Life In Taiwan

They lived in an apartment in Taichung for two years to learn Chinese language. There, Heikki got his Chinese name Lü Heng-li. Two elder sons were sent to the local International School. The youngest was later attended a Chinese pre-school. The three boys quickly made friends with Chinese kids in neighborhood. Heaven knew what language they were communicating with each other.

Quickly two years passed. They would go to Taipei to work. Should they leave the two elder sons in Taichung or bring them to Taipei? The International School, with its high standard and strict discipline, was recommended by FELM. It was encouraged to leave children in the school dorm when parents worked somewhere in Taiwan. There were Finnish dorm parents to take care of them. Heikki and Heleena decided to leave the two in the school dorm, a decision later would be proved wrong. After one-year of painful hesitation, Heikki took the two to Taipei to live at home, and they were sent to the branch school of the International School in Taipei. Later, when the kids grew older, they would return to Taichung to continue their education in the main International School.Heikki worked in Taipei Hoping Church for 2 years, co-pasturing the congregation with a Chinese pastor. Afterwards he worked on radio ministry. For the most of remaining years Heikki was FELM field representative to coordinate works between Finnish missionaries and between FELM and Chinese congregations.

After Taipei, he moved to two towns in Pingtong County. In the last 5 years, he was back to work in Taichung. A girl was born in their first year in Taiwan, a Taiwanese Finn born in mission field. Four children grew up in this kind of restless and un-rooted life. They had to change friends constantly. Sometimes, when Heikki saw them make good friends he felt a little heartache for the foreseen days of their separation. They were somehow like balls to be kicked to different goals by their parents. The furloughs brought children to their roots; nevertheless, the temporality of staying in one’s own home might strengthen the feeling that home was a very vague idea. Heikki worried about them, regretted his certain decisions on the boys, sometimes relieved a bit; and finally gladdened with every step they were growing. Looking back, Heikki felt it was like walking on a trapeze, and yet the Lord had a security net for them all. Three boys got high school diploma from the pretty strict international school. They grew up with agility and quickness, and grew into global minded people naturally. They have their parents’ legacy–moving forward incessantly. Heikki also prays and hopes that they will never give in to adverse circumstances and have firm faith in the Lord, that the Lord continues to have a security net under their foot.

Straining Forward And Forgetting Behind

In fall of 1996 Heikki and Heleena re-settled in Finland, living and working in Helsinki area, first in Vantaa then in the downtown. Homeland turned out to be cold, expensive and hard. They were Finnish-speaking foreigners who were trying hard to fit back into the Finnish society. Thinking back, I knew Heikki when he returned to Finland in less than half a year. I was then the chairman of Finnish Chinese Christian Fellowship founded in summer of 1994. With a batch of newly baptized Mainlanders and without a mature Christian, I was beleaguered by every kind of problems that would happen in a church life. Overseas Chinese Christians, though they concerned and helped us a lot, were after all too far away. Finnish Christians were near and willing to help. Nevertheless, linguistic and cultural barriers on the one hand made it difficult to come to the point. On the other hand, the history of Christianity between China and Europe was so different that we could not understand each other regarding to denominations.

There were two main denominations, Lutheran and Pentecostal, among Finnish Protestants who were actively evangelizing Chinese immigrants. In consequence, about half of our members were baptized in Lutheran and another half in Pentecostal congregations. We had little concept of denominations; therefore, it was easy for us to form one fellowship with two different backgrounds. Our patrons, however, were burdened by their church history and they were in difficulties in accepting such a mix. The turf battle over us pushed the already problem-ridden fellowship to the road of dissipation.

It was at this crucial time that Heikki was introduced to me as a Lutheran pastor who could speak Chinese. Now I know that he heard a Chinese fellowship needing help. There were none who speaks Chinese available to help. It was a group of people who needed him, he thought. He volunteered to take this extra work and troublesome as his duty. We called him Pastor Lü according to Chinese custom. Later, we all looked up to him as our own pastor, but not from the beginning. I had thought, “Oh, another Lutheran pastor. He will subtly let me know that I am an outsider.” For I was baptized in a Pentecostal congregation. Sensitive as I was, I had actually never felt such exclusion from him. On the contrary, respect and trust quickly developed between us. I was astonished by his knowledge of China. It was not only manifested in his language. Actually, his Chinese-speaking skill was not the best among Finnish missionaries. It was showed in his amazing comprehension on the minds of post-cultural-revolution Mainlanders. Without profound understanding of Chinese culture and history, a Finn, who had been a missionary in Taiwan but seldom set foot on Mainland China, was impossible to understand Mainlanders so completely as Heikki did. He was indeed the right person the Lord gave us at the right time.

Under Heikki’s skillful guide, we jumped out of the turf battle. With the close co-operation between Heikki and a Chinese overseas pastor the fellowship was consolidated and with Heikki’s constant concerning and help the fellowship gradually worked towards the church formation. Heikki became my personal spiritual counselor and Heleena became our minister of logistics. Every kind of things, from worship place to wine and bread for holy communion, to accommodation for short-time mission teams, to Santa Clause costume, what I needed for a good three years was making a call to Heleena to fix up the things.Meanwhile, Heikki was busy in the overseas mission department of FELM. For one year in Tallinn he helped the Estonian Lutheran Mission. Now he is a regional coordinator of the Department for Mission Cooperation at FELM. The regions of his care are Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Pakistan, Thailand, China, HongKong, and FELM work with the Missionary Aviation Fellowship in Mongolia and Kenya. Despite of wars or SARS he travels a lot to visit his regions. Indeed, Heikki is still a traveler on the endless snow pile.

My thanks to Mikko Hilvo for his English translation of Kirje Isältä, Heikki Hilvo, 2000, ISBN 951-624-267-7

May 2003