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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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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Poker, President and Planting

Among the random things that have happened to us over the last 5 years (and for those that have been following us during this time, there have been a number), one two minute conversation with Mia this last month was to provide yet another!
I'd read on Facebook a status from another Dad of a boy in Mia's class, and it said how his son had told him about meeting the President of Afghanistan during the day.  Now, it made me wonder; seeing as they were at school together, surely the same would be true with Mia.  Not wanting to put words in her mouth, I simply asked "Did anything unusual happen today at school, Mia?" to which she answered "No".  I then read her what I'd just seen to which she replied "Oh yes, we were going to PE today (they do this outside and need to walk through Freedom Square) and suddenly there were police cars and cameras and then we met the President".
And, I am pleased to say, a Canadian father who was also with the children at the time, managed to record the whole event on his phone and has put it onto YouTube.  So here it is - Mia is wearing a pink knitted hat and is standing near the front.  You can hear her say she is 7 and a half and then later that she is from England.....they were clearly very excited to be involved in this!

And I guess, for Mia, maybe this is just normal life?  You go to PE, and you meet the President of a far away country.  Of course you do!

Gathering of like minded people
On 1st May (a national holiday here) we drove down to Võhma, which is in central Estonia (about 1 hour 45 minutes south of Tallinn).  We were going to the home of Simon and Heloise, an English family, who have lived in Estonia for around 9 years already.  They are planting a church in that small village.  With a house and garden, there was plenty of space for the children to play and for us all to sit around the fire and enjoy a BBQ together on a very warm and sunny day.  Arnoud and Elisabeth came down as well (breaking down on the way and needing to change cars!) as well as David Jones, and another Dutch lady, coming up from Smiltene in Latvia.
It was also great to be able to enjoy some of the beautiful countryside that there is in Estonia as we drove south.  Dotted along the roadside were lots of nesting cranes, and we were also passed overhead by literally thousands of returning migratory geese - a sure sign that winter, and the cold weather, has finally gone!  The only scary thing was helping Arnoud tow their broken car for part of the way back - something I haven't done before and am not in a rush to do again!
This coming Friday, I am also going to attend a local two day church planting conference here in Tallinn.  It's been organised by an American guy, also planting a church here (the same dad from Mia's class who I referred to above) and there are speakers coming from far and wide.  I trust it will be a relational thing more than anything, and any setting that is encouraging church planting in the most unreached part of Europe, is a good thing in my book!

Focused men and women events
Last weekend we tried something a little different with our weekly gatherings.  On the Saturday night, I hosted a Poker night at our home - where we gathered six guys together (from three continents).  For one guy it was the first time I'd met him.  It seemed to be a great success.  There were a number of guys who were unable to come - it was the Mother's Day weekend so many were away on family duty - so in future it is something I'd love to do again.  And to put you all at ease, we only played for chips!  There was no money at all involved, as the idea was to have fun together and not to gamble!
And on the Sunday (Mothers Day in Estonia) Rachel hosted a Spa event at a local place that could be privately hired, and there were 8 women in total (the maximum allowed) who enjoyed two hours of relaxation - which they all deserve, after all! There was a good mix of nationalities including Estonians and Russians.
So it's shown us the potential, and success, of a different kind of event, which we will look at doing again at various points in the future.

God places you where He most needs you to be
We have learnt a lot about the darker side to Tallinn and Estonia these last few weeks as well.  In regards to the horrible reality of human trafficking, Rachel has been able to meet up with the lady from a local project, looking to help the victims of this industry.
And what she learnt has really made us aware that God has placed us exactly where we are living for a very good reason!  Firstly, outside of Africa, Estonia is the next highest problem area for human trafficking.  Because of Tallinn's ease of access into Western Europe, Tallinn itself is a hub for it.  And Rachel learnt that while a popular street on the edge of the Old Town is where these ladies work for the tourists, for the 'local' market the focal point is a lot nearer home to us - literally a few hundred meters from where we live; (the home God found for us and put us in!)  Ironically, it's also near to the main police station in Tallinn, which we can see from our kitchen window. This industry has links with the Estonian mafia, and though the police are nearby, they are unable to do much about it - with some suggestion of corruption with mafia payoffs.
We pass this place every day.  Our prayer walking always included this area too, and now, it seems, nearly 10 months after moving into our miracle home, we can see why God was so specific about placing us here.  And we are going to pray for God to radically change that area for His glory and free these women, who are trapped in this.
So please pray for real wisdom and protection in this. 

Church Weekend (UK) and the start of visitors coming
Next Wednesday, we make a brief flying visit back to the UK to be part of the Stockport Family Church weekend away.  The weekend runs from the Friday to the Bank Holiday Monday and we are really looking forward to connecting with everyone there, for sharing some news during one of the main sessions, and for just meeting new people as well.  For Mia and Anya, it gives them a chance to make new friends and hang out with old friends (in Mia's case, anyway!).
And when we come home to Tallinn, the first of our summer church plant visitors would have already arrived - Wei-Jin from Cambridge, UK.  Please pray that he has a great time in Tallinn and that God confirms what He has spoken over his life and his involvement with us in Tallinn.

Family news
Anya was unwell for about a two week period, but got better properly before last weekend, and has gone back to kindergarten this week.  She is doing well there, making friends, and is herself very happy to be better!
Mia continues to be a very busy little girl - with lots of school work, party invitations and ballet performances, it's a challenge to fit everything in!  She breaks up for summer on 6th June, so finally things might slow down a little for her.  Last Sunday, she was performing in a huge Ballet Gala the other side of the country!  We were unable to go with her for several reasons, so she left home at around 7:30am and then was dropped back on the dot of midnight!  She was at school the next day!  
Dancing continues to be something she loves to do, and it helps that she has an Estonian/Russian friend to do it with.  Being in the UK next week, she will miss her school's end of year Ball, they've been learning to ball room dance in her class! 
Rachel continues to teach a number of children from Mia's class, helping them out with their English.  This has made the week really busy, and often she doesn't get home until after the girls have got into bed.  It will change a little through the summer though, with the few that are continuing able to hopefully have classes at better times for us! This has provided good connections with families from Mia's class.
I am continuing to push doors with the new business venture.  I traveled down to Tartu last week for two meetings, one with the teachers at the International School there, and then again with the parents in the evening.  I'm yet to have any confirmed business, which isn't through want of trying, but I still have faith that this is something God has opened up so will keep pushing!  Health wise, I still have a little pain in my leg (usually first thing in the morning) and some general discomfort, but have finished my treatments now, as it is felt my exercises/stretches that I need to do every day, should bring about total recovery.

OK, that's enough for now!  Who know's what will happen over the next month!  Especially with Mia and her interesting final few school days! Thanks for listening and all your prayers and encouragement.