If you had met Teemu Laitinen two years ago, he probably wouldn’t have stood out too much from the crowd. Working as a bus driver in northern Finland, Teemu showed up at work when expected and looked forward to the weekends, much like the next guy. During his days off, he had time to drink, and he wasn’t too stingy with his alcohol.
Then he had depression. It had been on-going for some time, but Teemu still made sure he did his work well. “I didn’t know how to be sick,” he recalled, “and I certainly didn’t want to owe anything to the company.”
In the end, it was just too much, and Teemu quit his job.
Teemu was raised in a Lutheran family. His mother taught him to say his prayers at night before falling asleep, and he was confirmed at the age of 15. After his confirmation, he joined the church youth group. There were youth retreats, potato peeling and talk about God, but never a personal relationship with the Creator. Later, when life turned upside down, Teemu didn’t know how to ask God for help. “No one had ever told me how to,” he said.
Feeling out of breath, Teemu found his Bible and knew he had to start reading it. At first, he read the book of Daniel. In fact, he read it multiple times over a period of several weeks. The Lord’s Prayer became “monumental for [his] survival,” Teemu said, as he realised he had to forgive everyone who had hurt him.
“That’s when Jesus saved me, and that’s how this journey of faith began,” Teemu said with gratitude.
Sharing one’s faith is a part of being a Christian
Teemu joined a local Pentecostal congregation and was baptised. He went through the church’s three-part discipleship programme, which focused on spiritual formation and sought to equip new believers for ministry (serving with their gifts). The discipleship programme gave Teemu an opportunity to ask “all kinds of questions,” and learn from the pastor, who shared about his own life struggles with the participants.
At first, Teemu tried to continue his drinking, despite his new faith. But soon new, more interesting things started to fill his life, and the drinking stopped.
“It was clear to me from the very beginning that missions and the Great Commission are at the core of Christianity,” Teemu said. “They can be seen all through the Bible.”
Teemu started sponsoring a child in an African country shortly after becoming a believer. In the fall, he packed Christmas gifts to Romanian children and prayed that God would send more workers to the Eastern European nation.
Taking a bus to the market place
In the fall of 2017, Teemu moved to a town called Keuruu in central Finland and enrolled into a biblical studies programme at a Christian college. In January 2018, he took part in a missions training, aiming at preparing participants for short-term ministry. Teemu enrolled mainly because he wanted to learn how to share the gospel with his father. During the missions training, a friend told him about the Bus4Life ministry and mentioned that OM was looking for a new driver.
“I had never heard about Bus4Life, and I was blown away by the fact that something like that exists,” Teemu recalled. “I called OM almost immediately and wanted to learn more.”
Teemu may have never heard about the Bus4Life before, but the idea of using a bus for evangelism wasn’t completely new to him. In fact, Teemu had come up with an idea of using a bus for outreach purposes the previous summer.
“How cool would it be to have a bus that could be driven to the central square with friends on board. We could make some coffee and reach out to people. The bus would offer privacy in case people wanted prayer.”
In Teemu’s thoughts, the bus was being driven in Finland. However, when he heard about the possibility of doing similar ministry in Eastern Europe, he jumped at the opportunity. “I didn’t have to think too long,” he said. “I had made the decision to follow Jesus, and that meant I was ready to go. I figured things would work out if it was God’s will.”
Proclaiming with one’s own profession
The first phone call to OM was followed by an application process that took a couple of months. The necessary funding for the (unpaid) volunteer position came in very quickly, and in early April, Teemu boarded a flight to Budapest.
When asked about the rather swift process, Teemu shrugged his shoulders, unconcerned. “This is the way the Lord made me. Everyone has their own road to walk,” he said. “For me, following Jesus was an all or nothing decision—either I’d give him everything or nothing at all. I was ready to go, even before I first heard about this opportunity.”
It is clear Teemu is quite pleased with how everything has unfolded: “It’s amazing that it’s possible to serve God with one’s own profession. I’m not much of a speaker, and yet I can still proclaim with my work.”
Known as OM’s “ship on wheels,” Bus4Life will minister in Hungary, Moldova, Ukraine and Romania this year.