I was not brought up in a Christian home, although my mum and dad were in certain ways quite religious and members of the Russian Orthodox Church in Finland, where I was baptised as a baby.
My mum and dad divorced when I was about seven years old, leaving me and my younger brother to be raised by my mum only. In my youth I was into different aspects of hip-hop culture. At a a later stage I was into reggae music and heavily influenced by the religious aspects of Rastafarianism.
Religion without Christ
At that point, I thought of myself as a righteous man before God, but completely failed to understand God’s holiness and my own sinfulness and need for Christ. I even started reading the Bible at times and would have said I believed in Jesus if someone asked me. The problem was that I had a faulty and incomplete understanding of the true Jesus of the Bible.
I thought of myself as a ‘good person’, even though I was rotten inside and my heart filled with evil and sinful thoughts. I later realised that I wasn’t a good person at all, rather a bad person, a sinner who had rebelled against his Creator and broken his laws (lied, stolen, blasphemed, lusted, etc.).
I was converted to Christ in early 2007, when 18 years old. It was not a sudden, dramatic happening, but rather, over a couple of months, I understood more and more about the gospel, turning away from sin, and salvation that only comes by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ. I increasingly read the Bible and listened to sermons on the TV and internet.
Soon after, I realised the blasphemous nature of most of the music I had been listening to and playing at different events organised with my friends. I was the music selector/DJ, working under the names, ‘Youth Immanuel’, ‘Immanuel I’, ‘Miska Immanuel’.
Most of my music was heavily religious, with many biblical references, but, in its blasphemous way, didn’t give glory to the true Christ of the Bible, who alone is King of kings, Lord of lords, and conquering lion from the tribe of Judah (Revelation 5:5, 19:11-16).
I decided to destroy most of my music collection, since I didn’t want anyone else to be influenced by it, as I had been. So I threw away and destroyed most of the music I owned at that time.
I was baptised in the beginning of 2007 and joined the local Pentecostal church in my hometown (Vaasa), since that was the only good church I knew about, compared to the theologically liberal Lutheran church that I didn’t want anything to do with.
During my first year as a Christian, I somehow found on the internet the evangelical ministry ‘Way of the Master’, by Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron, and the radio programme of Todd Friel. These had a huge impact on me and introduced me to some great American preachers and Bible teachers, such as John MacArthur, R. C. Sproul and John Piper.
I started listening to their online sermons, especially MacArthur’s, and was blessed, as my understanding of the Bible grew. I started wondering if I could find a church in my hometown whose teaching was more like theirs. Sadly, I couldn’t find any.
Once, when searching on Google, I came across the website of an international church in another town (Tampere) in Finland that had translated books by John MacArthur. I was glad and excited to see this, and ordered some books and tracts from them. Soon after, I decided to visit them and took a three-hour train journey to get there.
Even though that church was small, I was blessed that I had finally found people who embraced the kind of biblical understanding I had been learning about through the internet and Bible study but not meeting anyone of the same persuasion.
At that time in my life, there was nothing holding me back in my home town, so I decided to move to Tampere. In 2008 I moved there from Vaasa and joined the International Baptist Church, where I have been a member ever since. Lord willing, I will be a pastor of this church one day.
The church is currently run by an American missionary couple, who have faithfully ministered in Finland for over 30 years.
In 2011 I met Alison, an exchange student from the UK, who was attending our church in Tampere. Later she became my wife. After training at the Masters Seminary of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, (2014-2017), our plan and desire is to move back to Finland, so that we can serve God there for the rest of our lives.