Pirjo Wesaniemi

Engagement and marriage

I had been watching the Ads of the Mission Helsinki throughout the city all summer. He burned and called me. I felt I had to get there. I longed for God stronger into my life.

My grandmother and my godparents had been praying for me to stay alive when I was a 1.700-gram twin-preemie-half, whose bigger sister was born dead. I knew I had really grown up in my relatives’ intercession. I had felt it for as long as I could remember. I felt an angel and a dream of Jesus, even though my home was not very religious in any way. We visited the Church regularly on Christmas, Easter, Independence Day, and family celebrations.

At the age of 10, however, I had a special longing. When I rode my bike alone to church on Sundays I prayed that if I had to be run over by a car, it would happen on my way home when my sins were forgiven. I spoke of the loving and protective God to my parents and the whole family.

A couple of summers I visited my godmother’s Sunday School. At school I loved Bible stories. I soaked everything in and read more about God in my mom’s religion school book with Doré artwork. In confirmation school I heard to my surprise that I had to make a commitment to something that had been quite clear throughout my life. I asked Jesus into my life and my faith revived so that I read through the entire Bible two times in just a couple of years.

At the age of 17 I evangelized at Humppila’s prison, dancing venues, and across Europe on the road marked by Campus Crusade for Christ, distributing tracts among others in Pisa, Monza, Zagreb, Frankfurt and in many other places. I felt the guidance of God strongly on that journey, even to the slightest detail. I was very childish until the demands were set in front of me. Does a believer have makeup, listen to worldly music, and wear tight t-shirts? Could she think of a boy who had not given his life to Jesus? What should a Christian do for profession?

I wanted to be a journalist with passion. I got a summer job in a newspaper, Aamulehti, after my A-Levels and forgot so much more. I started my studies and enjoyed the new circles from all my heart. Despite all this I never gave up my faith and stopped to pray and never denied that God was the basic rock of my life. Still I realized I was not very good advertisement for God and I started keeping my mouth shut. If something happened to friends, I remembered them in prayers. Actually, it felt good to get rid of the oppressive yoke.

I graduated, I worked in Finland, the Broadcasting Radio News, Ilta-Sanomat and I married and got two children. I prayed all the time and knew that my godfather prayed with me during both of my pregnancies. We went to correspondence. My husband was quite confused by my religion.

He had proposed to me and I said that you have to go to church to ask. It was Wednesday at Temppeliaukio Church. I asked God to give some sign. We were in the church twice and suddenly a priest came to the door and asked if we were going to marry. We responded positively. But just a moment later we realized that the couple who was to be married did not come to discuss about the ceremony. I understood that this was the sign.

The first Askel Magazine was published a month before the birth of my firstborn baby. My husband was a colleague of its Editor-in-Chief Olli Valtonen in A-Magazines, Editor-in-Chief of Apu Magazine. When he was talking about baptism, he suggested Olli, whom I had been excitedly watching in the “Ḱuule sinua rakastetaan” -tv-program. I was singing hymns and crying with joy during the program. For me it was like a new waking to everything that had been so important in my life.

Olli came to baptize the baby and I was touched. He became a councellor to me and he also baptized our second child. At some point, I was quite broken but I was encouraged to go forward with small steps. Anyway I knew it was just a narrow escape. That’s why Mission Helsinki touched me. I felt that it was now or never.

At that point my children were three and a half and nine months. It was August 1987. I was well tied home. My husband appreciated the publisher Jorma K. Virtanen had given us VIP tickets to Mission Helsinki and he felt it was important to go. Well everyone got in for free, but this made it possible for me to get there.

Initially, my husband made it clear that it did not like the idea if I walked to the front when Billy Graham called people forward. I was so happy to get in there. Throughout my childhood, I had read Jooseppi Mustakallio’s poem “The Holy Shepherd”, which says that no harm to the shepherd, even though you can not come to the church. The Lord will hear where you are.

The little one fell asleep in the stroller and when Billy Graham’s sermon began, some girl came to ask if she could play with my daughter, who was a restless soul. Oh, I’m glad. I was able to concentrate on what was being said and I remember how Billy Graham spoke directly to me, responding to my hunger, exactly about my life. I was deeply aware that even if my frame of life was in the right condition, it was not enough. I was like a fish on dry land. I missed God, as I had longed for him for my entire life.

Finally, when the invitation came in, I would have been willing to sacrifice everything else except it. The babysitter brought my daughter back and we both ran to the front. I was ready, I was happy. I felt a great relief and a sense of homecoming. Nothing will take this from me, nothing will ever come between God and me. I felt like the prodigal son and I felt the Father’s immense love for me. Something so strong and good, that with its help, I have lived through many adversities.

I slept the night in a calm renewed faith. Such wonderful dreams. In the morning in the bathroom I asked my mirror image, if I could wear mascara and how my life would change from then on. God then installed such a device in my heart that has given more power than taken.

And as I had learned, faith was supposed to testify. It was not compulsive, but rejoice of the new life. A few weeks later, I was at a great celebration of the godfather of my eldest child, Rauli Virtanen, who had been travelling in all the countries of the world. There I told about my faith to Eeva and Martti Ahtisaari and Rita and Ari Vatanen. Not because I had to, but because they asked why I looked so happy.

I have not doubted whether I am dear to God and whether I am in favor of him. I found my way to the Tuomasmessu with my children. There I found a God who gives joy and strength in the difficulties. I believe and hope that He will also carry my children and grandchildren. Faith can not be inherited, but it’s power can be told so that it cannot be resisted. Prayers always carry. Now, my job is to pray for these loved ones, like my grandmother and my mother did earlier. They know and foresee, ask and wonder. Though faith cannot be inherited, prayers carry, and God is faithful.

I had once walked forward in Nicky Crutz’s event in Helsinki sometime in the early 70’s. But I still do not know how my life would have gone without Mission Helsinki. For me, it also meant contacting to the local church. I spent years in the Temppeliaukio Church’s small group and it gave me growth opportunities, opportunities for conversation and friends. I was also one of the three people who told how Mission of Helsinki influenced her own life in the multivision “Looking for change” by Olli Valtonen and Timo J. Malmi.

I can honestly say that Mission Helsinki has changed me. I was troubled in my work at Ilta-Sanomat, I felt I was in the wrong place. When I was called to be an editor at the Askel Magazine, a year and a half after the Mission, I did not hesitate at all, even if the paper was going through difficult times back then. I was there for over three years until I realized my children needed me more at home.

After seven years, I got a new job as Editor-in-Cheaf of Askel. Having spent several years as a journalist at the Magazine Eeva were a good lesson for the magazine world. Being able to be whole and do what you believe is of the utmost importance. Now it will be 19 years as Editor-in-Chief of Askel and I am sincerely happy of these years. Through the readers’ feedback I know that Askel is a expected and important magazine. But without Mission Helsinki I would not be here. So far, the Heavenly Employer has given strength and skilled associates and assistants to the needs of Askel.

The strengthened relationship with God from engagement to marriage has not removed any problems and difficulties in my life but it has given the strength to endure them. Divorce and a wide range of concerns have often put me to seek more security from the Person who does not reject you. I am not a theologian and I cannot think like that, but I have a simple childhood faith in the loving Father of Heaven. Life has a purpose.

As a magazine Askel is working for the same goal as Mission Helsinki. Probably a large part of its 66.000 readers were there at that time. We want to cherish a flame of faith, hope, and love.

Pirjo Wesaniemi