It was in the country of a thousand lakes, islands and saunas. More specifically, in Northern Finland, the land of midnight sun, reindeers and Northern Lights – in Kuusamo, located only 60 km/37 mi from the Artic Circle. A precious, enthusiastic group of young people came there for IMPACT Finland’s first mission trip. The theme was “Christ's Method,” and in various ways we followed His example as we ministered to the community through refugee work, Health Expo, public lectures etc.
IMPACT is an acronym for Inspiring Members to Proclaim the Advent of Christ Together. After IMPACT started in Norway in 2009, nine different youth-led IMPACT chapters have been formed across Europe, inspiring hundreds of young people to commit their lives and all to God’s service! (www.impactgeneration.org).
I came to IMPACT Kuusamo to speak, to share, to be a blessing – but as always, when we are a blessing to others, we are tremendously blessed ourselves (Prov. 11:25). One thing that encouraged and inspired me was hearing how God is working through the small Seventh-day Adventist Church in Kuusamo with an average attendance of 15-20 members.
A Miracle Project
Pastor Paavo Hautala, was praying and asking God what He wanted him to do. As he did, he got the radical idea to start a vegan restaurant. The idea startled the pastor.
His town, Kuusamo, population 16,000, was known as a meat-loving community with a strong bias against most Christianity. Understandably, townspeople warned him and said: “This will not work.” Nevertheless, despite all obstacles and without the needed finances, Paavo went forward by faith in our miracle- working God.
Some years before Paavo himself had a miraculous encounter with God’s health message, which paved the way for the restaurant. At that time he had very poor health. In fact, it was so bad that he nearly died. He realized that he had to do something and he became a vegan. His weight dropped significantly and his health improved drastically. When his non-Adventist doctors saw what had happened, they declared it a miracle and wanted to know what he had done to reach such results so quickly.
That was seven years ago. Today Paavo is 62-years old and very active.
Idea for Restaurant Is Born
Meanwhile, Hautala started praying in 2013 for God’s guidance on how to reach his town. It was then that he got the idea to open a totally vegetarian restaurant.
But he needed money. One day, Hautala was praying in his car about the funding when a piece of birch bark landed on the car window and became stuck. Tree bark in Finland symbolizes money. By this, Hautala said, God reminded him that he did not have to worry about finances and only trust in God to provide.
With renewed energy, Hautala drew up a financial plan in the car. The plan worked, and the local church was able to open the restaurant on its premises at half the usual cost.
Then when Hautala couldn’t choose a name for the restaurant, he prayed: “Lord, you know the name for your restaurant.”
He said God blessed with a good, locally appreciated name: Karpalo, which means Cranberry in Finnish. The name is now also used for Adventist-organized lifestyle programs in Finland.
When the time came to open the restaurant, the church did not have the 800 euros ($900) needed to buy food. So the pastor prayed and invited the construction workers who had helped prepare the restaurant to attend the grand opening. He gave the visitors an opportunity to give a donation — and raised enough money to buy the food.
Eatery Is a Spiritual Home
The restaurant has now been running successfully for three years. The local newspaper recently described its longevity in a meat-loving town as a miracle. In the same edition, the newspaper dedicated six pages of articles to the church, IMPACT, and Adventist activities
Many influential local residents eat at the restaurant and view it as their spiritual home, Hautala said.
Sometimes the pastor prays with the diners. One patron, an elderly professor who used to criticize the Adventist Church strongly, now donates money to ADRA; has read The History of Redemption, a collection of books by Adventist Church cofounder Ellen G. White; and is considering bequeathing his property to the church’s mission work.
In addition to the restaurant, the local church is involved in refugee work, conducting Finnish-language classes and running a second-hand shop with 100 daily customers for the past eight years. The idea for the shop came during a morning prayer meeting as church members asked God how to grow their work, Hautala said.
As a result of these efforts, the church’s influence has expanded in the community, people have taken Bible correspondence courses, and several townspeople have been baptized. Right now some more individuals are close to making decisions for Jesus, Hautala said.
How can this little church do all these things?
Let me share what Paavo and I believe to be the secret: Paavo and the church did not ask God to bless their plans, but rather they asked God for His plan, and for His guidance at every step!
Now, what if Paavo and the church had not been seeking the Lord in prayer asking him what He wanted them to do? What if they never had that morning prayer meeting? And what if Moses had not walked over to that burning bush or been communing with God for those forty days on Mount Sinai? What if Elijah had not been waiting for that still small voice? And if Jesus had not waited in silence before God morning by morning (Isa. 50:4…)?
What can God do through us if we ask for His plans and His guidance at every step?
If a church with an average attendance of 15-20 people can do all this, what can God do through a congregation of 150-200 that moves forward by faith and prayer?
A Hundredfold Greater Results!
Ponder these powerful quotes!
”For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph. 2:10 (NIV).
“So utterly was Christ emptied of self that He made no plans for Himself. He accepted God's plans for Him, and day by day the Father unfolded His plans. So should we depend upon God, that our lives may be the simple outworking of His will” (Desire of Ages, 206).
“It is the very essence of all right faith to do the right thing at the right time... Their efforts, rightly directed, will produce a hundredfold greater results than can be accomplished with the same means and facilities in another channel where God is not so manifestly working” (Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 6, 24).
- Empowered by the Spirit, I want to follow Christ's example.
- Empowered by the Spirit I want to let God lead me into His already prepared good works for my life.
How about you?
Joakim Hjortland, a Scandinavian church elder, president and co-founder of IMPACT generation and author of “A Prophet for This Generation” (prophet.empowermissions.org).