Friend to Finland’s Friendless

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Friend to Finland’s Friendless

FINLAND | May 9

Lauri Herranen, 60

Lauri Herranen stood somberly at the grave of a friend in Mikkeli, Finland. The same-aged friend had died three years earlier when a blood clot moved from his heart to his brain.

“I could be the one in the grave,” Lauri thought.

He sensed an inner voice say, “You know where the life that you are now living will lead. Do you really want that?” Lauri, who was 45, couldn’t answer the question. But it echoed in his mind day after day: “If you die, you know what will happen to you. If you die, you know what will happen to you.”

With fright, he remembered hearing about Jesus’ second coming as a child. He had been taught that the wicked would be cast into an eternally burning hell. He didn’t have any Christian friends, and he didn’t know who would listen to his fears.

Matters grew worse when he went to the doctor for an ear infection and was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Now the prospect of death was very real.

Lauri worked up the courage to talk to a pastor at a Christian denomination. The pastor prayed for Lauri’s sins to be forgiven and asked Lauri also to pray for forgiveness.

During the prayers, something happened inside Lauri. He left his sins at the foot of the cross, and peace and joy filled him.

Lauri started to read the Bible earnestly. To his surprise, he saw that the gospel of Luke referred to Saturday as the Sabbath. He read the New Testament three times to find a place where the Sabbath was changed from Saturday to Sunday, but he couldn’t find any.

Around that time, he saw a newspaper advertisement for evangelistic meetings at a local Seventh-day Adventist church. Less than a year later, he joined the church.

Lauri’s wife disapproved of his interest in God, and she filed for divorce. A couple years later, Lauri married an Adventist woman, Päivi, and moved to her hometown, Lahti.

Lauri longed to find ways to share Jesus in Lahti. After much prayer, he felt impressed to open a food pantry at the Lahti Seventh-day Adventist Church.

“Most Finns are quite secular, and their lives are centered around material goods and worldly pleasures,” he said. “They have no room for God in their lives. So I asked, ‘How can we reach them?’ The food pantry is one way.”

Those who come to the church for food twice a week include construction workers and the elderly. Many are Finns, while others are Russians. Some are facing financial struggles. Most are lonely, looking for friendship, just like Lauri when he had longed for Christian friends to talk to.

“In Finnish society, it is difficult to talk to others about personal issues, especially faith,” Lauri said.

Only a few people visited the food pantry at the beginning. But now, after five years, 40 people come every Monday and Wednesday. The food pantry has touched hundreds of lives, and at least one person has been baptized.

The food pantry also has attracted inactive Adventists. Church members who have not attended worship services in years have volunteered and slowly rejoined the life of the church.

Lauri, 60, who has been successfully treated for cancer and is in good health, doesn’t fear death anymore.

“Now my life is in the hands of Jesus, and I am waiting eagerly for the second coming,” he said. “I am not afraid to die.” 

By Andrew McChesney

Story Tips

 Watch Lauri on YouTube: bit.ly/Lauri-Herranen.

 Download photos on Facebook (bit.ly/fb-mq) or ADAMS databank (bit.ly/friend-to-finland).

 Download photos of Thirteenth Sabbath projects: bit.ly/ted-13th-projects. Mission Post

 The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Finland oversees Finland Junior College (Suomen Kristillinen Yhteiskoulu), a nursing home (Nurmikoti Oy), and a publishing house (Media7 Julkaisut), as well as a Bible correspondence school and a media center.

 The first Seventh-day Adventist in Finland was a sea captain, A.F. Lundqvist. While at sea, he was converted by the Plymouth Brethren. In 1885, he purchased Uriah Smith’s book “Daniel and the Revelation” from George Drew, an Adventist colporteur in England. He also bought Ellen G. White’s book “The Great Controversy.” As a result of reading these books he immediately began to keep the Sabbath and became a Seventh-day Adventist, remaining faithful until his death in 1955 at the age of 97.

 The Finland Union has 62 churches, nine companies, and a membership of 4,678. In a population of 5,518,000, that’s 1,180 people for each church member.

 The official languages of Finland are Finnish, native to 90 percent of the population, and Swedish, native language to 5.4 percent of the population. The indigenous Sami language is an official language in northern Lapland.

 The Finns have the world’s highest annual consumption of milk per capita.