Missionaries Timo and Laura Harkonen with their delightful children Richard, Iisakki and Janey. (Contributed photo)

By Ralph Hood

I well remember the very first missionary I met. We were eating breakfast at a church event when the missionary said, “I wish I had some termites to put in my oatmeal.”

Right then and there, I decided to become a missionary, but it never happened.

During the eight years Erwin Presbyterian Church has helped support the Harkonen missionary family, Gail and I have had the privilege of meeting and enjoying Timo and Laura Harkonen plus their delightful children, Janey, Richard, and Iisakki. They are a truly fascinating family.

Timo is originally from Finland. He was invited to America by the athletic director of Averett College, Danville, Virginia, to play tennis.

Timo met Laura in computer lab at Averett, and you can guess the rest of the story—they fell in love and married, earning their college degrees—masters for Timo and bachelors for Laura—along the way.

Laura had determined long before to be a missionary, and a flying missionary at that!

She learned to fly and flew business airplanes so sophisticated that I couldn’t have cranked them even with jumper cables.

Timo became a preacher and teacher and the two served in the Democratic Republic of Congo with Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF). Timo taught and Laura flew.

I’ve seen a video of her flying bush planes in/out of strips that looked more like ditches than runways—much worse than the crop duster strips I used for years.

Oh, the stories these two can tell! Once their home in the Congo was surrounded and covered by carnivorous, meat-eating ants the size of grasshoppers. Panic ran rampant until Timo sprayed the ants with fuel—believe it or not—siphoned from Laura’s turbine airplane. It worked!

Another time in the Congo—after an automobile driver killed a motorcyclist in a wreck—bullets fired by police and/or soldiers fell wildly about their abode.

Brave people, these missionaries!

Their children are outgoing and engaging. Janey and Richard are two of the most polite teenagers you could ever meet, with huge smiles.

They walk trails with my wife, Gail, and never leave her behind.

Iisakki, not yet two, is a totally entertaining child who definitely enjoys himself.

Timo and Laura now work with Africa Inland Mission (AIM). We wish them the very best. They are dedicated to a great and very important job.

The Harkonens would love to tell their interesting stories to your church. You’d love them. They can be reached by email at [email protected]