This year we are delighted to have welcomed back Finnish couple Janne and Ella who first came to Minsteracres three years ago to spend a summer with us as volunteers.
“Ever since we left three years ago we knew we wanted to spend longer here, but up until now that hasn’t been possible,” explains Janne, who is currently completing his thesis to graduate as a teacher in English and German.
Despite the hard work we put them through, they weren’t put off. “We knew what we were in for!” says Janne. Much of their time this year has been spent in the dining room, but they have also lent a hand in the garden and with different visiting groups.
“It’s a working holiday for us. We enjoy the environment, the community, the house – it’s a step away from our routine back home in Finland. We went to Newcastle for the day recently, and even though we were exhausted when we got back, the mind is refreshed.”
“I teach music at home, so without this I would have spent the summer with nothing to do in Finland,” says Ella. “Every day is different here – you have to get used to that. Some days are busier than others, and the people you meet are always changing. And I’m loving living in the community at Minsteracres. It feels like our spiritual home abroad.”
Janne agrees, “There’s always a warm welcome – it’s not an institution. Fr Aloyce has been a lovely new addition. I like his presence, and all the others we knew before. It’s great to feel part of a spiritual community. Prayers and the mass are a big part of it for us.”
Janne and Ella are Lutherans, and their faith is pulling them towards a big decision, one they were thinking of even before they were last here.
“The idea of being missionaries has been growing for us. Being here last time made a big impression on us, seeing what can happen in a community like this,” says Janne. “We learned here that there may be cultural differences, but people are the same everywhere.
“Especially in the last 12 months we have been thinking about it a lot. There will always be teachers in Finland, but we began to think if there’s a job to be done somewhere else, maybe we can offer our skills. We want to spread the word and be part of God’s plan.
“So, after we leave here we are off on a missionary course until Christmas, studying language, culture and the bible. The organisation offering the course is named from the parable of spreading the seed on different ground. They work with people starting parishes, mostly in different parts of Asia.
“They have been talking to us about a group in Eastern Siberia who are looking for two more people with additional skills, and if all goes well we should be heading there after the course.”
They are well aware that this life is not for everyone, and that it may be especially hard for their families. “We won’t see our families and that’s something we’ll have to process,” says Janne. “We’re very close to them and it won’t be easy, but we’ll be back every summer on vacation.
“Other people have different plans for their lives and places they want to be, but we know our families and friends will be praying for us.”
“It’s never been our plan to buy a house in Finland and settle down,” says Ella, “I think God has been slowly working in us.”
The invitation to work in Russia has come from the Lutheran church there which wants to build parishes in areas where Christians were deported to decades ago, to create a presence for new generations.
Janne is amused to recount that when he was 15 years old, missionaries came to his church to talk about their work. He remembers thinking, “I’m not remotely interested in this!” Looking back he thinks the seeds were sown for him right back then.
There is no doubt that these two people are on the cusp of a big life change, and we’re honoured they have spent time with us as they make their preparations. Our prayers go with them and we look forward to hearing how they get on, and seeing them again the next time they can spare a summer!