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, November 24, 2012

Thanksgiving, Beach and the start of the Christmas Market

What a fun week it has been.  Today in Tallinn the Christmas market opened.  This is now known to be one of the best markets of its kind in Europe and will be around for the next six weeks or so, usually finishing about a week into January.  It is located in Town Hall Square, which is the centre of the Old Town, Tallinn's very beautiful medieval section.  All that we need now is the snow to come - which is forecast for later this week - plus Father Christmas ('JĂľuluvana') to turn up (which he does next weekend), when I guess the Christmas tree lights get turned on properly as well.

 So it is starting to feel very much like Christmas is nearly here, which it is in one months time!
The market sells a wide range of local products - from the very traditional wooden items to the woolen clothing that will keep you very warm for the winter weather to come.
They also sell cups of Glogg, the local mulled wine as well as other local Estonian food's cooking away on large open grills.  The smells and sounds, especially once it gets dark (which it does by about 4pm already) is really special.  The snow covered winter market from our first visit to Tallinn in January 2011 is one of our best memories.
We will be no doubt returning a few times to the market, and once the snow comes, will be able to share further photo highlights from this special place.

This week was also Thanksgiving - and with great American friends around us here in Tallinn, we were invited to share dinner with them.  It actually became a church plant meal as the three families were able to be together with three other people there too.  Nathan and Laura did a wonderful job of hosting us and cooking a delicious dinner, it was special for us all to be a part of this holiday with them.

With the temperatures now on their way down (the minus figures are coming back again this week, as well as the snow) we took our visitor, Sarah Watson from Stockport, to the beach today, though she declined the opportunity to go for a swim!  Once again we are thankful to God for the place He has rooted our family firmly into - we are looking forward to seeing all that God will do in Tallinn.

This coming week - and something I'd love you to pray for - I am flying to London for a conference.  My last trip, two nights, was quite hard on the home front as both girls really seemed to not do so well with me being away.  Due to the way the flights work, I will be away this coming week for six days.  They both now know I am going away, and I hope the promise of me buying them a gift to give them on my return will help them when I'm gone, but I would really value your prayers for Rachel and the girls while I am away - at least we still have Sarah with us until Thursday, which is a great blessing.  I arrive back on Sunday, about two hours before we have a church meal at our home.
The conference itself is something being run by David Stroud and his Christ Church London team.  He has invited a church leader from New York and the conference is called the Global Cities Conference.  Please pray that I learn everything I need to learn from these three days that I am with them.  The first day is much smaller, with a round table discussion, and the last two days are larger with a classic conference feel.  I want to meet with God.  I want to be encouraged by others ahead of me in similar settings.  I want to gain all I can.  And I want to bring back, and help implement, everything I can for Tallinn too!
Finally, tomorrow is Vision Sunday for the Hope:Tallinn church plant.  Please pray that it would go well (maybe you are reading this after Sunday, so thank God it went well!).

Until next time!  Be blessed.  (Below is a video taken today, while it was still light, from the Christmas market).
video







Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Filming That Was House Hunters International in Tallinn

So our Estonian episode of House Hunters International has finally aired on Monday 12th November at 10pm in the USA.
And while we have not been able to see the program ourselves (living in Tallinn as we do) we've heard a little feedback, and what didn't get mentioned.  So seeing that it has now been aired, I wanted to talk about the experience it was when the camera (singular - see why, later!) came to Tallinn! 
(People have already been searching from the US, having watched the show, trying to work out who we are and why we are in Tallinn - so I will be using certain keywords that will make it easier for future searches)  Because sadly, having stated to the producers of the show our reasons for moving to Tallinn, and therefore our requirements and desires for the home we would live in, they failed to actually make any reference to it in the show, despite a noticeable amount of recording done where we were talking all about the reasons we are in Estonia.
Described as 'community leaders' on the recent episode, we are actually planting a church here in Tallinn.  We moved from St Petersburg, Russia, in March, having been part of the church plant that is Hope Church St Petersburg - a vibrant Russian international church that is now over three years old.  We are part of Newfrontiers, which is a global family of churches in something like 48 countries.  Hope:Tallinn, as we are calling ourselves, is the first Newfrontiers church in Estonia.....it will not be the last as we look to plant again, in time, into other parts of this country.  (Interested in hearing more about this church plant - comment on this blog or email timintallinn@gmail.com)
We have seen a team moving to join the church plant over the summer and have been starting to gather over the last two months, seeing over thirty Estonians and Russians, plus a few internationals, coming to events we've put on....actually, for more information on this, you might prefer to read other blog entries, the last of which is here.
From here on, I will talk more about the filming that took place over four consecutive days at the beginning of August. 
Us appearing on this Home & Garden Network flagship show in their November episode last night came about through knowing Brenda Mitchell, herself in real estate, but actually the connection was through Elava Vee church, where her and her husband Barry are leading and they are friends of ours.  We had been going there most weeks in our first few months here, as we looked for relationship and getting to know other local churches.  So Brenda knew some months before we moved that we were coming to Tallinn to church plant - and when, therefore, she was contacted by the House Hunters International production company asking if she knew any English speaking families moving to Tallinn, she mentioned it to us.
One of the things we learned in St Petersburg, especially in the early days, is to say 'yes' to opportunities as you never know where they will end up - and this television show option for HHI in Tallinn seemed too interesting to turn down.
It actually turned out to be nearly four days of acting!
The truth about finding our home, the process of which started back in 2011, is told in detail from a post back in May this year - after we won our battle with the banks - you can read about that here.
The show was to, as best as possible, 'retell' the story but there was lots it needed to change.  We found our apartment online, and purchased directly from the developer.  There was no agent involved - we didn't actually look at a single other apartment in Tallinn - we knew God had shown us the one home that was for us.
Obviously, for a show like HHI, that doesn't really make very good television, and didn't fit their profile.
We were not going to misrepresent ourselves though, either.  We were clear that we had come to church plant - it was God's idea for us, not any natural desire to live here.  Though we do absolutely love Tallinn and hope to live in this beautiful city for many years to come as part of a vibrant, church planting, God loving, soul saving church.
The filming was to take place over four consecutive days, with Brenda joining us for the last two days as we did the three viewings.  Only once we had confirmed the purchase of our apartment did the show get the go ahead.  We moved in a week before filming started - the lorry in the pictures on the right was to pack up our belongings from our new home on day 4, just one week after moving in!  It was, for me, the hardest part of the filming.

The crew of three - Ben, the director, Gordon the cameraman and Noel the sound man - all came from the UK.  These guys were experienced and great fun to work with - thank you for being patient with us guys!  Filming was to be done over just four days (even though, as far as I know, the show looks like it's filmed over some months).  I understand this though - to keep costs down, and to guarantee a confirmed outcome, it needs to be filmed like this, once the family are actually in their home!  The biggest thing though was the presence of just one camera and cameraman.  Obviously, the cost of a camera means you can't afford two - and anyway, with two you need two cameramen, two salaries and tickets etc....costs are too much.  Having just one camera eliminates the problems of them catching each other in shot.  What it does mean though, which we were quickly to learn, is that each scene is shot at least three times, sometimes as many as six times.  This is to get different angles, to focus on different people (in a conversation, for example) which meant we were having to do a lot of acting over the four days.  This was because maybe first time through we were saying things as they came to us - the next five takes, though, we'd have to repeat what we'd said - harder than it sounds, especially if I'd made a joke (which might have sounded natural first time, but fifth time I'm not so sure!)  Rachel and I had the first two days to start to get used to this - we felt for Brenda, joining us on day three, who quickly had to get used to it too.  She did great!
The first two days were 'our life in Tallinn' and was actually, I guess, the end of the show, showing how we'd settled in etc.  We were filming as a family with our two girls - in the Old Town at various places, as well as showing life in the apartment and around at the beach and on bikes (I'm not sure how much got shown!).
This was a lot of fun and about half the photos shown here, including at the exercise area, reflect this period.
The last two days with Brenda, reflected our 'house search'.  The list of things we told Brenda we were looking for did actually figure in our thinking and hopes as we contemplated the move to Tallinn - it was just God that found us our home - the first result on the first search for homes in Tallinn!
The two homes she did show us, besides our own, are ones she is trying to sell, and fitted a similar bracket of home as ours - though having seen them, we are so happy with our choice - which was both much nicer and much cheaper too!
It's amazing the things you learn about looking around a home, while being filmed!  You need to take in the whole room, but avoid looking at the camera - that was the big no no for the whole four days of filming, which even our girls were great at doing.  There were a number of laughs during the time, as I tried to remember what I'd just said, and taking in the crews advice.  One I remember was walking around one of the kitchen's, and being told to make comments about things (it is TV, after all, so you need to think out loud) I'd said how the cooker was a great height, so it was safe for our children.  On the next take, the crew said I was to open on my comment - and I proceeded to start by going to the oven, and saying "That'll be great for the kids"....to which the cameraman burst out laughing, saying "You can't say that!"  Clearly, it sounded like I wanted to cook the kids....I'm trusting that isn't the one they used in the show!  When we do see it, which might be in about 4 weeks when our DVD arrives, I might have a little more to say!

The other aspect that I am not sure if it got mentioned in the show, was my novel being published, which happened this summer in Tallinn.  It's called Cherry Picking - and you can find the ebook here on the Amazon.com - it's also available in paperback (really good quality - a great Christmas gift!) and is available on all Amazon sites in Europe, the UK, USA, India & China.  So please do check it out - you can read the excellent reviews on the UK and US Amazon sites.
Here are the front and back covers for you.


















Thursday, November 8, 2012

Tallinn Update - The snows come (and go) plus more

It's now over two weeks since the crowds came to gather with us in Tallinn from many other places in what became a Baltic's weekend.  I worked out that my darling wife produced forty-four meals for people over the 3 days - and on top of that, she provided cake and drinks for another forty-four!  So once all the visitors have gone, what do you do after that?  Well, with it being half term for Mia, we took three days off and got away (a little - heading about 30 minutes from home, just north of Tallinn!)
And during this time, it snowed!  This is the first time in five winters since leaving the UK that we have had snow in October....it has since melted, so we await winter to really start again.  The cold (it got down to -10.7 degrees C one night) did make all the leaves fall off the trees, so everything, though green again, is looking very bare.  We can even see a road through the trees from our kitchen window that for months we haven't been able to.
It appears the weather caught a lot of people out - the roads near our home became very icy and no one had yet put their winter tyres on - we don't even have any for the car, having been given the car from Spain, it didn't come with it's own spare set of tyres as is usual here.  (I wrote most of this blog three days ago so can now say that today I took the car to have a complete set of wheels fitted on the car, which is great.  A local Estonian friend of ours was able to find the garage that could provide four used but decent tyres, four disks so that in future we can change them ourselves and fit them all for a great price - the exact same amount raised through some extra teaching we've managed to do this week!  See below for details on that.
While away for those three days, there was a Swedish circus set up and we managed to get tickets to what turned out to be their last night (the night the snow came - did they know something we didn't??)  And as is usual now for this life we live in Tallinn, doing something like going to the circus doesn't in any way mean we can just sit there and watch....because, who do they call up to come to the front and take part in one of their pieces - yes, yours truly!  The photos Rachel took, with the light limited, (thankfully!) didn't come out but I was one of four guys who sat on a stool, then each of us put our heads onto the laps of the guy behind us (we were sitting in a square each facing a different direction) - and then they removed all four stools - I'm sure it looked interesting but I did manage not to collapse the group, and though the clown was messing around with my stool so it was the last one to be put back (and I could hear Mia at this point shouting "Give daddy his stool back!) he did eventually do it, we took our bows and returned to our places.  When it was finished, people started to leave, the music played out, and Mia couldn't help but want to dance around - a short video of that is here:
video
On the Sunday, once back home again, we had another Taste the Nations meal at ours - and saw three visitors come, including an Estonian mother and daughter who live on our street - we first met the daughter in our first month here and only recently bumped into her and her mother again last month.  It was great to once again have two generations from the same family represented at the meal - the third time it's happened in the three meals we've had!

Last Sunday we then had our second Vision Sunday for those that make up the core of the Hope:Tallinn church plant.  This in itself is a meeting that we want to see grow - we gather to build a crowd and from the crowd we know a church will emerge.  As the months go by, we are praying that one or two people will be added to the monthly Vision Sunday's which will give us the strength to plant out when we are big enough.  These might be people moving to Tallinn - called and full of faith for what God wants to do through them in Estonia (there are a few people in this bracket who are working out how to get here - and we are praying for you too!).  Also, as people see something within our relationships with each other, we hope that some already living here, with currently no framework of church or as yet relationship with God, will also one day make up the core of this church plant, as together, we walk with them on their journey.  As in the book of Acts chapter 2, we want to live in such a way that people in Tallinn start asking "What does it mean?" and then, after we have hopefully helped explain things in a clear and relevant way, they follow up that questions by asking "What shall we do?"

But the crowd is growing.  In preparation for my talk on Sunday, we worked out that over the last two months, twenty-two adults and eleven children have come to something the Hope:Tallinn team have put on, whether that was a meal, children's group or even a birthday party.  Those thirty-three represent hundreds of people that they know - and if this is what God has done in two months, then apply that to a year and it's over one-hundred people who represent maybe one-thousand.  And that's the type of crowd that God can call out a glorious church from!  We are believing for big things and though small, we are encouraged by what God has already done among us all.

Personally we've just had family come and stay - my brother and his wife with their two children, plus this week Rachel's folks arrive for a week (and they arrived yesterday already).  
This does mean that this week has been rather interesting and somewhat busy.  Tomorrow, I am travelling to Riga to speak over two days with the church plant there where I am taking four sessions to tell the story of the book of Ruth.  The mini conference is titled "Does God Care" so please pray for everything to do with this weekend, that I would get the time to plan and hear from God (yes, it's now Thursday after 5pm and I still haven't had time to look at my notes!), that it would bless the church plant in Riga, that those that need to be there will be there, and that it will be fun for all!  As well as that teaching, some English teaching also came about for us both, which we've managed to cram between the gaps this week.
Some time ago I had a call from Moscow from a lady whose family owns one of the apartments in our building on the floor below us.  She was saying how they were coming for a week in November, and that she'd like lessons for her, and for her daughter, who is a beginner.  So Rachel is teaching the daughter, and I am teaching the mother.  What was particularly special was that today, having finally got the call about the tyres, and having been paid in cash for each lesson we've been teaching this week, when I went to the envelope to count the money, it was the EXACT amount that the complete set of winter tyres were going to cost!  God has worked in such a way so as to cover our needs before they arise!  Rachel is also teaching English to two other boys from Mia's class as well this week (which is a regular thing now and really helps with our situation here financially).
On Tuesday night we were also at the home of the British Ambassador for a drinks reception he was hosting.  This was our second time in this environment in the last couple of months.  As we've always said, you go with what opens up and say yes to things because you never know where things will lead.
Yesterday at Mia's school they were also having a special day for Father's to mark this Sunday's Fathers Day in Estonia (which will be my third Fathers Day of the year, though I will myself be in Latvia!).  I had signed up to take on the teachers in a special volleyball match with six other dads.....the one limitation against the all female teachers team was that the men all had to wear mittens!  Even so, we still managed to win by two games to nil.  The picture is showing the dads being given our certificates for taking part!
I have actually started playing volleyball every Monday night with a group of Estonian men - it's like being thrown in the deep end in relation to language (I still can't understand them!) and with play (they've played for a long time and I am.....still learning!).  But I'm determined to make up in effort and encouragement whatever I may lack in ability, though on Monday (and about the first compliment I've heard any of them give these last eight weeks!) the organiser did say to me that I learn quickly.

So it really has been quite a week and it's still only Thursday.  This blog has taken three days to finish - I've just had to go back through it all and talk about completed activities instead of, as I had written them originally, future activities....it has been one of those weeks for us!

So I will sign off and maybe start to look over my notes for the four hours of teaching I am doing this weekend - or I might just end up using the four hours on the bus to Riga for that very thing.  Nothing like cutting it fine - I'm so glad it's not all reliant on my strength to do things this weekend - Lord, do have your way in Riga!

So glad to have finally got this finished!  Visitors continue to come to us this month - after this week we have three further times with people staying with us over the next five weeks.  So we'll update you as soon as we can - until then, be blessed!


Contact Details;
Address: Helme 16/2, 39, Tallinn, 10614, Estonia
Email: timinrussia@gmail.com
Facebook Group: God Loves Tallinn
For regular or one off gifts please contact our 
UK base church who are administering this for us: 
For international payments through PayPal use the email timinrussia@gmail.com