Orlando hoped to learn more English in England. However, his Order wanted him to return to Venezuela. After wrestling, Orlando was allowed to go to London for two months to study English at the Oxford Street Language Institute. He was supposed to stay in a Salesian school in London. Since the school was full he was assigned to live with a Catholic Irish family. It was indeed a God sent opportunity to break the code of the “vida de comunidad”. The first time since 12-years old he could move around at his own will and this time, he was in a big city as colorful as London was.
In the afternoons, Orlando visited various Protestant churches, talking to pastors, participating in Sunday services in a Methodist church. Sometimes he sat alone on the pew after service, quietly reading those soul-touching hymns (there are no hymnbooks in the Catholic Church). His eyes were opened and his mind was set in turbulence again. This time he felt his world falling apart.
A team of Finnish missionaries also learned English there. They invited Orlando to go out with them together. They knew he was a priest and well understood his rigidity. They toured English scenery together, visited museums and universities together, went out to eat together. Almost every day Orlando was stunned by what he saw. These people were Lutheran missionaries, but no one was imposing their doctrines on him. They would tell him, “Read the Bible and search answers by yourself. You are free to think.” To this moment, he had been doing and teaching exactly what his superiors told him. One was not allowed to think over and question the Church’s teaching. This freedom of thinking had a huge power on Orlando; his rigidity gradually loosed.
There was a math teacher in the Finnish team. It was unthinkable in the Catholic Church that a layman, in this case a laywoman, could be a missionary. There was a Finnish pastor in the London Center of The Seamen’s Mission who could speak Spanish. Orlando spent time with his family and deeply touched by the fact that a clergyman could have a family while still doing the mission work well. There was a pretty girl, Seija Skyttä, in the team. The remarkable thing was that she was also a theologian. She always used the Bible and the history to answer Orlando’s many questions. She was a good listener and never once said words like ‘You must believe me.’ Orlando would take hours to think of her points and asked himself, “Is she right or wrong?”
I saw a photo of that time. Seija elegantly sat in a chair; Orlando closely stood beside her. Anyone who glimpses this photo would tell that the smart dashing man and the pretty fair woman were in love.
After summer, Orlando returned to Venezuela. He was appointed to a large Salesian school in the city of Coro. However, he was not the same Orlando who left Venezuela four years ago. He kept contact with Lutheran pastors in Caracas. A great decision was in its making. He once argued with his superior from the evening till dawn. The superior could not convince him that the Lutheran teaching was wrong. After that, he determined to leave the Catholic Church and Venezuela.
Orlando went to Caracas to be confirmed into the Lutheran congregation there. One week later, at the end of November 1968, he went to London to apply for visa to Finland and joined Seija and other Finnish missionaries in Birmingham; together they went to Finland.
He would shake off the teaching he had received from his boyhood; he would face the uncertain world without familiar brotherhood around him; he would abandon the career he was already on the top; and he would leave his birth place to a remote, cold, almost unknown country. What price would he pay for this brave decision? Would he ever regret this big step? However, Orlando did not think so much then. He was a learned, energetic man with love to a Finnish theologian. Nevertheless, a pursuit of freedom needs a price; Orlando is not an exception. We’ll see it in his future life.