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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.

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

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

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

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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Tallinn Update - First trip back to Russia and more...

By the end of this week, it would have been quite a ten days for us...

Firstly, looking back;
On Thursday 20th September, I took the coach, making my first trip back to St Petersburg, as planned, for a conference that Hope Church was putting on.  David & Scilla Devenish were coming over for this weekend, and though Dave Henson's back condition did not allow him to be there, Hannah Henson was able to come instead.

Arriving in the city in the afternoon, I was immediately struck as the bus approached the station at the amount of traffic.  The roads were blocked in every direction.  People were walking through the gaps in traffic, going about life. There was no doubt - I was back in the big city!

And I've never 'visited' somewhere before where I am so familiar with the place, and even have the foreign language....I was to get to speak a lot of Russian this weekend, not that we'd got out of practice in Tallinn anyway, with Russian being widely spoken here too.
Descending the metro it was no more unusual than when we lived there.  St Petersburg has the deepest underground (metro) in the world, so you descend and ascend for about 3 minutes each time.  I was not in much of a hurry, and had bags with me anyway.  
What was strange, once at the hostel I was staying at, was being in the city and yet neither (at that point!) being with people, working or at home.  The hostel was very central so while that made getting around easy enough, there was noise from the cars and people moving around in their thousands all day (and all night!)  But it wasn't like I'm not used to it....it's just been 6 months.
On that first evening I made the trip out to where Hansie & Lena live.  It was the end of their home group so I was able to see three of the Russian ladies (plus baby Gleb who was just two months old when we left and I'd just seen once).  I then went out for a chat with Hansie after that to catch up on the news and to see how he was doing really.  
Friday morning again felt strange.  I went down to the church office but at 10am (what was I thinking!) of course it wouldn't be open.....that's still like the early hours in St Petersburg!  (The days do start later and finish later - Tallinn is a little more like Europe regarding office hours).
I then went to a nearby cafe and spent a couple of hours working on next Sunday's notes for our first Vision Sunday (more on that in a bit!).
Though there was a set plan for that evening and then the whole weekend, there was still quite a bit of time on Friday with nothing as yet set.  Realising that I needed (wanted!) to be with some of the folks from Hope Church (the reason I came back after all!) I sent some texts around and soon had back to back meetings that afternoon.  So I met with two home group leaders first and then went onto meet with another two after that.  In the evening was a meal for 10 couples, plus myself and Hannah.  There were two couples from Hope Church, three from All Nations, an Armenian couple from the Newfrontiers church in Tver, plus three other couples representing four local churches, together with David & Scilla.  David would share some things, tell some stories about what has been happening and answer some questions. 
It was a really relational evening and great to chat and meet up with so many wonderful people.  A theme of the weekend, it would again show me just how many people I've had the honour of meeting and getting to know over these last four years.
On Saturday morning there was the start of a two day conference titled "Together on Mission".  The first day was held at the Christian University where I used to study Russian over the last two years.  David did a wonderful job in telling the story of some of Jesus' ministry, before reading back through the scripture to show us that what he said was in the Bible.  I really got a lot out of his teaching and his style was really engaging - I like story-telling too (as an author, that's hardly surprising!) so it was a great experience for me too on that note.  In the lunch break I also got to speak with another two home group leaders.  All in all these conversations had been about encouraging their groups to multiply and releasing new leaders into this.  This is now something I will look to help them do over this next month.
Saturday evening, after the conference, I went back with Hansie & Lena, David & Scilla and Hannah to their flat for a meal.  We were joined by another couple and talked and shared stories.  Later on, I then had some time with David and Scilla to talk about Tallinn and get their advice and input on some things.  It was a very helpful and equipping time - one of the many 'value added' things in being part of a wider family of churches like Newfrontiers.
On Sunday morning it was at the hotel where Hope Church now meet - Hotel October - in the centre of the city. There were two churches together (Hope & All Nations) plus another 8 represented as well.  It was amazing to see the hall packed out, and all available chairs needed.  There was easily over 300 adults.  Worship was passionate and God focused.  It was multicultural, with over a dozen nationalities represented.
I shared an update on Tallinn from the front.  People were so happy to see me again and gave loads of gifts for both Rachel and the girls, who were not able to be with me on this trip.  Faith was stirred and they prayed for us all here.
Not long after that, one of the real highlights of the trip happened.  David welcomed into our Newfrontiers family of churches All Nations church.  These guys have been working really closely with Hope Church for a few years and hearing their African pastor sharing what it meant to him, it was truly humbling to think, that even in a small way, God has involved us in his plans and purposes in St Petersburg.  None of us went to Russia to get other churches to join Newfrontiers, but to plant a church.  This has purely come out of relationship and their desire to be joined with us under the same vision and calling to change the expression of Christianity around the world.
So after four years of first moving to St Petersburg, there are now two vibrant and passionate Newfrontiers churches in that great city.  There is room for dozens more too!
The conference finished at around two and then, once the hall was cleared and chatting with people was finished, I joined the dozens going to a local food court in the neighbouring shopping centre to eat together and continue relationship building.  While here, I saw a young lad with an Estonian scarf on, so I went up to him (I think this seemed odd to him!).  It worked out that he too lives in Tallinn and when he asked what part I lived in, he responded in surprise that he lived 300 metres from there!  Who would have thought, of all the millions in far away St Petersburg, I'd meet someone living so close.
And on Sunday night there was a leaders meeting for those from Hope Church and All Nations.  And this was in the hall where Hope Church first started.  It felt fitting.  It was another encouraging and powerful evening.
On Monday morning I was back on the bus and heading home.  The weekend had shown me what was possible.  To meet with so many and encourage where ever I could.  To bring some fresh faith from outside, with the heart and knowledge of what is going on in Hope Church.  There were invites near and far to come back when I could.  And long term, this is something (in God's wisdom and knowledge) that I feel is part of us being based in Tallinn for.

And Finally, looking forward;
So getting back to Tallinn, faith has been stirred.  This weekend we have our first Vision Sunday for the church plant. Having been gathering socially to invite friends and neighbours, and build community, once a month we are meeting to be reminded of vision, to be encouraged from the word and to worship together, launching us into the next month with faith, passion and vision for all the further gathering we will be doing.
Please pray for us this Sunday.  I will be starting a series talking through the story of Acts, taking a chapter or two each month to draw on encouragement and examples from the life of the early church, into the life of this early church in Tallinn.  The two weekly toddler groups also continue to go well.

The next two months will continue to build forward.  We'll be hosting a special weekend in Tallinn (news on that next time) that will see several other city church planters together here, as well as a couple of trips for me - one being to Riga, where I will be speaking four times over a weekend telling the story of the book of Ruth.  And the other is for a special cities gathering in London that I have been invited too.  Both these trips will happen in November, so more on these nearer the time.  We also continue to have many visitors.  On all these above points, life in Tallinn continues to be very different to what life had been like for us personally in St Petersburg.

Thanks for reading - I hope you have been encouraged as much as we have!

Coming up next;
The Church planting series continues with news from Latvia, Helsinki and even the USA......you don't want to miss it!
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