We told a friend of ours, “It is easy for you to pioneer. Both of your parents are in the truth, and they can support you.” But she replied, “We all have the same Father.” She was reminding us of something very important: Our heavenly Father takes care of his servants and strengthens them. Throughout our life, he has truly taken care of us.
WE LIVED on a farm in Northern Ostrobothnia, Finland, and there were ten of us children. We were young during World War II. Even though most of the fighting was far away from our home, we knew that people were suffering very much. One night, the cities of Oulu and Kalajoki were bombed, and the sky turned bright red from the fires. Our parents taught us to hide as soon as we saw warplanes flying in the sky. When our eldest brother, Tauno, told us about a paradise earth where no one would suffer, we wanted to know more.
Tauno was 14 when he learned the truth by reading books published by the Bible Students. When World War II began, he refused to join the military because of what he had learned from the Bible. So he was sent to prison, where he was treated very badly. But this made him want to serve Jehovah even more. After he was freed from prison, he spent more time in the ministry. Our brother’s good example during these tests made us want to go to the meetings of the Witnesses in a nearby village. We worked and saved money so that we could also travel to conventions. We sewed clothes for our neighbors, grew onions, and picked berries. Because we had so much work to do on the farm, we were not always able to attend the conventions together.
What we learned about Jehovah and his purposes made us love him even more, and both of us were baptized in 1947. (Annikki was 15, and Aili was 17.) Our sister Saimi was baptized the same year. We also studied the Bible with our sister Linnea. She and her family became Jehovah’s Witnesses too. After we were baptized, we decided that we would be vacation (or, auxiliary) pioneers from time to time.
WE STARTED IN THE FULL-TIME MINISTRY
In 1955, we moved farther north to a city called Kemi. Although we were both working full-time, we wanted to be pioneers. But we were afraid that we could not make enough money to pay our bills if we worked less. We thought that we should first save some money. That is when the pioneer sister mentioned above helped us to understand that we could pioneer. Instead of trusting in ourselves or in our family, we had to trust that Jehovah would help us to have what we needed.
At that time, we had saved enough money to pioneer for two months. So in May 1957, we applied to pioneer for two months in Pello, Lapland. We were very nervous. But after two months, we still had all the money we had saved, so we applied to pioneer for another two months. After those two months, we still had all the money. Now we were sure that Jehovah would take care of us. We have pioneered for 50 years, and we still have that money! We feel as if Jehovah had held our hands and said to us: “Do not be afraid. I myself will help you.”
During 50 years of pioneer service, we have always had enough money
In 1958, our circuit overseer asked if we could move farther north to Sodankylä, Lapland, to serve as special pioneers. At that time, only one sister lived there. She learned the truth in an interesting way. Her son had gone with his class to visit Helsinki, the capital of Finland. When the class was walking through the city, an elderly sister gave the boy a Watchtower magazine and asked him to give it to his mother. When his mother read it, she knew right away that it taught the truth about the Bible.
In that area there was a sawmill, that is, a place where logs were cut into boards. We lived in a room above that sawmill and held meetings there. At first, the only ones who attended were the two of us and the sister and her daughter. We would simply read the information that was scheduled for the meeting each week. Later, a man who had studied the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses came to work at the sawmill. He and his family began to attend the meetings with us, and later he and his wife were baptized. Now there was a brother who could conduct our meetings. Some other men at the sawmill also attended the meetings and came into the truth. Soon our group became a congregation.
PREACHING WAS DIFFICULT
We traveled long distances to preach. In the summer, we walked, rode our bicycles, and even used boats to find the people in our territory. Our bicycles were especially helpful. We rode them to conventions and to our parents’ house hundreds of kilometers away. During winter, we rode a bus early in the morning to one of the villages and then walked from house to house. After we visited all the houses in a village, we walked to the next village. Sometimes the snow on the roads was deep. If someone had already traveled down the road and left tracks in the snow, it was easier for us to walk. But if it snowed again, the tracks would be covered. In the early spring, the snow would become soft and wet, and this made it difficult to walk.
We learned to dress warmly when it was cold and snowy. We wore woolen stockings, two or three pairs of socks, and tall boots. But snow would often get into our boots as we walked. When we arrived at the stairs of a house, we took off our boots and shook the snow out of them. Also, the bottom edges of our long coats would get wet and freeze solid because they would drag in the snow. One housewife said, ‘You must have real faith, because you came out in this bad weather.’ We had walked over 11 kilometers (7 miles) to that house.
We often stayed overnight with the people who lived in the villages. In the evening, we started asking people if we could stay at their home. The homes were simple, but the people were friendly and kind. They offered us a place to sleep and some food. Many times, we slept on an animal skin. But some had a guest room we could use. For example, one lady in a big house took us upstairs to a room with a beautiful bed and nice white sheets. Many times we discussed the Bible with the family until late at night. At one home, the couple slept on one side of the room, and we slept on the other. The man and his wife kept asking questions, and we talked with them about the Bible until the early hours of the morning.
WE HAD SUCCESS IN THE MINISTRY
Lapland is a beautiful place. But the people who learned about Jehovah were even more beautiful to us. Some of the people we witnessed to were men who had moved to Lapland to cut down trees. Sometimes the two of us would enter a cottage and find dozens of men living inside. These men were grateful to hear the Bible’s message and to read our literature.
We had many exciting experiences. One day, the clock in the bus station was five minutes ahead, so we missed our bus. We decided to take another bus to a different village. We had never worked in that area before, but at the first house, we met a young woman who said, ‘Here you are, just as I expected.’ We had been studying the Bible with her sister. The young woman wanted her sister to ask us to visit her that day. But we never got that message. We began studying the Bible with her and her relatives who lived in a nearby house. Soon we combined these studies into one study, and twelve people attended. Since then, many in this family have become Jehovah’s Witnesses.
In 1965, we were asked to move farther south to the congregation in Kuusamo. At that time, there were only a few publishers in the congregation. At first, it was difficult to preach in this territory. People were very religious and did not like our work. But there were many who respected the Bible. So we tried to get to know the people, and after about two years, it was easier to start Bible studies.
WE ARE STILL BUSY IN THE MINISTRY
Today, we still go in field service almost every day, although we are no longer able to work all day long. It is now easier to preach in our large territory because Aili learned to drive. Our nephew encouraged her to take driving lessons, and she got her driver’s license in 1987 when she was 56. Also, we now live in an apartment attached to our new Kingdom Hall.
We are very happy that many have accepted the truth in northern Finland. When we first started pioneering here, there were only a few publishers. But now there is a circuit with several congregations. Often when we attend an assembly or a convention, someone will introduce himself and explain that we studied the Bible with his family when he was a child. God truly blessed our work.
In 2008, we completed 50 years as special pioneers. We thank Jehovah that we have been able to encourage each other to continue serving him. We have had a simple life, but we have always had what we needed. (Psalm 23:1) We now know that we should not have been so nervous when we began pioneering! Through all these years, Jehovah has strengthened us as he promised: “I will fortify you. I will really help you. I will really keep fast hold of you with my right hand of righteousness.”