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