“Mission publicity was a huge success”
Mauno Saari was the director of the Uusi Suomi newspaper, when Ahti Hirvonen contacted him. He had a question for Saari.
Mauno Saari had worked previously as a journalist at Helsingin Sanomat and as editor-in-chief in Iltalehti and Suomen Kuvalehti. The decision-makers of society had become familiar with him, among them SYP’s Managing Director Ahti Hirvonen.
Hirvonen asked if Mauno Saari would launch the mission as head of Mission Helsinki’s press team? Ahti Hirvonen, himself, was the chairman of the Executive Committee. Mauno Saari answered yes.
His first task was to assemble a press team. Saari knew a lot of people in the field and wondered who to contact. “Everyone I asked joined the gang. It became a brilliant team. Mission Helsinki’s publicity was a tremendous success. The event brought unbelievable media coverage. We reached the newspapers, television, and radio. The news was positive or remained neutral. I do not remember any negative publicity,” Mauno Saari says.
“We also arranged for the media to have separate interviews with Billy Graham: for instance Seura Magazine and Aamulehti daily newspaper wrote big articles.”
Mauno Saari wondered how Graham’s speeches could be made available to the press representatives immediately after the meetings. He hired SYP’s fastest typist to transcribe Graham’s speeches as he spoke.
“Graham spoke in English and Kalevi Lehtinen interpreted in Finnish. The transcriptionist typed Finnish the phrases while Graham was speaking in English. The reporters were astonished after each event and wondered how it was possible to get the newly spoken speech in print so quickly. It was quite new,” Saari smiles.
Before the start of each event, photographers had the opportunity to come down to the field to take pictures of the speaker and the crowded auditoriums.
“After a few minutes I walked between them and Billy Graham and asked them to go to the auditorium. For me it was a public confession! I could not have spoken more publicly of my convictions.”
Mauno Saari had a Pentecostal background from his childhood. The years had deprived him of it, but the relationship with God remained. From the speeches of Graham, Mauno Saari remembers the best two: the first was the cross, the second mosaic. Graham said that the different blocks are pieces of God’s great mosaic work. It spoke to me. The cross is enough. Cross. Period!
Mauno Saari says that there was “an American-style tight choreography in the meetings.”
“At first, I was wondering if the Finns would be scared of an “American show,” but they did not. The stadium was full night after night,” says Mauno Saari.
As I watched how thousands of people came to ask Jesus to come into their lives after every event, I wondered if it was only for a moment of “high.” However, over the years I have met many people who have told me that it changed their lives. Mission Helsinki also had a clear impact on the inner climate of the Church. It opened windows in the Church towards charismatics and new oxygen was infused.