Welcome! It's wonderful to see you here!

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.

So that you stay connected, getting every new update, please add your email address to receive all updates directly, or follow the RSS feed.

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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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Life & Times - Part 4

Sticking tape to children's bottoms to test whether they are ready to go swimming and owners kicking their dogs in the street.

The 'joys' of life in Russia!

Add to the above the bitter wind starting to pick up even though its only October. The clocks go back tonight so I have no idea how dark it's going to feel tomorrow night.

I started to think to myself recently that as an English man (where lets face it the weather IS a big deal) going to Russia on mission is quite high up on the chart of difficult places to be - topped only by maybe the Poles (where, I believe, the weather is even worse!) or maybe a Jungle Tribe with no written language. After that I'm stuck? There are other very tough places, don't get me wrong - the 10/40 window being one - but at least its hot there? That's a bonus for an English person.

But praise God that we don't base such choices on our own plans (if so I think I'd be 'working' for God somewhere around Palm Springs in southern California!) No, God is about more than that in us all. I am so thankful for many people I personally know who are all around the world because God has spoken to them.

And God spoke to us too about Russia, so we came with that in mind - this is where God wants us. How long for, who knows? But it's at least a season.

It has struck me as I've walked the streets here trying to go about 'normal' life that Russia is a very harsh country to grow old in. Seeing much older men and women searching through bins, begging, working, struggling, is a hard sight. Thinking of the bitter cold, the rising costs, getting about, I might have to face the reality one day that this will be me. I'm sure the harsh climate and pace of life does age people quicker here but has God sent me here to see out my days, to never have the warmth of somewhere but instead the bitter Russian winters which, with other things, the countries famous for.

I need not think this way though. My God is about a good work, a wonderful work. Such thoughts, though they exist I must admit, they do not originate from God. No, Satan loves to try and get in there.

He tried hard at the beginning of this month and for a time I fell - but God's grace was big enough even to reach me again, a sinner. And yet I'm a son. Adopted, forgiven, belonging. All by the grace of Jesus Christ, the work of the cross. That wonderful cross.

So I come to the end of the month as somewhere who's sailed through a bad storm that threatened to sink the boat (the Apostle Paul knows all about these) and get even before the month is out the outlook is much brighter, the rain clouds cannot be seen and the sun, or the SON, is clearly visible where before I had looked only at the clouds that had got in the way.

I praise God that I am in Russia. Only time will tell of all that happens to me in this vast nation but as long as I remain in the Fathers will, as long as I do all that God has for me, I will not complain about anything that might come my way. - Lord, I pray your blessings and protection on me and my family. Please do not allow the enemy to have one tiny fraction of an advantage on us. Keep us all in your will my loving Father. Blessed be your name. Amen.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Mission Realities - Good Communication

Communication is vital in all aspects of life nowadays and this is especially true when you are maybe thousands of miles away from those people that have backed you, supported you and continue to do so.

I would strongly recommend that you don't wait until you are abroad or have left your home base before building up your communication.

My experience has been that a lot came out of the strong communication channels that were set up long before be left.

Explore the new technologies - don't dismiss something because you don't understand it.

For me this was Facebook. I have come across people who are 'anti' such networks as a principle, which I just have to accept, but if you are going on mission you need to use as much communication as possible, and therefore you need to use what most other people (including your supporters) are already using.
Facebook for us has become a real tool - which is the real purpose of any new technology as long as you use it correctly and wisely.

I would highly recommend it.

It's most useful function is the Groups that you can set up. In a moment of...guidance?...I set up the 'Tim & Rachel to Russia' group. It is a prayer group that people could join. We can just send one message that goes to all member and they get the messages in their email inbox (if they've allowed that option, otherwise its just on Facebook).
In the first few weeks only a few people were in the group but as our updates were sent out (for us each Tuesday) the numbers grew and today its around 150 people I think - from 6 continents. Christians united around the world to partner with us in prayer.

This group was started about 10 months before we left the UK.

Now, and there have been plenty of times already, we have an instant large group of people to send a message to for prayer when an emergency has arisen.

But also by involving people in your journey, at least a part of your journey, it really helps people know how to support you as they feel they are part of things.

We also had some contact/business cards made up (visit Vista Print who do them very cheap). This gave details of the Facebook group, as well as our email and Skype address (voice over Internet phone service). We strongly urged most people interesting in our journey to sign up to Facebook, of which about 90% were able to, if not already using it. It's just the most convenient way for us to communicate to a large group all at the same time.
Who knows, in 10 years time there may be 10,000 members. Think of the problems you'd have if you'd just relied on emailing people....Facebook could easily handle that number which is why we used it...forward thinking you see.

We also have sent out a PDF news sheet. This serves those who are not on Facebook (yet) or who do not have Internet access (the church prints and sends to them on our behalf). It also puts in more detail and can include photo's and while it took some work to knock it into shape, the comments were all good and it helped people to know a bit more about our life here.

Why not use video? We recorded a short video which was played at our church about two weeks after we got here. And, need I mention it again, Facebook can take all your videos and photo's which you can add to your Group to give your members an even clearer picture of your new adventures.

And for even extra depth, I started a blog (which your reading now). Originally I'd done this on a different site having first written from June 2007, but once here our Internet provider couldn't handle Microsoft so out went hotmail & windows spaces and in came Gmail and Blogger. I decided I really wanted to document our journey, writing a series I called 'Adventures of Faith' and for those that wanted to read more I mentioned this site on Facebook updates (and have even linked the group to here).

I hope in all these things you've understood the value of good, clear communication. It's not about lots of stuff all the time, its about what people need to hear (your most urgent prayer requests for example) in a way that works for all.

Without communication you can't share your vision and why you are going. Without communication you are not going to attract people to support you. Without supporters you are not going to go anywhere (supports do a lot more than finance so even if your financially sound you need people there - see my first article in this series on Loneliness if you are still unsure).

I do hope this communication has been clear. God bless.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Mission Realities - Loneliness

Welcome to a new series of entries which I've called Mission Realities. In time I want to touch on some of the realities that I've experience by going through them, talk about them and look at God's point of view on them, hopefully leaving you encouraged should you one day find yourself in a similar situation.

The first one I want to look at therefore is the issue of loneliness. Come with me for a moment and try hard within yourself to picture the scene;

You have just arrived in a totally new location. You don't know the streets, or nice places to go to relax, or where the best value food shops are. You don't have any friends or family around. You don't know any of your neighbours and to top it all of you don't speak their language and they don't speak yours. Welcome to oversea's, cross culture mission! Throw into this picture the obvious problems that arise, eg power cuts, needing help/advice, and you are suddenly stuck, not knowing who to ask, how to ask, not knowing if what you are feeling is real, or normal. Will the electricity just come back on, for example. Should you ask someone? Do you need to report it? How? Help?
I know these feelings because this is what I've gone through - a power cut and needing help with some DIY without any tools and no language.

It's at times like this that you can feel very alone.

If you are blessed enough to have the internet, or a phone line, then that does offer a point of contact back into your previous world. It can also make you feel more alone!
When someone goes overseas and makes the jump, each day is hard and as the days go on they more and more value the odd comment from 'home', where ever that might be. Except, back there, life goes on as normal and what has felt like a lifetime for you, has only been a month or so back home and they'll contact you some time, maybe Christmas. So suddenly loneliness is right back at you again - you have this contact but no body writes. "No body cares" it will try and trick you with.

The truth is, of course, totally the opposite. You'll find, when people do make contact, that they all confirm you are never far from their thoughts and how regularly they pray for you both at home and in groups.

Loneliness also hits when problems come. Some I've already touched on above like the electricity and DIY problem. But when bigger things come and those that are around you are taken away for a time, your lack of friends and local support is raised right to the surface again. For me it came in the form of my wife having to go back to England because of the illness, and then death of her Gran. She'll have been away for 12 days by the time she gets back here in 2 days time. I've looked after our daughter here. At the same time the other family based here, who we don't get to see that often anyway, have been totally consumed as their youngest has been in hospital. So going from a place of relative loneliness anyway (with only 5 other adults around me whom I know in this vast city and nation) I've not seen one of them in this entire time, for one reason or the other, instead having my whole time with a 3 year old!!

Getting to the point when I was fed up at not hearing from anyone, I was a bit cheeky and made a comment that has since meant loads of people have been writing which has been great.

But a reality of mission, it must be said, is loneliness, at least for a season.

The thing to remember in all these experiences is that God is working in you a new thing. Back in England when we were planning on coming out here, our own journey here seemed very lonely at times and very difficult at other times, and sometimes both. So maybe God was just checking what we were made of? We got through that and therefore we'll get through this? Maybe, yes, just maybe God was in that.

And it also must be said from this stand point that my two main occasions when I have actually seen and spoken to the occupants of the two flats on our floor was first with the DIY problem when he came and did the drilling for me (which led us into their home to following day when we went to say thank you) and secondly the power cut which meant I went out the flat and (tried to) speak to the lady opposite who was also out, clearly suffering from the same problem.

Outside of these two problems, we have not been able to meet our neighbours as you spend so little time in the hallway and stairs its difficult to have a reason to see them.

So even through these tough times God was working, encouraging, opening windows of opportunities. And the truth is is that God is never far from you, you just need to take your eyes off your own insecurities long enough to see him right beside you.

And in the long term, just like every experience you have ever had back home (and if you haven't you really should have got out more!) you will meet people. Think of when you first went to a new area, or school, or church, or job, or sports team or holiday camp. You knew no one (probably) and think of how it was when you left any of these.

When I moved up to Manchester to do a voluntary year I knew no one, not even the family I moved in with and lived for a year. I was also on a course where I knew no one.
And yet, 8 years on when we left we said goodbye to many dear friends and have many positive relationships that will go forward through the years, as well as still being in touch with many who were on that year team.

So apparent loneliness in mission is only a small season. It drives us to do exactly what we've come to do - meet people, make friends, build a christian community.

And finally, how ever you are feeling at the moment, remember that the Bible says God promises never to leave us or forsake us.

I hope you have found this encouraging. In time I will look to do more in this series.

At the very bottom of this page you should be able to subscribe to my blog in order to be told when it's updated. I'm not sure how it works but its meant to be the case.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Life & Times - Part 3

"I tell you the truth," Jesus replied, "no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.

Mark 10:29-30 NIV.

One of the things that anyone on mission who goes overseas must also count the cost of is this - its not just where you go but what you leave behind. Lately as events have made things tough for us here in Russia, never has the words of Jesus from Mark 10 sounded truer.

Maybe its technology as well. I've tended to allow our computer to randomly display our photo's when we're not using it, which has meant lots of images coming up that bring strong emotions and good memories.

One of the things that I knew I'd miss most about living in a flat in Russia compared to a house in England is the lack of a garden. So having seen photo's of the garden I built myself from nothing it kept reminding me of the above verse. My response is simple therefore - Lord, we've given this up for you. Thank you for already promising us much blessing to come.

Having left my brother, sister, mother, father (add to this lots of friends), home, garden (ie field!) - we did bring our child with us but by coming we have only had one child. If we'd carried on living in the UK I'm sure there would have been more children. As it is we may adopt a Russian child at some point (not sure if it'll be a hundred though?!) But are these things so precious as to be worth holding onto at the expense of serving God as he has asked? Clearly not but sadly, I would guess, to often the case. But for us it wasn't praise God, but all to easily it could have been.
Why was it different?
I believe that God started a big chunk of the work back when I moved from London to Manchester. I had a career, my family, my world: all down in Kent. But God had said to go so I obeyed. And life has worked out very well. Therefore when the call came second time round, though tough (don't think I'm saying we had a walk in the park) it wasn't the first time we'd made such a step and therefore we knew we could trust God.
So my advice on this regards - Learn to listen to God. Obey Him and He will lead you onto all that He has for you. There are no BIG steps with our walk with God - just lots and lots (& lots & lots..) of little steps all along the way. Remember this and you'll see God working powerfully in your life.
It might be only in heaven that I get to plant seeds and to grow a garden again. I do not know. I do not hold these things to closely though - trusting always that God has a better plan for me. Somehow I kind of know that I'll have a garden again one day soon.......a big one at that!
Thanks for reading.