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I'm a passionate writer - and therefore spend most of my time writing thriller novels. But I also live an interesting life in the nations. This blog is here for that aspect of my life - our life - I live with my wonderful wife and two daughters.

I believe in encouragement. I live for obedience. I believe in learning from our experiences, and this blog exists for both of those, and more.

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I was part of the leadership team in St Petersburg, Russia - which planted Hope Church in 2009.(www.hopechurchstpetersburg.com).
In March 2012 Hope Church sent my family to plant into Tallinn, the Capital of Estonia. I therefore lead this small but growing church plant team. Here is the website for Hope Tallinn (www.hopetallinn.ee)

For details on our journey here, read the series called Adventures of Faith which is linked for you on the right hand column, just below. That details our original journey to Russia and then onto Tallinn 4 years later.

Author for fiction novels - Cherry Picking (2012), The Last Prophet (2015), The Tablet (2015) and The Shadow Man (2016) are available on all major bookselling sites. Please visit: www.timheathbooks.com

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Adventures of Faith – Part 3 – The Going

We were into June now. God had bought us so far surely he wouldn't leave the job unfinished now, would he? Not until the very last couple of weeks would we know for sure though, either way. The review date of 15th July loomed just over a month away – soon enough it was figured before we go to stop all our stuff being shipped out on the 23rd July, as was due to happen. (The company doing this for us wanted paying 3 weeks in advance though, thereby the first week of July – this would require some wisdom!)

Regarding church presentations, having missed the chance of sharing at the April regional leaders meeting, we felt that we weren't to go down that usual route. We weren't particularly natural or confident communicators though when we did share, to individuals, talking from the heart made it all so much easier to do, and we were always being told that what we shared encouraged those that were listening.

With a couple of good friends in the Chesterfield church plant, they had invited us to see them for a weekend and then arranged for us to share at their church on the Sunday. So following our meeting in Sheffield on the 6th June, and having spent the Saturday with Rachel's parents, we made the short trip down to Chesterfield, arriving on the Saturday afternoon. When we'd been at Cardiff we haven't actually shared anything publicly but on the back of the backing from their leader, Andy, the church had really got on board and such encouragement was received from the time there. In Chesterfield it would be different as I'd actually be talking for about 10 minutes. We have one Powerpoint slide of Western Russia that we used but the rest was just sharing the story & our journey and plans. Our friends had clearly put the word around a little as we got much encouragement before the meeting as strangers came up to us and said how excited they were to have us here and were looking forward to hearing from us!

I shared as best I could – it went well as far as I can remember. Just talking from the heart I took everyone through our journey, sharing about why we were going and where we were going to and what we planned to do. I talked about the need, the financial shortfall, though this, being still new having changed our approach following the Friday meeting in Sheffield, still felt a little awkward. But most of all we asked for prayer support.

We went onto have lunch with a group of them after, which was great. Warm fair-wells were said as we left, people who had been complete strangers to us at breakfast now standing with us in prayer and looking forward to hearing updates from us in the future.

Around this time (can't actually remember if it was before or after Chesterfield) we shared at Colin Baron's church in East Manchester, which was even briefer but worth doing and good to be with them for the Sunday morning.

Then came a busy few days – On the Tuesday morning I led a Bible study at a Stockport Business Men's breakfast, speaking from Hebrews which happened to be on faithfulness – the theme of our journey to Russia – and intertwined with this was our story about going to Russia. Then that evening, after a full day at work, I drove down to Matlock, in the Peak District (a 3 hour round trip) and shared briefly at their church's family night. - Not long before sharing in a question and answer format, I was told 'helpfully' that someone who'd heard me at Chesterfield had commented that I'd 'lost' them midway through and so by them asking a question here to which I'd answer, in as shorter way as possible, they'd hear what he wanted them to know about! I didn't feel it was that helpful or well timed at that precise moment but it helped continue to teach me to trust in God alone.

I shared and gave out about two dozen contact cards for the Russia prayer group (of which there has been some take up). I drove home tired from the long day but happy how things had gone.
On that Thursday of the same week I was off work and we both shared at the Manchester leaders meeting in Burnage. Each time we'd shared it'd always been slightly different in what we'd said, almost slightly geared to the listener, though this wasn't intentional. After hearing lots of really encouraging stuff and following a good worship time, I shared our journey a little, and talked about a couple of prophetic words that had been brought some years ago and how they fitted into what we were doing. Colin Baron said after it was the best he'd ever heard me – that's some compliment from a man I greatly admire, so if you're reading Colin, thanks for the encouragement.

By the end of June we'd heard back from some friends and family that they'd be supporting us monthly. Some had even been set up already. There was still a long long way to go but it was nice that there were at least some people backing us. We also knew that our church would be doing something. We'd had the Russia Evening, which was good but totally draining and there was also to be a special offering taken on the last Sunday in June and first in July. Part of this would be for us.

We had a four day break away in Anglesey at the end of June before coming back to work our last week in our job's. Rachel finishing on the Wednesday 2nd July and me on the 4th. July was upon us – due to be the final month but still so much to do and lots of finance still to come in.
One thing that I haven't mentioned at all yet is in regards to our house. We are home owners in Stockport and a few months back, in a way only God could do, we'd come across a family that were planting a church into the area that we lived and really wanted to move into the area. We'd offered them our house to buy, to which they'd visited and said yes straight away, agreeing to our asking price. We 'sold' the house without putting it on the market!

As the months passed by and they were still not in a position to sell their house, mainly due to the falling housing market and house prices, we got to about July still with no movement, and now time was short. We'd prayed about things and suggested to them that they rent our house from us and in turn rent their house out, to which they'd had two individuals interested in doing just that. If they got to a place in the future where they were able to sell their house then we'd look again at this option. As the 4th July came, and we'd both finished at work, still they had no one to rent their house out, with the two individuals who'd previously been interested now not able to afford the rent. Our house was a regular request in the Tuesday updates from this moment on.

The Brighton leaders conference was due to start on the 8th July, to which we were booked in, and we were meant to travel down to my mum's in Sidcup on the Sunday after we'd shared at South Manchester church in the morning. Unfortunately our car had broken down on the Thursday, this time the clutch, to add to the exhaust and four new tyres we'd put on it in June. Our garage could only do it on the Monday morning, and with no better options around having called loads of others, we knew it'd have to be then and ended up hiring a car for the weekend to enable us to do the things we'd planned to do already.

Around this time also the church that Dave Harper leads, The Church in the Peak Matlock, together with Chesterfield, confirmed to us that they were supporting us with £5,000 a year for two years. This was a huge encouragement to us and showed their faith to reach the nations.
Just before we went down to Brighton, having paid the £300+ bill for the car (which we'd sell in 4 weeks time anyway!) we'd heard the news that our own church was giving us £2,500 as a one-off, which was money from one individual as well as the special offering, and then £5,000 a year which included all the individual amounts from people within the church as well as the church's input. Both amounts already included the gift aid. Knowing much of the individuals that had given, it was clear that the church, as an entity, was supporting us about £200 a month, which included gift aid, though they said they'd review it in September.

At the time this was quite a blow to us – because, having been totally aware of the huge amount that we needed to have in place before we went, in our minds we'd built up a hope that our own church would play a big role with us financially and that once we'd hear the amount they were supporting us by, we'd be a lot nearer our total. It might have surprised others a little too but it didn't surprise God. Not one bit – as Brother Andrew would say, God had a royal way of doing things as we'd soon find out.

So having heard this news and having got our car back, we travelled down south on the Monday evening ready to go to the conference the following morning, while leaving our daughter at my mum's for the week. With other amounts known as well at this stage the total was up to about £13,000, but this was still £12,000 short of the £25,000 budget shortfall and we had just eight days until the 15th July – our cut off point!

We should of by now had paid our relocation company the £3,800 they wanted to move our stuff to Russia, but had managed to 'hold' the booking and collection date with just £100 deposit, which bought us some valuable time. We'd also lost our flights through an administration error with our travel agent so didn't have that to pay, though re-doing the booking cost £300 extra but the flights did work slightly better for us. We could also wait a while before confirming these tickets.

Our Visa invitation's had also come through by now. We'd planned to send them off just before heading down south but a key piece of information, that we literally found out on that weekend, meant we couldn't do them without a letter from New Frontiers. Somehow with all the planning, no one had ever told us about this. This meant we couldn't post them off but would have to pick the letters up by hand while at Brighton and probably apply in person at the Embassy.
The conference was fantastic, which all the talks so spot on to what we were, in theory, about to do – to go to the nations and church plant. The issue of finance though hung like a sword over our heads the whole time we were there. Therefore, hearing all this stuff that rang true to what we wanted to achieve by going only made it harder to be in a situation, with a week to go, where we didn't know if we'd be going or not! Having heard from our own church and most of those we'd written to, we still found ourselves so short of the total needed. And now there was less than a week to go.

Mark Driscoll was a particular highlight and I'd recommend to anyone to download his talks from the New Frontiers website. Well worth the time spent listening to them.
We met with a leader from our church, the only one who was able to make it, and shared our feelings following the news of what the church we're able to do. As Tuesday and Wednesday went by, it felt more and more pressure was growing. We'd spent some time with Dave & Hannah Henson on the Tuesday night as they'd returned back from Russia for the summer before going to St Petersburg. We were to have another meeting with them on the Thursday, together with Al Gregory and his wife. Al was part of the oversight team and is based in Dartford. The meeting would be to look at how we'd form team in Russia as well as a chance for all three couples to get to know each other.

But before that we'd had lunch with Andy Davies, from Cardiff, on the Wednesday. So much was flying around our heads at this point. We'd bumped into Andy briefly on the Tuesday night had he'd asked how short we were, to which we'd said about £13,000 I think. He said he'd see what he could do! At lunch on Wednesday he'd said how he'd spoken to a chap from his church who'd just sold a business – having explained our situation to him, he agreed to give us £6,000 plus the gift aid! It was hard to take in at the time. But still that thought was there of the other £7,000 that we still needed. Getting to £18,000 was good but it wouldn't be enough to have the green light from New Frontiers. Oh the inner turmoil that was going on.

On the one hand we were hearing everything preached about doing the things we were about to do and yet, though we were prepared to do them, we were not in a position yet to know for sure whether we could go or not due to finance!

On the Thursday of Brighton things hit an all time low – but God would save the day.
For me, I'd come to realise during the week that 'Plan A' was us going on the 1st August and doing everything we'd just done (eg leaving work etc). And there was no 'Plan B'!! And I didn't want one either. But having chatted with Andy on the Wednesday, he said how there had to be one, so that if we got to the end of the 15th and we didn't have the finances in, then it wouldn't seem the end of the world but instead 'Plan B' would come into effect and we'd carry on, basically getting out to Russia several months later. I hated the thought of 'Plan B' and openly admitted that it terrified me.

So sitting there on the Thursday lunchtime with the six of us, with all these things going through my mind, and talking about how things are going to be in Russia, it was so hard when we came back to the position of where we were finance wise. We both got emotional and tried hard to keep things together. For me, wrongly but just a real, I battled with the thoughts that this shortfall was because people didn't believe in us and therefore hadn't backed us.

We arrived late to the afternoon session, Mark Driscoll's closing one of the three, and had some time together over dinner to process things before the evening meeting at 7pm. We were near Andy Davies so sat with him but just needed some time together to talk so Rachel & I left part way through – Andy later admitted to us that he was really concerned for us at this point. We walked along the Brighton seafront and around the pier. The sea air was good but our emotions reflected the pounding waves that crashed continually onto the beach.

We went back to get some rest, aiming for an early night. The conference would finish tomorrow afternoon when we'd go back to Sidcup to see our daughter again. This hadn't been the restful week by the sea that we'd thought it would be months before.

But laying in bed, I could not sleep. The full emotion of Plan B started to birth itself. Having not ever processed anything else happening, now my mind was going through how I would feel waking up on Wednesday 16th if we were not going. It was an emotional dam breaking as I processed through all the thoughts and feelings that went with this and I could not sleep for a long time while I lay there silently going through all this.

Just before I feel asleep though, our Plan A seemingly dead, I felt God suddenly and gently remind me again that it was only Thursday night and that he'd given me faith back again for things working out by Tuesday after all. It was a very strange experience, sort of missed at the time as I soon feel fast asleep within minutes of this happening, suddenly filled with peace and hope again. It was only a few days after it did I realise what really happened. The death and then resurrection of Plan A – I guess God does know what he's doing when it comes to raise things from the dead!

The Friday part of the conference went up until lunchtime. Nothing really much more happened though while we were waiting by the exit for the people who were taking us back to Sidcup, Howard Kellett from central Manchester's Hope Church gave us both a hug and said how they wanted to support us but hadn't done anything about it yet, though if we ever got to a real crunch point we could contact them about it – it must have been the expression on our faces that told Howard that point was now. We said the shortfall was £7,000 and though he said they couldn't do that having just given to another church setting, he asked us to email them about it once we got back – we did end up emailing him but on a totally different basis in the end.

We got home and later that night I went around to my brothers with the laptop to check email and update where we were up to. Having knocked together a simple spreadsheet that basically listed all the people we knew to be supporting us, and then the amounts if we knew, soon I was able to total the columns up. There hadn't been any startling emails that dramatically changed anything, but once I'd totalled the columns, including an amount my brother was going to support us, it suddenly looked as if we were there?! I called Rachel to nervously state this position but it was late, we'd had an extremely tough week so it was best to get a good rest and leave things until tomorrow and check that I hadn't made any silly mistakes with the figures.

On the way home from my brothers house to my mums house, all of about 5 miles maybe, I had a text from a couple in Manchester saying they wanted to give us £2,000 plus gift aid! On the Saturday, before we'd got back to my brothers, we'd had a text from Rachel's God-father. He'd felt stirred to call Rachel's parents that morning, and they'd told him about the situation in relation to the deadline approaching. The text to us said they would support us £100 a month plus gift aid! There were one or two other bits and pieces confirmed as well so by the time I got to updating the figures later that morning the totals, including gift aid, were coming to something like £32,000 (about £5,500 in gift aid so still well over the £25,000) and this didn't include the money in our account of the small amounts we'd get from selling a few things, including our car (which went for £900 in the end)! It seems God answered the prayer and in abundance. Maybe he knows something we don't? Or maybe he's put something into the pot for year 2 already as much of this amount was one off gifts which will leave a small whole in next years support. Either way we were going!

We also had on the list 5 people who we knew wanted to support us but that we did not have the amounts down, plus the Hope Church as that safety net, for want of a better word. It was great to be able to email Howard to confirm our situation and say that if we needed them we'd drop them a line. Maybe year two, who knows.

Our only safety net is God. He has been an amazing God. It's as if, having gone through this all, he's looking at us saying “What was all the fuss about?” You see, ultimately he said Russia, he said to go and he said 1st August 2008. And now, for certain, everyone else, included us, could be sure about that!

Needless to say, having confirmed to all those involved on about the Sunday that we'd got there, Tuesday 15th July came and went without the fireworks or tears that there might have been, though something tells me God always had it sorted anyway.

We decided to post our visa application up to the embassy in London after all and with much prayer again going into its collection on Tuesday 22nd, we were thrilled to hear that it was done and the collection by my sister-in-law had gone without any problems.

We received them by special delivery two days later. Having been able to pay our relocation company, they came as planned on the 23rd and everything was packed away. Also at this time the family looking to rent our house confirmed that that same week they'd finally received an inheritance cheque through and therefore would be renting our house out from the 1st August.

With all our beds gone and house empty, we moved out on the 23rd to stay with Rachel's brother in Romiley. It took about another week to finally leave the house for the last time. Flights have been booked, medical insurance paid for and now, I sit here typing this at 9:36pm on Wednesday 30th July. We fly in less than 36 hours at 7:15am on Friday 1st August, just as God said we would!

So before I go, what do I make of this all? Well I write this not just as a reminder to myself but to give all glory and honour to God for what he has done. I also want to encourage those moving to other nations though what we have experienced. I would also love to hear from you as I'd like to help you through the process if I possibly can.

But ultimately God is true. He does what he says he does, he does what the Bible says he does and he is who is is.

Though throughout, at the time, there are loads of things I would have changed, sitting here today looking back I wouldn't change a thing because God has answered all our prayers and we are going to Russia.

Quite what the following few days has in store, let alone the next year, I do not know. I guess the next time I write, the part 4 update, things might be clearer.

I'm excited and amazed to be at this point – I wait with eager expectation to see what God is going to do next.

Still to come in this Adventures of Faith series;
Part 4 – The First Impressions
Part 5 (next summer) – One Year One.
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