FINLAND … the land of the midnight sun, bears and moose, the northern lights, wilderness, bravery, Santa Claus
…. and more than that… the land of the FINNS!!
Finland is a country of about 5 million inhabitants in Northern Europe between Sweden and Russia. The location in the North has historically meant fighting for survival with very hard work in rough conditions. The Finns have made their way to one of the top developed countries of the world even though natural resources and conditions are not as beneficial as in southern Europe. What mostly characterize Finland are the forests and the lakes. With its 188 000 lakes it is known worldwide as the land of thousand of lakes.
The location between Sweden and Russia has shaped the Finnish identity. It has had to fight for its independent existence between the west and the east. Historically it has belonged both to Sweden and to Russia, but gained its full independence 1917. During the Second World War Finland had to fight two wars against the Eastern Giant, was able to keep its independence, but lost parts to Russia and had to pay massive reparations. After the wars Finland showed it’s miracle story to the world rising from a war-torn country and poverty to one of the top developed countries in the world in just few decades at the same time becoming the only country in the world that has actually fully paid its reparations. This happened with hard work and determinations – both still being typical characteristics of the Finns. Finland has also strategically identified itself with the west through its economy and joining the European Union in the 90s. Now the big debate is whether to join NATO or not.
Today’s Finland is looking for its next success story after Nokia, Angry Birds and holding one of the 1st positions in the international PISA education qualification for a while. The economy is struggling, the age structure and the job market are changing – as many other nations Finland is searching for its place in a rapidly changing world and circumstances.
While Finland still has a very high standard of living and the society takes care even of the least, it cannot cover the spiritual emptiness. Finland has one of the highest rates for suicide and depression. Wherever you turn your head, with children as well as adults, together with prosperity you see mental illness, family break-ups, people losing the grasp of life, isolating themselves from others and the society. Immigration has changed the traditional dynamics of the society; it is very common to see darker people or covered Muslim women in the streets. They face a challenge of decades to learn the language and integrate into the society. The youth materially have all they could wish for, but there is emptiness and a lack of purpose. Many of them start smoking at a very young age and you see them drinking in the streets all over. Heavy drinking of all age groups is very common.
Traditionally Finland is a Lutheran country. The Lutheran church has set a strong Biblical foundation in the nation, the alphabetization of the nation happened through the church and the laws were set with a Biblical foundation. Finland experienced a revival in the 60s and some of those movements are still alive today. However today the state church has become very institutionalized and seems to please the world more than God. It is step by step compromising the Word of God, which draws more secular people in and pushes the believers out: many real believers feel forced to leave the church and on the other hand side Pentecostal, free and especially non-denominational churches are strengthening and growing. The population of true born-again Christians in Finland is still very small (my guess is much less than 10%) among a very secular, liberal and individualistic population.
The Finns as people are very generally speaking individualistic, appreciate privacy, hard-working, very honest, loyal and skillful people. Foreigners find them quiet and serious and usually they are reserved when you first meet them. But once you win their trust you find warmth, humor, hospitality and friendship for life. There is a saying that Finnish men talk only in sauna or when they are drunk… and it has a lot of truth in it. They are usually highly educated, organized, and skilled with their hands in different kinds of crafts and woodwork. The Finns generally love the nature and silence; they love to spend their free time in small cottages surrounded by forests on a lakeside.
When we moved we started praying and asking God to show us which are the most important spiritual strongholds in the nation. What we have received are these: loneliness, self-centeredness, depression and alcoholism. There is a longing for purpose, community, and acceptance – a longing for Jesus that people are unaware of. They are generally not receptive and reject opportunities to talk about God. But God, their Father, is patient, loving and creative to bring them home one by one.
Finland needs Christians who are willing to live uncompromised and obedient lives publicly. Finland needs prayer. Finland needs testimony of Christ. Finland needs the word of God. Finland needs renewal and revival. Finland needs evangelism.
Finland has been an active missionary sending country. The founder of YWAM has had a repeated vision for Finland of 2000 young people going as a wave from the North to the nations as missionaries. There has been unseen growth in YWAM Finland in the past 10 years and a moving of the waters for that massive wave has already started. There is work to do to reach these youth, to disciple, train and send them out!