Evangelist / Church Planter - Northern Ostrobotnia, Finland
Kyle is is from northern Ireland. He is an Evangelist and Church planter who is living and ministering in the rural farming communities of Northern Ostrobotnia, on the east coast of Finland. Kyle's ministry includes evangelism, discipling, preaching and teaching the Word of God in an area dominated by nominal Christianity and Lutheranism. He also serves as the pastor of Agape International church. He and his wife Sara, a Finnish national, have six sons: Emil, Viggo, Ezra, Amos, Theodor and Levi.
Testimony of Conversion
I was brought up in an unbelieving family. We knew nothing of Jesus, the Bible, or Church. The only religion we ever knew was the church of the world and the tavern. However, I do remember talking to God regularly as a child without any true knowledge of the God to whom I was talking.
I came to faith in the Fall of 1990 through the witness of a Christian teacher in High School. His name was Mr. Bryan McClusky, and it was through him that I first heard the Gospel. During his lessons he would often weave into the subject the importance and necessity of Jesus in regards to approaching and pleasing God. During one of his lectures, Mr. McClusky began to speak about Jesus’ “I am” statements. It was then that the truth of John 14:6 suddenly seized me: “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father but by me.” The words of that text suddenly became real to me, and my entire life drew sharply into focus. It was exactly as Mr. McClusky had been teaching us for many months. It was all about Jesus. I could not approach God by myself without being rejected because of my sin-loving heart. I was the “no one” in the words that Jesus spoke. I was barred from entry, banned, and banished. I would never get in.
That day in class, I was struck by my own unholiness, my separation from God, and my inability draw near to Him. At the same time, I was overwhelmed by the love of God through Jesus. God had provided a “Way” for me, and His way was Jesus! I was totally dumb-founded!
I left class with a deep and burning need to flee to Jesus. I was terrified of losing the knowledge that I had just gained; yet at the same time there was a great conflict within me; a reluctance and a resistance to His call. I wanted to deny it all and just cry, ”NO!” At the same time, I had the desire to throw myself down and beg forgiveness for never having believed! I will always remember, thinking, “O Jesus, help me. Help me!”
It was while I was in the middle of this turmoil, this inner boiling of spirit that Christ spoke silently to my heart with the command, “Come!” I cannot explain it, but in that instant peace and light and life flooded into my being, and I was a changed man. There and then I followed. Instantly, I was change. I sat in my classroom surround by the other young men and was ready to burst into tear. I asked to be excused and fled the room.
I returned to Mr. McClusky’s room and told him that I wanted to follow Jesus. He then read some Scriptures to me and we prayed together. He told me that I needed to join a church and serve in it with all my heart. I did not understand at the time, but I was full and overflowing with joy. Christ had saved me!
On the way home that day, I literally spoke to everyone that I met – at the bus stop, on the bus, on the street, and in the shops. I spoke to everyone about Jesus and what he had done for me. I also told them that He would do the same for them. I must have quoted John 14:6 one hundred times. I did not even know who John was or what the numbers 14:6 even meant.
I soon found out that not everyone shared my newfound joy at having been born again. My parents reacted violently against it, as did the gang of young men who were my friends. All seemed to take offense at my conversion.
In spite of all my failure, the Lord has been good to me for all these years. He has never let me go. I have come not only to appreciate the Lord’s blessing, but also His discipline. Time and time again, the Lord has stepped in and rescued me. I am beyond grateful to Him for His grace.
Call to Ministry
From the beginning of my conversion I have been actively involved in street preaching and evangelism. As young man, it was my habit to preach three evenings a week in the open-air along the seafront of my hometown of Bangor, North Ireland. I would stand on bench with my Bible in hand, and call folks to faith and repentance in Jesus. On Saturdays, I would travel to surrounding towns and villages to preach in the open-air or to simply hand out tracks. I would try to begin conversations with anyone who would listen. My preaching friends and I would wait outside the pubs at closing time in the wee hours in an effort to reach souls for Christ. On Sunday evenings, I would lead the youth meeting at my church.
My pastor was a tremendous evangelist, and it was a great privilege to be allowed to learn in his shadow. It was wonderful and inspiring to see how the Lord used him in the winning of souls. After several years, our church grew large, and my pastor encouraged me to consider going into ministry. Plans were made, Bible College applications were sent, and everything was set for me to enter into the ministry.
It was at this time that I discovered that the young woman with whom I had been in a relationship for several years was living a double life. While at college, she was having a “relationship” with another man. I was devastated and totally humiliated. Because of this, I walked away from all thoughts of ministry. For several years I just drifted, almost content just to go to meetings, but with no real drive for ministry. At the end of this period in my life, I was offered an assistant pastor position in southern Spain. Because of this, I returned to Bible College, and there, I met and married my dear wife Sara. It was also there that the Lord showed me that I should not go to Spain.
In 2000, Sara and I moved to Finland. Sara worked for the Lutheran Church and I had a factory job. At the same time, I preached whenever I had the opportunity. I became very active in organizing outreach among the Free Churches, and was given the opportunity to visit and preach in churches outside of Finland.
In the spring of 2009, while I was praying and seeking direction from the Lord, I began to have the growing conviction to begin a new work here in Finland. I shared this with my wife and discovered that she had also been convinced that we should start a church. After a week or so of bouncing back and forth between obedience and unbelief, I gave in, and took the matter to my pastor to lay the whole thing at his feet. I confess that I was somewhat shocked by his enthusiasm. His answer was, ”Yes and Amen!” I found out that he had been praying for three years that the Lord might call me to the work in Finland. Later, the matter was brought before the leadership, and then again before the congregation. Both groups felt that this was the Spirit's leading. Sara and I were given the blessing and permission of the church to leave and begin this new work.
On the 12th of July 2009, we began to hold Sunday services in the gymnasium of the local primary school in the village of Edsevo. In the beginning, we had about twenty-six adults attending regularly. However, as the conflicts and persecutions began, we were left with only seven steadfast members. This work is hard and painful, but the toil is worth it.
I have found the work here in Finland to be a re-educating and reforming one; of having to explain verse by verse what the Bible actually says about God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, salvation, Christian life, and the church; of having to loudly proclaim the true Gospel of Christ, calling people to real faith in Jesus alone.
Here in Finland the belief is held that all Finns are Christian, whether they believe or not. If they have been ”baptized” as an infant they have been saved and are a part of God’s people. Finland considers itself a “Christian Nation,” and 83% of the population considers itself to be Lutheran. The Baptist and Free Churches hold a tiny minority. Indeed many of those that claim to be a part of the Baptist and Free Church also belong to the Lutheran Church. There is a great blurring of the dividing lines, and almost all live in the happy grey zone of blissful biblical ignorance. Most do not care about the doctrines of the Bible. Instead, they explain them away as nothing more than the antiquated teachings of an ancient culture with no relevance for modern church life.
I have sought to teach the principles of the Five Solas of the Reformation, while at the same time, establishing a biblically defined fellowship governed by the Word of God. It has been slow, and at times, painful work. Our work has drawn conflict from all fronts as we have tried to teach and proclaim a discerning Gospel.
After three years of effort, we have established a firm foundation – a core group of seven adults. All are fully committed and loving the Lord. All are growing in the faith and knowledge of our Savior. We meet together on Sundays for worship at a rented Ski lodge. During the week, we meet together on Tuesday evenings in one another’s homes. We gather to fellowship, encourage, and strengthen one another. We read the Scriptures together as a group. We usually read through a letter of the New Testament in one sitting, and then study it verse by verse. Having now finished the New Testament, we have begun the Major Prophets and are reading through Isaiah. We also spend time in prayer for one another’s needs and for the needs of those around us. We begin and end all things in prayer.
Every other week, we gather in a cafe or library for several hours of Bible study. It is wonderful to behold how much these folks love to study the Scriptures and search out the ways of the Lord! Two or three years ago, none of them had any knowledge of the Bible. Now, they quote the Bible, and are able to use the Sword of the Spirit with skill. It delights my soul immensely! And yet, they are still babes in Christ and in need of so much attention and care. Much of my time is used untangling them from the influences of false teaching and worldly attitudes. My job is to sow, water, and wait. I often think of myself as an old man who tends his plants and talks to them at the same time in an effort to make them grow.
I do not know what else to tell you. Finland is a hard country. We have seven months of winter, and some say that it makes the people as dark and cold and silent as an Arctic winter’s night. In my twelve years here I have come to know them very well. This will not be “quick” work or an easy one. I have often thought of it as stone quarry work or like Noah’s work in building the ark – long and difficult.
Sara's Testimony (Kyle's Wife)
I was born in Finland in 1976. I am the eldest of three children and born into a nominal Lutheran (non-Christian) family. When I was a child, we would go to church at Christmas, funerals, weddings, and to the services organized by the Lutheran church in the village hall twice a year. In Finland, the Lutheran church and the state are one. We even pay taxes to the church through the state. Most people are members of “the church,” and therefore, they believe that they are “Christians.”
As a child, I went to Sunday school in the village hall, to children’s clubs, camps, and confirmation class. I do not think I even knew of any other denomination until I was in my teens. The first group I learned of were the Baptist, but they were considered to be a strange sect. As a young child in Sunday school, I remember being told about missionaries in Africa and I thought that it was very interesting. I also used to pray to God when walking home in the dark winter nights. I did know that God existed, but I did not have a saving faith in Christ. I grew up as a normal teenager, rebelling against my parents, hanging with my friends, and dating boys. I was a total and complete sinner bound for hell.
When I was fourteen years old, I went to confirmation class and summer camp. We were taught about the Bible and about the Christian faith, the Lutheran church, and its beliefs. It was all very interesting, but in no way life-changing. Fortunately, there were a few leaders who were true Christians and they shared their testimonies at evening prayer every night. It was through them that the Lord stirred my heart. I realized that my childish faith was not enough, and that Christ demanded more of my life; more commitment.
While I still lived at home I attended the Lutheran church and its youth meetings. In hindsight I can see that it lacked a lot, and it saddens me that there was so little Gospel or biblical instruction given to the young people. After about two years, and without proper teaching, accountability, or mature spiritual leadership, I began to move backwards in my faith.
When I was sixteen years old, I moved away from home to study. There, things got even worse. I was the only Christian student at the school. I came home for the weekends and went to my usual youth group, but without strong teaching I still did not grow. It was a very lonely time.
In 1994, at the age of eighteen, I moved to Kilkeel, Northern Ireland to work as a nanny for the family of a pastor. I was to look after their daughter for eight months. I thank God for taking me out of Finland, because this was the start of my new walk with God. There, I learned that true Christians go to church regularly, and that it is important to have fellowship with Christians of all ages. There, I was able to go to a Bible study and meet other young people who were equally interested in growing in Christ. It wasn’t just a social event.
While in Kilkeel, I met a woman who had recently graduated from Belfast Bible College. She told me all about it and I decided that I wanted to go there. I applied and was accepted to a three-year course in Theology. There, I found many Christians from many denominations and countries. Many were very devoted to learning more so that they could go out and serve God in their own countries and abroad.
In my second year, I met the man who was to become my husband – Kyle.
During this time I mainly went to a charismatic house church; but I never really felt comfortable with the signs, wonders and speaking in tongues. For a long time, I thought that there was something wrong with me because I could not embrace this kind of Christianity. I was convinced that I was not as dedicated a Christian as the people around me who seemingly had a much greater relationship with God.
After my husband and I were led by God into a more biblical understanding of the Bible, I realized that so much of what I learned during my years in the liberal Lutheran church and in the charismatic Word of Faith movement was wrong. It was very much against what the Word of God actually teaches about who we are as Christians, and how we are to express our faith.
There has been a gradual growth in my walk with Christ during the years. God has had to take away parts of my life only to add what is pleasing to Him. It still is a “day to day” walk of learning new things and growing in Him. I am grateful for His protection and His care of me.