For nearly 10 weeks each summer the sun doesn’t set in the far north of Finland. This Scandinavian country at the top of the world is home to nearly 5.5 million people, with just over 5,000 of them Adventist. With 17 percent of the general population claiming no religious affiliation, Finland is one of the most secular countries in the world.
Finland is sandwiched between Norway, Sweden, and Russia. The area of the Scandinavian Peninsula that makes up today’s Finland was part of the Kingdom of Sweden from the thirteenth century to 1809, when it became part of the Russian Empire as the autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland.
Finland declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1917. This independence was challenged three times from 1939 to 1945—first, against the Soviet Union alone; second, with Nazi Germany against the Soviet Union; and last, against Nazi Germany. As a result of the first two wars Finland lost 10 percent of its territory to the USSR, and Finland had to pay reparations to the Soviets. The collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s ended these payments, as well as Finland’s ties with what is now Russia.
It wasn’t until the 1950s that Finland moved from an agrarian-based economy to one based on industrialization. Finland today places a strong emphasis on education, research, and innovation, giving Finland one of the most educated workforces in the world. According to the 2009 Legatum Prosperity Index, Finland is the most prosperous country in the world.
Adventists in Finland
Finnish and Swedish
Lutheran Church of Finland, 81%; Finnish Orthodox, 1%; none, 17%.
ADVENTIST TO POPULATION RATIO
*General Conference Office of Archives and Statistics, 146th Annual Statistical Report—2008
The Adventist Church’s work in Finland started among Swedish-speaking Finns. A. F. Lundqvist, a Finnish sea captain whose mother tongue was Swedish, purchased several Adventist books while his ship was docked in Liverpool, England, in 1885. Upon reading them, he was convinced about the seventh-day Sabbath and became an Adventist. When he returned to Finland he wrote to Sanningens Harold (Truth Herald), an Adventist periodical based in Sweden, asking for someone to come to Finland and sell literature in Swedish. In 1891 Emil Lind, literature evangelism director in Sweden, visited Finland to investigate the possibilities of selling books there. The next year the General Conference asked the president of the Adventist Church in Sweden, Olaf Johnson, to take two Bible workers, Augusta Larsson and Matilda Lindgren, and start a congregation in Finland. In 1894 the first church was established with 24 charter members—all native Swedish-speakers.
The Adventist Church turned to translating literature into Finnish—the first book being Christ and His Righteousness by E. J. Waggoner. By 1894, 14 literature evangelists were selling books and handing out literature in various parts of the country. Because of issues caused by bringing literature into Finland from Sweden, the Finland Publishing House opened in 1897.
The Finland Conference was officially organized as part of the Scandinavian Union in 1909. From there the Adventist Church grew quickly. In 1917 a “Missionary School” opened in Hämeenlinna. In 1918 Finnish Junior College was established near the Missionary School. In 1926 a physical therapy center opened. In 1929 the Finland Conference was divided into the Swedish and Finish conferences to better serve the two language groups. A special mission was later started in the northern part of Finland in 1982 to better serve the remote Lapland region.
Finland is part of the Trans-European Division. This quarter’s Thirteenth Sabbath Offering will go to this division. Part of the offering will help renovate a historic building in Nummela into a church.