Reverend Elmer Yliniemi (age 84) of rural Frazee died due to COVID-19 on October 23, 2020, at Essentia St. Mary's Hospital in Detroit Lakes, MN.
Elmer Howard Yliniemi was born on September 25, 1936, to Isacki and Aili (Haanpaa) Yliniemi in Toad Lake Township, Becker County, MN. Finnish was his first language, and he learned English when he started attending country school. He graduated from Frazee High School in 1955. After high school, he had a number of jobs including managing a grocery store in Osage, MN, and operating a restaurant in Menahga, MN. In 1959, he was drafted into the US Army and rose to the rank of Sergeant (E5) as a medic. Following his active service, he purchased his parents' homestead and began farming. He was honorably discharged from the reserves in 1965.
In his younger days, Elmer did not know the Lord but had his conscience awakened while listening to a crusade message in 1965. A few months later, he had a profound conversion experience where he received the grace and forgiveness of God and was dramatically changed. It was then he devoted his life to serving the Lord. He started attending Bemidji State College at age 29 and earned a Bachelor of Science in Education. He taught social studies and driver training for one year at Frazee High School.
At this time, the Lord brought Miriam Suomala into his life, and they were married on June 13, 1970. Elmer felt called to the ministry and attended the Inter-Lutheran Seminary in Golden Valley, MN, from 1970 to 1973. After this, Elmer and Miriam studied church history on a scholarship from the Church of Finland in the Theology Department of the University of Helsinki. He and Miriam enjoyed their year experiencing the full culture of Finland. They traveled throughout the country doing research and made many dear friends.
Upon their return, Elmer served as the pastor of his home congregation of Spruce Grove Apostolic Lutheran Church, Wolf Lake, MN, for 36 years from 1974 until his retirement in 2010. He also served as pastor at Ponsford Community Church for 33 years every Sunday and monthly at the Pine River Apostolic Lutheran Church for 22 years. Additionally, he served once a month at both the Green Pine Acres Nursing Home in Menahga and New York Mills Nursing Home speaking in both Finnish and English languages.
In 1975, Elmer and Miriam welcomed with great excitement their first daughter (Chae) from South Korea, and in 1976, they welcomed a second daughter (Mia) also from South Korea.
This was the beginning of a notable phase in the life of the Yliniemi family. In August of 1976, the Yliniemis were called to serve as full-time resident missionaries in Nigeria by the Apostolic Lutheran Church of America. It was also at this time, they found out they were expecting a child. Given the circumstances of a newly adopted child and expecting a baby, leaving the country was a complicated situation. With miraculous provision from God, the family was able to leave within two months.
In Nigeria, Elmer and Miriam worked with 24 congregations, and the Lord blessed them with a third daughter (Eno) in 1977, born to them in primitive conditions. The Nigerian experience was broadening in many aspects. Elmer suffered through bouts of malaria and other illness and the family had to return home a year later with Elmer resuming the pastoral duties at Spruce Grove. In 1980, they were blessed with a son, Isak.
Pastor Elmer served as an instructor at the Inter-Lutheran Seminary and was invited on several preaching tours to Finland as well as Sweden, Norway, Latvia, Estonia, and Russia. He had a heart for people and focused on the Scriptures. He dedicated his life to sharing the love of God and the good news of forgiveness and eternal life in Jesus Christ.
Elmer served throughout his community. He was an active member of the Minnesota Finnish American Historical Society, the High Mileage group in Detroit Lakes, and was involved with local pro-life groups and Gideon ministries. He and his wife Miriam did almost everything together during their 50 years of marriage. He had close relationships with his children, siblings, and in-laws. His gift of friendship was extended to everyone he met.
Elmer is survived by his wife Miriam, three daughters: Chae (Brian) Norman, Sartell, MN; Mia (Troy) Reynolds, Bagley, MN; Eno Yliniemi, Renton, WA; son, Isak Yliniemi of rural Frazee, MN, three grandchildren: Tyler Norman, Brooke Norman, and Mateo Reynolds; four sisters, Helen Laine, Detroit Lakes, MN; Hazel A. Yliniemi, Frazee, MN; Huldy (Bruce) Sannes, Frazee, MN; and Patricia (Arlan) Ervasti, Bertha, MN; brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, nieces, nephews, grandnieces, grandnephews, cousins, and innumerable friends in Christ here and throughout the world. He was preceded in death by his parents, two brothers, Roy (Hazel M.) and James Edward, and three infant siblings.
Due to health concerns, the funeral service will be online-only. The live broadcast will be 1 P.M. on October 31, 2020, at http://www.sprucegrovealc.org/watch-sermons with online viewal starting at 12:30 pm. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be given to the Spruce Grove Apostolic Lutheran Church.