The official news service of the Trans-European Division of the Seventh-day Adventist church



20 March 2017 | Sweden [Marcos Paseggi, Senior Correspondent, Adventist Review]  A retired Seventh-day Adventist pastor has been raising money for the needy for over 80 years in Sweden, most of that time to support Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) projects around the world. Evert Johansson, who will turn 95 next month still goes skiing and chops firewood to keep fit. He has also been involved in healthy living education and the defense of religious liberty for decades.

Hard Beginnings

Evert Johansson grew up in the small village of Gardsjönäs, ten hours north of the Sweden’s capital, Stockholm. He was the fifth child in a family six. When he was three and his little brother just six months old, his father died, and his mother was left alone.

It was the late 20’s, and life was hard for the orphan boy and his siblings. His mother couldn’t even afford to buy him shoes, so Johansson had to walk around barefoot. One year, a few days before Christmas, his mother knocked on the door of a Christian Mission office, but she was told shoes and clothes were only for members. Johnsson had to settle for home-made shoes made of cowhide.

Sweden 80 years fundraisingEvert Johansson with his granddaughter Mikaela, who accompanied him during the 2016 ADRA fundraising campaign. [Photo: Britt-Inger Lill Brook]At age 11 his mother also died so he went to live with his older brother and work in the forest. The work was hard, and the boy suffered recurring stomach illnesses. “Every morning, I would drink two cups of strong coffee before going to work,” said Johansson in an interview featured in the Christian newspaper Dagen when he turned 90 in 2012. “It never occurred to me that there was a link between my stomach ailments and my coffee consumption.”

A Change of Habits

One day, Johansson came across a book about healthy eating. Convicted, he decided to change his eating habits and began to purchase vegetarian food items that he would hide in his basement. “Eating vegetarian was considered strange at the time,” he explained in an interview. Now, decades after he abandoned coffee and meat, he can talk extensively about the benefits of a healthy diet. “I stick to God’s original plan: fruits, grains, nuts, and vegetables,” he says. “But I am not an extremist; if you become an extremist, your case becomes hopeless,” he warns.

As a teenager, Johansson felt a need for God, and so he embarked on a search that took him from church to church until he was “caught” by the kindness a small company of Seventh-day Adventists showed him. After being baptized at 16, he took a two-year ministerial course before heading to England to finish his Theology degree. Back to Sweden, he began to work as a pastor, combining his ministerial duties with the promotion of health and well-being principles.
“When the local city council in the town where I lived found out I was offering health education talks, they offered to help,” reminisced Johansson. “They allocated funds to support our health education activities, and the number of participants only increased.”

Johansson never shied away from defending religious liberty, either. He became known for writing frequent letters to the editor of several newspapers, debating the particulars of specific Christian teachings and the occasional predicaments of the Swedish religious landscape.

Fundraising for the Needy

Years before he became a pastor, however, and even as a 13-year-old orphan, Johansson found out that he had a talent for fundraising. He began to ride his bike across the countryside requesting contributions for people needier than him, a practice he came to excel at.

Years later, after retiring as a church pastor when he turned 70, Johansson decided to keep raising funds to help people in need. Now at 94, and over 80 years after his first fundraising trip, Johansson still campaigns on behalf of ADRA Sweden each year. Last autumn, and inspite of suffering from cataracts, occasional injuries, and dizziness, he visited businesses in Sweden’s northern region and collected 150,000 Swedish krona (around 15,785 Euro) for ADRA Sweden projects in Africa and Asia. In 2017, he has set for himself an even higher goal.

“[Johansson] has always had a special heart for mission,” says Göran Hansen, president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Sweden. “He has always had a heart for people in need.”  For Johansson, his motivation is unambiguously clear. “I know what it is to be poor, orphaned, and homeless,” he said. “I know what it’s like to walk around without shoes.”
Hansen added that Johansson has lived “a life of lifelong service to God.” That is a mission he plans to continue for as long as he can. [tedNEWS]

See also:
Swedish SAT test change to benefit Adventist and Jewish students
Free Ski Lessons integrate refugee community

tedNEWS Staff: Victor Hulbert, editor; Esti Pujic, associate editor
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tedNEWS is an information bulletin issued by the communication department of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Trans-European Division.