Taking the Long Way to TeenStreet

Karoliina Gröhn

Many people travel to TeenStreet (TS) from far, but very few choose to take as massive a detour as the Harju family from Finland who drove through eleven countries before arriving in Offenburg.

Climbing into their seven-passenger Sedan, the Harjus (sans their oldest son, Lari) left Finland on July 7th and took a ferry from Helsinki to Tallinn, Estonia. They then drove through the three Baltic states – Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania – arriving in Poland in time for their first night on the road. From Poland they continued to Ukraine, Moldova, and Romania, spending one night in each country. Looking at the map, one must ask ‘why’, since the three countries aren’t even remotely on the way to Germany.

“They were new countries to us, so we drove through them,” Netta (15) says.

“They are interesting countries,” her father, Mika-Petri adds. “Eastern Europe is different, and the nature is wonderful there.”

“We had dreamed of going to Ukraine for a long time because we had hoped to do children’s ministry there before the war broke out,” Marita, his wife, says.

From Romania, the Harjus drove to Hungary where Lari joined the rest of the family after having spent two weeks in Sweden studying Swedish and playing the violin. Once together again, the family slowed down a bit, spending a little over a week at a friend’s place in Hungary. But just so things wouldn’t get too settled, the Harjus did a day trip to Croatia and Serbia.

“We were really close to the border, so it was easy to check those two countries off of our list,” Mika-Petri explains.

After Hungary, the family travelled through Austria before finally crossing over to Germany and arriving at TeenStreet. According to the odometer, they had driven approximately 4,000 kilometres.

No, this was not a once-in-a-lifetime trip for the Harjus. They have done this every summer for the past four years, each time that they have come to TeenStreet.

“We get some new idea every year, and that’s what we do,” Mika-Petri says. “Two years ago, we swapped houses with a family in Spain and spent a little over a week there before coming to TeenStreet.”

“I think these trips bring us closer together as a family,” Marita says. “At home our life is all about going to work and school and hobbies. We might see each other in the morning and at night we make sure everyone’s at home, but we are rarely all together. So every summer we put everyone in the car for a month, and we spend all this time together. It’s wonderful to listen to the kids talk non-stop in the back seat, telling us to turn down the music so we can all talk. There’s no internet, and when the mobile data has been used up, we just talk.”

Marita and Mika-Petri Harju are the family team coordinators at TeenStreet, leading the children’s programmes that take place during the week. Before TeenStreet they served with Love for Kids in Russia, working at children’s camps every summer for twenty years. There are 116 children (0-12 years old) at TeenStreet this year.