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16 January 2020 | Drammen, Norway [Mark A. Kellner / Adventist Review / tedNEWS] 

“She struck me as sincere and kind and as a big support for her husband standing tall by his side,” reflects Trans-European Division President Raafat Kamal. “We as a TED office family are saddened by the loss of Kari Paulsen and we share in the grief at this sad time. We offer our prayers and condolences.”

Paulsens 2010 editedPastor and Mrs Paulsen wave farewell at the 2010 General Conference Session. [Photo: Josef Kissinger]Kari lived a life of faithful service and support, much of it in the TED (or former Northern-Europe West Africa Division) before her husband, Dr Jan Paulsen, took a leadership role first as vice-president, and then as president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists based in Silver Springs, Maryland, USA.

Upon retirement, it was Kari’s desire to return to their native Norway and it is here, in Drammen, that she passed to her rest on 10 January 2020, age 85.

“We all need somebody who listens to us at some time or another,” Kari Paulsen told Ministry magazine in 2006, describing how, as the wife of a Seventh-day Adventist Church administrator, she was able to find a personal ministry despite the limitations of chronic illness. Her phone ministry, calling those who need encouragement was an integral part of her life.

Kari PaulsenKari Paulsen [Photo: ADAMS archive]“Mrs Paulsen was a very capable person and a strong support for Pastor Paulsen in his life and their ministry together over many decades in different parts of the world,” said Ted N. C. Wilson, current world church president, in a post on his Facebook account.

Rajmund Dabrowski, former communication director for the world church, noted a close bond with the Paulsens: “I felt that they were our second parents,” he told Adventist Review. Having first worked with Jan Paulsen in the Trans-European Division, and then while Jan was General Conference president, Dabrowski noted the family commitment Kari Paulsen had.

“When we were abroad, [they] eased our way of accepting a new area, a new culture, and so forth. These are the kind of memories we will have. It is a tremendous loss to not only the family, but to those who were accepted by them as a family,” Dabrowski said.

Gerry and Verna Karst worked with the Paulsens when the couples were in Silver Spring, Maryland. Gerry served as Paulsen’s assistant and Verna as the headquarters nurse. Both remember Kari Paulsen’s adventurousness.

“She was not above having a little bit of fun,” Gerry Karst recalled, while Verna Karst noted Kari’s deep interest in others.

“Kari was a caring person and was very interested in people. But because of her health issues, she was restricted in what she could do,” Verna Karst said.

Kari Trykkerud was born in a small town near Notodden, about 113 kilometers (70 miles) south-west of Oslo. She grew up during World War II, when Norway was under German occupation. Shortly after the war, Kari underwent surgery—the first performed in Norway—for a heart condition. During her recovery, she promised God she would become a Christian if He helped her get well.

That vow led to a search that ended when an Adventist relative’s pastor offered young Kari a copy of Steps to Christ by Ellen G. White. Following a Voice of Prophecy correspondence course and Bible studies, Kari decided to become a Seventh-day Adventist, even though this caused trouble at home when she refused a traditional Christmas dinner of pork. Infuriated, her father asked Kari to leave home, and the young woman went to live with an aunt.

young paulsensKari and Jan Paulsen as they appeared early in their relationship. [Photo courtesy of the Paulsen family]Following secondary school in Norway, Kari went to the church-owned Vejlefjordskolen (Danish Junior College) in Daugård, Denmark, to study theology. Arriving two weeks into the semester, she admitted to being confused during a lecture on biblical dates, not least because of language differences. It so happened that another Norwegian student named Jan Paulsen was sitting next to her and offered to help. “Don’t worry,” he said, “I’ll explain it to you later.”

That remark began a continuing conversation that lasted more than six decades. Friends at first, love grew between them, and the couple married before Jan went to Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, to continue his education. Kari soon followed, and the couple learned a new culture along with adjusting to married life. They had three children, all of whom survive her: Laila, Jan Rune, and Rein Andre.

Paulsen familyKari and Jan Paulsen pose with their two oldest children on the occasion of Pastor Paulsen’s ordination to the gospel ministry. [Photo courtesy of the Paulsen family]The couple went to Africa, first to Ghana and then Nigeria, where Jan Paulsen served as president of Adventist College of West Africa, now Babcock University. Mrs Paulsen’s health problems worsened while in Africa and were to remain with her throughout her life. Returning to Europe, Jan served as principal of Newbold College in Binfield, England; secretary and then president of the Trans-European Division, as a general vice president of the world church, and finally as General Conference president, a role he assumed in January 1999 and held for 11 years.

Tributes that flooded into the TED office and social media pages have highlighted her kindness and the open home she had for students at Newbold, and her genuine, gracious, Christian spirit.

“I have experienced quite a lot of illness, and this close proximity to death does something to you and your relationship with the Lord,” Kari told Ministry magazine in 2006. “Somehow you rely more on Him. It’s important to stay close to Him, to pray, to read. It’s kind of a constant reminder that this life might not last that long.”

Against all odds Kari Paulsen - book cover'Against all Odds' by Kari Paulsen [Photo: Elsie Tjeransen/ADAMS]In 2015, Pacific Press released Against All Odds, Kari Paulsen’s memoir of life as a Christian and her struggle with chronic illness and family tragedy. The book won wide praise from readers.

“Kari Paulsen defined ‘resilience’ for me, and for thousands of believers for whom her challenging life story has been a great encouragement,” said Bill Knott, Adventist Review editor and executive editor. “Her honesty and wit have helped so many of us understand how grace has intersected our own moments of physical pain and disappointment. She reminded us by her words and her example that the Lord always has the last word—and that His word is deep affection for us.”

Tor Tjeransen, communication director for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Norway, who has known the Paulsens for more than 50 years, noted her lifelong optimism: “Kari has always kept a very positive attitude toward everything, everything she met in life. The strain on those who are in traveling positions is just enormous. She has always been there, and always very supportive of Jan,” he said.

Friends and family will gather in Mjøndalen, Norway, on Monday, 20 January for her funeral service. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that donations be made to the Life Hope orphanage and school in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; donations may be sent via PayPal to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

In a message, Jan Paulsen remarked, “Kari gave often to keep the school alive and would love for it to continue after her departure.”

This article was first published in Adventist Review and was adapted, with kind permission, for the TED where Kari and her husband gave so many years of service.


tedNEWS Staff: Victor Hulbert, editor; Deana Stojković, associate editor
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