In 1980, two Finnish young men — Ismo Määttä and Ville Kervinen — were called to serve in the Finland Helsinki Mission. They never expected how their lives would continue to intertwine for the next 40 years.
First, Elder Määttä and Elder Kervinen served in the same area for several months and worked together to organize and prepare for the visit of Brigham Young University’s Young Ambassadors dance group. Later, they worked and taught together as companions in the mission office.
Elder Määttä has been a member of the Church since birth, but Elder Kervinen joined the Church as a young adult and quickly made the decision to serve a mission. Elder Kervinen’s conversion story had always impressed Elder Määttä, who especially appreciated hearing it as a young missionary. “It really touched my heart that he had made the decision to serve a mission so soon after his baptism,” he recalled.
Though their backgrounds in the Church varied, their commonalities were stronger than their differences.
“Something meaningful happened when we, two young men with different backgrounds but with very willing hearts, got the opportunity to serve our Heavenly Father together,” Määttä told the Church News. “I believe we both loved Him more than the things we left behind to serve as missionaries.”
After the two young men returned home from their missions, they each married. Määttä, who has been a member his entire life, married Erja Hämäläinen, who was introduced to the gospel by her husband prior to their marriage. Conversely, Kervinen, who was baptized a member of the Church as a young adult, married Leena Hannula, who has been a member her whole life — and Määttä was his best man.
The Kervinens established their family in Rovaniemi, a city in northern Finland close to the Arctic Circle, and the Määttäs stayed in Helsinki, more than 500 miles south of Rovaniemi. Though physically far from each other, their connection continued to deepen as they stayed in touch.
“Missionary work has united us in one way or another throughout our lives,” Määttä said. “As we serve in different roles, we have always encouraged each other and shared our experiences.”
They both remained active in missionary work — Kervinen as a counselor for several mission presidents and Määttä as a ward mission leader.
“Brother Määttä and I have always had a passion for mission work,” Kervinen told the Church News. “Sharing that along the years has meant a lot. He has been a marvelous leader in the Church and a great, great example for me.”
The intertwining of their lives extended even further when the Kervinens’ son Niilo and the Määttäs’ daughter Annina met at an activity for young single adults and became friends.
The two families each had a daughter called to serve in the Alpine German-Speaking Mission at the same time, who were at Provo MTC at the same time and “became best friends,” according to Määttä.
The two young women received their temple endowments at the same time by chance, bringing about an unplanned reunion of the families.
“After the temple, we took some family pictures together outside of the temple and joked about Niilo’s and Annina’s possibility of being a great pair,” said Määttä. “Little did we know that they ended up spending some time together after that and realized that there could be something special there.”
Niilo Kervinen and Annina Määttä shortly began dating, despite the long distance separating them. They eventually married and now have three sons.
“Somehow our lives have just been bound together, especially after our son and their daughter got married, and we have the same three wonderful boys and grandkids,” Kervinen said.
Now, 40 years after they served missions together as young men, these two Church members have once again been called to invite others to Christ in the same location, but in different capacities — President and Sister Määttä will serve as temple president and matron of the Finland Helsinki Temple beginning in August, and President and Sister Kervinen have been presiding over the Finland Helsinki Mission as mission president and companion since July 2020. They look forward to working together to gather Israel once again.
President Määttä “is a very loyal, enthusiastic and hardworking man,” President Kervinen said. “He has very sharp eyes that can easily see … what is behind people’s answers and reactions. And he’s very caring. He does the work one by one.”
President Kervinen and President Määttä both hold the conviction that the Lord crossed their paths for a distinct purpose.
“The Lord has guided and influenced our lives in so many different ways,” President Määttä said. “We can be part of this great work on both sides of the veil.”
“I have experienced during my whole life how the Lord puts specific people in our path. Brother Määttä has been one of those people that has had an impact in my life,” President Kervinen said. “I have tried to teach that to the missionaries also — that you don’t know why you are in the cities at that moment, … but you can be sure that the Lord orchestrates your path and he puts people, members, friends, investigators and missionary companions in your path for a purpose.”