FRANTZ JOHANSENS CALLINGFrantz Johansen felt his call to the mission field at the age of 8, when he first heard the Gospel of Jesus, and since then he felt the assurance that he would use his life to serve Jesus. Frantz has told the story of a rough childhood that could have broken him. Due to his fathers alcoholism and their extreme poverty as a Gypsy family, he had to beg just to survive. At the age of 28, the call he had carried all these years came to the surface, he was going to be a missionary. It wasn't going to be easy, he was married and had 3 small children ages 2-5. It was a struggle but finally both Frantz and his wife, Berit, were convinced that this was their calling so a year later, on September 23rd, 1973, the family traveled to Spain. During their 14 years of ministry there, the foundation was laid for the Scandinavian Turist Church in Costa Del Sol and the Gypsy Movement, Filadelfia, with its 1300 churches. Through the use of media, Frantz was able to get the support for the redevelopment of slum areas and the building of housing for poor Gypsy families in Malaga. Under his leadership, they have built an education center for Gypsies in Madrid.
After 4 years home again in Norway, it was time to go out on the European mission field again. While visiting Romania in 1994, Frantz encountered his largest, and so far most difficult, challenge in life. The story of the "Sewage Children" originated in the failed policy of the dictator Ceausescu regime. To try to populate Romania, Ceausescu ordered its people to produce many children. Those who had more than 4 children were promised a large sum of money for child support from the government. But they had not taken into consideration the cost of food, clothing and education for all these children. The families did not have the means to care for their children so the government covertly built orphanages where hundreds of children were placed. After the fall of the Ceausescu regime, all the employees of the orphanages were out of work and the doors litteraly were just left open. The children wandered out of the home and found refuge in the sewer system under the streets that stretched for miles. Despite the horrible stench, cockroaches, rats and excrement that were down there, it was a better to be there...and free, then locked up in the orphanage. Self medicating by sniffing glue would become a part of everyday life there. Today, they use much stronger narcotics to make it through each day. Marihuane, heroin and ethnobotanical drugs abound. It dampens some of the hunger and hopelessness of their destiny. Their constant hunger pushes them up to street level to try to find any scrap of food in garbages in order to survive another day.
From a humble beginning with few resources, Frantz and Berit have built up a comprehensive relief work organization. After starting their work with the Romanian authorities against them, they have now earned the trust of those both in Romania and other countries for creating a system that works. The center has been visited by the Norwegian King and Queen, the prime minister of Norway, the President of Romania and many others. They have great respect for all the work that has been put into this organization. These days there is a fruitful cooperation between the organization and the Romanian authorities and little by little, they have joined forces with us and are taking over more of the responsibilities.
AT THE PRESENTFrantz Johansen passed away after a short illness in November, 2014, just 69 years old. He was willing to chart out new paths in unknown territories, leave the shadows of his past behind him, he had clear boundries for how he wanted to live his life, he often paid the price of loneliness in a service that was challenging and he had clear long-term goals. Last, but not least, he challenged us to take up the relay baton and follow his call.
It is no secret that the time after Frantz's passing has been a challenge for the organization as it is difficult to fill his shoes. We have to create new methods while at the same time preserving his core values in our hearts. We are doing just that!!
We are involved in many projects in Romania and Bulgaria, some we are rethinking and others are being devolped further. We are now seeking innovative ways to reach out to a new generation of partners in Norway, so stay tuned!
Through his work, Frantz Johansen has received many great honors.
In 1996, Frantz received the Children of the Earth prize for the best organization that helps children. The ceremony took place on the North Cape of Norway.
In 1997, the book Kloakkbarnas Far (The Sewer Childrens Father) was published by Rex Publishing.
In 1999, our center in Bucarest, Romania, Liv og Lys (Life and Light) was honored to be visited by the their Royal Majesties, King Harold and Queen Sonja. Later we also had a visit from then prime minister, Kjell Magne Bondevik and his wife.
In October 2003, during a concert in Globen, Stockholm with over 10 000 people in attendence, Frantz received the Ivar Guldstand's Hedersbevis (Proof of Honor) for his untiring work for the so-called "sewage children".
In 2005 he received the Veslebakken prize for his work with children.
Also in 2005, he was appointed "Doctor of Humanities" from Life Christian University, USA
Many television programs about Europe in Focus have helped raise money to help tens of thousands of young people. Frantz Johansen was the main guest on the TV program Noen Bedre (Some are better) hosted by Tore Strømøy where viewers get to know people that are an inspiration to others. Here they had a poignant encounter with Frantz, heard about his experiences growing up and his faithful service to Gods call.
In 2014, Frantz and Berit Johansen received the Kings Medal of Honor for their long and faithful work with Europe in Focus.