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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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Does putting a prayer request post on social media show more faith in your friends responding than in your God?

I recently wrote the following as a status on Facebook:

Is putting prayer requests (especially for money!) on Facebook, showing more faith in your friends responding than in your God? Discuss.....

It was great to get a cross section of answers from people all around the world, some not even believers in the God they might (not) pray to.

So I wanted to put my answer down here, because if it's something I've asked, then I know others would have asked it - and if it's something a few have answered, I know it would be something many others would be looking to have answered.

The reason for the post was really to create a discussion - it wasn't prompted by anything I'd seen at that time.  Not that, in the past, I haven't seen such posts.  I'm sure we all have.  The kind that talks more about what the need is, and how much people can give, and even the bank account details, and then adds on, 'Amen', as if it's just a prayer all along and we have somehow, inadvertently, 'walked' in on this friends private chat with God.

It was interesting to be told of two accounts where a positive financial outcome had come from this very thing on Facebook - once where a person had been given an amount in their head to give, without knowing for whom, until they saw something on Facebook.  The other setting was someone saying how they gave, several times, because of seeing the need raised on Facebook.

Clearly, there is a balance between how often, and to whom, these requests are made - consensus was too much too often and it's a negative thing.  Discreet and appropriate ways are best - but I guess that leads to the question of what is appropriate?

At the other extreme there was the thought that any financial support is just sponging off others, and these people are simply failing, or being disobedient to, their God given talents - simply asking for the easy life instead of working hard for their own money.

I felt this was a bit harsh, and misses the point, as I'll come to a bit later.

Thinking this all through over the last week, one picture keeps playing out in my head.  When you need a home loan or mortgage, you don't address the individual account holders and savers, but speak to the bank itself - the bank manager if you got the chance.  And God is not only the guy above ALL banks, but has even more resources of his own compared to the combined wealth of every bank and business on the planet.  How much more do we need to make our requests known to him!

And ultimately, as was commented by a friend on Facebook (a great part of the Tallinn church plant too!), it's more a matter of the heart than any currency the planet might otherwise use.  Do we really believe that God is for us?  Can we trust him with our prayers, as wild and as unlikely as they might be?  Do we really know him as a loving father that wants us to ask him for anything, in order to bring him glory (let's not forget that part!  Many of my requests as a young boy, thankfully were not answered, as I know they were not for his glory and probably would have killed me!)  I stopped praying for flash cars, because if I owned a fast car, I'd be at greater risk of driving, well....fast.  

And regarding financial support, the key to understand is that it buys you time - not an easy life.  Time is our most valuable commodity, if we can call it that, as it is so out of our personal control so often.  We're judged more on how we have used our time, than how we spent our money!
Personally, God called me clearly and straightforwardly to the nations - the Russian speaking world of the former Soviet Union.  Up to the point of leaving the UK, I had worked since the age of 18 - never actually being 'full-time' in the church, though having been in leadership.  But by being obedient in going (obedience is a huge currency in the Kingdom of God!), I was making it impossible to do my God given gifting, especially initially.  I had no language to make me employable, and even if I did, the visa restrictions made it illegal to work.  
To go down the road of saying I needed to do my God given talents, would actually mean staying in the UK - not going anywhere!  That spiral of events and thinking can be more destructive than anything - the church could end up doing nothing!
And having worked (with some standard of living in the latter years), to live on support was really hard - horrible at times!  
So while I'm sure, sadly, a few might abuse such a position, really for most it's the opposite - less holidays, less things that others see as must haves, and a great responsibility for every pound, euro or ruble at your disposal.  
The support we did receive gave us vital time - to learn language, to understand culture, and to serve in the growing church once it got started.

And let's not forget the vital truth - it's better to give than to receive!  Better by far.  I've always loved to give - it's a great joy to do it and we can't forget the dual blessing that comes with giving - both to those receiving the gift, but also for the giver itself.  If the global church suddenly said let's stop giving to others, it would be the givers that would be most effected, not the others - God would find a way of funding his work.  Which, after all, is what anyone serving Him is actually doing anyway.  His work.

So, to draw these thoughts together.  Go first (maybe only) to God.  He knows what you need before you ask him, but He so enjoys you actually asking!  Keep persisting in prayer to God - talk to him about it daily.  He's a great listener!  Then, if you want others to pray with you, let the need be known in an appropriate way.  Maybe a group on Facebook, or something similar.  People want to know about your needs.  If something serious arises, your friends and family want to know about it.  That's what makes the people of God, the church, one big family.  And the stories above show that for some it's been the answer to their looking in regards to giving!  When your prayer is answered, if you've used Facebook (even if not) let them all know too.  

And where you do have the opportunity, look as to work in such a way that you can cover your own needs - and have some left over to bless someone else too!  That for me remains the goal, and the perfect situation.

Thanks for reading - I would be really interested with any further comments on the subject....

Thursday, July 4, 2013

News from Tallinn - The Mid-Summer Update

Midsummer falls on the 23rd June in Estonia - and the holiday of Jaanipäev (St John's Day) is a two day event and is probably the biggest party of the year.

Though we missed the bonfire, we did hang out as a group on the beach, watching the sunset late in the day and letting off our own (less than successful!) lantern.  The photo below was taken quite late:

Since the last update, Mia has finished school - her school broke up on the 6th June, though she went to a summer camp for a week from 17th June.  This was with a friend from church.  The photo below shows Mia on her last day of school, which seems to be as big an event as the first day, standing next to her two class teachers and her PE teacher.  As also mentioned last time, at the end of May we traveled back briefly to the Stockport Family Church weekend away, which was held over the bank holiday weekend.  It provided once again a great time, spending lots of quality time with old and new friends alike.  Two years ago, at the last one they held, Mia managed to make a really good friend, and break her arm.  Thankfully arm unharmed this time, and friendship continued!  Anya too was making friends.  It was great for us to be in a context of wider fellowship, worship and the opportunity to step out in spiritual gifts, something that has continued since coming home.

Arriving back in Tallinn at the beginning of June, we had the first of a steady flow of visitors already arrived.  Wei-Jin, originally from Malaysia, but living in Cambridge, UK, was here for about 3 weeks, and it was good getting to know him, show him some of the sites (though in the few days before we'd seen him, he'd already seen a bit of the Old Town and done a day trip to Helsinki!), and share a bit of who we are as a church plant and what the vision is.
As it proved with others that would follow, just having some extra folks around for our gathering events helped give that sense of something bigger, a direction we are certainly keen to head into!
Not long had he left (he only actually stayed with us for about 5 nights during his time here) we had family friends from Finland come and stay, a family of four who came down for the Jaanipäev weekend.  They joined us on the beach for the Sunday night gathering on the evening of the 23rd itself.
Leaving on the Tuesday, with Rachel's birthday on the Thursday, little did Rachel know at the time but a surprise was in store - a big one at that!  Offering to get the sheets washed and things clean again, though there were no visitors due (as far as she knew), I was able to put the final touches on a plan that I'd thought up some months before.
Kate Tolhurst, is one of Rachel's closest and dearest friends, and for some years has been working in Uganda with orphans and special needs children at New Hope Uganda.  Their last time they saw each other, ironically in Tallinn on a short weekend as the obvious meeting point (Rachel from St Petersburg, Kate from the UK), whilst Rachel was looking at rental flats in January 2012, they'd not spent any real length of time together for years, each of our UK trips being at times when the other was abroad.  So the plan was that Kate would come for a surprise visit for her birthday, and that's how things worked out!  Rachel opened the front door, only to find her best friend standing there, a friend she was unsure when she'd see next!
Kate was with us for a week, leaving yesterday.  Already planned before her confirmation, was the visit last weekend of a UK based pastor who was in the middle of his two month sabbatical.  Adrian Horner, from Open Door Church in Kettering, UK, had wanted to connect with some international settings in the Catalyst network of churches.  We'd been in touch for a couple of months planning the details, and Adrian arrived from 28th June to 1st July.  He was able to share at our Vision Sunday that we held on Sunday 30th June, our biggest yet.
And the visitors didn't end there - unable to meet a guy passing through Tallinn from St Petersburg on his way home, we did have another such person who we did meet up with - Flic from Hope Church in St Petersburg, who was literally picked up by Rachel on her way to the airport (to drop off Kate) and then came back to us.  Flic was herself dropped off at the airport last night, due for a holiday in England this summer.
There is a small pause in guests, with our next special guest due being Dave Henson, who comes for a night on Monday 15th July.

Estonian Churches Growing Desire to plant more Estonian churches

Last time round I mentioned about attending a church planting conference here in Tallinn.  Relationally it was really good, and personally great to see and hear, and feel, a hunger for church multiplication.  A New York church leader, Tim Keller, was quoted at the conference with something of the following: In a study he'd done, in cities where few new churches are being planted, ALL churches are in decline.  In cities where some churches are being planted, then most churches are about stable.  But in cities where lots of churches are being planted, then ALL churches are on the increase.
And that kind of summed things up for me, and for all the leaders there, whether representing the majority established churches, or the good number of plants, or soon to be plants, it seemed to envision the desire and need for lots of churches to be planted right across Estonia and even beyond.  There were several denominational leaders from Estonia and Latvia present.
And of course, as one of the new church plants in Tallinn, we are a part of all this!

Serving Local Churches

A great honour that recently happened was being asked to speak at a local church, Praise Chapel, as they moved into their new, bigger venue.  We went as a team on 21st May, and before I spoke, I really felt I needed to leave time for the prophetic, and not sharing what I was bringing, opened things up to the team to bring some words, having prompted them a few days before, saying I would give them time to share.  I had no idea if anything would be brought, or if things started flowing, whether I'd have time to speak after!  What was so encouraging was that all of the words totally linked into what I was about (and went onto) share!  One word even included a phrase, which word for word, was my third point!  And that was one of now three contexts, in this last month, that as a group we've had space to step out in the prophetic, and each time a good number of words have flowed.  I'm really encouraged.
A young Estonian/American couple are still very excited about joining us at the end of August, as they move from America.  They will really fit in well with this prophetic culture that is developing, and I'm personally looking forward to getting to know them both.

Another great encouragement, and yet more of God working behind the scenes, was going over and chatting with a small group of young Estonian's at our local beach.  One guy, who later I was to find out was not yet 15, really is growing in God, and though only a young Christian, knows God has called him to church plant.  Having spent all of Sunday night, after our Vision Sunday, with him and answering his questions, he feels that Hope:Tallinn is the place God wants him to grow in and wants to get involved with things from now on.  So we are encouraged to see that local people, who are invested deeper in life here than we are, are beginning to sense God encouraging them to get involved with what we are starting.

Family are continuing to do well.  I think in the last update I suggested how things might 'quieten' down for Rachel and her teaching, and while the hours of teaching no longer clash with dinnertime and bedtime, she has picked up about as many new students as those that she was teaching who have stopped for the summer.  And with both Mia and Anya now off for the summer, we are having to plan time carefully!
Next Monday for 4 nights we are managing to get away just outside of Tallinn.  Please pray for a great rest, for strong family memories and fun together, and especially for recharged batteries.  I'm already aware that this Autumn is going to be a busy period of increased growth, but there are two months of summer to go before that of course!

New Conference - Riga 19th - 22nd July.

Girl's playing 'Dentist' on the balcony
One thing that I will be going to later this month, in which I am also speaking at, is a conference in Riga organised by Matt and his team in the Riga church plant, as part of the Relational Mission sphere of churches.  It's a great chance to hear about church planting in this region, to get a taste for cross culture life, and visit a great city like Riga.  There will be a number of folks coming over from the UK - if you are interested, please get in touch.  The conference itself is free, you just need to get the flights and accommodation - all the information you need is found here.  Do let me know if you are coming!

Finally - our Beach Day this Sunday

This Sunday we are hanging out on the beach, and inviting everyone that we're in contact with to join us.  Please pray for great community, as we look to develop the Hope:Tallinn community, share our lives and enjoy the great Estonian summer together.  Here's our flyer for the event - why not come join us for the weekend!

Thanks so much for reading, for your prayers and such encouraging support.

There are going to be loads of really exciting things happening over the months ahead, so we'll do our best at keeping you updated on all of these as they happen.