A Tribute to Viggio Søgaard

This spring, Larry and Stephanie Kraft traveled to Thailand to teach a course on mission research. The Krafts involvement in this training is intertwined with a fascinating story about Dr. Viggo Søgaard, a respected Danish professor and communication consultant. This story highlights the surprising ways God uses to move us on in ministry. Here is the story, shared in Stephanie’s words.

    In the late 80's, as students at Fuller Seminary, Larry and I studied principles of cross-cultural communication. Viggo Søgaard, a respected Danish professor and communication consultant, was cited frequently. He had developed a scale (the Søgaard Scale -- you can Google it) combining both "head and heart" aspects of sharing Christ with the unreached. He was a legend, and we told ourselves that we should really take a course with Dr. Søgaard.

    It never happened. The years came and went. Dr. Søgaard spent more time in Thailand working with a local ministry called Voice of Peace. Whenever on furlough we looked at Fuller's schedule to see if Dr. Søgaard would be in the US when we were. He never was.

    In 2015 we learned that he would be teaching a short research course in Holland. Holland is close to England, so we signed up to learn from the master.

    From the very first lesson, we were in sync. He presented a concept, and we nodded our heads in agreement. He shared experiences, and we sheepishly smiled at each other knowing we committed the very mistakes he cautioned against.

    Then a new dynamic arose. He would present some research element (e.g. survey tabulation) and in the ensuing class discussion we would offer, "Dr. Søgaard, that can now be done digitally" and he would ask us to explain. We shared about some new software that could handle a task quickly and/or inexpensively, and he would take note. Statistical analysis? Yup, there's a new open source alternative. Mapping? Sure, you can now do that for free.

    As the week passed, the class experienced this rhythm of Dr. Søgaard sharing research theory and history and then inviting us to describe current capabilities. On the last day, Dr. Søgaard called us aside. He was then in his mid-70's and wasn't sure how much energy he'd have for future travels. Would we be willing to teach this missions research course for him? We would be honored.

    So it was that we landed in Chiang Mai to teach the research course. Barely with our feet on the ground, though, we learned that that Dr. Viggo Søgaard had passed away. Would we be willing to represent this missions gathering at his Memorial Service? Of course.

    The timing was such that Larry stayed with the class, and I attended the Memorial along with two other missions reps. At the service we were treated like royalty, given gifts and special honors. Afterwards we were served a delicious Thai lunch in an air-conditioned room separated from the other guests. I was overwhelmed by the kindness. As I savored my spring roll, I marveled at the paradoxes. Here I was, someone who had waited decades to meet and learn from Dr. Søgaard, now in Thailand invited with Larry to teach his course. I had learned of Dr. Søgaard because of his extensive international experiences, but here I was sharing a meal with people who knew and loved him in the little place he had made his mission home.