Suomi Conference, USA/Russian Missions
Zion Lutheran continues to support their Friendship Congregation in Kemi. Following is a letter from Deacon Raili Makintalo. Sorry about the format - can't get center off... :(
Evangelical Mission Society
Raili Mäkintalo, Deacon, Children’s Mission, Missionary
Kemi, Russian Karelia – Friendship Congregation of Zion, Skanee, MI
February swings into action. The sun shines with full vigor, although it is very cold. In putting together this letter, the thermometer shows 35c below freezing! But I would comfort you that we are moving in a warmer direction also here in the east; on some nights the thermometer went to minus 40.
Also on my trips to Northeastern Karelia, I have received our Heavenly Father’s care. Perhaps I have gotten used to living in many kinds of circumstances, by the grace of God. When on Saturday morning the 21st I left to move about Kemi and Papinsaari (pastor’s island) via Kalevala, I didn’t know exactly when I would be at my destination. But on the evening of the same day I discovered that the schedule was exactly in the knowledge of our Heavenly Father! Transferring from one travel conveyance to another was exactly according to schedule! I experienced special care and leading. Even the Kemi and Papinsaari busses—due to the merits of the friendly bus driver—stopped exactly at the point I wanted to stop. Raisa and Galina who came to meet me wondered, because the bus does not stop at the blue sign and is not supposed to stop there! Nevertheless, I, with my suitcases and backpacks, a traveling “babushka”, the driver felt sorry for and dropped me off at the blue sign.
Well, Raisa, Galina and even Pastor Andrei who had come from St. Petersburg to conduct a worship service met me. I felt like “an American lady” dragged home to be helped. Arriving at my domicile, I prepared food and got settled in a rather cold place. But, it’s nothing. Fortunately, outside was not yet a “cracking cold” and I was able to make a generous weeklong work plan. Trundling, by walking and by bus, I visited homes and the city. Walking rapidly with Pastor Andrei, we came to church on Sunday morning. Walking just as quickly came the members to worship. It was a joy to see with what commitment the members received a (Russian) pastor’s sermon. Someone said later that “it was good that Andrei came.” We continue to pray that a local national pastor would come to Kemi, yet without demeaning the help of us Finns.
The visit of a generous week ended when neighbor Antti came with another Finn to get me. Just the very hard cold began to squeeze. On Saturday the 28th, I said “It is good when we can go to the church to conduct Sunday School.” The children came by foot. Only four very well-dressed children came. Even that was good. The theme was God’s care. We went through the commandments. It was a new topic, but when we got to ‘You shall not steal,” we heard from the children’s mouths the word “kreh,” sin. Then I knew that these children were aware somehow. God’s care is also provided for this sin! God gave Jesus so that we can have forgiveness for breaking the commandments and that we have a part in eternal life! The Sunday School became quite long but I didn’t want to give a picture of Christian faith that there is only commandment after commandment and lesson after lesson but that we have a very real opportunity to trust in the Savior’s grace also by children! With blessings I still think about the Papinsaari cold Sunday School in spite of only four children.
We took Galina with us to Finland on Sunday the 29th. The cold got worse, but fortunately we got along also in Finland. Our car started so we could go shopping. As the wool felt boots were able to be on top of the stove for a moment, quickly the cold days passed. On Thursday morning Galina longed for home and we considered how we would get her back home. Fortunately, not all cars froze. In spite of the cold, the two Galinas got to Kostamus and from there by train to Petrozavodsk and back to Kemi. Their return was by a long return circuit. The two Galinas. They said “Normal, normal.” “This is my air,” said Galina born in Jagutia, used to all situations. All is relative. In all, we experience leading.
Now here in Finland we pray for the presidential election and after for the new president. O my, I sigh. The church should have before these days of cold “more loudly” held Sunday School for its members regarding the Ten Commandments and a little other as well. Let us pray for grace for our citizens and for ourselves!
- For Russia’s presidential election
- Our trips to Russian Karelia
- Strength for local Russian church workers
- Mission planning and carrying it out in NE Karelia/Ingrian Church
Themes of joy and thanksgiving:
- Present health and strength to continue
- Those who labor beside me
For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name is great among the nations.
Please note: Offerings to support our Russian Missions can be sent to Zion Lutheran, PO Box 64, Skanee, MI 49962 and they will be forwarded or send directly to Suomi Conference, USA C/O Sandy Stephenson Nys, Treasurer, PO Box 1065, Proctor, MN 55810. If you would like to designate it to go to our friendship congregation in Kemi please make sure that is noted otherwise it will go to the Karelian Missions to be used as needed.
MINUTES OF THE TWENTY-SECOND ANNUAL MEETING
FINNISH (SUOMI) SPECIAL INTEREST CONFERENCE
EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA
FINLANDIA UNIVERSITY, HANCOCK, MICHIGAN
JULY 16, 2011
The meeting was called to order by President Antti Lepisto. Alice Leno accompanied the singing of “The Lord Now Sends Us Forth”. President Lepisto opened the meeting with prayer.
Moved, seconded and carried to accept the minutes of the 2009 annual meeting.
Moved, seconded and carried to accept the audited report of the treasurer. The Michigan Area Conference and its chair, Leslie Niemi, were thanked for fund-raising efforts to benefit the Ingrian Church.
Moved, seconded and carried to accept the report of the president. He was thanked for its excellence.
Moved, seconded and carried to have the secretary cast a unanimous ballot for the slate of nominees:
Vice President, one-year term Melvin Johnson*
Treasurer, one-year term Sandy Stephenson Nys*
Member at large, one-year term Veikko Malkamaki*
Member at large, one-year term Hannu Vepsalainen* *Because there was no annual meeting in 2010, these persons were appointed by the
Executive Board to serve until the 2011 meeting.
President, two-year term Antti Lepisto
Secretary, two-year term Gail Saari
Member at large, two-year term Judy Mattson
Member at large, two-year term A. Duane Westfield
Earlier in the day’s program, Nina-Tetri Mustonen was thanked for her faithful service to the Conference. She has accepted a call to serve in Lahti, Finland.
Leslie Niemi reported on the activity of the Michigan Area Suomi Conference. Other discussion included the cooperation the Conference has with the Northeastern Minnesota Synod in its companion synod relationship, the decline in membership of Lutheran and other mainline churches, and our continuing focus on our mission—making disciples.
Moved, seconded and carried to support Olga Onueva, Children’s Minister in the Petrozavodsk congregation, at $3000 per year for three years.
Fourteen persons were present at the meeting. During the day’s activities, 25 were attendance.
Leslie Niemi led in the prayer and pronounced the benediction.
President Lepisto adjourned the meeting.
Jane Lepisto, Secretary Pro tempore
EEVA AND OLAVI RAASSINA’S FRIENDSHIP LETTER
SEGEZA AND KEMI - JUNE 9, 2011
WARM GREETINGS FROM SEGEZA!
Recently we took our colleague Tuulikki Vilhunen and her friend Kristiina from St. Petersburg to the bus to go to Kontupohja. When one lives here “far north” far from other colleagues, it is very fruitful at times to exchange ideas concerning work as well as other life issues. Because of our visa problems, we regularly have to return to Finland and we meet our work colleagues seldom. They were both at Segeza and Kemi for the first time.
Life and work continue “quietly.” The congregation now gathers in its own place, as we shared in our Easter greeting. On Easter Sunday, we also celebrated confirmation. We are pleased with this solution and, above all, Eeva and I rejoice that congregation members themselves are very satisfied having their own worship place. We often want this or that but God sees our need and our resources better than we.
INGRIAN CHURCH FESTIVAL YEAR
On Palm Sunday, the Kemi congregation members made a trip to visit as guests of the Segeza congregation and together we celebrated the 400th anniversary of the Ingrian Church. We began with worship, drank church coffee/chai, followed with speeches and finally ate a meal. The Kemi folks then returned to Kemi. These visits between us are very important and rewarding events, especially as the distances between congregations are long. The distance between Segeza and Kem is 112 miles, and yet we are neighbor congregations. I have sometimes mentioned that the 15 Karelian congregations cover an area half the size of Finland, so that one must have something important if one is to visit a neighbor congregation. We truly have a regular contact with Kemi involving the ministry arrangement. Currently, the work there is more regular with Raili Mäkitalo visiting monthly. Often she brings along a pastor or some layperson to conduct pastoral acts or to serve in some other way, such as in leading informal worship.
In May, the migratory birds flew once again to their cottages, meaning that many retirees moved to their cottages for the summer to plant their vegetable root crops, to plant their potatoes and, above all, so that next winter they have food. At present, it may be that it is good to provide basic needs for oneself as it seems that the world has a wide variety of nutrition.
Congregational life continues in spite of the quietness. Those who have remained in the city come to worship Sunday after Sunday as well at to other meetings. It is important to serve if only one comes for spiritual food. In Luke’s gospel, Jesus speaks of the lost sheep:
Which of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it. When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulder and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.” Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
This example spoken by Jesus is a good lesson, that all ”sheep” are to be cared for. Home visits are also important work during summer. There are many members who are unable to get to church or to their cottages. The sigh of one of our members who is unable to move about outside and remains tied to her bed, although her mind is sharp, has remained in my thoughts. She said: “Lord, take away my spirit; my body is now partly in the grave.” Ida’s humor still blossoms in clear Finnish in spite of her life situation. Ida became 86 on May 29th. She has been unable to move for several years. Operations are not done for those of this age except at private clinics. There are no resources for such and she would have to go to Petrozavodsk or to St. Petersburg.
A large group of volunteers has come from Finland in various building projects. This has been a great reason for thanksgiving and a blessing for the Ingrian Church. One of them, Reino Väisänen from Kuhmo, was a significant help in Kemi about ten years ago when we remodeled an old drugstore for a church. This spring he has been in Segeza making a pulpit and other small changes in our new church home. His age is lengthening but his thoughts continue to burn to help his brothers and sisters and the related folks in this friendship church. We can be thankful, for they have been able and continue to build the Ingrian Church with their hands. They have “golden hands” as we say here.
An English language five-day language camp was arranged in Petrozavodsk by the deanery in which ten of our children participated (including children from Kemi). We met them at the bus station and the children returned home with their backpacks and bags with energy and activity. We exchanged news and, in leaving, called out “Goodbye”. Thus we spoke only English. Our own retreat will be held in August.
We went to Nadvoiza, 12 ½ miles from Segeza to visit an over 70 year old member who in May was sent temporarily to a care home. She has been active for years in our congregation and in recent years our social ministry group has helped her come to worship. This elderly friend has become sight impaired and her neighbor has assisted her in daily movement in her home. As her neighbor had to go to her summer cottage for planting, she fortunately was able to go to this care home temporarily. The plan is that, when her neighbor returns to the city, she will return home. She lives in a small room with three others. All was in good order in the care home. It was clean, made pleasant and beautiful. For our visit we received a small, quiet room where we sang familiar hymns and received Holy Communion. She was deeply moved and said, “When I return home, I will come immediately to the congregation.” That was encouraging and touching.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given to you in Jesus Christ.”
I Cor. 1:3-4
Eeva and Olavi