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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Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Time Between Two Leap Years


On the 29th February 2008, it was a special day for me. I had taken Rachel and Mia (then my only child) up to Green Park in London, close to where I used to work. It was Spring in England and the flowers were in their splended brilliance, as they are at that time of year. Years before I'd been standing in that same park, in that same spot, praying for my future wife and about Russia, of which God had first spoken to me about in 1999. It was great to take a photo of the answer to those prayers - Rachel and Mia next to the stunning daffadils. I blogged about that back then (on my old blog, which sadly is no longer available, but some photo's and video of that day are shown!) We were just about to head off to Russia (5 months away), so it was great to have taken them up to London on that sunny spring day and for me to be reminded first hand of the faithfulness of God.
And four years on, 29th February 2012 marks the end of our time in Russia - our last day here and moving out of our flat! We fly on 1st March to Tallinn to start what is the next chapter of things in this part of the world, while of course remaining firmly connected to all that we've seen happen in St Petersburg - we won't forget this city, and these people, very easily!
Four years is a long time and yet it feels also to have flown by, with the realisation that we are now moving on from St Petersburg.
And what will be by 29th February 2016 when the next leap year comes about - well, your guess is as good as mine!
God is good and He is so faithful! When He says something, He'll do it. And most of all, His plans for our lives are far better than our wildest dreams of what we might achieve in ourselves. Give Him some room and see what He does in your life too!

(Here's a clip of me rabbiting on about things that day....)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Three unrelated thoughts...

Perspective;

I recently updated my status (on Facebook) to something like this - when the temperature drops from -5 degrees Celsius to -15, you think "Oh, how cold it is!" When it then dropped to -25 and then starts to rise back up to -15, you then think "Oh, how warm it is!" My point was that the same temperature twice round seemed totally different. And the difference - it depended from what side of the issue you were coming. My conclusions? Well, maybe you are not as hard up as you thought? Maybe your situation is not as bad as you feared? If somebody was coming from the 'other direction' towards what you now see as a problem, would they be grateful for what you wish was different?

Think of the Alternative;

Some might look at church planting, and mission in general, and just think - help. How can we do this? It costs so much, it takes a lot of effort. People need to give money to support those going. Churches budget to give away money when planting out. It's costing costing costing!
Before I go on here, let me add this - no one becomes a church planter to get rich! You sacrifice so much, you need to throw money at each new move, it is costly, and while you couldn't do it without the help from supporters and investors from your home church or home country, you are going to work extremely hard and just cover expenses at the end of the year.
So, back to my original question - why do it if it costs people so much? Well, I tend to approach this by thinking of the alternative. What if no one went? Personally, we might be better off. We may have a salaried job with a more stable life in the UK. Other people would have more money, we'd actually have disposable income! And yet, the world would get left to itself? Spiritually they'd be no better off, and let me tell you straight, neither would us in the UK be either! In fact, I can't even really bring myself to think about this alternative. It horrifies me. So therefore we do go in team (some going physically, many going financially and prayerfully) to the nations and send people, knowing it's our responsibility as Bible believing Christians to take this gospel to all the nations of the world. To not go - the alternatives are simply unbearable, so we go, whatever the personal or financial cost. We go!

The ONE thing all church planters actually need to learn;

Many people I know, certainly many people in their 20s and 30s who have grown up in UK churches since they were young children, are far more theologically sound, than they realise! You see, some say that if you are going into 'full-time Christian work' (what does that mean? When is being a Christian never full-time?) you need to go to theological college, or get some proper training. And while maybe in some settings in the UK that is the best option (and especially for those that have come to faith in adult life and need a solid foundation), for the many out there that have learnt their theology growing up in church, a childlike theology, which sadly often get's replaced with a head knowledge theology so often, I would say there is something better they could learn to really be ready for church planting, and especially in the nations, or in the large UK cities. And that is languages!
Languages will open up nations to you. Languages will give you ways into a closed place. It will allow you to live and work somewhere. It will allow you to get to know people and to communicate well with them. If you've been around church for any length of time in the UK, as I had, you probably don't realise how sound you are in your understanding of the Bible. You probably take this for granted. In Russia, we found there was not this depth in people in the church - understandably so when for so many years God officially didn't exist!
So when we have people visit from the UK, they are often amazed at, what they think, are basic holes in peoples understanding of scripture. I'm not saying that learning theology is not important - no, far from it. But the keys that a local language open up will see Kingdom expansion happen at the kind of rate that it needs to, if we are really to reach the world at the rate it needs reaching. So when you think about applying for that course, maybe give some thought to whether it needs to be theology, or in fact a language, or ten!

Friday, February 10, 2012

St Petersburg Update

I've written a lot recently about our future but in our present we are in the exciting city of St Petersburg, where a new church called Hope Church has been making some rather big steps forward over these last few months. So time for an update from the home front...
July & August 2011 saw the passing of the second summer period for the church and as we passed our second birthday in early September, we could see that our Sunday venue was to be the most pressing thing to address, as numbers were high and space was now very limited.
Dave Henson & I had seen a wonderful venue back in April - at a hotel in the very centre of the city. The problem had been the cost - 20 times what we were currently paying (that's because our existing venue was greatly reduced compared to the normal rate, and this new venue was bigger and at the going rate).
With the summer months passing and the hall full already, we knew our current situation would limit any further growth - for two reasons. First, people might think there was not 'room' for them in Hope Church. Secondly, there was not much room for any more people in the hall!
In the middle of September we took people away for a church weekend - about 40 adults were there. We had invited Andre from Ukraine to come and speak to us, and he took the weekend to speak on faith. It was very encouraging! (It was that weekend that we first shared with the church about our plans for Tallinn, saying at the time how we thought that would mean moving in the summer of 2012, little did we know then!)
What Andre did was to ignite something in us all that was to have real results - and quickly! That very next week, we were to go see the hotel again, offer a reduced rate and see what they said - and they accepted it! We were to meet there from the beginning of October! So I think after the weekend away, we had about two Sunday's in the old hall before the move!
Making the move was to be a real step of faith - but we'd heard God clearly now and so made the step. Financially October onwards would be a testing time - had the church not stepped up so generously, that we saw a 50% - 100% rise in offerings from October to December. It was wonderful to see the whole church united with us in this big (and some might say risky) step.
We now had a venue that could fit up to about 300 people in, maybe a few more, but would also work well from our 60 to about 150 growth, such was the layout of the hall. It would have been hard for a group of 60 not to have felt lost in a much bigger hall. So the venue serves us well.
Little did we know what God had in store for us over the next few months!
About a month into our new hall with all this extra space, another local Pastor came to Dave and shared something he'd been praying about for a year - they were to move back to the US, and instead of their organisation flying in a replacement, he felt he was to shut the church and suggest they join Hope Church. This took some discussion and we are still working through this all, but as a church, they did close down at the end of November, and as Hope Church, we opened our doors to any of those that felt like they could be a part of us in time.
We'd long arranged a conference in December to which David Devenish was coming to, as well as Andre back again from Ukraine, so it was really timely as many people from the closing church were able to come and just get to know folk at Hope. We also had a group from two other small churches outside the city - we'd been asked to help them a little, their pastor a good friend of ours, and this is something we are also starting to working through now as well.
So as we met in December, Sunday attendance was now over 100 adults, plus at times something like 20 children! In our old venue, there would have been no way to have accommodated any more people - but only after we took the step, did we understand why it was so important.
It's now the beginning of February as I write this - in just under three weeks my family move to Tallinn to start the church plant there - this is another big step for Hope Church, to be planting another church less than three years itself having been planted. But praise God we leave behind us a healthy and growing church with a great team leadership - we also leave many friends, people that at most we've known for three and a half years, but relationships forged in pioneering and working hard together, the friendships deep therefore in such a short time.
In October we successfully multiplied the international home group that was meeting in our flat - having gathered about 10 regularly, the first week of the two groups at two new venues on different nights gathered between them 20! And they've continued to be that size. What was exciting, and especially with all these new people coming to Hope Church in December, was last Saturday gathering together 18 of our leaders, and from a discussion that came out of that meeting, multipying our three current home groups into 8!
One challenge we've had since moving into the hotel (which saw lots of new people joining us) is that the sense of Spiritual gifts and contributions in the Sunday meeting has greatly reduced. This could be down to a number of reasons - there has been a lot of change, new people from different church backgrounds are with us, the hall is much bigger, the crowd there bigger too! It just feels harder, or more intimidating to bring something. But its an area we want real break through in. What is clear though is that we are not to under-estimate the work of God.
Someone commented about last Sunday's meeting as being really hard, and worship feeling dry (compared to the near outbreak we'd just seen together on the Saturday with our 18 leaders). I encouraged them with what happened on Sunday - 6 or 7 people had put their hands up in response to the gospel, there were a number of first time visitors, the word was preached - and there was a good offering (January had been the lowest for months and we'd said how the church funds were now really low - so the offering was a sign that people were with us in faith). It's hardly as if God wasn't doing something - people got saved - it's just not the way it used to be.
Of course we do want a stronger sense of the presence and involvement of the Holy Spirit - with the free use of the gifts He so readily gives out. So we won't settle for what we have, but neither can we say God isn't working in us all either!
In time, after we have moved to Tallinn, we will visit Hope Church again (& again) and it'll be great to see this beautiful church continue to flourish and walk into all the promises there are for the church, one of which was that it would plant into Tallinn!
And with that I sign off on my (probably last for a long time!) update on St Petersburg - do keep praying for this great city and it's beautiful church.