Heikki was an active Christian who liked travelling and reaching out to people. While he was studying in Helsinki, he spent one summer month in Germany with a group of Finns and Germans to sell Christian books door to door. A spark of going to mission had twinkled across his mind then. A decade later, the spark was ignited by a FELM representative’s address at a northern mission conference. As the desire for mission growing, Heikki knew it was God’s calling. He had been in Lapland for 7 years and reached 30 years old. The oldest son was almost 6 years old. As the increasing age of both adults and children if the family did not start now they would have no opportunity later. They decided to give up his permanent job and a home with a permanent address. They trusted in God and put their life in His hand. Indeed, by no means they felt that they were sacrificing. Global minded people as they were, confining in Lapland stiffened them. It was the right time again to go to the place where few people would go.
More Than Conquerors Through The Lord
The whole family, parents and three boys, lived in Mission Home that belonged to The Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Mission (FELM). They came in August 1980 to receive training in a mission course, 30 adults and 10 or so of their children. During the length of the course (August to December) all the children incessantly fell ill. When Heleena got viral meningitis in November after their second son’s crisis in the same disease her another two younger children were suffering tonsillitis and otitis, with fever, sore throat, crying often in pain. Heikki was torn apart. He cried out, “Hosanna God help us!” Never so many tears had he shed as in this November and never so deep doubts in his being a missionary. He could not afford to lose Heleena. She had been his rock. They had so much in common. The whole mission class prayed for their family. Heikki prayed day and night, “What can I do in this situation but trusting you?” He told himself, “Be joyful always; give thanks in all circumstances.” A battle was inside him. “I have to go forward with no return, even if I have to go step by step. In every step I shall ask God’s guidance. God often chooses weak ones. There are not many people who want to go to mission. If they don’t go, we must go.” When Heleena was at her most ill Heikki repeatedly told himself, “God does not make mistake although I do not understand this situation.” He shouted out “Hosanna God help me,” After that, he was suddenly empowered by a strong will that he would not give in. It was then that he knew he would certainly win this battle. He immediately knelt down to thank the Lord and to ask for His provision.* Heleena safely passed the critical time. The mission course finished, and they survived as conquerors in the Lord. In the Christmas of 1980, the family returned to Lapland and lived in a Christian retreat center in Pellkosenniemi for one week. There Heleena fully recovered her strength.
*Heikki Hilvo’s thoughts here are adapted from his diary.
Adapting A New Life
Abandoning earthly possessions was never an easy thing. When he left Lapland for mission training Heikki’s heart was delightful. He was heading for a new life after all. Half a year later, when Heikki returned to visit his old vicar house that now was occupied by a new vicar, his feeling was anything but happy. Outside the window all were the same, but inside the house everything was changed. It was not his house anymore. As the ex-vicar, it hurt Heikki more than he could admit. He realized that he had to wake up from nostalgia, and as a missionary, he had to hold on none except God and His provision. They had no permanent home address anymore, but they had a car. The car was a tool to travel in vast Lapland, the means to meet friends and the sanctuary of their privacy. In the night, they slept on the floor of a friend’s home, squeezing and getting comfort from one another. For them, the car plus one another was good enough to be their home for now. In the summer of 1981, before going to Taiwan, Heikki bought a house in Pelkosenniemi, a cottage in a hill surrounded by woods. They finally had a house to hold their belongings and an address to keep them as residents livingtemporarily overseas. This “temporarily” was 14 years of working in Taiwan with 4 furloughs. Packing and moving became part of their life. Letters were often dropped behind their moving speed. One scene was forever engraved in Heikki’s mind. After their application for mission and before they left Pelkosenniemi, Heleena had started English lessons in Helsinki. On a sunny day, three little boys sat on the steps of the church, looking attentively at the hill where their mother was walking down to the bus stop with a suitcase. Their fair hair glittered under sunshine; three pairs of blue eyes beautifully matched the azure sky; and their rosy cheeks were like bloom in Lapland meadows. Heikki happened to hurry to somewhere and caught a glimpse of them. He did not have a second thought then but later, this lovely picture became a symbol in view: did the hasty packing-and-leaving life of a missionary leave children’s life on the steps?
Growing To Be A Missionary Family
During the various mission training, adults in the course had grown closely through prayer fellowship. Kids had accustomed to be looked after by mission grandmas. They started to learn how to make new friends. Shortly after Christmas of 1980, they were to have language training in England. Suddenly, all three boys were struck by chickenpox. They had to delay their departure and got a privilege to fly to Birmingham to catch up the class there. Parents went to language school. Kids went to pre-school. Those shy Finnish boys were just dumped to their very first school while their parents rushed to the English lessons. No one knew how did these kids make it; nevertheless, they did start to speak English. The mosaic culture and diverse people in Birmingam, later in Whitby, was a good prelude for the kids, as for the adults as well. The English lessons ended in May and the Chinese lessons started in August in Taiwan. Between the two lessons, they had a good rest in mother Lapland and lived in the house newly bought. Before leaving for Taiwan, three boys suddenly got parotitis. It almost became a pattern: whenever they were about to be on a new move, the shadow of illness would befall on the family. Heikki fully perceived that his decision to be a missionary was not in devil’s liking. He deeply believed that God was a healer. Since the trials in the Mission House in Helsinki, Heikki had evolved his new motto never give in. When the plane took off from Helsinki-Vantaa airport in August 1981, Heikki reminded himself again, “There is no return to the past; our future is in God’s hand.”