This summer, we are participating in 30 Days of Prayer for the nations. Over the next few weeks we will be sharing stories from men and women in our church family who have actively invested in making Jesus known across the nations.
EUROPE: THE GOSPEL REACHES TO THE FINNISH PEOPLE.
Hi Summit Church! This is Adam Gold. I lived in Finland for two years and worked as a missionary to the Finnish people by supporting the work of a young church in Helsinki. Of course Europe, let alone Finland, is probably not the first place you think of when it comes to missions work. However, I think that needs to change. Gospel-centered churches are few and far between throughout much of Europe. The Finns are in need of redemption and restoration just like the remaining peoples of the world, all who are loved by and made in the image of God. I once thought that mission work was really about me and my service to God. I felt I should seek out the most difficult places as a missionary and suffer in some way to be good enough. But, I learned that God is on a different mission; one that destroys false beliefs and replaces it with hope. When I finally understood this, I was willing and motivated to go to any end of the earth to see people saved by the gospel.
So what are the Finnish people like? I had an experience during my first month in Helsinki, which I think gives the perfect glimpse into their culture and who they are as people. I was on the train heading downtown for a Finnish lesson. I had taken out my wallet to scan my train pass, but I dropped it while quickly attempting to put it into my pocket and take my seat. I had no idea I no longer had it. The trains, buses, metro, and trolleys are almost completely silent. People don’t typically talk to strangers in Finland, and you try not to make eye contact. I didn’t realize my wallet was gone until I started to get off the train and realized I couldn’t feel it. An older woman could tell I was starting to panic. She quietly told me that a woman picked it up off of the ground but had just left the train. I immediately rushed outside asking every woman I could find about my wallet. I assumed it was gone forever with all of my cards, IDs, and some cash. I put in a report at the police station, but never thought I would hear back. I felt terrible and so stupid. How could I lose my wallet during my first month in a new country? To my shock and amazement, a week later I got a call from the police station. My wallet was turned in, and not only that, but not a single thing was taken out of it. I still believe that the women who picked it up never even bothered to look inside. It was hard to believe at the time, but over the course of two years in Finland, it all made sense. The Finnish people are proud, strong, and honest, as well as unbelievably reserved. You don’t make a scene in Finland, and you don’t draw any attention to yourself. Even if you see someone fall off a treadmill while running, you act like nothing happened and don’t even acknowledge it (that honestly happened to one of my friends). This woman who picked up my wallet was not going to draw attention to herself or embarrass me in any way; but she was going to do the right thing. They may seem like an entire nation of shy introverts, but they value their friendships and treat those they care for like family. It is honor to be invited into someone’s home, and it is an even a greater honor to be invited into their life as a friend.
Something changed in me during my time in Finland. I think it was a greater realization of the patience and faithfulness of God to long suffer for his people. I learned a lot about myself and how certain expectations and views of life and ministry needed to change. Developing meaningful relationships with Finns took time, and gaining trust wasn’t something that was easily given away. Through this time I realized how much self-reliance I had and how much I wanted to believe in my own influence. However, God was faithful to humble my heart and give me clarity and ultimately help me to see how valuable each and every person is to Him.
Now, back in the US and in the city of Denver; I feel a lot less mechanical in the way I practically try to live out a missional life. There is so much freedom in the gospel. It is freedom I continue to experience the more I learn to trust in God with every area of my life, and the more I have learned that He provides a safety that I previously never believed existed. In the first few years after I became a Christian, I tried serving him with so much guilt and with the weight that I was making up for the first 17 years of my life. Ultimately, the gospel was more about me than it was about Jesus. My time in Finland, especially the amazing mentors and friends I found there, helped transform my perspective and appreciate how God works so uniquely in his people. Now I feel freer than ever to share the gospel and build friendships with the freedom that God will work and his word will not come back void. I feel less consumed by what missions means for me and more concerned about what it means for every individual that I come into contact with, knowing that God is more concerned for them than I can ever be and He is ready and able to save them.
Would you pray for the Finns? Here are three ways you can:
- The Finnish people value peace, and often they find it in the quiet of nature and solitude. Pray that they would find true peace and joy in Jesus.
- The Finnish people value purpose and determination, but often try finding it in working hard in their jobs for the greater good, only to realize that it leaves them empty. Pray that the Finnish people would see their purpose first and foremost in the God that gave them life and pray that their determination would lead to His glory and their joy.
- Although Finnish people are reserved, many of them dislike it and they want to be vulnerable with others. In fact, Finnish people rarely tell anyone that they love them, even family members. Pray that those who would like more courage in their lives to be open and vulnerable would find this strength rooted in the God who made them, and that it would greatly impact their culture for their good.
Adam Gold is one of the pastoral interns at Summit. He is working on his ministry graduate degree with Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He worked for the International Mission Board in Finland as a missionary for two years. He currently lives in northwest Denver with his wife Katie and son Ellis.