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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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Russian Traveller - Part 2 - Paris

It's Wednesday now. Nine days ago I was leaving Dublin, and on Saturday I was leaving again for Paris, going by train for what would be a much shorter, flying visit, there in fact for just about 36 hours, as I arrived at the flat of George & Gill Tee around 10pm on the Saturday night, leaving from there's for my return journey just after 10am on the Monday morning.

But what happened in the middle, mainly spent with people chatting, once again gave me a real taste of the city, an enjoyable flavour that is CVV Paris (the French translating into The Way, The Truth and The Life).

It was dark when I arrived on the Saturday, first having to make my way from the Gard De Nord train station that my Euro Star train had arrived at, going down 4 levels to the RER underground system. My French goes as far as hello, thanks and my name is...But I managed to buy a ticket, eventually find my way to the correct level and find myself on the right platform waiting for the train to come, that would take me the 6 stops I needed to get me to their flat.

These six stops, I was to learn, took me from one end of Paris to the other - Paris, to the French, is only the centre, which hosts about 2 million people. Anything beyond that is no longer Paris, something which I was to learn would have implications for the church plant I was there to visit.

For as good as the venue was last week in Dublin, my route into church here in Paris was as good in every way, as I joined George in his usual commute, on the bike. Paris has a wonderful network of these free bikes (free, once you've paid to have the key that releases the bike, and providing you use it for less than 30 minutes in one go). In the centre, there are bike stands every 1/4 mile, and George showed me how first he checks online that there are some bikes at the nearest stand, before also then checking that there are free spaces to put the bike into stands at the other end, two possible stands both having about 6 free spaces each. And off we went, along the dedicated cycle lanes for most of the twenty minute journey, sometimes on the road, but Paris at 9:30am on a Sunday really isn't that busy. The bike was good, if not simple, apart from the breaks being a little unhelpful in that they hardly slowed me down once we were going down a down-hill section..but I enjoyed it all and having parked it up, we walked the final hundred meters to the house (yes house) of one of the other leaders, where its been converted to seat somewhere around 60 people for the church to meet in down stairs.

They are a very warm and friendly people, as well as being an international bunch - I even met a Russian lady there, so was at least able to communicate in a language other that English, as my French is, well, not French! (I case you hadn't picked up on that already!)

Like St Petersburg, CVV Paris is two thirds natives, though similarly, the three leaders aren't themselves French. But there was clearly real strength in the church, within the crowd of I'm guessing 50+, there were just two babies, the rest all adults of various ages.

The meetings are done only in French (I had someone translate for me), and it did show me the advantage, if we can call it that, that comes from working in only the native language, and the leaders themselves being able to speak that language. George preached, having always preached there in French. It does help that most, if not all, of those non French people that moved to Paris in order to join the church plant, had at least a good grasp of the language before, if not were already fluent. Some had already lived in other parts of France, or French speaking countries before, which of course helps. French is much wider taught in schools in England than Russian is, but it certainly has helped them therefore, though there is always a lot to learn and clearly all the internationals have done well with their language since arriving in Paris.

But with the locals views on what makes up Paris, technically the meeting was just outside Paris and a little harder to get to for those not travelling in on bikes. While the venue offers great financial sense for the church (in that its owned by a leader and therefore there is no rental cost, as far as I was aware), it's location, coupled with the fact that they are now already filling the hall, means they will start to go through soon, no doubt, the phase of looking for a more central, and no doubt much more costly, venue.

Paris, like St Petersburg, is a very expensive city! And while those joining the church plant don't face the issues of visa's and therefore staying long term in the city they know God has led them too, the cost of renting is a mayor challenge for all no doubt. Thankfully, quite a few of those that I met who had moved to join the plant had also done so with jobs, so at least they have the income coming in, even if most of it does go straight back out again in rent.

As for the meeting itself, there was a real feel of the Spirit there, with prayers, words and prophecy all brought during the worship time. I enjoyed singing in French too, helped by some of the songs being ones I already knew in English.

There were three visitors in the meetings, not counting myself and two others from England visiting for the weekend. They don't properly advertise yet, as they are waiting for the authorities to rubber stamp the change of name, and yet people are coming, always a healthy sign for any church.

I spent my Sunday lunch with a young family who had moved from Leeds only about 5 months before, and it was great to meet them, encourage them and hear their story a little. They are making great in-roads with their neighbours.

They then drove me back through the city, showing me some of the sights in the process. Much of the city, especially along the river, reminds me of home, and I'm sure that's because so much of St Petersburg was based on Paris. That brought me back to the Tee's 5th floor flat, from which you could see the beam of light that spins around the Eiffel Tower at night, though the Tower itself, I was told, was only visible from the top floor.

Their flat, in a nice (& expensive therefore) part of the city over looks a park, which the RER train line runs through the middle. On Sunday morning the park was full of joggers, running in ones, twos and threes around the 1 mile outer footpath. There is a lake there also, and a waterfall, as I was to discover on a walk there on Monday morning, before I needed to get the train.

I pulled myself away from the park in fact - my thoughts were taking me to that rather unhelpful place that says "How Idyllic!" There is certainly something attractive with me about the thoughts of going jogging in the park & cycling around the city. But one can never forget where God wants you to be and in fact St Petersburg, if not the cycling, does offer most of the things Paris offers, if in its own style.

In conclusion - Both are big, sprawling cities, but Paris is very certain on it's centre and therefore what isn't Paris, while St Petersburg is very much all one city, with most people living on the edges and using the transport system, which must be the cheapest in Europe for any major city, to connect itself with the centre. Both are international, but its nice to see that in both churches it's the nationals, the 'locals', that make up most of the church. And in both settings there are capable nationals, able to step into, and in time take over, the local leadership of the churches.

The French do speak English, though want to speak French. So for CVV being one language works (especially when the leadership and most of the core team have very good French already). St Petersburg is very different in this area. I have said, though it'll be hard to actually know for sure, that if Hope Church only worked in Russian, we might see some of our Russian numbers dropping, as certainly for the student aged Russians, eager to practise and hear native English spoken, having the bilingual setting is actually a draw for them, as well as helping any internationals we might pick up on the way, who would struggle if it was all just in Russian.

But in Dublin, and now Paris, I've seen two other sides, two different shades to what makes a city church, and while I've written some things down now, I know that as the weeks go by, and our return home draws nearer, there will be further things that sink in, further understandings about what Hope Church is to become.....the lessons don't stop with my return to England....the relationships can just continue...each setting learning from the others as we each outwork the local church in the local way.

I've felt greatly honoured to have been able to make these trips and see the things I've seen. It's wonderful to have had this opportunity, which I thank God for as well as the great team that has backed us so well in St Petersburg.

From now on, it's trips up and down the UK...different settings again, where I'm eager and honoured to once again learn from mission minded pioneers, working away in the places God has sent them too, each person bringing their own colour to the tapestry that is God's Global Church.
More Lord! Let me be a blessing to all I see!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Russian Traveller - Part 1 - Dublin

As I've already detailed, so no need to go over the reasons again, I'm back in the UK for these next few months, awaiting the arrival of our second child.

And one of the things that was always the plan to do was for me to visit some settings that would teach me, and Hope Church, things about the months and years ahead.

Well, these trips have started and yesterday I got back from 4 great nights in Dublin, staying with friends Pete & Michelle Foster, a wonderful, faithful family. Their church, Saoirse (pronounced Seer Sha = 'Freedom' in Gaelic) has been going around 9 months longer that Hope Church, its Leader, Chris Vincent, now having been in Dublin for just under two years.

Pete & Michelle moved just two weeks before we did so it was great to be able to encourage them in every way as they have made their new life, doing so well at it, in Dublin.

So what reflections do I have from having visited this first setting? The city is a lot smaller, as I knew it would be, though the centre did remind me, on a much smaller scale, of parts of St Petersburg, as the river runs through it. There were a lot of beggars too on all the bridges, which was a surprise.

But unlike St Petersburg, as I was to find out, and what Chris Vincent found out in his first few months in the city, the people are not very focused on the centre, but on the out of town areas, the suburbs where all the housing is.

In fact, all of the team that moved over from the UK to join the plant, they are all not that far from where the church meet, in a smart Country Club, which is just on the edge of the city limits. The housing around there is certainly nice - parts of Dublin, it seems, offer a very good standard of life, even if it does come at quite a high cost.

But when they came to the city, the expectancy was for a city centre church. It was interesting to see how culture and local experience has come into play as they set out with the church. And I'm using the church word, but in a country where 'church' has meant lots of things, this is a word that isn't at first very obvious in any of the Saoirse information. Their Sunday gatherings, indeed, are called Bread.

It was encouraging to see how they have been perceptive with their surroundings, with their culture and the one million people that make up Ireland's capital city. They haven't done in with a pattern that they've used elsewhere before, in England, where they have largely had their previous experiences. They have wanted to love the city, first getting to know the city, so as to best know how to serve the city for the long term.

Certainly, it was clear to me within 30 minutes of arrival at Dublin's airport, there are many nations in Dublin, people from all over the world either visiting, or coming home - Dublin, it appears, is very much on the international map.

Their Sunday afternoon gathering, Bread, was warm and welcoming, their current venue, the country club, would certainly be in the Premier League for Sunday venues, if there ever existed such a thing, though I'm sure they won't be there that long, as they continue to make moves based on experience and the Spirit, which their history has shown them faithful in doing.

There were about 5 nationalities present on the Sunday, at least the ones I was aware of, from Australia and South Africa and Congo - to the British and of course Irish. It was a family, it was warm, welcoming and Spirit led. There was time for ministry, for prayer. Though the church is only young, there are good signs of health. And non so more than their leader, Chris, who leads by his heart, with passion for his people.

Having spent a couple of hours with him on Sunday morning, his unique approach to things was summed up by his opening question to me when he suddenly asked "So tell me, who is Tim?" I need say no more on that one here....you of course have been hearing my heart for a while now anyway...lol

And I want to finish on the Foster's, my wonderful hosts with their two beautiful children. I had not seen them in person since about April 2001, though I've always kept in touch with them, as they just seemed to always be in my mind - a quality couple. And the biggest thing was that having spent so much time with them, the feelings are grounded and true - they are Solid Gold and I told them so!

Whether this is a new role for me showing its head in these early days or not, I do not know. Travelling to cities, encouraging those that have gone as part of bigger teams - listening to them, praying for them, being there for them - seeing their world. It was a great honour. Maybe it's just these next few months, but I hope not. I loved it and am so thankful to have been able to connect in this way with not only the church plant, but with the lives of those I did. It was good to reconnect with Justin Pride, who I had not realised had moved out there, having known him from my Sidcup days.

So things went really well - it's Paris on Saturday next up...so more on that next week.

Until then, keep safe!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Changing season through the changing seasons..

I write this entry from a snowy place, but its not St Petersburg (which is currently also snowy!) but Oxford.

We are back in the UK for a few months as we prepare for the birth of our second child, due at the end of next month. So personally its a changing season for us. To be away from home for 4 months is a long time. To have seen how the church was growing since the September launch, to now only be looking in from afar, is tough. But we have come back different people to England this time. We've come from a real base church in Russia. We are very much part of something, that has in itself secured us in, like we have never known before.

I'm continually honoured to be part of such a great team in Dave and Hansie, and these last four months have seen us growing much closer together as we've been working through what it takes to get a new church off the ground in Russia. It's been great fun and a lot of work all at the same time!

And now in England, with the changing weather and their worst winter in 40 years, we get the snow that we thought we'd miss in Russia. Of course, here snow has a bigger impact. Things close, such as businesses and schools, travel is hard, airports even close, none of which happen in Russia.

While back, and before it gets too near to the due date for the little new arrival, I am travelling a little on behalf of Hope Church, learning as much as I can from the various settings I'll be going to, in order to take this information back with me to Russia, which we hope will help us through the next seasons of church life.

My travels start tomorrow with a trip, weather permitting, to Dublin, where there is a church that was started about a year or two before Hope Church, which will give some insight into what we might expect a little further down the line. Then the following weekend, having spent 4 nights in Dublin, I'm getting the train to Paris to spend 2 nights at the church plant there that was probably planted just a year before Hope Church. Paris is a similar size and style city to St Petersburg, and though they are not dual language, I think it's a great opportunity, and honour, to learn from these great pioneers who are working away in these two locations.

At the beginning of February I'll be returning back north to Manchester, where I'll cover a few places including spending a day in Leeds with Matt Hatch and his team, seeing how they do their Missional Groups, which is something we've started in Hope Church as well. I'll also be sharing a little at Stockport Family Church on the morning of the 7th and then at Church in the Peak, Matlock, in the evening - and then it's possible I'm travelling to Cardiff on the 8th, though that's not known yet.

If Cardiff is not happening then, I will probably be heading to London, to Sidcup, to meet up with four groups over that week before heading back to Oxford on or around the evening of the 14th. But more on this trip I guess later.

While in the UK though I continue to work for Hope Church, which is exciting. I chatted for 45 minutes yesterday with Dave, who was happy to give me a pages worth of stuff to get stuck into, just as if I was sitting next to him in our office in Russia! I've been remote working for 15 months already with my old job, so it's not as if I'm not used to it after all!

So in summary, how does it feel to be back in the UK? Compared to the summer, which was our first trip back, it feels great. We feel secure, part of something, representing the church in St Petersburg to everyone we meet in the UK, no longer just a personal thing but a corporate thing. Personally, I have a lot of ownership with the church plant, which is great. We hope to travel back at the beginning of April so that we can be part of the Mobilise Team that arrives on the 2nd. Whether we do or not is very much up in the air, as it requires quite a lot to happen for this to even be possible.

Over the next few weeks though, we do have to finalise what we are thinking about in regards our visa's, and whether I go the teaching route or not. Our support also stops in July 2010, so this is something else we are also thinking and praying about! Please pray with us!

Blessings and thanks for reading - I expect I'll be updating things here regularly while based here in Oxford, of which I am using a desk in the office of the New Frontiers Oxford church, Emmanuel Church, for which I am very grateful.

Until next time....Tim