This was a short 3 minute clip I put together to show a little of Tallinn, and to raise awareness of the challenges there is for the church in Estonia. Tell me what you think of it when you've watched it!
It's been a busy few days since we last updated you and some quite huge things have happened. I met with all three banks this last week, and they are all now processing our application, which we should hear about this coming week - please pray for favour from all, that all three would offer something and that at least one of them would be what we were really asking for - which is to borrow the full amount we need. What was really interesting and again highlighted the lack of general foundation about God and church in many people here, was that in both meetings on Wednesday, I was asked what a Pastor 'did' - and how I was going to plant a church. One lady asked why people in England give money to us, so asking what she knew about the Christian faith, to which she said 'a little' I stated how the Bible calls us to reach our own area as well as the world. I said how this was called 'mission' and that these churches and individuals were wanting to partner with us and help us reach new places, so that though they can't personally move, they can be involved. And she just sat there and said 'oh yes, I see now'. Amazing! It looked less like a mortgage appointment and more like a church planting interview! May God open up more conversations like that!
I also met with another local pastor here on Wednesday - Gabriel - which had been arranged the week before. He's from LA but leads an Estonian church very near to our flat, and his heart is the same as ours - he's very mission minded! We'll meet up with them this following week and look forward to getting to know each other more down the years.
The really funny thing was (God thing really!) was that on the day we found out that our new apartment would be ready on 1st May, therefore two months earlier than thought, we started to wonder what options we had on this rented flat, having signed the contract until the end of July. It seemed, if we were to be fully moved over by mid-June, that we would have a month and a half to have to pay for the rent of this flat. Rachel had called Brenda, our agent friend, to check, and she then suggested that if she could line up a replacement, then there would be no problems with us leaving early. And she had a couple in mind....they were a young American couple, leaders from a local church....yes, it was Gabriel and his wife. So 2 hours before I met him in a city centre cafe (I was at the bank at the time) they were at our flat, looking around - and they really liked it and will move in whenever we are ready! So praise God - we have instant replacements sorted, and though there will be a little overlap with our new apartment, it won't be that much!
Elena from Hope Church came to Tallinn on Thursday, and we've been showing her around, while helping her find work - we've been looking into kindergarten's, but it seems that the summer is the time when jobs become available - no one is recruiting now, when there are less than two months of school time left. Maybe the private ones are different, we are yet to find out. Please pray that her time here is productive.
It was while taking her to see one option on Thursday that we had another funny 'bumping into' someone. We were at the Rocca al Mare shopping centre, which we are fast growing to really enjoy (there is an M&S Food outlet at reasonable prices!) and I had Mia and Anya with me. We were just walking around, having come from M&S and a guy stopped me - he was holding out some cosmetic products (I knew he was trying to demonstrate something with the salt in my hands) and I said I was OK - I said I knew some people who did this (thinking of Leo & Shani), yet I didn't recognise these products as the same business, though they were. After talking for a moment, and unnoticed by me at the time, Shani looks up from the bench nearby and say's hi. This WAS there outlet in this shopping centre.
I chatted with the guy (he's Estonian) and shared our 'excitement' at finding peanut butter at M&S - he didn't know what it was and asked if I could show him. Glancing at Shani and checking it was OK, I walked and talked with him to the shop and showed him what it was. He asked why we were here, and seemed really interested. Having bought the peanut butter, he got a plastic spoon and proceeded to open it and take a spoonful, even though I was saying that it's best on toast! He enjoyed the stuff greatly, and thanked me for 'bringing peanut butter in to his life'. Seriously!
He said he could see an 'energy' in me. I trust that's a good thing. He took my details and wants to keep in touch - so we'll see what develops there. But it just goes to show - God can open up any situation, even excitement about peanut butter at M&S that leads to contact and friendships and....who knows.
But maybe the craziest thing we'd heard came to light on Thursday.
I was on the computer and an instant message came through from a girl in Washington DC. We'd met Chelsea three years back in Russia and had been in regular contact since. She now works in a good government role and told us on Friday how she'd been at a conference on Cyber Security and the main speaker was the President of Estonia (another insight into how advanced this nation is in this regard!). She got to speak to him after, and her message to us was how she'd told him about her good friends the Heath's and how we live in Tallinn now. So the President of Estonia knows about us living in his country! It made us laugh a lot!
He's apparently known for inviting people into his house from the streets, so maybe we will bump into him when at Kadriorg Park (which is where his house is, only about a mile from where we live now). And if we do meet him, we can tell him about our DC friend, and invite him to church in Tallinn....
On Friday evening we had a big call to make of our own. As many of you know we are selling our UK house. And the firm putting it on the market for us also gave a cash offer to buy it from us - obviously a lot lower than market value. We'd asked them to do this and their figure was much less - nearly 40% less than it's value in 2008 when we first moved away.
Our tenants move out on Monday and as Friday came around, we had this real sense that we should just accept this offer, if nothing more came to light, and move on. Though low, it does just about give us what we need for now. We also don't like the idea of the house being empty for too long where it is - firstly we have expenses on it, but also it runs a risk of vandalism.
So at 3pm UK time yesterday, I called them and said that we accept their offer. Once they do an inventory, I think it is just a case of them informing the solicitors and then in 4 to 6 weeks, it should all be done.
So please pray that this process is smooth!
So things continue to move on fast - next week we'll hear from banks, as well as Tim travelling south to meet with some other pastors and church planters.
And we'll update you with the best bits of what happens soon!