Welcome! It's wonderful to see you here!

I'm a passionate writer - and therefore spend most of my time writing thriller novels. But I also live an interesting life in the nations. This blog is here for that aspect of my life - our life - I live with my wonderful wife and two daughters.

I believe in encouragement. I live for obedience. I believe in learning from our experiences, and this blog exists for both of those, and more.

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

I was part of the leadership team in St Petersburg, Russia - which planted Hope Church in 2009.(www.hopechurchstpetersburg.com).
In March 2012 Hope Church sent my family to plant into Tallinn, the Capital of Estonia. I therefore lead this small but growing church plant team. Here is the website for Hope Tallinn (www.hopetallinn.ee)

For details on our journey here, read the series called Adventures of Faith which is linked for you on the right hand column, just below. That details our original journey to Russia and then onto Tallinn 4 years later.

Author for fiction novels - Cherry Picking (2012), The Last Prophet (2015), The Tablet (2015) and The Shadow Man (2016) are available on all major bookselling sites. Please visit: www.timheathbooks.com

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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Breaking New Ground - End of the First Month

It's the evening of Saturday 31st March 2012 - we've been in Tallinn for one month now and this is the final entry in this BNG series.
So much has happened in this time, that had we not written things down along the way, I think much of it would have been forgotten by now.  As I said in the opening entry, I really felt that it was important to record all that took place - testimony is important after all - in the hope that it would encourage hundreds of others to go and do the same in their own city, nation or nations that they move to!
These last two days have been fun - and very relational.  Yesterday we had the day with a wonderful family, who'd traveled up from Valga, which is 3 hours south of us, on the Latvian border.  It was a very encouraging day - their oldest is just three months older than Mia, so they were getting along great!  They have three children - two girls, 6 and 4, and a totally contented little boy (he was so peaceful!) who is 1.  Though we've been in some written contact before, and I think one Skype call, this was the first time we all met each other for real and it was a really fun day for all - we went onto Tallinn zoo after lunch, many of the animals however were not around - the ones that were excited our girls a lot!  (The funniest point was when Mia, in her excitement, pointed out a Seagull like it was some exotic caged animal!).  They've lived in Estonia for two and a half years and both their girls are already fluent in Estonian, like Mia is in Russian, so it's funny to think that with enough exposure, both Mia and Anya too could be speaking that well by 2015.
Today, on another blue sky but still chilly day in Tallinn, especially with the wind, we had a great time hanging out with Barry and Brenda from EVK.  We went up to their house by bus, which is outside of Tallinn about 14km north, the bus ride taking us past such truly beautiful scenery as well as the sea.  We passed some huge houses (I referred to it being like the Beverly Hills of Tallinn!) and when picked up by Brenda from the nearest bus stop, the 5 minute drive to their little neighbourhood was wonderful - they live in a beautiful house in a small community of about 200 homes - all about 500 metres from the sea.  With the sea on one side, the other three are covered with forest.  Stunning!  It was great hanging out and getting to know each other more - the girls felt so at home with them that it almost got too much!
Barry had mentioned before whether I wanted to do any of their Wednesday night teaching sessions, and chatting that through today I've agreed to take this coming Wednesday's session - I want to start on the book of Ruth and use that great story to cover some practical areas.  I've said it's really four parts so we'll see how this week goes as to whether they ask me back for more....
So that's this first month - there has been so much that has happened, and we have really felt blessed to have been a part of it all.  We feel truly honoured that God has got us this far, and we know what he has started he is well able to complete.
The 'Towards Tallinn' series recorded the challenges we faced leading up to moving here, just as this series has covered the first month.  Of course, the challenges don't stop here - it's through them that we grow the most however.  
These next five months will see some of our biggest challenges come to the focus of our prayers as deadlines approach and things need to get done - and for these I now highlight so that you can pray with us for break-through.  Taking new ground is never easy - you only have to see the battles Israel had to fight to possess their promised land.  And with church planting there is a real spiritual element as well.  Years back I called this blog 'Hearing My Heart' because I wanted it to be a place for that very thing.  That in the written word, it would be a place to truly express who I am and what God has put on my heart to share.
And as a father these realities of faith that we're walking into in these next five months throw me time and again onto God as only he knows the way through.  He could use the sale of our house in the UK to go quickly and well which will provide for most, if not all, of our needs these next few months.  Without a quick sale, or without a good price, we face some challenges - which we really ask you to pray for.  Our moving to Tallinn was always in two stages - this first stage where we are renting, but it's the second stage, moving into a purchased property that offers the stability and permanence, though at a challenge.  In July we have to pay the balance of the purchase for our new flat - having paid 15% already (which was borrowed and needs returning!) we aim to finance most of the rest through a home loan here in Tallinn - but that is likely to at most be 75% of the value - the other 10%, close to twenty thousand euros, we'll need to have found ourselves (again, the quick sale of our UK house should provide both this and the deposit money borrowed).  We have to put the kitchen into the flat, which we have lined up.  We'll also need some furniture, as having rented and moved to two countries these last four years, most of the big items we've given away before each move.  And once moved, though not totally essential, we'd really like a car.
Once again, a quick and decent priced sale of our UK house would basically solve all of these - this isn't me asking for money!  Just your fervent prayer in this house sale situation!
As for those churches and individuals that do support us monthly, or by one off gifts, we thank you so much - this support accounts for about 75% of our income and we really couldn't be here without it - we'd be totally stranded in fact!  And inevitably over these last four years we have seen a drop off in this kind of giving, which is totally natural and normal, but as we start life again, and look to build things here in Tallinn, it might be that there are those around the world that as a family, or as part of a church, do want to start investing a little each month into the work here in Tallinn.  These next 18 months are certainly going to be our most vulnerable time and if, after praying about this, you do feel that there is someway you could get involved in this way, we'd love to hear from you and help you to do that.
You can email me on: timintallinn@gmail.com

So what are our highlights of this first month;
- Meeting Leo and Shani on that first day
- Enjoying our new flat and receiving our furniture here
- 'Bumping' into so many people in the local shop and play-ground
- Getting to know the churches more - 'EVK' and 'Missio' - and the relationships that go with these!
- Meeting with Tiina, an Estonian lady
- Seeing others interested in what is going on here
- Starting our Estonian (which we learn't today was a little old fashioned!)

We thank you all so much for following us on this adventure - this is not the end, nor the beginning of the end - it is merely the end of the beginning.

Tomorrow I will put an entry together that includes all the posts this month, as well as from our journey to Tallinn and our original journey to Russia.  Thanks for reading - and see you in Tallinn soon!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

BNG - 17

What's special about this photo, taken from our flat, was that back in January 2011, when we had just arrived here on holiday from St Petersburg, with no personal idea yet that we'd be moving to Tallinn, we traveled down Tartu Mnt, the street we now live on, on our way to the hotel we were staying in back then.  And being dark (it was wintertime!) I distinctly remember passing these shops and offices, the orange, red, green and white signs lit up from behind to shine out into the night.  After the airport, it was certainly my first memory of Tallinn.  And now, 14 months on from then, we live in a flat directly opposite these same shops and offices as residents of Estonia.  So I guess you just never know what impressions from the past are going to be relevant to your present!
As this month has pressed on, we've thrown ourselves at trying to get settled and into a rhythm as soon as possible - and four weeks on from first arriving, I guess the freshness is wearing off and the realities setting in.  By this time in the week we are rather tired!
Routine is something we constantly fought for in St Petersburg (routines changed as quickly as the season's such was the lifestyle there!) but maybe our fierce routine is adding some challenges as well to life here....
Yesterday started as normal - Rachel home schooling Mia and I went with Anya to the local shop so that she could play in the play area, and I could finally get to do some editing on my book (this was the third attempt, which got me to the last chapter, and I managed to do that last chapter this morning with the same routine with Anya!).  Before going, I had prayed for appointments - of the Godly kind!  It is too easy to go through life and miss out on so much - my understanding is that if you pray, and then wonder if God would have you speak to that person you've noticed you've probably therefore already had your answer!  Go speak to them.
Sitting at my table, finishing up my typing, it was very obvious that just behind me were two retired British tourists.  They were looking at things on the map (getting rather lost by the sound of things) so packing up, I asked them if they needed help - the man's first words were "Your English is very good!" which was funny - we have noticed here that even among Estonians and Russians, it's always assumed that we are Estonian, before anything else.
What was really funny was that here in Tallinn, this couple who said they were from Derbyshire in the UK, sitting drinking a coffee in the cafe at Stockmann's, once they asked me what I did, it was great to point them to the only church contact I had off the top of my head, a church run, and extremely nice coffee shop in Derbyshire called The Source, which is in the town of Buxton.  Whether they ever go, I will no doubt never know - but it is funny to think that they might one day walk into that cafe, and say they heard about it from a guy in Tallinn.  They are not church goers, at the moment, but seeing as they like coffee shops it seemed a good intro!
Last night I went out for a drink with Leo - and this time the conversation really opened up a lot!  I could see some real depth in this friendship already.  It was starting from something as simple as national service that led to me briefly sharing the central truth of the gospel - that because of what Jesus did for us on the cross, I can be forgiven, saved and know for certain I'm going to heaven.  Can you see the link?  As an Israeli, he said how all men and women at 18 have to serve in the army - men for three years, women for two.  His sister is just about to join.  He said growing up, all mums tell their young boys that by the time they are old enough, there will be world peace - they want to believe that anyway, he said.  I then asked if there actually ever would be peace - does the Bible teach us that - and that maybe only in Heaven would we see perfect peace.  He had some interesting ideas about heaven - and even said maybe God has a different plan for me - until I stated that I know for sure I'm going to Heaven, and he then asked how I had this assurance.  Starting with the phrase 'the Bible is very clear on this' I shared how - his straight forward yet understanding response was just "Oh, I see".  Maybe he doesn't have such assurance of eternal life.  
We then talked very openly about Jesus - I had some very genuine questions about his understanding of the man, which as a historical figure, Leo doesn't deny - they just don't believe in him.  I want Leo to have that same level of assurance about life, and death, that I know.  Please pray for this couple as we get to know them more.
This afternoon I also met with Brett, the American we met on Sunday who heads up the ministry 'Serve The City'.  It was a very pleasant two hours and I shared a lot about New Frontiers and especially the foundations in church planting that come from the Apostolic and Prophetic.  We shared stories.  It was good to learn so much from him and understand in greater detail what they are planning on doing - he'll only be in Tallinn for another year, local's will take things on once he's moved.  He's going to Berlin to set things up there next.
Brett did mention a monthly Pastor's meeting, the last Wednesday of every month (which I therefore missed for March, being yesterday!) so that will further build relationships if I can make the next one or two.
Our Estonian started well on Tuesday night - we were due to have another tonight, so we'll see.  The main phrase we learnt was to ask 'how are you' to which the reply is 'Well, thanks'.  So here it is;  Kuidas sa elad? (Literally 'how do you live?') the reply being 'Tänan, Hästi'
Finally, continuing to look at what are the distinctives and essentials that will make up church-life here in Tallinn the second will be a place that unites the nations like only the church can.
Estonia has a difficult history - that has led to cultural differences between the native Estonians and the Russians.  It's got to be through the church that these two communities, divided by so much historical conflict, truly stand side by side, as brothers and sisters in Christ.  So as one of those churches in Tallinn, we too want to be a place that brings people together, not keeps them apart.  This has huge implications on how we do things and especially which language we use, and we can only reflect the team we have with us too, to some degree.  But at heart we want to be open for all people - whatever their background.  Because we know that there is a level of unity, a depth of love that is only found in Jesus - and we can't keep this truth, this wonderful mystery, to ourselves!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

BNG - 16

This is the view from our flat up Tartu Mnt (Tartu Street) yesterday on what was another sunny day - which ended snowing and today was not so nice! Still the snow has nearly all gone from the ground, so winter is nearly over.
This entry is the last of three posts I will do in this series - with the next two being on Thursday and then Saturday, 31st March, which ends our first month here in Tallinn, the beginnings of our life here and the encounters which we hope, though have no way of knowing which ones, lead to the start of the church plant.
On the 1st April I will put together a summary of this whole series, as well as our back story, in one reference related entry that hopefully puts everything in one place. I'll also include some of the final statistics on what has been the most visited and read month for this blog - literally in your hundreds, and from all over the world! Thank you for walking this with us.
Yesterday was a good start to the week. Mia was back into home schooling - she is making progress. Today, she read me a book which was quite complicated and later I heard her reading it to her (toy) rabbit without any mistakes! So she is doing great - that must be down to her teacher (!) and your prayers!
I went with Anya to the play ground - our original gold mine of contacts, but I didn't meet anyone yesterday, which is the first time that I haven't! After that there was some organising to do - booking tickets for the coach to Riga in May, and other things - we were to be shown a lot more later by our visitor.
That's because for dinner, we'd invited our new local Estonian friend to come for dinner - we've mentioned her in the past having met with her for coffee in our flat in about the second week. We're understanding more of the church scene from her and the idea of doing treasure hunting in Tallinn came up - I think she'd get some folks together if I'd be happy to lead (at least) the first session....so we'll let you know when this is happening!
It was a really nice time and Mia especially seemed to take to her, kissing her good night after giving her complements, like how good she smelt!
She also showed us some useful things on the computer - so helpful to have a locals input - like how to buy the travel tickets, now that we have our ID cards, which if using the buses regularly, is much cheaper than keep buying the books of tickets.
Yesterday I also confirmed a few meet ups for this week - a coffee with Brett from Serve The City (who we met on Sunday), a drink with Leo on Wednesday night and firming up the plans with Arnoud for Friday.
Today, after a shorter home schooling session, we made our way to a kitchen shop, as we had an appointment booked there. For months already we've been in contact with this lady, as for our new flat it comes finished, minus the kitchen! It does mean we can make it what we really want, so months ago we started contact, thinking then that we'd need to do it all from Russia. Little did we know that we'd be living here so soon and able to go together in person and talk through all the options. I include this here because it's all part of the mix of things you have to deal with when moving somewhere new, and though today was in English, it is complicated arranging such things when you are doing it through another language. We were there for about 2 and a bit hours - the girls did so well entertaining themselves and we think we are nearly there with everything - this kitchen, which we expect to help us host so many people down the years once in our new flat.
Tonight Rachel and I start our home-school Estonian lessons. We were given a coursebook for Christmas and thought before we have proper lessons with a professional Estonian teacher, as we will need in time, we'd start the basics, very slowly no doubt, working through this book in the evenings, at least twice a week - so tonight we start! Please pray for our Estonian learning - we do need this local language as well, so it'll be good to grow our knowledge of the language past the few words we already know!
And tomorrow Mia starts ballet classes - after looking for classes in the last two years in St Petersburg, we've finally found something that works for the family, so pray that Mia would make lots of friends and really enjoy her ballet, which will be twice a week.
And I'll finish by starting to answer this question, which I'll continue through the next entries - What are the distinctives and essentials that will make up church-life here in Tallinn?
1) - After our conversation last night, the first is certainly a clear sense and demonstration of the Presence of God. Estonians, we are told, are private people. The statistics we've talked about here already clearly show that very few believe in the God of the Bible. And people are very happy to state religion has no part in their daily life. More and more over these last few weeks we've come to realise that without God breaking through in the supernatural, it'll be very hard for us to reach out to the Estonians living here. And even within the Russians, those that have grown up here all their lives have this same element, to some degree, of being private about faith and belief. The people need to see God working in their lives. We need to be taking God with us onto the streets and, we pray, seeing healings, miracles and more in order to fully demonstrate what life with God is all about.
So please pray for this important element - this essential part of who we need to be. Pray for the outbreak of God in the streets of this city, and for the boldness of the team (in time when we have them, as well as on us now at the moment) to step out in faith!
Thanks for reading - until Thursday, keep running on your adventure with God and we'll speak to you soon! Be blessed!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

BNG - 15 : 25 Days Later

With the clocks changing last night (our first change for a year as Russia did not change their clocks last October) it means now, approaching 8pm, we still have a blue and sunny evening - and it's only going to stay lighter later from here on. Quite how it will compare to the White Nights of St Petersburg, which saw sunshine at midnight, we wait excitedly to see!
We're coming to the end of our fourth weekend in Tallinn since arriving on 1st March. Next Sunday is a month already, but before then we have a busy week, and before that we have a few things to share from these last few days.
This morning we went to a new church - 'Missio' co-led by Heigo, who I met with a week ago, and who through a couple of mutual friends, we'd been put in touch with a month or so before leaving Russia. I shared for about 10 minutes at the end of the meeting about what we are here for, but the main focus was saying we want friends and help! Though a small church (two small churches actually merged a year ago and there were about 25 there today) it had a great family feel and a real hunger and sense of the Presence of God. We connected with the other co-leader, who head's up Alpha in Estonia. There is an Alpha conference here in April. There was also another visiting American there, who shared an update on what he is doing. He's been here for 3 years and working with something called Serve The City. Its aim is simply to get people serving this city in practical ways (eg soup kitchens, medical aid) and while serving together, Christians and not-yet Christians build relationships and forge good friendships, while benefiting the city at large. He said half his volunteers and half his leaders are not yet believers. His name is Brett and we'll be meeting with him again, I might grab a coffee with him this coming week, and we'll look at ways to get involved more.
We also met an Estonian teacher there, so when we're a little more organised and the finances have settled so that we can see how we're doing, we'll know who to ask for lessons!
Dropping my mum back at the airport yesterday on the bus, I was joyed once again by this city to be able to go there and back, including her checking in and going through customs, and with the two journeys and waiting for each bus, still it was all done in just 40 minutes. True, we live near the airport, but the city has this manageable feel to it that never ceases to surprise.
On Friday, at the playground, Rachel did meet with one of the mums she'd connected with last week - the other had contacted her before to say she couldn't be there due to illness of her child. Please pray for those we meet regularly with, especially these parents at the local play ground. Later on Friday, in the local Stockmann supermarket next to us, we took the girls to play in the play area and after some encouragement, Mia got playing so nicely with a younger Russian girl - and then Anya, now left to her own devises by her sister, quickly made her own friend, a girl a bit order than her. So for about 30 minutes they were all playing so nicely. We left contact details with Mia's new friend, also called Anya, in case they want to play again. It might sound quite organised friendship making by us, but with everyone she's ever known either in England or Russia, we really see that Mia needs other friends who she can just be a little girl with!
And finally, in the last entry I mentioned that I would talk a little about the wider scene, things that we'll be involved in that aren't necessarily just in Tallinn, but wider, building largely on the contacts and community that makes New Frontiers a true family on mission together. In mid April I plan to be going south to a small town in central Estonia, home of an Englishman named Simon and his family. This is a regular monthly meeting of prayer and encouragement and comes out of some other contacts, one being David Jones, who is in Latvia and will be at this meeting, and another being Arnoud, a Dutchman who lives in very Southern Estonia, on the Latvian border. Arnoud and his wife and children are actually coming to see us in Tallinn on Friday. We are really looking forward to spending the day with them, getting to know them, hearing their story, and learning what God might be opening up for them in their future. We don't know what God has in store but it'll be great to meet others who've been living in Estonia for some time with the same heart for mission and church planting as we have. So please pray they all have a safe journey and that they have a great day in Tallinn!
In May I will also be travelling wider still - probably for one weekend to St Petersburg (though this is yet to be confirmed for certain) and once for sure to Riga, on the first weekend of May, for the NEW EUROPE conference, which is really the Riga church plant hosting a weekend for those interested in church planting, or being involved in someway, in the New Europe area, ie Eastern European countries. I've been building a good relationship with Matt in Riga for a year now, so personally it'll be great to see him and his home city. As a family we've also talked about taking short trips to Helsinki and Stockholm, all possible in a day from Tallinn, and much more doable now than when the girls all start at school in August. Both these cities have church plant teams arriving in the next year or so too.
In this coming week, as well as Friday with this great family, we have an Estonian lady coming for dinner (probably tomorrow night) and are also going for dinner at Barry and Brenda's next Saturday afternoon.
And between here and then, there is a whole week of possibilities. A week to meet new people. A week to build on relationships already starting. A week to see what God is doing and doing our best to do the same! And everything that happens (well, the best bits anyway!) you can read about right here, as we enter the last week of our first month, and therefore the last few entries of this Breaking New Ground series. You've been reading in your hundreds, and this we find hugely encouraging. We thank God that you are praying for us. And do keep praying - pray whether some of you can come visit. Pray whether God would have you involved here in the short-term or moving here for the long term. Pray all sorts of prayers - God is waiting to answer your most extreme prayers and bless you with even more. Until next time...

Thursday, March 22, 2012

BNG - 14

So our furniture has arrived! It came yesterday afternoon, a little delayed - and this because the van bringing it from Russia had broken down 50km from Tallinn, and then again at the Custom's office here in the city - so two vans arrived at our flat - a blue one with our stuff that we last saw on 29th February, and a yellow van that was towing the blue one!
Most of the boxes will stay like that - we're trying to unpack as little as possible to make the move to our permanent flat a lot easier come the summer!

Today I've managed to tidy this room up a little so that we have the desk, from which I type this update, and a spare bed set up, where my mum will sleep tonight, thereby having her own room - a welcome break no doubt, as you'll hear about next.
Adjustment has been a word going through my head these last few days, and I think we're starting to see some of the adverse effects coming out, especially in the girls. Emotions are running high, tears can come on suddenly, and sleep patterns are certainly hard! For Anya, she's sleeping for the first time away from us, having had no option in Russia but to have her in our room. So Anya has been waking up a lot in the night and calling out and taking a while to settle - a problem now as she's sharing with Mia, and for the last few days, my mum as well. At least my mum should not be disturbed tonight. For Mia the adjustment is more emotional - missing friends, missing her teachers. Missing a life that she'd got used to with people she'd got used to and liked very much. She's also now sharing a room - in Russia she was in a tiny room that was joined to the lounge, but was windowless. Here, as well as being with Anya (which she loves, most of the time), there's windows and street noise. We've blacked things out as best we can, but it's still different for her. Hopefully, with the furniture now here and more familiar items around (for example Anya was in her cot again last night, though still woke up a bit) they'll soon settle. But there is no way of knowing fully how they are adjusting to the move - for Anya, Russia is all she's known - for Mia, it's a third country in her 6 years. Please pray that we all adjust well and quickly.
Custom's clearance yesterday was done well and quickly, and praise God, was a little less than we had been told it might be - that being said, the total moving cost getting us from St Petersburg to Tallinn (only 220 miles, but crucially across the EU border) came in at 2,825 euros, and we praise God that Hope Church, our sending church in St Petersburg, gave us 1,700 euros from a special offering towards this, thereby contributing 60% of the cost themselves! Thank you guys - without your generosity things would have been that much harder.
Now for some news updates - Yesterday, as mentioned in my previous blog, Rachel went to see the school, meeting with the current Director and the new Director, who starts in the summer. The meeting was really positive and went as well as could have been hoped, so thanks for your prayers. Please do pray that there is a good intake of new students this year at the school as that opens better options - some good contacts were made and we'll mention more on those as things open up.
Finally yet another 'random' bumping into someone - building on the last one which was the waitress we'd met who lives where we are moving to in the summer, well today at the out of town shopping centre* that the girls have gone to, all that way there and who should they see? Leo and Shani - this led to my mum being given a free makeover and yet more contact with this couple. It seems God is bringing them to our attention more and more so we'll keep building with them, and all those we keep seemingly randomly meeting here in Tallinn. *On the way to the shopping centre Rachel asked a lady on the bus for some details - and this same lady, who recognised Rachel as well, was the very one working in the children's play area at the same shopping centre that the girls went to. Maybe it's just a smaller city thing? Maybe it's something more?
Next time round I'll share some of the wider things that are happening - we are part of a global family of churches, that is our main reason for being here. These will see us getting involved in things outside of Tallinn so more on that soon...

Missed something? You can read the last 5 blogs simply by clicking on the entry on the right hand side in the Hearing My Heart section - each opens into a new window (for those reading this directly on the blog!).

Our UK house also is now for sale on the web - here is a link - please, if you know of anyone remotely interested, do let them know;

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

BNG - 13

Today in Tallinn the blue skies returned! Everywhere always looks that little bit better on a sunny day, and our new home city is no exception!
This photo was taken from outside our flat - it's also the view from our kitchen window - the Swissotel is one of the tall hotels that make up the skyline of New Tallinn, or the City Centre. In front of the hotel in the photo is the building next to us, with it's tall Soviet Era symbols one of only a few that remain in Tallinn, as most were removed in some way in 1991 when Estonia regained it's independence.
This morning we heard back that our lorry had cleared the border and was due to arrive at customs here in Tallinn tomorrow morning - we'll then be told the custom's amount we have to pay (hopefully not too much as it's not worth that much!) and then, according to the guy in charge of this end of things, we might receive our stuff tomorrow as well....so we'll see. Rachel is going to the school tomorrow, something arranged last week, to talk with the Director and meet the new Director who starts in the summer. So please pray for that - and maybe by the time she arrives home again after that, we'll have a lot of boxes here!

Walking to the bus station today on our way to show my mum our new flat, I took some photo's of various buildings, the one on the right looking rather good today! Under that is a photo of the Viru Keskus shopping centre, keskus being Estonian for 'centre', but Viru is Finnish for 'Estonia'....so it's the Estonia Centre, but in two different languages!
Walking up to what will soon be our flat, it was great (and strange) seeing people in what will be our bedroom and the kitchen working hard at getting it finished for us. May God bless the work of their hands!

At the beach, which is now sandy again with so much of the snow now melted, the more urgent situation, and cause for an ambulance to race past us and two fire engines (rather dramatic, maybe, as you'll see) was that with the melting conditions, clearly some children who'd gone out walking on the frozen sea (as we'd done about two weeks ago when it was colder) were now cut off and therefore needed rescuing, the firemen carrying them to safety one by one.
We'd also come here to film our 'Intro' video for this US TV show that had contacted us. Being too windy by the sea, we went back near to our flat, and after a few goes, got something on film, which at 36 seconds, isn't going to win any Oscars, but has been submitted and received very positively, so we'll await more news on this most interesting side show.
And yet more interesting still, when reaching the bus stop to get the bus to town, was the lady we 'bumped' into, again! For those that have read all 12 entries so far (well done for that!) you may recall us referring to a restaurant that we like, and we'd been there on Sunday for Mother's Day, as we'll as for Anya's birthday. Both times we were served by Laura, an Estonian lady who is very good at her job! Now, these two times we'd seen her was the other side of town, way up near Pirita. And yet, at the bus stop, miles from the restaurant, suddenly she is standing there and actually says hello to Rachel first! And better still, when Rachel said where we'd just been, she said she lived nearby - and we said the street (the new development, ours being the last two of 16 apartment blocks being built) she said she lived there too! We know this will not be the last time we see Laura....what God has in store for her life, we look forward to finding out!
And I just had a call from Leo, asking how things are and saying that we just need to let them know when the four (therefore the 6 of us!) can get a coffee together.
So it's been a day of different things - out there a US production team is considering whether to use our family in a Tallinn episode of their relocation show. Elsewhere, more local, these dozen or so people that we've met in the last three weeks are moving around, getting on with their lives and connecting with us at random times, as today's encounter shows.
Another refreshing day in Tallinn....and tomorrow (maybe) our furniture arrives, but prayers needed for favour on Rachel as she visits the school the girls are hopefully going to in August!

Monday, March 19, 2012

BNG - 12

My mum is with us at the moment, which is allowing us to do some site seeing (or revisiting the places we know already!). But that doesn't stop with the meeting of new people!
Having taken the bus to the airport on Saturday night to meet my mum, not ten minutes after meeting her and waiting for the return bus did I meet a lady, who'd been on the same flight, and started talking - she was from Tallinn but had lived in the UK for 6 years - and I was the one saying how sunny it had been here! Because, since writing here that we'd had 14 out of 15 blue sky days since arriving, we've now had 3 grey days and this morning it was full on snowing! I didn't speak for long with this lady, because as I pointed out to her at the time, I'd not really spoken to my mum by that point so had better sort that one out!
At church on Sunday, we were also asked for our details by an American/Estonian family - the wife is from here originally but they all live in the US now. He was asking me all about church planting and it was helpful for me to get things clear as I was explaining what it was - all he'd seen in the past was when one big church sends out hundreds to make two good sized churches, which is also another form of church planting, but different to what we are doing here!
And being Mothering Sunday in the UK yesterday, we went out for some food at one of our favorite places (can we say that after three weeks??) And just sitting down, our girls starting to play with the Lego there, we heard English being spoken and it was Rachel (who went out of her way to hang Anya's coat up on the pegs so that she would pass these people!) who made contact. He is Canadian (Rodney), and she is Estonian (Kia), though they've lived in Tallinn for many years, and have children a similar age to ours. They were very local to that restaurant, actually living in a house (not a flat!) nearby. Details were exchanged (we are starting to make sure we get emails so that we can be in contact) and they seemed really open to further contact.
During the snow this morning, I went to pick up my ID card (pictured above), which I did without any problems, so now am fully registered to live and work in Estonia! Praise God for His wonderful hand on us in this process! Rachel picked her's up later on today as well (I had intended on getting both, but you have to sign for them individually, so that meant I couldn't). We are still trying to work out all the ways we can use them, but I know I can travel in Europe just with this card (no need for my passport). And I think you can do banking with it and pay for travel around the city.....So the photo is to mark a significant day for us!
There are also two photos below taken from our front window - one showing the view into New Tallinn city centre (as opposed to the Old Town, where we went today) and the other a close up of the road sign, reminding us how close these other Capital cities are.
And on the tourist front, Tallinn really is a lovely city to look around - small enough to quite easily navigate and old enough to turn up plenty of surprises. We went to 'Olde Hansa' today, which is a medieval restaurant in the Old Town, dating from the 15th century, I think. It's all 15th century food and costume - on the menu are things like Bear, Wild Bear and Elk! We went for the slightly less wild Mushroom soup, which is very creamy and very good!
And that's the great thing of planting in a historic city like Tallinn - you get to do both worlds, and every time a visitor arrives, we get to show them around!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

BNG - 11

Yesterday morning we started with me at home doing my UK remote work on the computer, and Rachel went to the play-ground (which I've called a gold mine of contacts) - and it didn't disappoint!
While there she met two ladies who she talked with, introduced them to each other, and got their contact details! They even arranged to meet back there the same time next week! One lady was Russian, named Tanya, and the other lady, Elisa, was Finnish and has been in Tallinn for two months. Rachel really felt positive about these two connections, and it seems once again, God has continued to open up new contacts for us this first month.
In the afternoon I met with Heigo who is co-Pastor at the church 'Missio' - an Estonian church here in Tallinn. I really liked him and he had a great easy going and open personality. We will share a little at his church on Sunday 25th March. When there, he'll introduce us to a few people, including his co-Pastor, who heads up Alpha in Estonia, as well as a visiting American guy who is linking churches together in the city, and an Estonian teacher, for when we start lessons!
While working yesterday there was a crash outside on the road in front of the flat - a car, turning but clearly not checking properly, had been hit by a tram. Like in Russia, the trams in both directions stopped and started to back up - people getting off and walking. The car initially wasn't moved. Again, like in Russia, after an accident all vehicles are left as they stopped, in order for the police to do the report - this would lead to huge delays and only added to the difficulty in moving around the city. So I was interested to keep an eye on what would happen with this tram.
What did happen was that after maybe 30 minutes, with lots of pointing, looking and then papers being signed, suddenly, and without the police arriving, the car was reversed, then both lines of trams started going again, and the car drove off! So the whole system seems to be a bit faster - it's not the same as the UK, where vehicles would be moved to the side of the road before details were written down, in order to keep the traffic moving, but it wasn't like Russia where literally it can be hours just waiting for the police to arrive.
My mum arrives later today for a week - our first visitor, and still no furniture! We expect this at some point this coming week.
And finally, we've started to get up to speed with some photos and videos etc. If you haven't seen them already on Facebook, here are some photos we've just added;

And here is an Animoto video we've put together marking leaving St Petersburg;

Until next time!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

BNG - 10 - Two weeks in

For those of you that have been following this Breaking New Ground series, where I have been writing (nearly) everyday about our initial thoughts, encounters and experiences of moving to Tallinn, I wanted to do this because I really felt for the first month it'll be important and hopefully interesting. That's not to say after the month I won't update, but I wanted some record of this initial period that uses our mistakes, struggles and challenges of moving to a new country, so that maybe others can draw encouragement when facing similar issues.
I'm now typing again on our main laptop, working correctly having been picked up yesterday. That means I'll get some photo's on here soon, and maybe the odd video - you never know! And about half an hour ago I got an email saying that (I think anyway) my ID card is ready! So that's great news. We'll wait to hear about Rachel's too before going in and picking them up.
Rachel felt stirred this morning about God as Holy - alone, I was then singing the song Holy, Holy. And then to the same tune of the chorus, these slightly adjusted words just came out;

Life Up Your Voice, and sing to Tallinn
Lift Up His Word, in this City
Come Lord Jesus and Show Your Power
For You Are Worthy to be Praised!

Taking Anya with me to go to the post office, this time I walked there and back, praying on the way that God would give his church this city. I got there in about 30 minutes (again, I love how you can cross this city in just half an hour!) and came back via the Old Town - with all the broken walls - and was reminded that He is the Repairer of Broken Walls!
Revival fires once burned bright in Tallinn - our prayers are that those fires will once again be lit here and will never go out!

Mia's home schooling is going really well. She's making great progress already which is great to see, and has finished her first week, as I am working again on Friday morning's now for my UK job so can't be with Anya.
Today we were finally able to send the contract to the Stockport estate agents appointing them to sell our house - please pray that God does a miracle in this - not only are we looking for a quick sale, in these next 3 months, but a decent price will make a huge difference for us in relation to getting a car this summer (which is a huge prayer!) and getting essential furniture for our new flat this summer.
And while I was catching up on all these little jobs, like emailing the agents, Rachel took the girls to the Russian market just up the road from us. It sounds a great experience, and great for Russian language practice and contacts. They came back with a few items, and mention of some of the places there. We'll go explore again together soon!
Last night Rachel went to dinner with Shani - this lady is really struggling with the adjustment to life in Tallinn, and is just in need of friends, and time. She is also asking for Russian lessons from us (Rachel will teach her, and I will probably teach Leo). So this is a little unexpected!
We heard today that our furniture will not arrive this week - we presume next week therefore, but with my mum arriving on Saturday, it makes it a little interesting for us - but we have a solution (in case you are reading this mum)!
And finally a Team update, as I said I would do yesterday. We heard from the Russian girl from Hope Church, a few days back and she said how God is confirming more and more in her heart about Tallinn, so that is exciting. She'll come visit in April and will look for work then. So please pray ahead of her arrival.
We've met with an Estonian lady and talked with her about whether she feels she might want to be involved - it is very early days, and after all, we've not got much to actually get involved with yet, but we'll get to know her more and there are several events this summer that will see us all involved in together as well.
Wider, there are a couple of women praying things through and looking at options to get here. Please pray for open doors for them if it's right that they are to be with us - those God does call to Tallinn - we want nothing to stop them coming!
It would be great to also pray that at least one other family feel God calling them to join us - as well as our kids having people their age, I'd also appreciate some male company!
So we've now been here for two weeks - the locals say the weather is not that good, but we've had 14 blue sky days out of 15, which isn't bad in my books.
I'm meeting with a local Pastor tomorrow afternoon, so am looking forward to that.
In my next entry (which might not be tomorrow night) I'll add some photo's in from our first week. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

BNG - 9

Today continued the theme of the week - yet more contacts, yet more conversations. But first, this...
On our first Sunday here, Mia had the memory verse to learn, the three words being "Pray without ceasing" (1 Thes 5:17) - what was funny was when Mia first repeated it to us on the way home, she said 'Pray without sitting' which we kind of like the idea of as well! It speaks of active prayer, prayer walking even. And the prayer theme has been with me all day and I knew I was to mention it here tonight.
You see prayer is CENTRAL to church planting. Without it, the jobs impossible. It's vital to set quality time aside to pray, listen, read and just enjoy God. It's great to thank him for what he is doing. We've made it a point of covering this whole process in prayer - and we've been deliberate in asking hundreds of others to as well. That's because we've learned the importance, and absolute necessity of prayer in our own life and the life of the church.
Here now we try and start our day with prayer. When we went to Russia we set aside Tuesday lunchtime to pray and fast, and our original Russia Facebook group was born out of that as we'd send out prayer pointers every Tuesday for people to pray with us about. Here we've set Monday morning aside, as well as giving Monday evening (the start of the evening once the girls are in bed) to praying for each other, and for this city and all things related to the church plant - and this is something we only want to grow. We've never been shy about the connection with prayers prayed all around the world and what has happened on the ground in our lives, back in Russia, and now here in Tallinn. It's sometimes a tangible connection. Therefore, a church planting tip - pray without ceasing, and if you can do it without sitting, well, in my book that's even more fun!
Picking up on some things that came up this last week, and today we submitted the questionnaire for the US TV show House Hunters International - we still need to record a 3 minute video for them, which is proving a little more tricky, but we'll figure something out. I also got the call that the laptop had been returned, so I've picked that up - but with our furniture yet to arrive, we still don't have a desk to put it on....I'll work something out tomorrow, I hope.
As has been usual this week, I went out with Anya this morning to the play ground, and this time spoke with three parents - and stop press, today there was a dad there! His name is Mart, and he's Estonian, though we spoke in English (he was rather rusty). He owns his own business, an antiques shop, and works just 12 - 6pm, which is why he was able to be at the park with his two youngest this morning. His 5 year old son was talking lots with Anya in Estonian - I don't know what she made of it! We talked all about church and what we were here to do, he even asked about what language we'd meet in.
Anya continues to be a great help and intro - she's really my mission partner in the playground. Without her I'm potentially some strange man speaking to mainly (but not all, now, thanks to Mart this morning!) women in the park!
Anya was attracting the attention of a younger Russian girl who wanted to hold her hand, though this time Anya was not having much of it. I did speak with two Estonian mums briefly, one that Anya had been playing with, and the other, as we were leaving, being a mum I've seen already there this week so it creates opportunity for conversation in future - and better still, we plan that Rachel will go with Anya and Mia to the park on Friday morning, so as long as the mums still recognise Anya, they'll soon work out that the strange man really does have a wife named Rachel!
Speaking of Rachel she is out again tonight - God really has been doing something since we arrived here. It's 14th March, so we've been here 14 days. In that time, Rachel has had two evening events and I've had one. These have all come since being here. She's at a meal with Shani now, the Israeli lady we met on our first day here. So we'll see what comes from this.
Thanks for following this all with us and for all your texts, comments and 'likes' on facebook - it's really encouraging! And for Iva, sweet dreams!
Tomorrow we'll bring you up to date with the Team situation, as well as, of course, all that happens during the day! Blessings all!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

BNG - 8

This week has seen a change (albeit slight) to life in Tallinn, as home schooling for Mia has started in the mornings, and I'm focusing a little more on setting up students to teach English to - but for the mornings am entertaining Anya, which opens up its own kinds of contacts....
Monday morning - it's 9:15am and I am in the park with Anya. New week. New contacts. It seems the play ground is a gold mine of contacts - the only slight issue being that as most of them are women, I don't want it to seem something it isn't! There were several ladies there with their children, two or three were also there again today, and Anya is a great intro into this world!
The lady, Natalie, that I got speaking to for over an hour actually asked me a question first. She was a Russian speaking Estonian, though also knows Estonian and English - her son Lukka was a little bit younger than Anya. I ended by giving her my English teaching Business Card and then said I'd give her Rachel's mobile number so they could speak directly - she took her number, so we'll see. No doubt I'll bump into her again there at some point anyway.
This morning there were a few Estonian mums I recognised from yesterday and Anya was being friendly to their children - so we'll see how these go. Being local and regular, it's not like we have to force anything, but let God open up the conversations as he does - all we ever have to do is be prayerful, willing and to open our mouths when prompted!
Rachel spoke with Shani yesterday, the lady we met on our first night, and they are meeting up tomorrow night - I met with her partner on Saturday night.
Teaching wise, I approached three companies yesterday - one being Microsoft, who have their main office just down the road from us. I'd be surprised if I hear back from any of them. But I'll keep praying.
Today I needed to go to the customs office to complete a form (so that the removal firm can clear our items through the border) - it's these little bits that keep you on your toes when you move somewhere new. On this journey I had the owner of the removal firm with me and we were talking about why we are here. We seemed to get on well, so we'll see what our future contact brings. He also suggested some places I could approach for teaching. Skype being one of them.
And first thing this morning, before the park, I set out with Anya to find the main post office, as similar to Russia, we'd received a parcel notification that meant we needed to go and pick it up. Unlike Russia though, where the post office was a 10 minute walk around the corner, here it's the other side of town so we walked to the main bus station and got the number 40, which we'd got on Saturday as that takes us to our new apartment, and I got off and finally found the building. Unlike Russia, there was no queue, and it was a very quick process! And my opening line there, like many places, went like this - Do you speak English - No, (in Russian) - or Russian? Yes....praise God that we have Russian to use when needed, because time and time again, it's this language we need instead of English to be able to communicate easily.
I also had an email from the Scottish guy we met the other day, so it's good that he wants contact, and I spoke with another local Pastor today and will meet with him this Friday afternoon, and he's invited me to share a little at his church, so we'll discuss when best to do that.
And finally, it's been really encouraging to see (from the stats on this blog) how many people, from all around the world, are reading this and following our early days with us. It shows us that we are not alone and brings comfort that you are praying with us for this city. In just the 13 days of March so far, not even counting this entry, this month has had the highest viewings ever for the blog and we have a little way to go yet. Your comments have been really encouraging and for this and your encouragement we are really thankful.
Let's see what the rest of this month will bring....

Catch up on the previous few entries;

Sunday, March 11, 2012

BNG - 7

It's coming to the end of our second weekend in Tallinn. And having had a week of encounters and meeting interesting people, these last two days have been no different!
And it occurred to me this morning - this is what church planting really is. It's taking each day, one day, at a time. No one can plant a church in one go. No one is skilled enough to really get their head around it. But what you do do is take every single day, every encounter, and after a while, you've got a whole network of friends and contacts - you've met other churches, you've asked them how they do it. You've started to understand the local culture and city - and if you've moved abroad, you've started to pick up the language too. And as the months go by, you realise that things are starting to happen. And you end up at that point because from day one you say Yes to everything that comes up, because you have no way of knowing where that will lead.
And what has happened so far, as well as what I'm about to share, is further example of that.
On Friday night Rachel was at a ladies meeting and made good contact with an Estonian lady named Kai. What was particularly encouraging is that this lady has two daughters who are a similar age to ours, and this lady also home schools them. Rachel starts home schooling Mia tomorrow, so it's great timing that she has met this lady and we pray that a friendship will develop.
On Saturday we went to the local shop again, as there is a play room on the 5th floor for the girls. I sat with them and soon Mia came over to tell me that there were some people speaking English - she's getting into things well! So leading me over, I went in and after a few minutes, started chatting with them. The guy was Scottish, but living in London. He was playing with his 2 year old boy and his partner (it was unclear on their situation), an Estonian lady was also there. He comes over every two weekends, I assume to see the boy. We got talking about church, she said how there are churches here, and many call themselves Lutheran - she confessed she was also Lutheran but didn't go to church (Mia, on hearing them mention God, started loudly whispering in my ear "daddy, do they know Jesus?" - a little embarrassing, but she's a real evangelist already!). The guy seemed interested in general - it was hard to gauge exactly where he stood, but he did say that people actively promoting Atheism as an option 'really bothered' him so was supportive of a new church being planted. He actually was the one who asked for my email address, stating that he's back nearly every two weeks, so we'll see what happens with that one - we'll make sure to pop back into that shop in two weeks just in case!
We then came home, as after lunch we were having an Estonian lady around to get to know her - we'd been connected to each other before our arrival, but this was the first face to face. We really didn't know where she was at - was she already in a local church or did she want to meet us because she wasn't involved anywhere. After a few minutes talking, it's clear that she is very well connected in the city, and has a show on the Christian radio station as well. She's also a translator. Coming to Tallinn from the islands off the west coast of Estonia, which is her home church, it was when she stated that she didn't have a local home church in Tallinn that we started to wonder. We clearly first need more time with her, getting to know each other more, but we did talk about what the future church plant might look like and asked her to pray to see if God would speak to her about being involved. So we'll be praying too! She'd certainly be a great blessing to the team, but she is busy and is involved in a lot within the Christian world in Tallinn, so we'll see what the next six months bring.
Approaching the evening, we thought maybe things would stop - until I got a text from Leo, my new Israeli friend, asking if I wanted to go out for a drink. Like I said above, at this stage of things, it's just good to say yes, so I went out to somewhere nearby. We had a fun evening - and at the end of it I'd picked up some teaching classes - English for two of his employees as well as him wanting me (or maybe Rachel) to teach his lady, Shani, and himself, some basic Russian! This next week I'm setting out to look for teaching jobs, but yet again, like in St Petersburg, it appears God is already ahead of me on that one - and it came about, why? Just saying Yes! One thing of interest that he told me, referring to when we first bumped into them on our first night, was that it was Shani who nudged him as she saw Rachel, because "she was just beaming, like an angel". The big challenge for Shani since moving from South Africa is, in comparison for her, how unfriendly people seem! So it was a smile (from my angelic Rachel!) that opened up this whole connection!
So that's your second point for church planting - 1 - say Yes all the time 2 - wear a smile!
We were back at EVK this morning, the same church we went to last week. And here too I've picked up two more potential students!
What I love about this last week is how fun it all is following God's lead and just going with the things He opens up. It's not like we are going up to people or chasing people down. It's just we are going about our everyday life and seeing where God is working.....
This next week marks a big shift in our time here - Rachel starts home schooling Mia in the mornings (so I'm out and about with Anya) and I will be starting the hunt for teaching jobs - both online and on foot. And maybe I'll be starting to teach those new students as well already.
What ever does happen, knowing something certainly will, I'll be sure to write about it shortly, as I continue this topic of Breaking New Ground, focusing specifically on this first month and recording all that happens, even if only for our records, but maybe to encourage others out there looking to also reach their own community or city.

Previous entry;

Friday, March 9, 2012

BNG - 6

Today was quite a day - future promise, walking on the sea, free make over, a TV show wanting to film us and bumping into an Ambassadors wife. It seems it's all in a day's life in Tallinn. So let me explain...
We took a trip across the city today to go and see the flat we are buying in the summer - and wow, what a difference to last August, when the foundation was only just in. The building is up, as is the one next to it. We could actually see our flat! What was great, standing there at about 10am on yet another blue sky day in Tallinn, was that for the first two floors, the sun was not getting into the flats as it was blocked by the building, but from the third floor up (ours is on the third floor) it was catching the sun - so in the mornings in Springtime, the sun will be on our balcony and streaming into our lounge and kitchen area. Thank you Lord!
We took a went down to the sea, which we were able to walk on - it's still frozen! What was incredible to see was two large groups of swans just sitting on the snowy beach. I always wondered what they did in wintertime - it appears they holiday in Tallinn!
We took the bus back to the central bus station (only 10 minutes from where the flat is) and we're reminded how much easier it is to get around in a city like Tallinn.
I decided to call Leo, the guy we met on our first day here in Tallinn in Stockmann (read about it in BNG - 1 entry). We knew he worked in the shopping centre, and true enough, he was in one nearby so we made our way to see him. Once we did, not only did he give a chocolate bar to the two girls, but then did some free treatment on Rachel, as well as mine and Mia's hands. He's Israeli and sells a range of Dead Sea products (very well presented products but expensive!). He'd not long moved to Tallinn and his girlfriend is finding it hard here, without herself knowing any of the two local languages. He even suggested that I teach her some Russian! He's only young - 24 - but started his first business in New York at just 15. Since then, he's opened up branches in Sweden, Finland, South Africa and now Tallinn. He asked why we were here and I told him everything. Hearing Rachel was going out tonight (there is a ladies meeting on) he invited me to join them for dinner - which wasn't possible because of the girls. They want to meet for dinner and he even said if Rachel could take his lady out for a coffee, he'd pay for everything, if it helped put a smile on her face. It seems, just like in St Petersburg, here too we have a role in settling internationals too.
Not long after that, and while I was in the Sony shop getting the bad news that the motherboard had gone on the laptop and they are talking nearly 700euros for the repair, Rachel bumped into the wife of the US Ambassador to Estonia, and they got talking. She said how the international community is very well connected and suggested how we should get involved, mentioned that the British Ambassador was very new here. So we'll see how that goes.
This morning I spoke with Dave Henson back in St Pete's. He was just about to be collected to be flown straight to Cardiff, UK, where an ambulance and hospital bed was waiting for him. In the short term there is some local pastors who will help out at Hope Church, speaking occasionally and helping support Hansie and Slava. It was great to hear the guys passion that they are still feeling to press forward, and not just consolidate. With that discussed, it made the need for an immediate visit less, but the idea of me making one trip for a weekend was met with faith, so this is what I will look to do, probably in about May - though I'm yet to discuss this with the team there. We have our visa until 4th June, so assuming there is no issues with the University with me returning on this visa, I'll think about when to make this trip. A trip back would also work well with a call I received from New York as well this afternoon...
You might recall a few days ago I said how the US show House Hunters International had been in contact about possibly filming us in relation to moving to Tallinn. When we spoke before, they did seem to think a UK back story was easier for them to film - with that in mind, we really wondered if there was anything we could do, but before sending in anything, she called back today. I really thought what I would have to say would end things - but far from it. Stating that we really didn't see a UK back story working, as the move to Tallinn made much more sense when combined with our life in Russia (as indeed is the reality), so that we could only agree to it if it was about Russia and Tallinn. She seemed to get it, and in fact said that in May they might be able to get a crew to film for a day, so I could combine that with a trip back there....it all gets more interesting and bizarre, so watch this space.
So for a day that I thought not much would happen, lots has! And it doesn't even include what Rachel is getting up to tonight, but maybe more on that next time.
Tomorrow we should be meeting with an Estonian lady, talking about our plans etc. We really don't know where the conversation will go. It'll just be great to have another local christian contact so we wait to see what happens tomorrow.
Thanks for following, and thanks for your comments.

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Thursday, March 8, 2012

BNG - 5 - The First Week

We've been here for one week now already. Today we started the process for applying for our Estonian ID card, which will open things up once we have it, which should be within two weeks. For this, we are really grateful!
A week in, though and you start to access things in a different light. Our move here, of course in some ways similar to when we moved to St Pete's 4 years back, in other ways is so very different. One small interesting thing is of course how much more Western it all is. Today in our post box, we received what was probably our 6th leaflet from the various electronics shops here, trying to sell us their TVs, laptops, computers, cameras etc. In St Petersburg, I don't recall receiving one of these in the post in all that time.
And we are aware of how much more things cost - some of that being because there is more available, some just the like for like cost is higher here, in the Euro zone, as is normally the case now, sadly.
From experience, and this time is proving no different, the first year, certainly the first 6 months, costs more after any move. There are one off costs (50 euros for ID cards, for example, today) and you are still learning the best shops - where to go for the things you need. This takes time, and straight after arriving, you tend to (have to for lack of local knowledge) buy things from the only place, or two, you know. In time, efficiency comes. The budget settles down. You adjust. But the first few months can hit hard.
And into this backdrop is the pressure to find work. Last time round (as well as not being legally allowed to work) we didn't have that pressure. And though we said we'd take this first week to just settle in as a family, inevitably (and when spending money!) I've been thinking about where to start to find teaching work - and quick! This I will start looking into next week - please pray for amazing favour and open doors, as I literally just approach businesses and ask if they currently, or soon intend to, have English language lessons. I'll need a lot of grace!
Tonight we had Barry and Brenda Mitchell around. He is the Pastor of the church we've already connected with here. The night went really well, they said how they are not often invited anywhere so that was special to be able to welcome them as our first guests. They've been here 20 years this year and know just about the whole church community, so hearing their stories and offers to put us in touch was great - I might even do some shooting with him, though will draw the line at sky diving! He was keen to put me in touch with a number of other pastors so pray that these open up many new relationships in our new home city.
One final thing to pray about. Whenever you move on, you leave one place behind, of course. For us that was our wonderful Hope Church. We don't stop thinking about them once we've left, but now they do really need your prayers. Having seen us leave last week, sending us off in a great way, this week something unexpected and challenging has happened. Our great friends Dave and Hannah, who we moved with and first started with in the summer of 2008, are needing to leave. Dave seriously hurt his back last Sunday, and the scan they took revealed a 'mass' on the spin that might also need an operation (the slipped disk itself requiring work). This is very sudden and of course unexpected. He is being flown back to the UK by air ambulance tomorrow for this operation and they are moving out of the flat, as we are talking months, not weeks. Clearly for them, this is a very unsettling time. Please pray for them as they make this swift transition. Please also pray for the church that it would come through this season stronger. The team will have gone from 4 to 2 in two weeks so that puts a huge strain on Hansie and Slava, who need your prayers too in this time. One thing we're considering is whether I look to travel back a little while I still have my visa, just to encourage and help out - please pray that I have wisdom with this as we are obviously not yet settled here.
Thanks for praying and walking with us on this journey.

Posts so far in this series;

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

BNG - 4

Today we returned as a family to one of the places I went to yesterday, so that we could start the process for residency. On the way we dropped into the bank and organised Rachel to get her own card for the account, as well as Internet banking (90% of Tallinn resident's do all banking online). Registering our address was amazingly straight-forward, and though the form was in Estonian, the lady was very helpful. It means that from the 8th March, we can go and start the residency application, which will give us our Estonian ID card, which opens up lots of things for us.
When leaving, we spotted John (I met him yesterday as mentioned in the previous entry) and we went in to talk with him some more. Him and his wife want us over for dinner next week.

But one call that we were expecting today was a little different.

A few weeks before moving here, our agent contacted us having also been contacted by an American television show (House Hunters International, which we are told is on the Home & Garden Channel) about the shows desire to film in Tallinn, and did she know of any people moving there that she could recommend. At the time we thought it an unusual and interesting offer - well today, the Producer called me from New York to discuss the primaries. It seems like it's 4 days of filming, for which we are compensated financially, but one of these days is filming the 'back story' about life before....and for this, they seem to want this to be England, and not Russia (they have to apply months before for the right to film in Russia). So we are really undecided, because clearly for us the move to Tallinn from St Petersburg is very different to if we had we moved from England directly.
I said that we would send them their questionnaire and the 2 minute video of us as requested and after that we can see where it stands. Maybe they, or us, will decide to not proceed.
Had this fallen a few months before in St Petersburg, when time was so limited, we couldn't have done anything. But when we first arrived in Russia, we said yes to lots (most) offers because we just didn't know where it would lead. So please pray that we have wisdom with this offer - we don't just want to appear on an American TV show, but if God wants to bless us through it (it does offer some money after all) AND it can raise a profile to church planting, and what we are doing here in Tallinn, then that might be worth the effort. We'll let you know.
The new contact today was the man responsible for the Estonia side of our move - he came to scan my passport for customs and asked what we were here for. That opened up some questions and I was able to ask him about church and what he knew of others in Tallinn, which he didn't seem to know much of. We'll be in more contact with him so please pray that more opens up.

Monday, March 5, 2012

BNG - 3

It's now Monday 5th March and tonight is our 5th night here. Our 4th night was a very disturbed night, especially for Rachel and Mia. Mia was quite sick throughout the night so neither got much sleep! The challenges of moving and adjusting I guess still catching up with us all.
Today we have internet! It's only a small thing, but we've felt quite cut off from people without it.
Yesterday, as well as celebrating Anya's second birthday, we went to church at EVK, which is River of Life church, led by Barry Mitchell. It was great to see them all again. We look forward to building relationships there.
Today, with Mia at home recovering, I was out and about doing some practical stuff, that led, in turn, to another divine appointment.
Loona, the worship leader from EVK, had kindly arranged to help me out and met me at a shopping centre where we would get another Sim card for Rachel's phone. This one need opened up a load more things that followed - as the number couldn't yet be registered in my name because I didn't have the Estonian ID card yet, she went to show me where to go for that (via a computer shop as our laptop broke down the other day and needs some repairs). As the Estonian migration office, she found out that first we need to be registered to our address - and that was done somewhere else. So off we went there next. Forms we collected, questions asked. Though we need to go back and do all these things for real now, it was a great help having this Estonian lady showing me all these places to go! Praise God!
As we were leaving that last place, she 'bumped' into a man she knew (American) named John, who was at a property next to where we'd just been. He said how he was just about to open a 'club' here and it was nearly ready, and did we want to have a look. We went inside. The club would actually be a youth club and this man was a Christian - part of the Vineyard church here in Tallinn. Loona left to go back to work and I got talking with John, who was waiting for a South African friend to arrive, who went to his church and worked for YMAM. John told me how he'd lived in St Petersburg for 15 years, worked with (maybe even helped found?) a ministry called Street Cry, which I'd heard of already, and had three years before heard God about moving to Tallinn and starting a similar work there. The youth club is, I guess, part of the outworking of that. John knew a lot about New Frontiers, and was very positive about what we stood for - even telling his friend, when he arrived, how highly he thought of us!
So another two people met - just 'bumping' into them on the street after walking around from place to place and ending up being right at the same spot at the same moment when they were just arriving. Interesting...
Tomorrow we will venture out again as a family - we'll look to start getting us registered to this address, which will enable us to start the residency application, which was of course the reason for moving here early. And who we might meet along the way tomorrow, well, we'll just have to wait and see.

BNG - 2

It's our second morning in Tallinn. The girls woke up a little later than yesterday....about 45 minutes later, so it was still very early!
For us, the rest of yesterday was about sorting out our essentials - we had to pay some money into the bank, asking them for another card for the account so that Rachel could have one in her name, then we had to go and speak to a company called Starman who would be able to do the home Internet for us, before getting my Estonian Sim so that we had a local number.
What we found out with the first two things, confirming what we already knew really, was how useful Russian is for us. In each, my opening line was to ask if they spoke English - they both replied very little. Then I asked in Russian if that would be better - and they both said yes. So I was able to arrange the banking and the Internet in Estonia, not because they spoke English, but Russian! With no handle on the Estonian language yet it's so valuable having the Russian that we do - even if it is far from perfect!
Waking up on our first Saturday morning, it was great hearing birds singing and a fresh breeze coming through the door that leads onto the balcony in our bedroom. It's in these moments when you are reminded of the good things God has done and you praise him all the more.

Breaking New Ground - The First Month

Well we have arrived in Tallinn!

We'd asked people to pray for our journey and wow did it make a difference! It was probably the easiest journey we've ever done - everything was just so straightforward!
A couple of weeks ago I thought about the first few weeks in Tallinn - and that it would be great to write short entries detailing what happens, if anything, each day. Maybe some of what we go through will be helpful to others.
When a church is a couple of years old and growing, like it is in St Petersburg, it requires certain skill sets and those that join at that point tend to be able to specialise a little. But before that I feel there are two different stages, two different areas that are needed, and that calls for a more general skill set. The first is the pioneering stage, like we are now in again. It's digging out everything from the beginning. What follows that is the church planting stage, when others are now with you, a small crowd has grown and you launch the church and get it through the first few years.
Being at this pioneering stage is a little alarming (if we rely on self that is!). Carving out a life, finding work, making friends, building team. It's about putting all the things in place that years down the line still matter. And you do them all at the same time!
I'm writing this first draft from the kitchen in our new flat - which is so much bigger than our previous one! It's early. Our girls woke up and were playing in their room together (they now share and Anya is no longer in our room!). After playing a little, they came into our room - it was then only 5am! The two hour difference meaning they were wide awake! It's now 6am - we've all been up an hour already.
So, what of our first day? We were picked up from the airport by Brenda Mitchell, the agent and Pastor's wife we'd first met in August. She filmed us as we were walking through customs - our arrival, and into our new life.
We looked around the flat, which with three bedrooms and a lounge, plus kitchen, is a few rooms bigger than where we lived for the previous three and a half years! It was really surreal.
As was going to the Stockmann supermarket that is worryingly close to our flat - the choice and variety! It was overwhelming! Things that we just couldn't buy in Russia are now just there on the shelves! While there we met our first contacts - an Israeli couple who'd just moved here two weeks before to set up a cosmetic company using Dead Sea products. His name was Leo - he gave us his number and said Rachel could have some free stuff!
Having finished shopping, we walked home (it's still surreal saying that). I think we were suffering from culture shock. My body just shut down. I couldn't eat, I needed to lay down and I just felt all strange and jumpy. I still feel a little strange now the following morning. There's a lot we've had to adjust to - I guess it'll just take time.
We hope to sort out Internet access today (actually, hence the late posting, it was a few days later!) - the flat doesn't have it. I'll also get my Estonian Sim card when Barry (the Pastor referred to above) drops it off sometime this afternoon.
There is a lot we have to do. But this is just the start. What today and this next week will bring, who knows. But whatever does happen, we'll record it here.