Finland is a country in Northern Europe about the size of California but with a population of about 5 ½ million people. A portion of the country is above the Arctic Circle. This leads to some very long winters where the days may only get 2 to 3 hours of light. The summer is much different with the night not going dark. Farmers even plowing their fields at 1 AM. The people in this land take their summer very seriously and almost all businesses shut down and everyone goes on vacation for one week. It’s a time of celebration with festivals all over the country.
The Finnish Pentecostal Church takes advantage of this time and holds its church convention for those who wish to attend. It has become not just speaking sessions and church services with guest speakers from all over the world but also a time to camp, visit, and fellowship with others. Many Fins look forward to this time as a reunion to meet up with friends and family. Needless to say it’s a big deal and has grown to around 30,000 people attending over this one week period. It reminds me of going to Oshkosh as there are campers all over the grass and small tents pitched besides their vehicles. The large tents that are erected to host the vendors and food suppliers range from 2000 square feet to the largest seating around 6000 people.
Last week, while my wife and I were on vacation in Finland, we were walking through the Mission tent that she said looked like an MAF display. With anticipation I walked over to introduce myself and was greeted with warmth and enthusiasm by Laura Suomi and Seppo Rikkinen. Laura handles the communications and fundraising in Finland for MAF and Seppo is a very committed Advocate that dedicates much of his time to come out for many such events. We connected right away and they began to share their approach that they use to get peoples interest, as well as some of their struggles. Some of which are similar to ours and others different. One of the struggles Laura was sharing was the fact that many of the people in this culture are reluctant to step out of their comfort zone and commit to assisting with running a display where they would need to talk to others.
Laura said there were supposed to be six people serving that day but only Seppo showed up. I told them I would come the next day and partner with them. I don’t speak Finnish but I was excited to be a part of the team! The best part was to see how things were handled differently in this culture. Seppo, on his own, built a fairly elaborate flight simulator he set up for people of all ages. The simulator had people huddled around waiting to get a chance to land and watch their friends’ crash land. While their parents were waiting on their children the Advocates got a chance to share MAF.
I walked away encouraged and inspired on how MAF brings people together from all over the word, even in a Mission tent in central Finland.