In 1999 Seija left Finland and traveled to SIL’s base of operations in Ukarumpa to serve for two years in the high school for missionary kids as a teacher of math and physics. At that time she had no idea she would end up working with a group of people in a tropical rainforest of the Sepik.
During the two years she was teaching at the high school, she heard about groups of people throughout the country still waiting for the New Testament to be translated into their language. Although she felt God pulling her heart in that direction, she pushed it aside, thinking she was too old to get involved in Bible translation. One Sunday morning she heard the preacher admonish the congregation, “Don’t give yourself labels that the Lord hasn’t given you.” She knew God was speaking to her. In obedience, she went to England for training and then returned to Papua New Guinea.
Pirkko Luoma, also from Finland, had been working in the Sepik for a number of years and in November 2004 she joined Seija on a preallocation visit to see if the Kalpm dialect of the Urim language group would be a good fit for her. The path to the village followed a narrow ridge, went straight down, crossed river, and went straight up again. The weather was rainy and the path slippery, but these two Finnish ladies weren’t about to be deterred by a little water and mud.
Since Pirkko had already been living in the area she understood the language. As they walked along with a group of people guiding them, one local lady asked of another, “What are these two old white skinned ladies doing walking up and down our mountains when it’s so difficult for them?” The other replied, “It must be from the Lord. There could be no other explanation!”
Seija did feel the trip and the village allocation were from the Lord. She committed to settle there, learn the language, and embark on translation. The next time she took that path it was to come live among the people. It was her 52nd birthday.
In all, she made that walk over the mountains 13 times before she was granted permission to use the helicopter regularly to travel to her village allocation. Although the paths were slippery, Seija testifies, “The walk was very good for teaching me to humbly depend on others. They held my hands, carried my bags, and sometimes even washed my feet.” She says with a smile, “In all those 13 treks across the mountain ridges, I never fell down once!”
Seija has been blessed from living among the Urim-Kalpm people, learning their language, and helping them translate God’s Word. She says, “Don’t label yourself unless you know that label is from the Lord. If you do, you might just miss out on your opportunity to be part of God’s plan for the nations!”