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

Some want to help in practical ways:

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Our Christmas Greetings to You

We hope you have had a wonderful 2012!

Thanks for all your care, encouragement and support this year.

Rich blessings to you all

Love Tim, Rachel, Mia and Anya x

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

An Interview with...A Church Planter - 7 - Tallinn, Estonia - Series Conclusion

What's been great in hearing back from guys planting churches into The Hague, Stockholm, Riga, Smiltene, Helsinki and Spokane, in the USA, is that there is so much overlap in what they are all saying.

In bringing this series to a close now with my own input from having planted into St Petersburg, Russia, and now starting again in Tallinn, Estonia, I'd also like to draw together the common held views and hopefully further encourage you along these lines.  Because, having read what has already been shared by these great guys in these six other nations, I am certainly encouraged by their words.

This series has been a very popular series indeed.  It leads me on to mention the next series, where again we will hear from other men and women, looking at the subject "How God Speaks to Us" - I'm sure it will be fascinating to read!

So here are my answers to a few of the same questions I've asked the guys in this series:

Some people might look at church planting and feel they have no idea what to do - what would you say to help them?
This is the reason I wrote this series - looking at the question 'What actually IS church planting?' Do any of us really know what to do?  We helped plant Hope Church St Petersburg, which launched in 2009.  Moving to plant into Tallinn in 2012, it doesn't mean we know how to do it here - we need to learn all over again.  So I would say, don't focus on getting to 'know how to church plant' but instead focus 100% on 'getting to know God' and I assure you, the church planting bit will flow easily!

Called to just church plant, or called to a specific city - or both?  And does it matter?
Obviously if you know the city you are called to, it helps a lot.  For instance, is a new language or culture involved?  That changes things.  Can someone be called to church planting in general - yes, absolutely.  I've met lots of people like that.  But at some point God needs to speak (through all the ways He does - and let's see how that is in the new series coming soon!) with the specifics of the city you are to plant into.  So if God has not yet given you the specific location, then I suggest you wait in the place you are in until that is clear.

Calling verses Gifting - where do you stand?
For me, it's got to be calling.  Especially from a cross cultural perspective (which is my only experience).  To go somewhere that's very different to your own background, you have to know you are called when the hard days come (as they will).
When planting into your own culture, gifting will get you so far, but I would still say calling is also vital.

If you have planted into another culture & language, talk through some of the issues and experiences you've come across so far?
It's been a huge honour to have lived in the different places we've lived these last four plus years.  With this also comes testing, faith and responsibility.  
All of our personal experiences are found recorded on the pages of this blog so I won't repeat myself here. What I will say is this; in the modern world, nearly anyone can live anywhere in the world and feel happy and secure on a good day - it's when the issues come and problems arise that makes living in a new culture so much harder.  It doesn't matter how simple the issue, until you learn what to do and who to contact, it's at these times that you feel most alone and vulnerable.

What challenges have you had to over come?
I've definitely covered these in some detail already in older posts, but it's amazing how quickly you move on.  We had huge issues getting what we needed in place for us to own the home we were trying to get.  Some of that came out of not knowing the system, but much, as I understand now, came from a cultural misunderstanding which meant I wasn't asking the right kinds of questions, and I wasn't being told the right answers because for them, at the time, it didn't matter what the answer was, there was nothing to act upon, so they agreed with what I was saying.  It's when they actually had to do something about it that the banks told me what they really thought!

What challenges remain?
The Estonian language is a hugely difficult language to learn, so there is a challenge there.  The fact that, as a non-linguist, I'm now learning my third language, it makes me smile at what is possible with God - all things!
For many reasons, Estonia is a divided nation on ethical lines between Estonians and Russians. To plant a church that reflects the city of Tallinn, bring unity to a divided nation, is going to be a huge challenge.  With very different languages and personalities, we need to find God's way through in what we go onto do.

Can people still move to join you?
Absolutely!  We are at the exciting pre-launch phase. We've seen some team coming together but for us to truly reach our vision here in Tallinn we need others, called of God to be in Tallinn, to join us and together help us plant this church.

How can someone pray for you and your church?
Pray all sorts of prayer for every occasion!  As the most secular nation in Europe, Estonia needs God's powerful hand of breakthrough.  Tallinn represents a third of the whole population of Estonia - if Tallinn gets a new heart then so does the nation.
We need to see vast numbers of people saved.

Do you need a team to go church planting?
I love team.  While I agree you don't need a team to move to church plant, I would say that you can't start the church plant phase without a team.
It was an honour to be part of such a great team in St Petersburg, and when our time came to move to plant into Tallinn, while we went alone, the value of team was there.  We knew of someone from Russia wanting to join us, but they'll need a visa for here and that has still yet to sort itself out.
As team was such a high value we had, we didn't start doing anything in the city regarding our own church plant until Arnoud & Elisabeth had moved to join us during the summer.

What challenges do you face with raising children in a 'foreign' setting?
What might be a challenge is also an amazing opportunity.  If you can see through language learning issues and culture adjustment, raising your children bilingual (or tri-lingual in our case) is an amazing honour.
We of course have no way of knowing how our kids would have been growing up in our own background. What they do have ahead of them is a rich, multicultural understanding and experience, which I hope is all the better for them.
Personally, with Mia, I think we've got her into a better schooling system than we ever could have had access to living where we did in the UK.  For that, and so many other things, we feel blessed.

Is outside financial support vital for church planting?  What other ways are there that you've come across? What advantages does having financial support for at least the first year have in the life of a church plant?
I'll answer these together.  In the UK I have always worked in business (I mean, I was never paid as a full-time church leader).  Moving to Russia, and now Estonia, the issue with all my experience and ability (as good, or bad, as that might be) is that it largely doesn't matter - without language you are rather unemployable.  In fact, my English language became more valuable in the fact that I could teach - something I had no desire or passion to do in the UK!
The point is, things change when you move countries.  What outside financial support offers is time.  This is the most valuable thing we have and it allows us to learn some language and build relational links into the city - links that will lead to church plant growth - the very reason we are here in the first place!
Church planting into a new culture has huge pressures - so to have the financial issues removed by outside support, while things are getting off the ground, is a huge help.
Finally, if giving for the right reasons, having outside sources of financial support, helps build relational links with those people and churches.  A Kingdom connection gets established - one that prayers, sends and supports.  And that is a very worthwhile thing!

What one piece of advice would you give to someone feeling called to plant a church somewhere?
Enjoy it always, endure it at times, and let me know if there is anyway I can help.

So that's it.  The end of this Church Plant series - though maybe we'll revisit these churches at some point in the future to see how they are getting on!

I am part of the team leading the Hope:Tallinn church plant.

Church Email: hopetallinn@gmail.com
Twitter: @timinthenations
Tim's Email: timintallinn@gmail.com
Blog: you are reading it!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thanksgiving, Beach and the start of the Christmas Market

What a fun week it has been.  Today in Tallinn the Christmas market opened.  This is now known to be one of the best markets of its kind in Europe and will be around for the next six weeks or so, usually finishing about a week into January.  It is located in Town Hall Square, which is the centre of the Old Town, Tallinn's very beautiful medieval section.  All that we need now is the snow to come - which is forecast for later this week - plus Father Christmas ('Jõuluvana') to turn up (which he does next weekend), when I guess the Christmas tree lights get turned on properly as well.

 So it is starting to feel very much like Christmas is nearly here, which it is in one months time!
The market sells a wide range of local products - from the very traditional wooden items to the woolen clothing that will keep you very warm for the winter weather to come.
They also sell cups of Glogg, the local mulled wine as well as other local Estonian food's cooking away on large open grills.  The smells and sounds, especially once it gets dark (which it does by about 4pm already) is really special.  The snow covered winter market from our first visit to Tallinn in January 2011 is one of our best memories.
We will be no doubt returning a few times to the market, and once the snow comes, will be able to share further photo highlights from this special place.

This week was also Thanksgiving - and with great American friends around us here in Tallinn, we were invited to share dinner with them.  It actually became a church plant meal as the three families were able to be together with three other people there too.  Nathan and Laura did a wonderful job of hosting us and cooking a delicious dinner, it was special for us all to be a part of this holiday with them.

With the temperatures now on their way down (the minus figures are coming back again this week, as well as the snow) we took our visitor, Sarah Watson from Stockport, to the beach today, though she declined the opportunity to go for a swim!  Once again we are thankful to God for the place He has rooted our family firmly into - we are looking forward to seeing all that God will do in Tallinn.

This coming week - and something I'd love you to pray for - I am flying to London for a conference.  My last trip, two nights, was quite hard on the home front as both girls really seemed to not do so well with me being away.  Due to the way the flights work, I will be away this coming week for six days.  They both now know I am going away, and I hope the promise of me buying them a gift to give them on my return will help them when I'm gone, but I would really value your prayers for Rachel and the girls while I am away - at least we still have Sarah with us until Thursday, which is a great blessing.  I arrive back on Sunday, about two hours before we have a church meal at our home.
The conference itself is something being run by David Stroud and his Christ Church London team.  He has invited a church leader from New York and the conference is called the Global Cities Conference.  Please pray that I learn everything I need to learn from these three days that I am with them.  The first day is much smaller, with a round table discussion, and the last two days are larger with a classic conference feel.  I want to meet with God.  I want to be encouraged by others ahead of me in similar settings.  I want to gain all I can.  And I want to bring back, and help implement, everything I can for Tallinn too!
Finally, tomorrow is Vision Sunday for the Hope:Tallinn church plant.  Please pray that it would go well (maybe you are reading this after Sunday, so thank God it went well!).

Until next time!  Be blessed.  (Below is a video taken today, while it was still light, from the Christmas market).

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Filming That Was House Hunters International in Tallinn

So our Estonian episode of House Hunters International has finally aired on Monday 12th November at 10pm in the USA.
And while we have not been able to see the program ourselves (living in Tallinn as we do) we've heard a little feedback, and what didn't get mentioned.  So seeing that it has now been aired, I wanted to talk about the experience it was when the camera (singular - see why, later!) came to Tallinn! 
(People have already been searching from the US, having watched the show, trying to work out who we are and why we are in Tallinn - so I will be using certain keywords that will make it easier for future searches)  Because sadly, having stated to the producers of the show our reasons for moving to Tallinn, and therefore our requirements and desires for the home we would live in, they failed to actually make any reference to it in the show, despite a noticeable amount of recording done where we were talking all about the reasons we are in Estonia.
Described as 'community leaders' on the recent episode, we are actually planting a church here in Tallinn.  We moved from St Petersburg, Russia, in March, having been part of the church plant that is Hope Church St Petersburg - a vibrant Russian international church that is now over three years old.  We are part of Newfrontiers, which is a global family of churches in something like 48 countries.  Hope:Tallinn, as we are calling ourselves, is the first Newfrontiers church in Estonia.....it will not be the last as we look to plant again, in time, into other parts of this country.  (Interested in hearing more about this church plant - comment on this blog or email timintallinn@gmail.com)
We have seen a team moving to join the church plant over the summer and have been starting to gather over the last two months, seeing over thirty Estonians and Russians, plus a few internationals, coming to events we've put on....actually, for more information on this, you might prefer to read other blog entries, the last of which is here.
From here on, I will talk more about the filming that took place over four consecutive days at the beginning of August. 
Us appearing on this Home & Garden Network flagship show in their November episode last night came about through knowing Brenda Mitchell, herself in real estate, but actually the connection was through Elava Vee church, where her and her husband Barry are leading and they are friends of ours.  We had been going there most weeks in our first few months here, as we looked for relationship and getting to know other local churches.  So Brenda knew some months before we moved that we were coming to Tallinn to church plant - and when, therefore, she was contacted by the House Hunters International production company asking if she knew any English speaking families moving to Tallinn, she mentioned it to us.
One of the things we learned in St Petersburg, especially in the early days, is to say 'yes' to opportunities as you never know where they will end up - and this television show option for HHI in Tallinn seemed too interesting to turn down.
It actually turned out to be nearly four days of acting!
The truth about finding our home, the process of which started back in 2011, is told in detail from a post back in May this year - after we won our battle with the banks - you can read about that here.
The show was to, as best as possible, 'retell' the story but there was lots it needed to change.  We found our apartment online, and purchased directly from the developer.  There was no agent involved - we didn't actually look at a single other apartment in Tallinn - we knew God had shown us the one home that was for us.
Obviously, for a show like HHI, that doesn't really make very good television, and didn't fit their profile.
We were not going to misrepresent ourselves though, either.  We were clear that we had come to church plant - it was God's idea for us, not any natural desire to live here.  Though we do absolutely love Tallinn and hope to live in this beautiful city for many years to come as part of a vibrant, church planting, God loving, soul saving church.
The filming was to take place over four consecutive days, with Brenda joining us for the last two days as we did the three viewings.  Only once we had confirmed the purchase of our apartment did the show get the go ahead.  We moved in a week before filming started - the lorry in the pictures on the right was to pack up our belongings from our new home on day 4, just one week after moving in!  It was, for me, the hardest part of the filming.

The crew of three - Ben, the director, Gordon the cameraman and Noel the sound man - all came from the UK.  These guys were experienced and great fun to work with - thank you for being patient with us guys!  Filming was to be done over just four days (even though, as far as I know, the show looks like it's filmed over some months).  I understand this though - to keep costs down, and to guarantee a confirmed outcome, it needs to be filmed like this, once the family are actually in their home!  The biggest thing though was the presence of just one camera and cameraman.  Obviously, the cost of a camera means you can't afford two - and anyway, with two you need two cameramen, two salaries and tickets etc....costs are too much.  Having just one camera eliminates the problems of them catching each other in shot.  What it does mean though, which we were quickly to learn, is that each scene is shot at least three times, sometimes as many as six times.  This is to get different angles, to focus on different people (in a conversation, for example) which meant we were having to do a lot of acting over the four days.  This was because maybe first time through we were saying things as they came to us - the next five takes, though, we'd have to repeat what we'd said - harder than it sounds, especially if I'd made a joke (which might have sounded natural first time, but fifth time I'm not so sure!)  Rachel and I had the first two days to start to get used to this - we felt for Brenda, joining us on day three, who quickly had to get used to it too.  She did great!
The first two days were 'our life in Tallinn' and was actually, I guess, the end of the show, showing how we'd settled in etc.  We were filming as a family with our two girls - in the Old Town at various places, as well as showing life in the apartment and around at the beach and on bikes (I'm not sure how much got shown!).
This was a lot of fun and about half the photos shown here, including at the exercise area, reflect this period.
The last two days with Brenda, reflected our 'house search'.  The list of things we told Brenda we were looking for did actually figure in our thinking and hopes as we contemplated the move to Tallinn - it was just God that found us our home - the first result on the first search for homes in Tallinn!
The two homes she did show us, besides our own, are ones she is trying to sell, and fitted a similar bracket of home as ours - though having seen them, we are so happy with our choice - which was both much nicer and much cheaper too!
It's amazing the things you learn about looking around a home, while being filmed!  You need to take in the whole room, but avoid looking at the camera - that was the big no no for the whole four days of filming, which even our girls were great at doing.  There were a number of laughs during the time, as I tried to remember what I'd just said, and taking in the crews advice.  One I remember was walking around one of the kitchen's, and being told to make comments about things (it is TV, after all, so you need to think out loud) I'd said how the cooker was a great height, so it was safe for our children.  On the next take, the crew said I was to open on my comment - and I proceeded to start by going to the oven, and saying "That'll be great for the kids"....to which the cameraman burst out laughing, saying "You can't say that!"  Clearly, it sounded like I wanted to cook the kids....I'm trusting that isn't the one they used in the show!  When we do see it, which might be in about 4 weeks when our DVD arrives, I might have a little more to say!

The other aspect that I am not sure if it got mentioned in the show, was my novel being published, which happened this summer in Tallinn.  It's called Cherry Picking - and you can find the ebook here on the Amazon.com - it's also available in paperback (really good quality - a great Christmas gift!) and is available on all Amazon sites in Europe, the UK, USA, India & China.  So please do check it out - you can read the excellent reviews on the UK and US Amazon sites.
Here are the front and back covers for you.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Tallinn Update - The snows come (and go) plus more

It's now over two weeks since the crowds came to gather with us in Tallinn from many other places in what became a Baltic's weekend.  I worked out that my darling wife produced forty-four meals for people over the 3 days - and on top of that, she provided cake and drinks for another forty-four!  So once all the visitors have gone, what do you do after that?  Well, with it being half term for Mia, we took three days off and got away (a little - heading about 30 minutes from home, just north of Tallinn!)
And during this time, it snowed!  This is the first time in five winters since leaving the UK that we have had snow in October....it has since melted, so we await winter to really start again.  The cold (it got down to -10.7 degrees C one night) did make all the leaves fall off the trees, so everything, though green again, is looking very bare.  We can even see a road through the trees from our kitchen window that for months we haven't been able to.
It appears the weather caught a lot of people out - the roads near our home became very icy and no one had yet put their winter tyres on - we don't even have any for the car, having been given the car from Spain, it didn't come with it's own spare set of tyres as is usual here.  (I wrote most of this blog three days ago so can now say that today I took the car to have a complete set of wheels fitted on the car, which is great.  A local Estonian friend of ours was able to find the garage that could provide four used but decent tyres, four disks so that in future we can change them ourselves and fit them all for a great price - the exact same amount raised through some extra teaching we've managed to do this week!  See below for details on that.
While away for those three days, there was a Swedish circus set up and we managed to get tickets to what turned out to be their last night (the night the snow came - did they know something we didn't??)  And as is usual now for this life we live in Tallinn, doing something like going to the circus doesn't in any way mean we can just sit there and watch....because, who do they call up to come to the front and take part in one of their pieces - yes, yours truly!  The photos Rachel took, with the light limited, (thankfully!) didn't come out but I was one of four guys who sat on a stool, then each of us put our heads onto the laps of the guy behind us (we were sitting in a square each facing a different direction) - and then they removed all four stools - I'm sure it looked interesting but I did manage not to collapse the group, and though the clown was messing around with my stool so it was the last one to be put back (and I could hear Mia at this point shouting "Give daddy his stool back!) he did eventually do it, we took our bows and returned to our places.  When it was finished, people started to leave, the music played out, and Mia couldn't help but want to dance around - a short video of that is here:

On the Sunday, once back home again, we had another Taste the Nations meal at ours - and saw three visitors come, including an Estonian mother and daughter who live on our street - we first met the daughter in our first month here and only recently bumped into her and her mother again last month.  It was great to once again have two generations from the same family represented at the meal - the third time it's happened in the three meals we've had!

Last Sunday we then had our second Vision Sunday for those that make up the core of the Hope:Tallinn church plant.  This in itself is a meeting that we want to see grow - we gather to build a crowd and from the crowd we know a church will emerge.  As the months go by, we are praying that one or two people will be added to the monthly Vision Sunday's which will give us the strength to plant out when we are big enough.  These might be people moving to Tallinn - called and full of faith for what God wants to do through them in Estonia (there are a few people in this bracket who are working out how to get here - and we are praying for you too!).  Also, as people see something within our relationships with each other, we hope that some already living here, with currently no framework of church or as yet relationship with God, will also one day make up the core of this church plant, as together, we walk with them on their journey.  As in the book of Acts chapter 2, we want to live in such a way that people in Tallinn start asking "What does it mean?" and then, after we have hopefully helped explain things in a clear and relevant way, they follow up that questions by asking "What shall we do?"

But the crowd is growing.  In preparation for my talk on Sunday, we worked out that over the last two months, twenty-two adults and eleven children have come to something the Hope:Tallinn team have put on, whether that was a meal, children's group or even a birthday party.  Those thirty-three represent hundreds of people that they know - and if this is what God has done in two months, then apply that to a year and it's over one-hundred people who represent maybe one-thousand.  And that's the type of crowd that God can call out a glorious church from!  We are believing for big things and though small, we are encouraged by what God has already done among us all.

Personally we've just had family come and stay - my brother and his wife with their two children, plus this week Rachel's folks arrive for a week (and they arrived yesterday already).  
This does mean that this week has been rather interesting and somewhat busy.  Tomorrow, I am travelling to Riga to speak over two days with the church plant there where I am taking four sessions to tell the story of the book of Ruth.  The mini conference is titled "Does God Care" so please pray for everything to do with this weekend, that I would get the time to plan and hear from God (yes, it's now Thursday after 5pm and I still haven't had time to look at my notes!), that it would bless the church plant in Riga, that those that need to be there will be there, and that it will be fun for all!  As well as that teaching, some English teaching also came about for us both, which we've managed to cram between the gaps this week.
Some time ago I had a call from Moscow from a lady whose family owns one of the apartments in our building on the floor below us.  She was saying how they were coming for a week in November, and that she'd like lessons for her, and for her daughter, who is a beginner.  So Rachel is teaching the daughter, and I am teaching the mother.  What was particularly special was that today, having finally got the call about the tyres, and having been paid in cash for each lesson we've been teaching this week, when I went to the envelope to count the money, it was the EXACT amount that the complete set of winter tyres were going to cost!  God has worked in such a way so as to cover our needs before they arise!  Rachel is also teaching English to two other boys from Mia's class as well this week (which is a regular thing now and really helps with our situation here financially).
On Tuesday night we were also at the home of the British Ambassador for a drinks reception he was hosting.  This was our second time in this environment in the last couple of months.  As we've always said, you go with what opens up and say yes to things because you never know where things will lead.
Yesterday at Mia's school they were also having a special day for Father's to mark this Sunday's Fathers Day in Estonia (which will be my third Fathers Day of the year, though I will myself be in Latvia!).  I had signed up to take on the teachers in a special volleyball match with six other dads.....the one limitation against the all female teachers team was that the men all had to wear mittens!  Even so, we still managed to win by two games to nil.  The picture is showing the dads being given our certificates for taking part!
I have actually started playing volleyball every Monday night with a group of Estonian men - it's like being thrown in the deep end in relation to language (I still can't understand them!) and with play (they've played for a long time and I am.....still learning!).  But I'm determined to make up in effort and encouragement whatever I may lack in ability, though on Monday (and about the first compliment I've heard any of them give these last eight weeks!) the organiser did say to me that I learn quickly.

So it really has been quite a week and it's still only Thursday.  This blog has taken three days to finish - I've just had to go back through it all and talk about completed activities instead of, as I had written them originally, future activities....it has been one of those weeks for us!

So I will sign off and maybe start to look over my notes for the four hours of teaching I am doing this weekend - or I might just end up using the four hours on the bus to Riga for that very thing.  Nothing like cutting it fine - I'm so glad it's not all reliant on my strength to do things this weekend - Lord, do have your way in Riga!

So glad to have finally got this finished!  Visitors continue to come to us this month - after this week we have three further times with people staying with us over the next five weeks.  So we'll update you as soon as we can - until then, be blessed!

Contact Details;
Address: Helme 16/2, 39, Tallinn, 10614, Estonia
Email: timinrussia@gmail.com
Facebook Group: God Loves Tallinn
For regular or one off gifts please contact our 
UK base church who are administering this for us: 
For international payments through PayPal use the email timinrussia@gmail.com

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tallinn Update - When the Baltic's gathered together

It started with an invitation for Maurice to come and visit us in Tallinn - and turned into the first Baltic's gathering of it's kind here in Estonia's capital!

Welcome to the Baltic's Gathering update....

Maurice Nightingale (pictured on the right of me in the photo below - yes, we gave him the Mr Darcy mug!!) works very closely with Mike Betts in the Relational Mission sphere of Newfrontiers.  Arnoud & Elisabeth, who moved here this summer to join the team, have strong links with Mike and Maurice, so when I first met Maurice in Riga back in May, and knowing at the time that Arnoud's family were moving to Tallinn, I wanted to invite him in order to have someone visit who knew them and could see them settling into their new context.
The work out here in this part of Europe is so new that, given the opportunity to meet together, people will travel miles to have input and encouragement for their situations - the nature of pioneer church planting in the Baltic region meaning being around others with the same heart and mind, from time to time, is really refreshing.
So we were aware, a month or so before this planned trip, that others too would be interested in coming and soon the invitations were flowing.  
In all, Maurice brought two other guys with him from the UK - John Putman, a local leader from another church plant setting in East Anglia, who has served for many years in other parts of Estonia and brought with him a great wisdom and gentle spirit.  With them was Gary Dean, a great guy that I actually know from my Sidcup days, so it was wonderful to hear he was coming, as it had been about 11 years since we'd last met each other.
Matt Medd came up from Riga on the Friday as well, as did David Jones, also travelling from Latvia, where he leads a church in Smiltene.
On Friday night we hosted these five guests for a meal at ours with both the church plant families together.
In planning this weekend, we felt that a Saturday lunchtime context, with some tea and cake, would be a great way of mixing other 'locals' in with these guys - and it was a joy to have Gabriel and Vanessa with us, a young couple who lead another local church here in Tallinn.  We have been getting to know them really well over the last six months and had spent a great day together earlier in the week as well.  They are pictured in the group photo on the right hand side.  Also joining us were Simon (the guy on the left in the above photo with Maurice and I) & Heloise, who came with their three children, his mother and his mothers friend, who had been over visiting them! They live in a small town in the very centre of Estonia called Võhma and lead a small church plant, having moved from England around nine years ago.  The group photo at the top (taken by Rachel who was therefore not in the shot!) shows quite a crowd!
On Saturday night we met to share together and to pray for one another, which really became encouraging as words and prophecies were brought.
On Sunday we were meeting as Hope:Tallinn, the core church plant group, though we also had a personal friend turn up from Finland who joined in the day's events.  Maurice brought us an encouragement from the word, reminding us of the 'Bigger Picture' as we set out and start to reach Tallinn.
Mixed around all that were walks and sightseeing together around Tallinn and it's historic Old Town.  It was a great blend of fun, friendship and food!
By Monday all had returned to their various homes and the dust is starting to settle on what was a very significant time.  It didn't start out as a Baltic's gathering but that is what it became.  And the thought is now birthed regarding a more regular event - drawing in yet others from nearby cities and countries, to encourage, strengthen, help and pray with those going through the same things we are in the most unreached region of Europe.

This was the first such event - Rachel and Elisabeth especially excelling themselves with all the cooking and hospitality they were able to show - but it will not be the last event.  God is on the move in the Baltics.  And we are just a small part of that....

Thursday, October 11, 2012

An Interview with...a Church Planter - 6 - Jonathan Meek, Spokane, Washington, USA

In this sixth entry to the church planting series, we hear from Jonathan Meek, musician and church planter into Spokane, Washington.  I met Jonathan last Autumn in Missoula, where he has been an elder for 14 years.  I had been travelling around the Northwest with Dave Henson and we spent a day in Missoula meeting Jonathan and Josh Yakos - I spoke that evening at their midweek youth gathering.

Hearing about his future plant, there was a lot of crossover with what we had come from in Russia.  That part of Washington state, and especially Spokane itself, is a very big Russian area - we even saw roadside adverts written in Russian!  And of course their timing is also similar in that they made the move in the same summer that things started here in Tallinn.

What Jonathan has to say is helpful, especially for those planting within their own country and culture, as well as those coming from long term 'full time' staff positions in an established church to go and start all over again!

Here is what he had to say:

When did you know you were called to be a church planter?
I began suspecting I was called to be a church planter when I was about 25 years old. My wife and I were a part of a great church-planting culture but it wasn't until my wife and I were driving through the city of Spokane, Washington about ten years ago that it seriously crossed my mind to actually lead a church planting team. It dawned on me that day that I really loved the city of Spokane enough to leave my job and move my family. The heart was there but the timing wasn't right. It's only now - ten years later - that we've just moved!

In New Frontiers, we talk about building on an Apostolic and Prophetic foundation - how has that been seen through your situation?
We waited because we strongly believe in apostolic and prophetic ministry being not only foundational but also an active part in our lives. It wasn't until the past three years that we felt a strong prophetic confirmation to make the move. Multiple prophetic words from apostolic men really shook us loose from the church in Missoula that I served for 14 years as a worship leader and elder. As soon as we began actually talking to other leaders about Spokane as a serious "when, not if" the overwhelming confirmation to go was just that - wonderfully overwhelming! The wise counsel from so many excellent leaders within our Newfrontiers family has been vital to making this a healthy and positive move for my family.

You've moved within the same country with your family - tell us what challenges you are facing and how you prepared for this move?
Though we haven't moved far - only a three hour drive from Missoula to Spokane - our children have spent their entire lives living in Missoula. Having a 14 year old just beginning high school, a 12 year old beginning middle school and a 9 year old starting 4th grade, the well-being and social adjustment for our kids has been at the forefront of our minds from day one. We took the kids on trips to Spokane over the past year to introduce them to cultural and sporting events in the city, visited other churches with them, visited local schools and parks, and spent as much time as we could getting to know about the area. Along the way we discovered that Spokane is a running city and we love to run! Our oldest two kids are now running cross country in their schools, which has helped them make friends. One of the cross country coaches is a part of our planting team, which has also helped with the transition. We (and others) have invested much prayer into simply asking God to go before us and show us ways to connect into the community, and to help our kids connect positively as well. We've only been here for 7 weeks but we are thanking God for a smooth transition! As we move forward we'll keep talking and praying with our children about how God has put them here on purpose to see their own friends and schools impacted with the gospel of Jesus Christ! Having the kids on board and really a part of the planting team (not just along with mom and dad) will be vital for their health.

What advantages does having financial support for at least the first year have in the life of a church plant?
We have limited financial support in place for our first year, which gives us a bit of breathing room without allowing us to be completely dependent on outside sources. Since we are planting within our own nation we are able to work, so both Becca and I are working. We felt that we wanted to build locally and rely on God establishing us within Spokane. (This model is more highly reproduceable as well.) I am certainly not opposed to outside support but am building with as much local support as we can. The downside to this model is that I spend much time focusing on my job and less time focusing on the church plant than I would like. However, God is giving both Becca and I excellent connections THROUGH our careers that we expect to result in changed lives!

How can someone pray for you and your church?
Please pray for excellent and ongoing connections for us that result in salvation coming to many families and fresh life breathed into the fabric of Spokane, Washington! Pray for great wisdom as we balance family life, business life and church planting. Pray for God to establish us into Spokane and for Grace Church Spokane to become a life-giving, church-planting, nation-impacting church!

Thanks for that Jonathan!

Jonathan is a part of Grace Church Spokane, Washington.

www.gracechurchspokane.org (not live yet)
Jon's blog: www.jonnydavids.blogspot.com
Twitter: Jonathan_Meek
Email: jmeek@gracechurchspokane.org

Series so far:
1 - The Hague, Netherlands
2 - Stockholm, Sweden
3 - Riga, Latvia
4 - Smiltene, Latvia

5 - Helsinki, Finland

Monday, October 8, 2012

Tallinn Update - the Whole Family edition...

Acts 16:31
They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”

I love family.  I love the family that God has put me in physically - my wife and daughters and the wider family connected with them.  I also love the family God has put me in spiritually - His church - around the world.  Many nationalities, many skin colours, yet all brothers and sisters in Christ.  I love the whole family set up.
And what is really exciting at the start of life here in Tallinn is the numbers of whole families, households, that are joining what is starting here or starting to come to events - it's great that God is helping us meet whole households as new friends here in Tallinn.
At the two international meals we've hosted at our flat as part of the gathering for Hope:Tallinn, each time we've seen husband and wife with children coming along and meeting other people that are already involved with us.

And our prayer is that, as quoted above from Acts, we see whole households coming to know the same love and acceptance that we have found in Jesus.  The same forgiveness of sins.  The same freedom from the fear of death, with absolute knowledge and confidence of eternal life to come.

 The battle is being fought for the souls of these dear people of Tallinn - living in the most secular and godless nation in Europe.  The Mormons are here, preaching a twisted truth.  Jehovah's witnesses are here looking for people to trap into law and working for salvation.  The simple message that Jesus has already done everything for us and we just need to accept his gift of life to us needs to be preached to set thousands of people free.  And it's to this end that we are here - the harvest field needs so many more workers - but we are here with others at least making a start.

Autumn is a really beautiful time of year in Tallinn.  We never really noticed Autumn too much in St Petersburg, largely because we couldn't see any trees from where we lived so didn't notice the leaves changing colour.  But we can't help but notice them here and it's great to really appreciate this time of year, even if it is about to usher in wintertime - I am really looking forward to being blown away by the beauty of wintertime in this part of Tallinn!  We know, having arrived in March, that the sea shown in these photos will be frozen, as it was still frozen when we first got to Tallinn.  So it'll be great to get to walk on water, just a little...

In the last update I mentioned about our first Vision Sunday which is happening once a month.  That was 8 days ago now, and the symbolism was encouraging.  The previous weekend I'd been in St Petersburg, meeting the crowds at Hope Church as I've talked about in that last post.  Four years ago that all started with 6 people.  So with just the three couples making it to this first vision Sunday (plus another 6 children) it was great to reflect how, with the same number of people four years previously, a vibrant church had since emerged in St Petersburg.  All God's doing, of course.  But great to think that we can see God do it again here in Tallinn!

So we are believing in God for a lot more to come!  We are believing for whole households to be saved.  We are believing for musicians and leaders and servers and welcomers and children's workers to come and join us and together reach this great city of Tallinn.  We are believing for a church that unites a broken and divided nation - for Estonians and Russians, as well as Latvians, Finns, Brits, Dutch and Americans to worship the same God, arm in arm, hand in hand, united in a way that no human ideas or initiatives can.  United as brothers and sisters of the same God, the only God - our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.  We are believing for the outbreak of healings and miracles.  We are believing for the prophetic to cut to the core of the coldest hearts.  We are believing for God to do all that God can do.

10,000 reasons - no, it's not reference to a song by Matt Redman, but the fact that this week should see the 10,000th viewer to posts on this blog, since I started tracking the stats.  That is so amazing and encouraging!  To know that people all around the world are reading and following this adventure with us.  For example, this last week has seen readers from the USA, UK, Estonia, Sweden, Netherlands, Latvia, France, Russia, Ukraine, Columbia, Hong Kong and Rwanda!  This post going out will also mark the 6000th view on this blog since we moved to Tallinn - which was just 7 months ago!  We are so encouraged by this and every comment, reply, email or call - knowing we are not alone in this adventure, but together through your prayers, with thousands around the world.

Please keep praying for us as we continue to face challenges in a few areas that we await God's wisdom and clarity on, but continue to walk through all the doors that God has opened for us.

Next up on this blog I continue with the Church Planter series featuring our first entry from a church planter in the USA...

Friday, October 5, 2012

An Interview with...a Church Planter - 5 - Kevin Jones, Helsinki, Finland

In the latest update, in this encouraging and inspiring series, we hear from Kevin Jones, who is preparing to move to Helsinki, Finland, with his family next year.

I first met this wonderful family maybe three years ago whilst back in the UK one summer.  Having ourselves moved to St Petersburg, it was here that God had spoken about the nearby Baltic capitals over the St Petersburg church plant - Helsinki and Tallinn were the two cities named.  Clearly Hope Church's outworking of this has been quite different - with us now moved to Tallinn personally, and relationally encouraging these guys looking into Helsinki, as a near neighbour (and even nearer now we are personally in Tallinn!).  So it was due to that word over Hope Church, as well on the back of the relationship Lydia Jones had with our friends Dave and Hannah (having been in the same church in Loughborough, UK) that I started meeting up with this family to help if I could and encourage their faith for what was ahead.  It was great this summer to have Kevin come over to Tallinn for a day from Helsinki, where they spent the month of August getting a real feel for the place.  Once planted, at just 50 miles north of Tallinn, Helsinki will be the nearest other Newfrontiers city church plant to us (once you get across the sea!).

As they are still in the process of going, his answers offer a real window into how it feels ahead of such an exciting, yet big, move.  So this is what he said:

Tell us a little about the city you are moving to?

Helsinki is the capital of Finland. The city itself has a population of around 600,000 but as populations increase, the areas to the North, east and west of the city are now merging together to form one much larger municipal area combining to form the worlds most northern urban area of over one million people. One in five Finns live in this area. Helsinki is strategically placed 80 kilometers (50 mi) north of Tallinn, Estonia, 400 kilometers (250 mi) east of Stockholm, Sweden, and 300 kilometers (190 mi) west of Saint Petersburg, Russia. Helsinki has close historical connections with these three cities. The architecture seems to reflect this with a mix of Scandinavian and Russian influence evident as you explore.
Helsinki has a diverse and cosmopolitan atmosphere and is similar to most other European capital cities. The city is well organized, clean and safe to walk around and explore. In 2009, Helsinki was chosen to be the World Design Capital for 2012 by the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design, narrowly beating Eindhoven for the title. In the Economist Intelligence Unit's August 2012 Livability survey, assessing the best and worst cities to live in, Helsinki was placed 8th overall.
Helsinki has a humid continental climate due to the influence of the Baltic Sea and Gulf Stream. Temperatures in winter are much higher than the far northern location might suggest, with the average in January and February around −5 °C. Temperatures below −20 °C occur normally a week or two in a year. Because of the latitude, days last less than six hours around the winter solstice but, Helsinki enjoys long days in summer [19 hours around the summer solstice].

Some people might look at church planting and feel they have no idea what to do - what would you say to help them?

I feel that generally to a point it is ok to not know what to do. It is better to be humble and sensitive to the situation you are going in to in this sense than to be an expert who is very rigid on how to do church regardless of the cultural context.  I think that one of the best things to do to help on this is to get relationally connected with those who are doing stuff you like and you relate to. Allow others to speak in to your life and open yourself up to learning from them.
Go along to prayer days for nations/regions you are interested in to meet others and catch the heart of what God is doing in these situations. Visit others who are already doing what you would like to one day do. Perhaps depending on your circumstance [career, family etc.] offer to serve them in some way – give a year to living and working in a city where someone you can relate to is currently pioneering something. Keep regularly in touch with others doing similar stuff.  Talk to your current church leaders about your dreams and ask what you can do now to help you develop according to your calling. Get stuck in now in your local setting and don’t look too far ahead that you don’t ever live in the now – bless the city you are in!

How old were you when you planted your first church?

I have never planted a church as the plant leader, but was in my late 20s when I was part of a leadership team which planted into Broadstairs in Kent. Helsinki is the next big step for us.
One key thing I did learn at Broadstairs is that Church planting is perhaps more of a mindset than just the event of starting the church. I feel if you are a church planter you are always a church planter – you don’t just get the thing going, you see it as a process, you go on planting the church even after it’s been going for a while you are still planting it. That conviction continues whether you then plant again or whether you remain in the same context for 5/10 years or more – and feeds the DNA of the church to then become a planting and sending church.

Thinking about a future move, what concerns do you have at this moment?

Many of the main concerns are the ones we all often face such as finances, grasping a new language, keeping momentum going [in our situation we are still living in the UK and not yet in Helsinki where we will be planting] from almost the other side of Europe – whilst holding down a demanding job, busy family life etc…
Children adjusting. All of us moving away from friends and family in to what could be a more isolated situation.

And what language are you doing your gatherings in?

Language is an interesting topic at the moment. My heart is to gather in the native Finnish language for obvious reasons [not just wanting to attract ex-pats, not wanting to seem as if we a just a bunch of foreign missionaries moving in, wanting to demonstrate a strong commitment to serve the nation etc..]  But practically Finnish is a very difficult language and we need to temper our desires to be authentic in the expression of our desires to be a church for Finland with the reality that to gather in Finnish alone would severely restrict the depth and fullness of communication and expression possible for us. It could be that some sort of mix [some Finnish some English] would initially be best – and also may serve the international nature of Helsinki as a city more effectively.

In New Frontiers, we talk about building on an Apostolic and Prophetic foundation - how has that been seen through your situation?

Prophetic words specific to us and ones in scripture about the increase of Christ's rule and the promises about God's people being a blessing to the nations etc. really got our attention in the beginning and have been a source of encouragement and direction throughout – We are so grateful though that as well as this we have the privilege of belonging to an apostolic movement of churches where it is so easy to draw relationally alongside others who can serve us. For us relationships [mainly through the Relational Mission sphere within Newfrontiers] have been a great source of confirmation as we have moved forwards on this journey. It has been wonderful to sense God calling us to Scandinavia and Finland – but also to discover that others involved in this region and offering to support us are such brilliant people who we really hit it off with, share a connection with and who’s hearts are so for us.  It is great to experience the apostolic not as a structured, hierarchical thing but as a set of vital, dynamic relationships that we really want to be part of and benefit from.  For us this a fundamental aspect which has served us so well in helping us step out in what God has been saying to us. It’s brilliant!

Calling verses Gifting - where do you stand?

To church plant into a different culture and go through all of the highs and lows that you may encounter, it is so important to know that you are called. There will come times when it will be difficult and discouraging. But when this happens our calling sets the perspective that these issues are God’s problem!  I didn’t choose myself to do this he did – so he needs to sort something out and enable a breakthrough! 
Calling is so important. God is interested in gifting too – we see this through scripture, but it is important to make the distinction between gifting [i.e. the gift is from God] and self-sufficiency [i.e. I’m skilled enough to do it on my own]. My experience is that God delights in giving gifts to his church and it is often against the odds and against our natural disposition as individuals. In Ephesians we read about the risen Christ giving gifts to his church, so it’s good to have gifting and excel in the things God has given us but in the context of humility and acknowledgement of the giver.  What I’m desperately fumbling around to try to say[!] is that God will equip us to do what he has called us to do. We should recognize a close relationship between calling and gifting. Paul says I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, I think - not meaning I can do anything and everything, but Christ can strengthen me to do everything he is calling me into regardless of how skilled or proficient I feel about it.

What is the role of internationals (ie non natives) in the life of a new church plant?

For us this is important at the moment as we are still in the UK so many of the core group people we are working with are also currently with us in the UK, as are the majority of the apostolic relationships who are either based in the UK or originally from the UK . This is useful at the moment as we are around people we get and who get us.  This is also important in our current situation as we will be moving into a church culture, which has not been particularly influenced by Newfrontiers. This means that the sorts of folk we will be looking to for support and guidance as we seek to bring New Testament church foundations to Helsinki will generally be non-Finnish UK or ex-UK based folk. This is not a preference to only work with those from the UK, but just the way it is at the moment.
The native Finns we have been relating to have been so useful and have given us a greater insight and helped many new doors to open for us. We are so grateful for them and hope that these relationships will continue to flourish when we arrive in Finland.

Can people still move to join you?

Yes please! We are still very much at the gathering and team building stage so we’re open to building relationship with anyone who is sensing a similar call and wants to explore this further. 

How can someone pray for you and your church?

Please pray!
• Pray for relationships as we interact with others who hear about us and try to consolidate the core group.
• Pray for financial provision to help get us out to Helsinki in the first instance, that we might even have some support for a block of time to focus on language learning, getting settled in to the culture and life there and have time to focus on gathering the team. Also for jobs at the right time.
• Pray that in the coming 10 months that things will continue to move forwards and that the momentum keeps going despite not being in Helsinki and having busy work demands etc.
• Pray for Gods protection and blessing over us as a family [especially our three children], as we go through great change and transition.

What one piece of advice would you give to someone feeling called to plant a church somewhere?

Obviously seek God and build your life on him, submit to him and to the authority of your leaders.
Don’t underestimate the importance of relationships in helping you step in to what God has prepared for you. This is so vital so take opportunities to communicate what is on your heart to others, doors may open as a result. God opens the doors for us, but it is also good to be intentional and proactive at putting ourselves in the right situations and contexts to help this happen.

Thank you so much Kevin for this really helpful insight!

Kevin is part of the future Newfrontiers church plant into Helsinki, Finland.

Contact Information:

Email: kjones@ucreative.ac.uk
UK telephone: 07813789318
Twitter: @Kevin_J_Jones

Series so far:

1 - The Hague, Netherlands
2 - Stockholm, Sweden
3 - Riga, Latvia
4 - Smiltene, Latvia