Mauno Soronen | The Voice of Zion October 2023 - Mission Work Field Notes Article --
The SRK [Central Association of Finland’s Associations of Peace, LLC’s sister organization] called me to go on a mission trip to LLC congregations in North America. I had the privilege of traveling with my wife Heli. Our journey took us to Minnesota, North and South Dakota, and to Alberta, Canada. The hospitality and care we received left a lasting impression on our hearts and minds.
When our long flight from Amsterdam landed in Minneapolis, Kathy and Rick Nevala were there to welcome us. The LLC Summer Services in Monticello were about to begin. Other service guests were staying in their home as well.
Warm Atmosphere at Summer Services
At Summer Services, we participated in several LLC meetings. At the services, the LLC’s 50th anniversary services were held. The speeches and songs left an impression on me, as did the history presentation and the celebration choir of 250 singers.
The atmosphere at Summer Services was one of freedom and grace. I listened attentively to the sermons.
In the meetings, I could sense that many believers had been under great pressure in recent years. God has set His children free. The unity was very evident.
We rejoiced over the fellowship that the Holy Spirit brings. The Holy Spirit calls and gathers the holy congregation where there is no division. Many openly expressed their prayers that their loved ones would find the kingdom of grace.
During the services, we were reminded that the gospel contains not only words of comfort and refreshment, but also words of instruction and guidance. These are not the law, but rather grace and love.
Guests in a Young Congregation
In South Dakota, a young congregation gathered for weekday-evening services. They don’t have their own church facility, but they had found a place to hold services in Rapid City. Here at the foot of the Black Hills the families gather on consecutive evenings, children in tow. There were also guests from Arizona and Canada who stopped here on their way home from Summer Services.
What stood out to us most were the bright faces of the children. Using pictures from the Illustrated Home Bible, I told the children the story of what happened in Cornelius’ home and how God prepared Peter to preach the gospel to the centurion and his household.
We visited many homes. Carmen Halonen said how happy she and her family were to host mission speakers in their home.
An outing organized by Janet and Mike Stonelake to Mount Rushmore National Memorial was very impressive. The images of presidents carved into the mountainside told their own story about the nation’s leaders.
Discussions in Alberta
We flew from South Dakota to Montana, where Pirjo and Hannu Janhunen picked us up and took us to Canada, to Lethbridge, Alta. We stayed with the Janhunen family for several nights. We held services Friday evening and Sunday morning. We recalled the story of the young Pharisee who sought eternal life but who was not ready to leave the path of law for the path of grace.
The law does not provide strength to enter God’s kingdom. The young man was at the gate, but the grace which would have taken him into God’s kingdom was not acceptable to him. The law demands perfection. Only Jesus has fulfilled the demanding law. The law brings an awakened one to the gate of God’s kingdom, but only the gospel opens the gate for the one to enter.
We met many of the Lethbridge believers. We discussed the Word of God and remembered servants of the Word.
Back to Minnesota
From Canada we returned to the familiar area where Summer Services were held. At services in Monticello and Elk River, we met many acquaintances. Steve McAdams spent many weekends with our family in the past. Now we had the opportunity to stay with his family.
In sermons, we yet remembered Summer Services and the Saturday evening communion, which I was able to help serve. We spoke of the unity born of the Holy Spirit and being firmly rooted in God’s kingdom. I was struck by how many came to greet us after the services. Sometimes I wondered which language to use, but it soon became clear: we managed to communicate in both languages.
It was interesting to hear that many people had Finnish roots. I set off on a journey to Rolla in North Dakota with George Koivukangas along with sandwiches for the trip prepared by his wife Mary. I pondered aloud to George about the fact that we were traveling many hours, knowing there would be only a few service guests. George had an answer, “God knows.” For me, these words became the theme of this entire trip.
At home services in Rolla, we served with God’s Word and we visited. As we sang “Rauhan saivat pyhät Herran” (Saints of God have peace forever) at the Finnish cemetery, we could feel the chain of the generations alongside us. Stories from my childhood came alive again, recalling how people from my home area set out for the new world in search of a better livelihood.
From the memorial stone we read how the Finns lived in sod dwellings and worked the fields with horses and by hand. In this way they laid the foundation for future generations. Faith was an important source of sustaining strength in their lives.
Fertile Land in Cokato
It was touching to visit the Pioneer Park in Annandale, Minn., where the old Cokato church has been moved. On the wall there was a picture of pastor Lahtinen, who perished with the Titanic. On the altar, there was a devotional book containing the text and story of when the disciples were in a storm.
In Cokato I spoke at services on Transfiguration Sunday, and in the evening I was able to sit and listen. I felt that the heavenly Father had blessed our services trip.
At the Josephson home, Bill mentioned that it is nice that we chose their home as our place of lodging. We took a sauna and visited. The joy of shared faith was immense.
Translation: M. Keranen