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 31, 2009

Blogging on experiencing the 'Am I Crazies'

As a writer, I am very aware of the phrase "Am I Crazy" which goes hand in hand with all writers as they look to develop their career and get their first book(s) published.

One popular agent actually coined the phrase the "Am I Crazies" which for an author goes into all those things we constantly question - should I be writing, should I be giving all this time to writing...what's the point?!"

Well, as I've been going through my own dose of the Am I Crazies this week with my own novel, I came to realise today that for our life in Russia, the phrase also applies to what we are doing here...so it's on two counts that I'm asking am I actually crazy?!

Now, before I really explore this topic, I must point out that it is quite different in one regard...in mission, it's all about following God and therefore nothing is worthless or without reward. But just as God is in my writing and yet I still have those thoughts, I thought it would be useful to write down what the thoughts are in relation to mission situations when you just get to the point and ask: Am I Crazy?

Picture the situation, if you will. You are not salaried for any particular job, there is no actual job description. You are thrown into a world who's language you don't understand, in a culture so different from your own. Your 'career' path is scrapped, so are your close friendships (yes, email and Skype help keep these ticking over, but it's a different relationship from now on). You work in such a way that sees what you do increase but with no guarantees in regard your own involvement in 6 months time. Truly, are you crazy after all??!

Don't get me wrong, I'm not having a major moan about things, just some general thoughts. It might help others going through similar things, for example, which is largely why I write anything at all. I want others to feel encouraged in their settings, knowing that the things they are feeling are not unusual, that they are no different from the rest of us, and therefore helping them to come through those times. Because believe me, they come to us all.

The reality of not being salaried to do what we do is that you actually do so much more than you would otherwise do. You do everything, because there's no guidelines as to where you stop. If, for example, the money my family got in through support was actually my salary to work for Hope church here in St Petersburg, then it would radically transform my week. As is it I work nearly full time for the church, but do several other part time 'jobs' as well, plus studies in Russian, household jobs, being a father and being a good husband. But if I worked full time for the church as a salaried member of staff (very Western thinking, the reality is at the moment in Russia that as a foreigner I can not earn a salary from a church), then within the working week would be sections of time that are taken off, so as to give you a couple of days off a week.
Now, the reality is that most of the core team is working 6 or more days a week. Usually 7.

And God is doing so much, that as our team has grown, we've seen our responsibilities grow with it and so we've developed systems, moving in our strengths, going along a path that in six months, when our funding runs out, we might not be able to be involved in. Crazy!

Again, hear me right. Living by faith throws you onto God and I'm not therefore suggesting I'd rather be salaried (as I've said, this wouldn't be very possible here in Russia anyway). It would be good to know a little more on the longer term financial support we are getting though, but it's such a hard one to approach. What is the way through?

I guess on one level it always remains that we are here, now, in the timing of God and at any moment He could move us on, move us back, retire us from the game. We have to live with that, it's His call after all and what we do in the here and now is a major honour, and nothing to be taken in any way as our due. It's a great privilege and nothing of our own doing as if we could have a claim on anything.

It's God who brings the finance in after all, and if anyone should have learnt this lesson, it's us, because He did so much in this regard before our coming here, we know that if those near us can't help, even strangers can give massively!

So maybe it's futile to think about the ongoing support but just to thank God that today there is the cash available to live.

What is a struggle though at first, and something that is always there while living through this kind of situation, is the guilt and pressure around use of time etc, which is probably what drives you to work much more than you would, or maybe should! (We all have busy seasons, times when we just have to press through and get through them, but what I'm talking about here is when the constant is 7 days a week without a weekend, without the prospect, or money, for holiday's etc that otherwise would break the routine every so often).

Another question I keep hearing asked in this situation (usually from myself!) is "What is my role?" I guess this is due to the lack of job description, but is probably worked out in the first three years I would imagine (says the guy who's only 15 months through the process with no signs of the end coming up)! In that time, you've learnt enough of the busy, mismatched routine that is non-routined mission life, to start to see what you can do and how it is working out.

So let me speak out the truths once and for all (for me as much as anyone);
You are NOT crazy to invest all your time into something that you may not be able to be apart of in 6 months time, because you are doing it for God and the investment is eternal.
You are NOT crazy to live in a life of no routine, because you've been obedient to God in the first place by moving to where He's asked you to, and God loves obedience.
You are NOT crazy to have wrecked your career by moving abroad, because career is not a biblical word, and besides, God is bigger than any job or any situation that would stop you getting an even better 'career' further down the path, if that is His will.
You are NOT crazy to be in a situation that you feel so alienated in, because you've been obedient - and did I say that God LOVES OBEDIENCE!

It's just a simple truth - you are not CRAZY! Maybe THIS is normal life after all...normal Christian life...and maybe it's crazy to not be doing what your doing. It's certainly crazy to not do something God has told you to do.

Now there's food for thought.

To all my mission brothers and sisters around the world (remember - mission is notgeographical: its a mindset!) - be blessed today!

Life in Russia - the week that was...

Another week has past, and instead of spending time to keep writing my second novel, I'm finding I want to write here a bit first instead. Maybe I won't get to writing anything else today anyway?

It's been another normal, unpredictable and busy week in Russia.

Last Sunday morning, due to a combination of different things, we saw 62 people at our morning meeting. These included 50 adults! Twenty up on the week before. Numbers were up so much (bearing in mind its only our 8th Sunday morning meeting since starting in September) because Nadia, our translator, was announcing her engagement, which brought in 8 visitors. Also, another church were not able to meet on Sunday so a crowd of about 15 turned up to ours...plus we had 7 visitors of our own not related to these two other groups. So we ran out of chairs and space very quickly. Oh Lord, what joy it is to serve you!

Last weekend we also helped host the church in Kolpena through two evenings, once on Saturday for a seminar on the prophetic and then at their church meeting on Sunday evening, where we were able to pray for many sick people and had a few of them give testimony there and then on the spot, saying that power or heat had passed through their bodies! Amen, more Lord.

It was a great time of seeing what God was doing, all the same time as I was realising that it's the work of the Holy Spirit that is so vital, and nothing from ourselves. As I was standing on the main doors on Sunday morning, welcoming people in, in the moments between anyone arriving (there were lots as I'm there for 30 minutes) I was just singing the phrase "It's all about Jesus!"

It's so hard to keep dying to yourself, to keep laying down your dreams, hopes, abilities even. To serve in such a way that just allows Jesus through the Holy Spirit to meet directly with the people you are reaching, because what they most need IS Jesus....not you! So when things were going wrong in the set up on Sunday, when I couldn't load the presentation onto the computer that I'd been working on in the week and it made me frustrated, I had to come back to the thoughts that its just about Jesus.

I soon face a long time out of Russia as we travel back to England to have our second (& last!) child before returning home to Russia in April 2010. The thought of being away for so long is hard. It also reminds me of the fact that its not my work, but God's. We've invested so much here already, that to leave for a season you can tend to feel things are linked to you in someway. And while relationally that is indeed the case, the mantle for His church in St Petersburg has always been God's, and therefore nothing is changing in that regard, as God is going nowhere! And thank God for that!

Next week is set to be a week of a couple of 'firsts'. On Thursday, I am teaching my first English class, having sat in with Hansie last Thursday in preparation for covering his class this coming week while he is away. It'll be a good experience but pushes me out my comfort zone. And then next Sunday, even more out my comfort zone, I'm preaching for the first time at Hope church and in Russia! Agh!

Dave Henson has likened preachers bringing 'beef steaks' when they have preached in the past. I do fear more about being just a side salad! But yet again, thank goodness it's not about me! All I intend to bring next week is the wrapping paper. I can bring words, bring description, explain things, but I'm only ever going to be the wrapping paper, and if God doesn't turn up in power to confirm the word I felt He put on my heart, then it'll be wrapping paper WITHOUT a present in the middle! The Holy Spirit is the one who'll bring the gift, so my prayers and planning this week are going to focus very much on asking God to be there in power next Sunday, so that He does a work in the hearts of those there that I just will not be able to do.

I've had a hard week Russian wise....actually, I've probably had a hard week in general. But I seemed to hit a point on Wednesday when it felt like my brick tower of understanding came crashing down so that I forgot it all rather than just the last brick. It all seemed muddled up. The teacher then suggested a different approach, which does seem to be helping, so that Thursday lesson was a lot better. But I feel under attack. The enemy certainly wants to over load me. If it's not through my Russian (or lack of..), it's about my writing. Or if not through that he's throwing temptation my way, so much that I have to swim through the stuff sometimes.

All these things remind me therefore of the fact that God is doing something right, and very powerful, in St Petersburg. With this, and with his amazing help, I can push through, stand my ground, and see the enemy flee.

I'm not really sure that much what this post has been about? It's a muddled entry on various things, but that reflects life in Russia, where routine, or even normality, is a thing you leave at the airport (eg Heathrow) on your way out because they just don't function in the same way here...so you just kind of need to get used to it....which you never can, because its never the same....lol...it's kind of just acknowledging that an unroutined, changing lifestyle is actually the normal standard routine...if that makes any sense.

Oh well, I've had my time and think I've not said very much. Be blessed anyway, Tim.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Further thoughts of a church planter in Russia

My favourite meeting of the week is definitely the Sunday night prayer meeting which has come under my responsibility to run, which I'm more than happy too anyway! (It also helps me contribute to things as the team do so well on Sunday mornings...at least I'm doing something public!)

Anyway, at last weeks meeting, I went with something I knew God had put on my heart to bring...but I never felt the time was right to share it as God seemed to be doing something altogether more personal. And so it turned out.

But what it did leave me with was the subject of my first preach at Hope church - my first preach in Russia! And it's therefore going to be the theme of this entry, as I still work through my thinking's of what God has laid upon my heart to bring.

I was reminded of the verses about the harvest being plentiful but the workers few - and pray therefore to the Lord of the harvest for workers.

Last Sunday was again one of those pivotal times (we seem to keep getting lots of these, like we're going through years of experience in just weeks!). On Sundays alone, for example, there are just so many jobs to do....and the same few tiring people that have been doing these sames jobs over these initial 7 weeks. The honeymoon period is well and truly over! Last week, for the first time in a way, I saw that these workers the Bible talks about, doesn't just mean amazing reaping evangelists that come into the white harvest fields and see 100 people saved in a weekend. But these workers for the harvest include people to make lunches, to buy the food, to set up the PA, to put out the chairs, to count the offering, to help with the children's work, to make cups of tea, to do the washing up, to pack away the hall, to welcome people, to count the numbers, to take contact details.....for a CHURCH that together will reap a harvest. Why had I always thought it was different?

But then, and the main thing that I was going to pray into at the prayer meeting, was that through a culture of honouring one another we'd see these people coming in. That honour was the carpet, so to speak, for these workers to be added. And it is in relation to seeing a culture of honour breaking out within the church that I will be speaking to the whole church plant.

Bethal Church in Redding, California, are great on this and I've therefore been wise in starting my research there.

Quite what it is that I've felt, it's hard to say, but honour it seems is in two waves. Firstly, as we honour and encourage those working with us already, it help breeds a culture of service as well, where people who are honoured are released into even more, which will help grow the church as visitors are hit with something so different to the culture around them. And then there is also the honouring that Bethal really understand, an honouring of all people, not because of what they are or what they've done, but because of the fact they are made in the image of God and they honour the Christ in them, seeing through even personality difficulties and difference of opinions. That takes quite a lot of grace, but its a culture that brings life, freedom and growth - so its therefore a culture I want with all my heart for us too here in St Petersburg.

Honour releases people, it raises people. It leaves them feeling blessed as it allows all the things that God has put inside of them to come out and grow. I want to make sure that the things God places in people grows! Yes Lord, grow these things the most!

Honour isn't jealous. It wants the best for people, even if it means seeing people go way beyond you even dreamed for yourself. Without honour, you're just holding people back!

To quote Matt Gonzales in his honor (American!) based blog mattgonzales.wordpress.com he says;
"The world's view is to honor those who deserve it, earn it or those we want something from - its therefore a temporal & conditional viewpoint. It's not kingdom honor though - 1 Peter 2:17
Honor ALL people.
How can we honor those that have hurt or abandoned us or give it to people we don't like or with different views?
When we release honor, we are saying I am not letting my disagreements with you or your character defects control me. I have standards that will not be removed regardless of our disagreements and what you may have done to me. It will not control who I am.
We can think to not honor is to protect us but it does the opposite. It allows the person we feel we cannot honor to control who we are.
We don't honor people because they are honorable but because WE are honorable.
Honor does not mean we agree with what they said or did to us. It just means we have a standard in our heart & we value them as a person created in the image & likeness of God. By honoring all people, we are drawing the goodness God hid inside of them."

I think understanding a lot of this is to understand the Bethal culture of honour. And notice I'm spelling honour correctly again now, even if google doesn't agree. The American language takes the 'U' out of the word - but I like the fact we keep it in - so it means that Honor + U (you!) = Honour!

So I hope to share this in November at Hope church, if I get the chance. Maybe my thoughts will continue to form, but like always with me I feel just as strongly that it's going to be more a prophetic act to release a culture, than just about what I say with my mouth. I hope so anyway. I'm sure what I say will not compare to the fruit that will come from the Spirit of God coming in confirmation power, releasing hearts to honour one another as people learn directly from God what it is to genuinely honour each other.

So come Lord - break open the heavens. Help us to genuinely honour one another just the way you have made us to. It'll be great - but I need you Lord so very much to help me bring this message across well.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Thoughts of a church planter in Russia...continued

Before I just thought about blogging again I thought I'd better actually get round to it.

One thing I've been reminded of this week, which was helped by some outside reflection, is that city pace is so much faster than normal life. And throw into that the requirement for planting a new church, caring for a sick family, keeping up with a UK job, writing a book....etc...I realised that maybe going at such speed for too long will not be healthy or possible.

But there is an element of it, in a non-maniac way, that is essential if we are to successfully help to plant this international city church.

So it's on that note that we press through. We aren't (always) doing it in our strength anyway, and the times we are we soon find out, as we can't possibly hope to do it by ourselves. We wouldn't stand a chance.

But what is it about life here that makes it faster or busier? Travel is one big thing. To actually get around to do any one said activity can take much longer because of the time it takes to get there and back. For example, this Monday (Monday's being quite tiring days for me because of the meetings in the morning but also because it follows on from a busy Sunday) having got to the orphanage for our weekly visit, I found out that the children we not there and therefore we couldn't go. I hadn't even left the metro station. So on some level the hour I didn't spend playing with the children (mainly emotional energy used) should have been a welcome break, but its a 45 minute journey each way, on a day with heavy wet snow. So the usual 60 minute weekly visit in the orphanage is actually a 150 minute door to door activity, the travelling probably the most tiring element (certainly physically). In future, I'll try and get a number for the orphanage so that we can call in advance. This was the second time I'd got there to find there were no children!

But hear me right, I'm not moaning, more reflecting. This is normal life now for us and I wouldn't have been thinking about it had it not been for our friend coming over and bringing up the subject for us. You kind of get used to the pace after a while, only noticing it when you're back out of it, which is why us being in England for over 3 months for the birth of the baby is going to be tough as compared to Russia, what will we have to do! (I am working on a schedule that will hopefully give me some base for building on relationships that will help us in Russia, as well as travelling around a bit to learn all we can from churches further down the road than we are).

But the main reason I want to write such things, the main reason for writing this blog (besides for personal reflective reasons and for people to actually understand me for who I am - ie HEARING my heart) was so that I could help, encourage and be there for people going through, and about to go through the sort of things that we have been doing. I felt I learnt a lot doing the journey we did, much of it pushing us closer to God, which was important, but its the other areas of lack that I feel I've learnt to help with so that others don't miss out like we did. So I want to help coach people, encourage people, be there for people. I want to be part of the process because I've been through the process, and while I'm still going through it, anyone further on the same course as yourself is able to bring some input and insight, and its also fresh in the mind, which in today's society, we can't place highly enough.

So if this is you, and you want some input, I'm here for you. Contact me before you even leave you home shores. I can't promise you to sort out all your problems but I might be able to help you see through them. And then once in your new place, when you actually need even more encouragement and contact, I'll be happy to be there for you - lets face it, now days, anywhere with an internet connection opens up all possibilities...emails, skype calls even.

So I hope you found this interesting. I'm off to continue writing my second novel now....time is moving on already. Glad I finally fitted in another blog though. Again, how do people find the time to regularly blog so much AND have something worthwhile to blog about?? lol

Until next time.....

Tim

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Thoughts of a Church Planter in Russia

What have I learnt about church planting in Russia that I can pass onto anyone unfortunate enough to have stumbled across my random thoughts that make up my blog (I once did make sense I think - check my entries before coming here...)

Church planting is fun! Hard work, but very rewarding. Hard work, but worth it (in the end, I hope).

Recently, it does feel like I've touched God's heart for mission. I mean, I've been so excited by what is happening here, but that's not because its just a great city, or that there is such a great group of people here, or that we're really doing something different. But this is God's plan for every Christian - this is what mission looks like! It's exciting, its stirring, its worth living for - its worth dying for! This is church, this is mission, this is life in God, with God, for God.

Truth is, this is life as it is meant to be. This IS normal, Christian life. It's just a shame it often feels so far from the norm.

I praise God daily for the honour of serving him in Russia, because it is a great privilege. Some would view it as a hardship, a sacrifice. If that's true on a very material level, it's not true on any other. It's an honour, I really mean that. A great honour!

But let me get you in on a secret.....In Russia, in this city, it does seem that part of God's strategy for growing the church is through meals. We put meals on, people come. And come...and come.

Crowds, every week we've hosted it, new people have arrived. In these last two meals its been 20 new people. It keeps reminding me of the Luke 5 passage (see earlier blog).

Obviously, planting a church into another culture and language, does have its challenges, but its the challenges coupled with lots of prayer that makes it such a buzz. Our meetings are bilingual, which is fun, but you have to keep an eye on timings. The preach can only be half the normal time because of the need for translation.

Going forward, prayer meetings will also be the same, though we've mainly got by with English at the moment based on who's come.

So I'm glad to be here. I will continue on this thread with more stuff as I get the chance. Until next time....

Life & Times - Part 8

Why is it that when there is the most to blog about, there is just the least amount of time to do it?

Is it possible to be busy and blog, I want to ask? (But I'm not asking, it's kind of a tricky question to ask for all those well organised, hard working bloggers out there!)

But so much has been happening. Where do I start, can I start?

Has it really been a month and a half since I last wrote anything here? Crazy.

And I don't just have one blog, but two. And facebook groups and correspondence to keep up to date. All out the window, I fear.

But here I am. Now. I will write something. Honestly.

OK, starting now.

September saw a real step up in activity here in St Petersburg for the new church plant that we are part of. We are now meeting on Sunday mornings, have done so for the last three weeks. These times have been our way of learning what it takes, trying things out a little before a more public launch at some point soon, but yet to be fully planned.

We've also been meeting on Sunday nights in the same hall for our prayer meetings, which going forward are going to be the engine room of what we do. Want to know what Hope Church is about? Come to the prayer meeting!

Our Wednesday night meals have also been continuing to bring in huge crowds, so much so that as of last week we started meeting in multiple venues as there is only so many that can fit into Dave & Hannah's flat, after all. We therefore hosted our first meal, with about 8 guests coming for what we hoped was a really good night. The last two meals have seen about 20 first time visitors come along, so this continues to be a great encouragement to us all.

On a personal note I finally submitted my novel to 7 agents yesterday, though I've already had a 'thanks but its not for me' back from one of them. This for me fits in with our mission here - I pray that it'll be part of our ongoing financial support here. So I'm praying!

So, having done a very bad over-view to things, what does life continue to be like for a church planter in Russia? Maybe that should be the title for a new thread.....