ID Mission Trip: Finnish-ing on a High
Sitting on the plane home is a sad way to write about an amazing week of fun, excitement and missional activities - after 8 days in Helsinki on a mission trip, it seems a shame to end it so soon! It has been a week for the whole of the ID crew across the UK to come together to experience and support the Relational Mission church plant in Helsinki, Finland. Packed with street evangelism, social outreach events, saunas and traditional Finnish food, it has been a week which we won't forget easily. I'm here to give you a few reflections on a week aimed at blessing the Risen Light Church and the people of Helsinki.
5.30am is an early start for anyone (apparently working for the church doesn't involve a lay in), but by the time we had eaten an overpriced airport Spoons breakfast (£10?!), flown to Helsinki, got to the city centre and arrived at Kev and Lydia’s house (the church leaders) - dinner was served! It's a great way to arrive in a new place…
The week started with an array of activities, ranging from prayer for healing in the streets to preparing language worksheets for the church-run language group, helping teach Finnish to Brits and English to Fins. After mispronouncing a few Finnish phrases and accidentally saying a few inappropriate words, we had learnt enough to get around the city (and naturally, it's quite handy going to a country where 2/3rds speak English).
On our third day in the city we were treated to a Finnish brunch, then after a time of worship and talk we went out into the city centre. We had a whole afternoon to pray for individuals at Kamppi, a shopping centre, and then spend time on a prayer walk around the city, praying for areas of breakthrough.
The rest of the week involved supporting refugees and helping at the church’s first missional event - the Risen Light Open Mic Night. This evening was fantastic for many reasons; my particular highlight was seeing a lady walking past the door on the evening stop to have a look at the sign and ultimately come in for the whole evening! Hopefully she managed to experience some of the God's love, joy and the community of the church… Many more people found the event on Facebook, lots of whom had no previous connection to the church. Hopefully these seeds have been sown and we look forward to hearing what good follows from the event.
Sunday morning was a wonderful time to worship together with an ID band, listening to Sam Gardner preach, and having the kids learn from the Bible with IDers running the kids work. This was a way for us to worship together with the church and encourage them, and be encouraged ourselves! Not every day was brunch and saunas of course- stable sweeping and manure manoeuvring can't exactly be sugar-coated - but all this was rewarded with a traditional Finnish fire with roasted sausages and bananas in a hut. After a busy week we deserved a time to rest (in our opinion anyway!) We spent a day exploring the island of Soumenelina, with wartime subs, cannons and ancient walls - all a short ferry ride from the centre of Helsinki. Once safely back on land we made our way to a sauna resort, apparently the ‘pub’ of Finnish culture, featuring 100+ degree heat in a smoked sauna before jumping in an ice cold lake. Who wouldn't want to numb their hands and feet?! That said, it was a nice way to relax after a busy week on our last day in Helsinki before heading home.
From the picturesque snowy pine trees to relaxing saunas, and from frozen lakes to epic trams (honestly, we need ‘em in Canterbury), Finland has so much to love. But besides that, the thing I loved most was community; the precious time spent with the ID crew and the church family that makes Risen Light Church. It was a picture of how God's bride, the Church, is one big family that have one thing in common - Jesus as Saviour. The joy found as we came together was a beautiful picture of what eternity will be like!
When mission is mentioned to be honest it can conjure up feelings of apprehension and uncertainty. At times during my university experience I had the opportunity to talk to friends about Jesus when it came up in conversation, but the idea of preaching the gospel to strangers in a foreign country sounded quite overwhelming! However, this truly demonstrated to me that I cannot do anything in my own strength. Instead, God has the power to work through us, all we need to do is be obedient and open to what He wants us to do. Through going on this mission trip God not only was able to use us but also teach us and help us to reflect about mission and being part of God’s church.
When I got to Finland, my first impression was of the sense of community and the welcoming atmosphere that Risen Light church showed us. We were immediately welcomed not just into their homes but also their community as they gave us dinner and got to know us. This really reminded me of how Jesus frequently had dinner with those around him, and I saw how building relationships is so key to encouraging one another in unity on mission together. Listening to their stories helped me understand their experiences, especially about planting a church in a different country and the joys and struggles this brought. This background revealed just how God has already been at work through the church plant and how our mission trip fitted in to their picture.
Getting to experience Finnish culture first hand similarly inspired me for mission- not simply in exploring the city of Helsinki and surrounding areas, but living like a Fin, in a Finnish house in what felt like the depth of the countryside (in reality just the snowy suburbs!) We had a go at eating some reindeer meat, speaking the language, going to a boiling sauna and swimming in an ice cold lake – slightly bizarre experiences for a Brit, but they did help us relate to being a Fin. This meant when speaking with Fins I could talk about and appreciate at least something of their culture, while also giving me God’s passion for Finnish people and the desire to see the gospel made known in Finland.
With these experiences under my belt, it was time to put all that I had learnt into action! Sometimes we can overthink mission, when in fact the most important thing is to step out in prayer knowing the Holy Spirit will guide us to do His work. Our first opportunity was to help the church with community events such as an open mic night and language club. This was great to be a light to the community, practically blessing them and showing God’s love.
Alongside this, after some initial training and prayer, we were sent out on the streets to pray for healing amongst the people of Helsinki. To my surprise, the people we approached were open to conversation and most of them let us pray for them. A highlight for me was praying for a Columbian man called Felipe. Although not strictly a Fin, I was able to pray for him in his first language about having a community in Finland, something which seemed to really touch him. It really demonstrated the importance of relating to people wherever possible, such as through their language, and also the significance of community.
Ultimately, this is one vital reason why the gospel is such good news and needs to be shared; we can invite everyone to join a loving church community and get to know the Father who knows us all personally and loves us. Let’s daily be reminding ourselves of this good news and be open to see how God can use us in our everyday lives.
About the Authors
Joel Pointon is currently doing the Intentional Discipleship (ID) gap year at City Church, where he serves as part of the worship team. As of next year Joel will be studying Economics at the University of Kent.
Hannah Holbrook is another intern on the Intentional Discipleship (ID) course at City this year, specialising in student work. Hannah recently finished a degree in Primary Education at Canterbury Christ Church University and plans to go back to teaching after she finishes this year.