'Hope ' Grows From Despair
Although Grandma Karin Eriksson felt the call from God to serve Him through mission work, her desire to answer that call turned out very differently than she could have ever imagined.
It was 1929 in Sweden and she was pregnant with her second child. It should have been a happy time for her, but instead Karin was filled with despair and she was unable to do what God asked of her. Her sadness was so great that she contemplated taking her own life and the life of her unborn child. Instead of doing the unthinkable, she offered her son's life to God so His good works could be accomplished through him.
When Erik Gunnar learned of his mother's promise to God, he had his own ambitions and did not feel bound by her offer. He absolutely was not going to become a missionary or serve the Lord.
And so, his early years were marked with a fast-paced lifestyle and a constant protest against God. He was led by his own will, not God's. By his own admission, Erik Gunnar's inventiveness and business acumen allowed him to make money, but it also hardened his heart. However, the more he succeeded in business, the more he felt he was failing at life. Perhaps he hadn't given God a chance and needed an intervention to change the course of his life. He felt much like Jonah in the Bible, who also opposed God's calling.
God, however, had big plans for Erik Gunnar.
The first intervention came as a whisper from a missionary who carried a message from God. "God says that He has chosen you to be a witness for Him all over the world," Erik Gunnar was told. "Your 'yes' to His call will lead to unexpected blessings. A 'no' will mean thousands of people you could reach will never hear about Jesus."
It was an unforgettable event, but not a life changer. He was still mired in the hustle and bustle of life and had serious doubts about his ability. Eventually, he started talking to God about his own shortcomings. God then sent a louder message that truly changed his life.
That single event led to his complete surrender to the Lord. While he was in the military, a grenade accidentally detonated near him during an exercise. He received severe injuries including mangled hands and fingers and third-degree burns on his face. His personal plans for the future were dashed in the blink of an eye. In deep agony and despair, he offered up a simple, but honest, prayer. "God, if you have mercy on me, I promise to do what you want." Erik Gunnar had truly humbled himself and was ready to serve God instead of himself for the first time in his life. Within a few minutes, he held out his hands and saw that his injuries were gone and his face bore hardly a trace of a scar. God had not only healed him physically, but opened his heart as well.
Shortly thereafter, Erik Gunnar attended Bible school and then he rolled up his sleeves to begin working for God. "As the entrepreneur I was born to be, I started from the outset to consider how best to reach people." He had observed the success of the "Tent Campaigns" in the U.S. and started collaborating with three of their successful evangelists.
The Maranatha Revival began to take root in Sweden and he quickly became a prominent figure in the movement. When it dissolved, Erik Gunnar formed Tent Mission in Sågmyra in Dalacarlia, Sweden. For several years his home base was Borlänge where the Tent Mission grew from being an evangelistic effort in Sweden to spreading to other parts of the world. His goal was to raise money for education, training of national pastors and evangelists and to encourage church planting. Thus, began his international work.
During a revival campaign in Brazil in 1969, Erik Gunnar visited a slum area where he received a message from God. "God called me to extend the work of the Tent Mission to the whole man – spirit, mind and body. In the slum area, I met a child struggling for survival. Suddenly I heard him speak, not with his mouth, but with his large, fevered eyes, 'Why should I suffer like this?' Something happened in my heart and I heard God saying to me, 'Erik Gunnar, you have to do something for the children.' All of a sudden, my eyes were opened to the realization that the Gospel wants us to care of the little ones. Jesus says in Matthew 24:45: 'Then shall He answer them, "Truly, what you have not done to one of these least, ye have not done for me."' A living faith means that we must act. We cannot help but convey our faith, our joy, the love we have received from God, the hope we have for the future and eternity. This belongs not only to us, but all God has created."
One year later on Christmas Eve in 1970, the first Star of Hope orphanage, "Estrela de Esperanza," was opened in Brazil. Paolo, the dying child who Erik Gunnar had met during his epiphany was the first resident. The boy had survived with God's help. That lad is now 44 years old, a devout Christian, successful businessman and the father of two boys.
Barely 10 years after the event in Brazil in 1979, Tent Mission started a separate assistance unit for social assistance – Star of Hope. It has grown to be an aid organization with daily assistance to 30,000 children in 16 countries on all continents. Sponsorship of children is still Star of Hope's signature.
Tent Mission remains the classic missionary work in most places where Star of Hope works. Work is done in collaboration with local churches. Training of pastors and evangelists, investment in Bible schools and pastor seminars has continued since the mid-1960s.
And so began a ministry that has affected more lives than could ever be counted. It began as Tent Mission addressing the spiritual and then the social program, Star of Hope, was added.
In 1987 Star of Hope International, America was formed. From our base here at Star of Hope America we find it impossible to separate the spiritual and social programs. In James 2:14-26, the Bible speaks about faith without works. When working with the marginalized and disadvantaged of this world it is impossible for a Christian to give one without giving the other. As we have sought to be obedient to God's directives He, in turn, has blessed the work immensely.
What a privilege to be part of His great plan.