I have been blogging quite a bit about the Muslim immigrants in Europe who are converting to Christianity. (See here and here and here.) It’s happening also in Finland, and this time I got to see this phenomenon first hand. Not only that, I was able to interact with some of these new Christians and worship with them.
The Finnish Lutheran Mission has been sending missionaries to Afghanistan for decades. In 1980, two of them were killed. In 2014, two more were killed.
Now Afghan refugees are making their way to Finland. And many of them are converting to Christianity, with stories similar to the Iranians in Denmark and the Iraqis in Germany: They have dreamed of Jesus, had visions directing them to a Bible-believing church or mission, read Bibles in the course of their journeys, reacted against the brutal religion they were fleeing to find a God of grace, etc., etc.
Conservative Christians in Europe are evangelizing, catechizing, and baptizing them. Though some officials and others suspect these refugees of feigning conversion in an effort to gain permanent resident status—which seldom even works in the secularist bureaucracies—these new Christians are going to church and revitalizing what were once moribund and ill-attended congregations, reminding long-time members of the power of the Gospel of Christ.
Finnish Lutheran Mission, one of the “mission” organizations where conservative Christianity still flourishes, operates a Bible College in Ryttylä. The institution offers programs that teach the Bible, Apologetics, Theology, and other subjects. Young Christians often study here for several months before heading out to the university. The institution also offers camp-like experiences for children and families, as well as other activities for adults, such as the Apologetics Seminar at which I was speaking.After the conference, my wife and I continued to stay at the college as a base of operations for the other things I was doing.
Also staying with us were 26 young Afghan men who were here to study the Bible, as well as the Finnish language.
They had already been catechized and baptized. They wanted to learn more and more about God’s Word. (If they were only interested in getting a baptismal certificate to add to their permanent residence application, why would they bother to devote several weeks to intensive Bible study?) I could see them crowded into classes where their teacher was a pastor who had been a missionary in Afghanistan and who knew their language.
They knew little to no English. So we didn’t get far with that, though I struck up a shake-hands, smile, and say a few words interaction with one young man. But we ate with them in the dining hall. And during chapel, worshipped with them.
I was cautioned not to post any pictures or to give any names of the converts. In Germany, someone posted a photograph of a convert and told his story on FaceBook. Whereupon one of his relatives back home learned about it, boarded an airplane, flew to Germany, and killed him. The chapel services are livestreamed, so the Afghans sit in one corner that is off-camera.
This is part of the cost when a Muslim becomes a Christian. They put themselves in danger from their families and their fellow refugees. And many are sent back to the Taliban.
But it was very meaningful to worship with these brand-new Christians. They prayed, joined in the songs as best they could, and were obviously way into it.
On the wall of the chapel are two plaques to the four missionaries martyred in Afghanistan. Our host marveled that in that place so memorialized Afghans were being brought to Christ—being baptized, studying God’s Word, worshipping, and, when Divine Services were held, receiving Christ’s body and blood given for them.
Photos of the memorials to the martyred missionaries by Jackquelyn Veith, who releases the works into the public domain