A world of many colors: the colors of missions, this is what Matti Sirvio has always seen – with his eyes and with his heart.
Such vision expresses itself in his work as a pastor and as a painter. Bright splashes cover the canvases Matti has addressed with his brush. His art dances. Figures, forms and faces swing and sway because of what moves in this artist.
“I’m full of colors and images,” Matti said on his blog. “They persecute me daily until I get them out. I’m looking for the picture behind the pictures. Eternity is very real, but often covered by a lot of man-made dirt. I want my pictures to speak about eternity.”
Impressions on the Heart
His life speaks for eternity as well. Today, Matti paints the impressions made on his heart by Istanbul, Turkey, the place this Finn has called home since 2006. On the surface, this ancient Islamic city appears, like most of the world’s metropolises, too busy and too hard for the planting of a vibrant church. Yet, this pastor/painter senses the brooding of the Spirit over the floods of people that course through the streets there.
This pastor hears the dawn prayer calls that reverberate from the minarets and mosques and they awaken in him a sense of God’s desire toward these people. He compares these shrill supplications to the cries of Hagar and Ishmael in Genesis 21. God, Pastor Matti said, heard and answered that mother and son who had been driven from Abraham’s home. The Islamic world needs Christian investment, he said.“Can God start a church in Egypt, Saudi-Arabia, Pakistan? Can he speak to the darkness and say, ‘Let there be light’? Click To Tweet
“Can God start a church in Egypt, Saudi-Arabia, Pakistan? Can he speak to the darkness and say, ‘Let there be light’? Matti said. “If we would dare to go and see, we would be surprised to find out how capable a church-planter God is.”
Istanbul (population 13 million), the second largest city in the world, is what it is because of its strategic situation on the Bosporus Strait, which helps link the Black Sea with the Mediterranean basin. In A.D. 330, Constantine the Great relocated the seat of Roman government from Italy to this spot. The emperor put his name on the place, calling it Constantinople, and instituted a rebuilding program to make it as monumental as Rome.
In 1453, the Ottoman Turks captured and began a nearly 400-year reign highlighted by the rule of Suleiman the Magnificent, whose artistic and architectural achievements that made Istanbul a major cultural, political, and commercial center. Following World War I, the Turkish War of Independence led to establishment of the Republic of Turkey in 1923, with Istanbul being one of the new nation’s principle cities.
Voices of Need
The mission and purpose of Jesus Christ stirs Pastor Matti. The colors he sees are complemented by the voices he hears. Those voices speak to him as they did to the apostle Paul. Paul traversed the roadways and seaways of the Roman Empire with the Gospel of God’s grace. The words Paul spoke and the letters he wrote breathed upon dead men and women and made them alive unto God. Churches took root in cities throughout Asia Minor, now known as Turkey. Early Christians soaked this region with their prayers, their tears, and their blood.
These details of church history fuel the mission of Team Turkey. Pastor Matti and the team members carry an understanding of God’s continuous work in this region. They are determined to communicate His heart in the midst of the religious and political confusion that rules the atmosphere.
“Together, we have chosen to love the Turkish people unconditionally,” Matti said. “I don’t think God has an alternative for that. Unconditional love removes even the greatest obstacles and disarms people. Unconditional love is contagious. It cannot be stopped by man.”
The voices and faces that color Matti Sirvio’s moments and memories are of various hues. He has lived at least a year in Hungary, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan. In every one of those places, there are now functioning churches served by native pastors. Such success represents the blessing of God on a commitment from Pastor Matti and his teams to build bridges in places where missionary work is considered unacceptable and morally wrong. Sometimes, he said, mission work and evangelism becomes so sophisticated that ordinary believers feel they never can do it right.
Being in Turkey is a daily decision for Pastor Matti and the Istanbul team.
“It’s a faith decision, based on those things that the eye cannot see,” Pastor Matti said. “There are so many reasons not to be here. There are so many cultural, political and humanistic reasons not to disturb the deep spiritual sleep of this giant nation.
“It’s the supernatural life that keeps us going. Seeing the invisible and hearing the voice of God cannot be explained in human terms.”
Fishermen and Garbage Collectors
Among multitudes in Istanbul, two groups of people have particularly touched Pastor Matti – the fishermen and the trash-pickers.
At all hours, the bridges and piers are filled with groups of jolly Turks, laboring for a catch. These people have created a whole culture around this activity. They have chosen to have a good time while performing a difficult task. Just like the Turkish team, he said. “Despite the potential dangers and frustrations we experience, waiting for our fish to bite in Turkey, we have chosen to enjoy this call.”
The trash-pickers of Istanbul also appear to happy lot. In a newspaper story one of them explained his thoughts: “Every garbage can contains a new dream.
You go to a garbage bin. You dip your hand inside, and you start dreaming about what you might find. Perhaps it will be something valuable. And if you don’t find it in this bin, you go to the next. In this manner, you can walk for seven or eight hours daily.”
Matti Sirvio finds something very redemptive in this philosophy.
“When I look at a big heap of trash I easily can see my own life in it,” he said.
”That’s where I’m from and that’s where I would be, if God didn’t give me grace. It’s so comforting to know that I’ll never be dumped again. God doesn’t throw away things that are broken. He doesn’t reject people who have failed. We are his treasure, found in the garbage.”
These are the colors of missions.