on DVD.
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The weather

Having experienced a rather cold and wet summer, the weather was one great uncertainty towards the time for the reunion. Essential parts of the arrangements were to take place outdoor. Many guests would be accommodated at the Rosfjord Strandhotell, located close to the idyllic Rosfjord and its beach. Sunny weather would be extra positive for the arrangement. And sunny weather was what one was blessed with. From Friday until Sunday the Southern coast presented itself from its best side, with temperatures around 25-30 degrees C, and with water temperature one very seldom experiences in this country. This nice weather added extra pleasure to the arrangements, and one can not blame those Norwegian guests wearing warm, national costumes for wishing they had chosen lighter summer clothes for the occasion.
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Around 50 % of the guests filled up the Rosfjord Strandhotell. The rest of the guests found other public lodging, or stayed with family or friends.

The banquet dinner was included in the reunion programme, and was served in the reunion hall. Furthermore there was established a kiosk in the reunion hall and a cafeteria in adjacent localities. In this way the guests were able to get refreshments and simple meals on the premises throughout the weekend. This service was run by Lyngdal athletic club, and the profit was dedicated HIV/AIDS victims in Romania.
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Rosfjord Strandhotell

From the banquet in the reunion hall
Photograph: Phil West

Best of the West

Additional to the ordinary reunion programme all guests from abroad were offered a bus tour to the Fjords. The tour was tailor-made for the reunion guests, and 34 guests from USA, from Canada, from Australia, from South-Africa and from Zimbabwe took this opportunity to see more of the country, and to get closer acquainted with their fellow Oftebros.

The tour that was put together as a joint effort by the reunion planners and the HMK Automobilbyrå in Oslo, took the guests from Oslo to Lyngdal. When the reunion arrangements were over, the tour went on to Stavanger, Bergen, Flåm, Lærdal and Fagernes, before the tour ended in Oslo. The efforts of a clever English speaking guide and a steady coach driver added considerably to the success of the tour, from which the reports have been extremely positive.
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The participants on the "Best of the west" bus tour
Photograph: Phil West

Press clippings

Both the local paper, Farsunds Avis, and the regional paper, Fedrelandsvennen, presented articles from the reunion event.

Two of the articles mentioned are available in English and are presented under the following links:

440 family members are meeting in Lyngdal - Fedrelandsvennen 7th August 2004

The Oftebro family from 11 countries is gathering - Farsunds Avis 6th August 2004
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A family reunion with this extensive programme and meant for more than 400 guests, takes a lot of planning. The reunion arrangement itself was planned by a reunion committee of 10 persons and a culture committee of 6 persons. A series of meetings and of inspections of actual sites were carried out over a period of 2 years.
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Familiedugnad (family bee)

All tasks in connection with bringing about the reunion arrangements, except from the kiosk/cafeteria service, were handled by participants at the reunion. The tasks were varied, like administering electronic audiovisual equipment, secretariat functions, information service, sales, e-mail services, and post handling. There was assembling of exhibition boards and exhibition stands, and there was building of scenes, and there was collecting and transporting tables and chairs from all over Lyngdal, and much more. Under the arrangements 80 to 100 family members were engaged to deal with the tasks. It took the committees 3 days to assemble the reunion site. One asked the assistance from the regular guests for the dismantling of the installations on Sunday afternoon. A more helpful and enthusiastic group of assistants is seldom to be seen. Guests from all over the world joined in for the job, and in 3 hours the reunion hall was cleared out and locked.

This is what we call a real family dugnad in Norway.
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Putting together the exhibition


The budget for the family reunion itself amounted to almost 200,000 NOK, where the reunion fee, when added up, covered the greater part of the expenses. The accounts showed a positive balance of about 10,000 NOK, an amount considered necessary to cover unexpected expenses. The accounts were controlled and accepted by the Main committee (executive group) when it was assembled in May 2005. When the book sale is included in the accounts the total sales amount to around 300.000 NOK. The positive balance of about 10,000 NOK has been decided to benefit further family research, and the maintenance of the Oftebro website.
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