Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A Family Heritage

This is a photograph of the Skutnabb Family. The young man that looks to be in his teens is my maternal grandfather, Erik Anders Skutnabb.

"Zoinks..." you're thinking, "I thought Mel Staub was your maternal grandfather." Well, he was... he was the hugs-and-kisses, share-a-laugh, tell-me-a-story, sing-me-a-song, teach-me-a-life-lesson grandpa, whom I cherish. And he was my grandma's second husband. As a matter of fact, I was at their wedding (at three years old).

{{Awwww... }}

Erik A. Skutnabb is my biological grandfather who passed away when my mother was just 5 years old. I look forward to someday having the opportunity to meet him in heaven.

Today, though, I want to share something about his father... my great grandfather, Akseli Skutnabb.

Akseli Alfred Skutnabb, December 27, 1875 - November 23, 1929

I was going through old photo albums at mom's house because I promised my second cousin, Tapani (his grandma is Irma, the one standing on the left), that I would scan and forward photos of Erik for his family-tree project. That promise was way overdue in being fulfilled!

Anyway, in poring over those old albums I was struck by the amazing Christian heritage I possess. Included in the albums, among other things, was an "excerpt from the biographical forward of the book In Him by Akseli Skutnabb." It's as follows (and if you don't enjoy human-interest, biographical-type stories, this might be where you want to click off and come back another day):

"Akseli Skutnabb (originally Axel Alfred), one of the most gifted speakers of God's Word of his time in Finland, was born in Tikkurila on December 27, 1875. Axel Alfred was the youngest son of engineer Petter Anders, who was a strict and strong-willed man. Shortly after the birth of his youngest son, Axel, Petter Skutnabb and family moved to Hameenlinna. There, he organized the work, and was in charge of, building of bridges and canals over the entire country.

Akseli Skutnabb went to school in Hameenlinna Normaslilysee which was an all male, private school. He graduated in 1895, together with Eine Leine and Larin Kyosti (both famous writers of prose and poetry). All three graduated at the top of their class. In the fall of the same year, A. Skutnabb registered at the Helsinki University Theological Seminary with the intention of becoming an Evangelical Lutheran minister. This he did at his father's request.

From his early childhood, young Axel was influenced by his mother's godly example. During his early school years, Axel Skutnabb attended Free Church revival services which swept Finland during those years. As a young lad, he, together with some classmates, attended meetings held in the city by a Swedish evangelist F. Franson. Young Skutnabb was very impressed by, and receptive to, the message of this man who was on fire for God. Later, Axel Skutnabb traveled with Mr. Franson as an interpreter at the revival meetings all over Finland.

At fifteen years of age, Axel Skutnabb, for the first time, experienced the joy of salvation while studying the Bible. As a result, he, together with a classmate, started a Bible study to which they gave the name "Societas Juvenum Christianorum" (latin for "Society of Young Christians"). Several schoolmates belonged to this group. Their goal was to become ministers of the gospel. The fellows came together on Saturdays to read the Bible, pray, and give small sermons. In this small circle, A. Skutnabb gave his first sermon.

This immature excitement, however, faded away later and it was not until 1893 that Skutnabb experienced a genuine and lasting conversion in the Free Church circles. In the meetings of the Free Church, Skutnabb developed principles which disagreed with the teaching of the Lutheran State Church. This caused inner conflict in the young man; especially when his strong, highchurch, father wanted his talented son to become a Lutheran minister. One of the outstanding characteristics of Akseli Skutnabb, however, through all of his life, was his uncompromising desire for truth, and he was consistently willing to sacrifice all for what he knew to be the truth. This same love for truth would later on bring him to public confession when he found himself to be in error. The inner demand for truth hindered A. Skutnabb from becoming a Lutheran minister. He could not support all of the Lutheran doctrine. For this reason, he gave up his schooling. He returned to his father the money provided for his studies and joined the Free Church itinerary preachers in 1895.

However, here also, differences of opinion developed of which Skutnabb, in his memoirs, speaks as follows: 'There I found myself belonging to an extreme leftist wing, which supported a so-called sinlessness theory. This teaching caused dissension and separation among the Free Church leaders. Although torn by inner conflict, I still stayed with the Free Church for some time. But, when my personal conviction regarding "sinlessness issue" became intolerable, a difficult inner crisis arose, which led to my eyes being opened to understand God's free grace in Christ Jesus which was given to us in Him. This happened in year 1898. The leaders of the Free Church did not accept the teaching of salvation in Christ alone and as a free gift of God's grace. As other matters of disagreement arose I, with several others, was dismissed from the Free Church in 1901.'

As a result, a new spiritual movement was born in Finland; a so-called "Free Evangelical Mission." During the time of Bobricoff (a Russian official), the members were forced to use this name. From the very beginning, the principal purpose of this movement was the belonging to the Kingdom of God without separation from other believers. For this reason, after that first forced name, no official name has been accepted for this group of God's children.

Akseli Skutnab officiated, until his death, as the leader of this group. He became known as a gifted speaker and brave seeker of truth who until the end, dove deeper into the knowledge of God, not being satisfied with past experiences and blessings. It was typical of Akseli Skutnabb's seeking spirit that when people wanted him to write a creed of their beliefs, he refused. He explained that because we only know and understand in part, the knowledge of the truth must always expand. Thus, we cannot categorically say: 'this is what I believe.'

Akseli Skutnabb was a man of faith and prayer. He spent many hours a day in the Bible and prayer. Complaints due to lack of faith, he did not tolerate in his home or among the believers.

Akseli Skutnabb followed up, with constant interest, on spiritual writings and corresponded with many deeply spiritual Christians in various countries, regardless of their church affiliations. "

Wow... what a guy! How I would have loved to sit and chat with him for an afternoon (or many afternoons)! I'm proud and thankful to have a godly heritage that ascends for generations. Tomorrow, I'll tell you about his wife, my great grandmother, Helmi.

But before I go, here's another interesting tidbit about Akseli... In 1912, he was booked with passage to US on the Titanic! However, the plans were changed and he took another ship over the Atlantic. Here, he spent some time with religious leaders in Chicago, and he preached in the Moody Church there. He also met the founder of the Christian and Missionary Alliance, Dr. A.B. Simpson. His daughter, Zeila, says that the two men were "kindred spirits." They corresponded often and Akseli visited him here in the states.


The Farmer's Wife said...

Pam, this is fascinating! I'm so interested in spiritual heritage, partly because I want my children to know theirs and partly because I'm struck by how God's hand is so evident in some families. Thank you for sharing this, and I'm looking forward to the next installment.

Dot O said...

Very cool stuff, Pam! So very, very cool that you were able to get your hands on this information too!

I love the old photos too!Wow!

Anonymous said...

WOW Pam, how cool is all that! I'm going to read it over again to soak it up. That's our heritage...amazing isn't it? Where did you get that write up?
Ok, I'm gonna be diligent in reading your blogs. They're always so interesting. I get more info out of them than when we actually talk. HA

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I'm a wife, mom, and grandma living in rural Vermont. “…giving thanks in all circumstances…” 1 Thess 5:16-18