160 Years of Mission
From Faith to Action
In 1857, Finland celebrated the 700-year-presence of Christianity in the country. The occasion was also a vivid reminder of the fact that its arrival had been a result of mission. Newspapers began a lively discussion on whether Finland should also participate in mission. Particularly the intellectuals both in and outside the University were keen to support the idea, since the spread of Christianity was seen by them as the duty of each self-respecting Christian nation.
When the special collection for mission during the year of celebrations was held, people donated much more money than anyone had expected. The sum was enough to establish the missionary organization of Finland.
Felm begins work
The permission needed to establish a Finnish missionary organization came from the Czar of Russia, as he was also the supreme ruler of Finland. His permission granted in October 1858 had one exception: the organization could not work inside the Russian Empire. This meant that the original plans to work among the Finno-Ugric peoples in Asia could not materialize.
The meeting where Felm was founded was held on Jan 19, 1859.
The first missionaries were men
The plans for a Finnish mission school began to emerge gradually, as people began to express their willingness to work as missionaries. They did, however, have very little formal education, since the country still had no compulsory education system as such. The entrance qualifications included, therefore, such vital abilities as good reading and writing skills, and a sound knowledge of the Christian dogma.
The first mission class was entirely male, and it began in March 1862. After a training of six years, ten men were ready to begin to work in Southwestern Africa, in Amboland. Six of them were missionaries trained as preachers, whereas the four laymen were to support them with their practical skills.
The slow journey by ship and bull wagon brought these men to Amboland in July 1870.
At first, the role of women sent to Amboland was to accompany their husbands. The first female missionaries began their training in 1906. The opening of the Chinese mission field had given cause to this, as men were denied any chance to work among Chinese women. Felm continued to work in the province of Hunan, China, until 1953.
Felm’s work expands
Felm began to work in Palestine and the Middle East in 1924. Angola followed in 1939, and Tanzania in 1948. Some of the employees in China were transferred to Hong Kong and Taiwan in the 1950’s. The work in Pakistan and Ethiopia began in the next decade. The co-operation with the Wycliffe Bible Translators began in Papua New Guinea in 1973, whereas the African work extended into Botswana and Senegal, and the Asian one to Nepal and Thailand.
The co-operation with the local South American churches in Colombia and Venezuela began in 1989, in the same decade when Felm initiated its work among the immigrants both in Marseilles, France, and in Nürnberg, Germany (1989-2007). Felm is also in partnership with the Ingrian Church in Russia and with the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Estonia. Lately, Felm has increased its efforts in Southeastern Asia: Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar.
During the 160 years of its existence, Felm has sent abroad over 1,500 employees of more than 50 professions, with competence to speak over 30 languages.
Today, Felm has partnerships in about 30 countries with more than 100 partner churches and organizations.