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LEAF – The Lutheran Evangelical Association of Finland
The Lutheran Evangelical Association of Finland (LEAF) is an association that works inside the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland (ELCF). It does both domestic and overseas missionary work. Its meaning is to propagate the gospel of Christ, and to circulate literature that conforms to the Bible, and to the lutheran confession.
The origin of the evangelical movement
Fredrik Gabriel Hedberg (1811-1893), the founder of the evangelical movement, worked as a pastor mainly in southwest Finland, in the region nearby Turku. In his spiritual struggles he searched for help in the books of Luther. This lead him to trust, not his own feelings, but the grace of God, and in the fact that God acts through his word and the sacraments. His previous connections to Moravianism helped him to adopt a joyful concept of faith. The evangelical movement was fairly quickly spread among both the clergy and the laity, in southwest Finland, to Ostrobothnia, and to Vyborg and its surroundings. The evangelical movement got organized in 1873, when the LEAF was founded. Originally, the association worked both in Finnish and in Swedish, but in 1922, an own association, Svenska Lutherska Evangeliföreningen i Finland was founded for the Swedish-speaking.
A central basis for our work is the fact that God acts through his word and the sacraments: the baptism and the Communion. Through them, God is offering salvation, brought by Jesus when he died on the cross, gratuitously for everyone. That is why the salvation is, above all, a cause for joy. This can also be seen in the songs of Siionin Kannel (The Harp of Zion), the songbook of the evangelical movement. For us, it is especially important to cherish the religious concepts of the lutheranism. Therefore, we have translated and published numbers of Luther’s books. We have in year 1996 published a Luther-CDROM with about 20,000 pages of text of Luther in Finnish. As far as we know, this is the first of its kind. The LEAF publishes three periodicals. They are Sanansaattaja (The Messenger), a magazine for young people called Nuotta, and Vinkki, a children’s magazine.
The evangelical movement today
There are 350 local associations belonging to the LEAF; they have 17,000 members altogether. In some of the biggest towns (Helsinki, Tampere, Turku, Jyväskylä, Lahti) the LEAF has its own premises that are also consecrated churches. Furthermore, there are about 30 prayer houses. The national gospel festival that is arranged every summer in different localities, convenes over 10,000 participants. There are 10 evangelical folk high schools, and 12 residential colleges.
The foreign missionary work
The LEAF started its foreigh missionary work in 1900, in Japan. Since the 1970s, it has carried out missionary work also in Kenya, in Papua-New-Guinea, in Zambia, in Cameroun, and in Russia. In Russia, the work has been concentrated in Ingria, among the Finnish-speaking population. An increasing part of the work is done in Russian, too. The LEAF has about 30 missionaries altogether.
Various fields of work
The LEAF works inside the parishes of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland. It arranges evangelistic events, Bible congresses, church services, and lectures on the Bible. In the middle of the 1980s, a certain lecture series on the Bible was arranged by the LEAF, developed into a popular movement. The LEAF also works among the children, the young, and the students, as well as over the radio. It has about 60 domestic employees. Half of them work in the headquarters of the LEAF in Helsinki.