A spirit of optimism

Finland and Estonia

Congress activities recapped; Army celebrates 10 years in Estonia.

by Jan Jungner – 

Last September, General John Larsson and Commissioner Freda Larsson (now retired) conducted the congress in Helsinki, Finland. They shared the congress theme of “Showers of Blessing” with Salvationists and friends of the Army from Finland and Estonia. About 50 persons of all ages had come to the congress from Estonia, many of them children and young people. A spirit of optimism prevailed throughout the weekend.

One highlight was the installation of the new territorial leaders for Finland and Estonia, Colonels Andre and Silvia Cox. Present were two embassy representatives: the Swiss ambassador, since the new leaders are Swiss citizens, and a representative from the British Embassy. Another highlight was the welcome meeting for two new cadets, three second-year and three third-year cadets, making eight in all.

The public meetings started on Friday evening with the installation and welcome for the territorial leaders. The Temple Corps of Helsinki, the oldest Army building in Finland and site of all the large meetings, was filled with comrades who wanted to greet their new leaders.

Saturday started with separate meetings for women and men. At the women’s meeting, Commissioner Freda Larsson gave some international perspectives. Major Helen Tyrrell and Captain Daniel Henderson gave a report entitled “Narva in the shadow of HIV/AIDS.” The women also heard a report on the Army’s work in helping victims of domestic violence—a big problem in Finland.

The men gathered that morning in the meeting hall of a large hostel for homeless men and a day center in Helsinki. Many of the residents had breakfast side by side with the Salvationists, and a good number stayed for the meeting.
A happy and joyful meeting celebrated the Year for Children and Youth. A mission team has been formed with young people from Estonia and Finland and has been a big blessing in both countries. Four languages are spoken in the group—Estonian, Finnish, Russian and English—but there is one spirit. The Salvation Army Ultimate Frisbee Team, “DISCO,” gave a presentation of their sport. The game is quite new in Finland, and the team is one of the absolute top teams in the country. We also had the joy of having the first General’s Scout in Finland in 10 years.

The large Saturday evening music festival featured opera singer Petrus Schroderus singing Christian songs, as well as General Larsson performing two beautiful piano pieces.

Saturday evening ended with a young people’s event at the Multicultural Corps of Helsinki, opened last Easter. The main language spoken in the corps today is Russian, since many Russian-speaking people moved to Finland and its capital, Helsinki, after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The General, Commissioner Larsson and the new territorial leaders were saluted as rock stars when they entered the hall. They met a handclapping, stomping, whistling and screaming young audience. In his message the General encouraged them to, “Never, never, never give up on Jesus, and never give up on yourselves.” The gathering also featured a Christian rock band from The Salvation Army in Russia.

On Sunday afternoon the congress ended with a joyful welcome meeting for the cadets. Two young men had just started their officer training, and we have six “old” cadets. Not bad for a territory with no officer training for many years! Two of the cadets were born in Brazil. Third-year Cadet Deborah Miranda’s mother’s parents left Finland to go as missionary officers to Brazil in the 1950s. Her sister, Martta da Silva, was appointed an officer last year in Finland, and both Martta’s Brazilian husband and her parents are currently working as officers in Finland. As a result of those two officers who left the country years ago, Finland will soon have six officers brought up in Brazil (four trained in Finland)—not a bad deal!

The Salvation Army celebrates ten years in Estonia

Five new soldiers were enrolled in The Salvation Army during a weekend celebrating the 10th anniversary of the re-opening of Salvation Army activities in Estonia. The Army was active in the country between 1927 and 1940. The new beginning in 1995 followed a gap of some 55 years during which The Salvation Army was banned. The celebration marking this important milestone took place in Tallinn in October 2005.

Estonia is part of the Finnish Territory, and the Army is relatively new in the country. Many of the members are young and maintain a vibrant ministry and presence in Estonia. Work recommenced in the capital, Tallinn, in 1995 and has now spread to three other towns: Narva, Tartu and, since autumn 2005,Võru. In this new town the territory is proud to have the first Estonian officer since World War II, Captain Ave Kalme, in charge of the corps. Today these four corps respond to the very real spiritual, emotional, physical and material needs of the local population.
The social needs are enormous in the country, and the Army cannot meet them all. A strategic decision has been made to concentrate on feeding programs as well as to work with HIV-positive and people suffering with AIDS. The Estonian town of Narva, where the Army has begun to work in this field, has the largest HIV-positive population anywhere outside of Africa. It is anticipated that the HIV work will impact the whole society, because The Salvation Army will train social workers who are employed by local authorities.

At the anniversary celebration, Nelli Kalikova, who is a member of the Estonian Parliament, as well as a member of the new local Salvation Army advisory board, promised to do her best to ensure that as many social workers as possible will get training through The Salvation Army. For example, they will be trained on how to conduct visits to people’s homes. “With your example, you can teach us things that we cannot learn from books,” Kalikova explained. She indicated thankfulness for the help from abroad, but stated, “We must also learn to do the work ourselves.”

Colleen Smalley, a 19-year-old Salvationist from Sacramento, California, is assisting at the Narva corps, and has already made an impact on the ministry there. Seeing a young person in uniform has helped some people re-ignite for God.

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