“God’s Warrior”: Niilo Yli-Vainio saw Healing Miracles in Finland

Niilo Yli-vainio preaching

Someone who influenced my life by his sanctity, humility and his amazing life of Christian service to the needy, was Christian Schreiber, who died in 2010 at a ripe old age. He had been a Pentecostal pastor in northern Germany and had begun a work after World War 2 caring for war orphans. He was fluent in Finnish, and at his mission station in Missunde, he would tell me tales of servants of God from Scandinavia who are largely unknown to English-speakers.

One of these was Niilo Yli-Vainio (1920-81) – don’t panic, rough pronunciation is Neelo Ulli-vine-io. Christian shared a stage with him sometimes during the remarkable revival that came to Finland in the 1970s. Material on him in English is scarce, but I have listed two articles in the footnote.

Niilo was brought up in a Lutheran home. His father was a soldier, but his godly grandmother prophesied that Niilo would be a warrior for God’s kingdom. However, the Finno-Russian war of 1939 showed him such horrors that he wrote: “God does not exist.” After the war, though, he and his wife began attending Pentecostal house meetings and experienced a profound conversion. Niilo began seeing visions of lost souls in chains, and he started visiting villages and preaching the gospel. Some hearers received the Baptism in the Holy Spirit and spreading the gospel further.

In 1963, Niilo was diagnosed with heart disease and cancer. Ten years of treatment achieved little, so he and his wife planned to retire to the countryside to die. He did, however, attend a Pentecostal conference in Australia, and there God healed him and flooded him with holy power! The two experiences worked together in Niilo: his suffering gave him humility and empathy in his dealings with the hurting, and the Holy Spirit’s power gave him an understanding of the faith and authority that God entrusts to faithful labourers in His vineyard.

Niilo laying hands on the sick after a campaign

In 1977, God moved strongly at Lapua, Finland. As Niilo preached, some people fell to the ground, others spoke in tongues, while others were miraculously healed. People flocked to Lapua, where up to 200 people a week surrendered their lives to Jesus Christ. The media took note, the press publishing articles and a film being made (on YouTube but only in Finnish). It was at this time that Niilo began to be referred to as God’s Warrior, as his grandmother had foretold.

He continued to hold house meetings but visited other countries too. In the Far East, some who were lame and blind were completely healed. There are documented instances where one or two people were healed through an anointed cloth as in Acts 19:11-12, or even through a photo of Niilo. And this became a problem. His letters at times reveal an inner anguish that, try as he might to point people to Jesus alone, he continued to be contacted from far and wide as “the miraculous healer Yli-Vainio”. In his campaign meetings, if someone gave a wonderful testimony of healing, he would get the onlookers to repeat, almost as a mantra, “Jesus did it!”

After only four years in the public eye, Niilo was jogging while on a vacation in Spain and suffered a fatal heart-attack. Mourned by many, his labours left a mark on Finland through increased church attendance and respect for Christian truth. His life showed that God can use anyone He pleases (even a man dying of cancer) to work His purposes. Niilo stressed that an attitude of prayer and expectancy is indispensable to experiencing a new Pentecost, be it personal or corporate. Also that God is sovereign and will pour out His blessings whenever and wherever He chooses.

Sources:

Personal reminiscences of Pastor Christian Schreiber

Harri Heino, ‘The Charismatic Movement in Finland and America’, Journal of the European Pentecostal Theological Association, vol. 7 (1988).

Benjamin Ranta, ‘Niilo Yli-Vainio, the Great Finnish Revivalist’, Assemblies of God Heritage, vol. 26 (2006).

 

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About Trevor Saxby

I'm a mentor, friend to many, with a PhD in church history. I love learning from the 'movers and shakers' of the past, as I want to be one today!

4 responses to ““God’s Warrior”: Niilo Yli-Vainio saw Healing Miracles in Finland”

  1. John Vagabond says :

    I once smuggled Bibles into Russia via Lake Ladoga in Finland where the Finnish church acted as a staging post for insertion to Leningrad (now St Petersburg) The evangelical initiative was strong in Finland and a Finnish pastor penetrated as far as Siberia in the 1980s.Very possibly through this man’s early influence.

  2. PrayThroughHistory says :

    I worked in Finland from 1990-94. I forget the name of the prayer ministry, but remember that G-d moved mightily! I was raised Baptist, and actually went to the church that started Billy Graham and Northwestern College. But I had no framework for the incredible power of the Holy Spirit. Example? A kid next to me, after prayer, his leg grew back, and he took off his polio braces. His parents were grateful and absolutely stunned! We all were.
    I feel that Finland has been blessed by the Lord for its unrelenting support of Israel. Mannerheim, a famous Finnish general in WWII, was being arm twisted by Germany to give up its Jews. Mannerheim said, “Come and try to take them.” They survived and thrived, and Israel and Finland still have a special relationship.

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