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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Thursday, August 29, 2013

News from Tallinn - Late Summer update

Certainly at the early stages of church planting, there are very different 'seasons'.  Some busy with people, some busy with tasks.  At the early stages of starting anything, especially a local church, there are often some 'quiet' times when due to people travelling etc, less is happening.  Most of the previous five summers have shown us that to be true, at times.  August was often a specific example.  Except this year, it seems.

Our last family update was at the start of the long school summer holidays, and yet, now, this Sunday (yes, you read correctly!) Mia starts back at school, going into the 2nd Grade.  September 1st is always the first day of school, regardless of when it falls.  This will be our 6th such day, but it's the first to fall on a Sunday.

So before that all starts again, I wanted to bring you up to date on some of what has been happening over here, on what has turned out to be a rather busy summer after all.  I know it's a longer one, but it seems easier to get to write updates every few months that cover more, than more regular, shorter ones.  I trust you make it to the end...!

Hope:Tallinn gatherings

The name of the church plant is Hope:Tallinn.  We've kept the name Hope from St Petersburg for two reasons - firstly, we are an extension of what God started in Russia.  And secondly Jesus is the only Hope for St Petersburg (hence the name!) and that remains only too true for Tallinn also!  We have the ':Tallinn' part because we are intent on planting other churches into other cities, whereever that might be.  So we will just change the city name for all the future Hope:CITY churches God would lead us to plant.  It's a prophetic statement of intent.  We can't say God has given us any more clarity on that yet - one church plant at a time! (God IS gathering in Tallinn folks who want to church plant in the future though!).

In a culture and nation with little understanding of church, even the idea of church, we have been working with the characteristics of what church is instead - family, community, relationships etc.  We've been building relational groups that gather together regularly, usually every Sunday at 4pm, growing in friendship together, as we get to know one another.
For us it's important that people feel they can belong together, be a part of a community, before they might believe the things we believe.  The church, after all, shouldn't be a place for only Christians, but should be much wider than that.

We hope to be able to host some events over the coming months that would open opportunities to discuss some deeper stuff, maybe focused around issues to do with parenting or relationships.  We'll let you know more details about what will be happening when we have a clearer idea. So watch this space!

Riga Conference

In my last update, I mentioned about going to Riga for the NEW conference which was held in July.  It was a great time of fellowship together, both during the social times, and throughout the four sessions which made up the conference over the weekend.  I was speaking at the third session on the Sunday morning.  It was encouraging, especially compared to last year, to see lots of people there, many from different settings in Latvia, and one guy from Lithuania.  There was also a strong sense of the prophetic, helped hugely by Mike Bollinger's presence (the first time I've met him) and Maurice Nightingale, who I met first time last year, and he also came to Tallinn in the Autumn.  On the Monday we met as leaders together for a time of sharing and praying for one another, which was really helpful.  On that day, and throughout the weekend, there was a repeated prophetic sense of God doing something great in the region, and especially in Tallinn and Riga, as we continue to connect together.

I was also prayed for regarding my back injury (sustained last December), and since my time in Riga, arriving home with a sense I should start jogging again, this month especially there has been a huge improvement.  Only just able to jog slowly at the beginning of the month, the more I've gone out the stronger I'm feeling. Praise God for breakthrough at last!

A Week a little further South

At the end of July we got to go away for a week, travelling south from Tallinn, around 100 km or so.  We were staying in a log cabin in the woods which enabled us to have BBQ's and bonfires most nights, heating sausages over the fire one evening.
There was a pond, which was possible to swim in, but we didn't, the hundreds of frogs jumping around everywhere enough to put me off, though they weren't restricted to the water, but thankfully, were not in the cabin (as far as I knew!).

A little further south from where we were staying was the quaint seaside town of Haapsalu, which we thoroughly enjoyed.  Estonia has so many hidden treasures, this being one of them.

Anyone wanting to one day plant Hope:Haapsalu will be living in a lovely, if not small, town!

And then came August....

Hospitality is key in relation to church planting, and it's something we do enjoy, so when we talk about how many people have been around, we are far from complaining!  Just sharing what's been happening...

Arriving back from our seven days in the forest, literally that same night our first guest arrived, Flic, now on route back to St Petersburg, but spending the night (exchanging holiday stories) in Tallinn.  And actually, for the seven nights following our week away, we had people with us on six of the nights, including a group of four Russians (from St Petersburg) staying with us over the weekend. 

That weekend, we held a Hope:Tallinn prayer night, and the Russian's were joined by three others, all having been at a 'Love Russia' camp in Estonia, so we had a packed house, and that with most of the core team being away at the time.

After the meeting, we all ate a meal together - Rachel cooking a great chilli for 13 people, before all taking a walk to the beach at around 9.30, Mia swimming in the sea - and loving it. Anya was starting back at kindergarten the following morning, but there was no chance of her having an early night! Not that she minded!  The group photo on the right (below) is us on the way to the beach, with Yan standing behind his daughter (he is part of an orphan ministry in St Petersburg), Sasha in red (part of Hope Church) and Masha with Mia and Anya.  Masha was a surprise to meet in Tallinn, her being a link back to the early days in St Petersburg, when she had come to the meals that were happening.  She was the link for Rachel to get into the abandoned baby unit in the city.  She is part of another church.  It was great to see her again, and the girls loved her!

August also included a wedding - Rachel and Mia away for four nights on a busy flying visit to the north of England.  Mia was a flower girl for Sarah, the youngest daughter of a family we've been very close to for many years. Rachel was also able to spend a little time with her Grandma, who turned 90 the day after she came back to Tallinn, in time for my own birthday.

During the week, with Anya in kindergarten, I was able to focus a little more on writing, making good progress on my second novel, though the end is not yet in sight.

For my birthday, which fell on a Sunday, we did a BBQ in the forest near us (third picture from the top on the right).  In the end we had four different mini grills going, and a small crowd of visitors.

One of these was an English girl named Rebekah, who spent a month in this part of the world between the end of July and August.  Two weeks were spent in Estonia, with another two weeks in St Petersburg.  She is praying about if/when she is to come and join us in Tallinn.  This would be something we'd be very keen on so please pray that she finds peace about it, and as part of the open door, a great job here!

And finally (for the moment) on the visitor front, we had my brother and his family stay with us for a week last week.  They live in London and have two young children so it was great to see the cousins all playing so nicely together.  The weather was great and they all left with a fresh view on Estonia, their previous time being snowy, icy and cold!

The Time Challenge

In my last blog entry, I talked about putting prayers on Facebook, especially regarding financial needs, and it was said that in moderation, in specific places, it was good, if not even desired.  People wanted to hear about real situations they felt close to and maybe able to help in.

Our goal financially is self sufficiency.  Of course, all money comes from God, whether through working, or being supported in ministry from others, we know it's all from Him and we give Him thanks for that.  As many of you know, since leaving the UK in 2008, we have been supported financially.  The support we've received from others has always been for about 65% of our expenditure. 25% has come from my working remotely with my old UK job, which leaves another 10% which has been irregular, one off payments, sometimes gifts, often just random things.  We love the way God works!
Of that 65% that is support, much of this has been people with us from day one.  Five years of faithful, releasing support.  These were mainly individuals, but there were two churches as well, our original home church in Stockport, and another within the region, much to our surprise at the time!  There have been two new individual supports start up within the last year, which helped with the natural drop off of individual supports after four years.  Stockport continues to be our admin base for the UK giving, reclaiming the gift aid for us and passing that onto us in time.  We are so grateful for their willingness to help us this way, and the time it frees up for us.
The other church, so faithful in their support of us, have after five amazing years, said it's time for them to invest in other areas, which is of course their great privilege.  We have nothing but thanks and praise for their wonderful support, and know that they continue to pray for us.  They end this month, so there will be a noticeable gap come September.

God has already been aware of this of course.  Starting next week, there is a Finnish man who I will start teaching three times a week.  It's an immediate provision, and we'll see if it continues after our two week trial together.

As I said above, our goal is self sufficiency.  Rachel has started teaching children English, and that has been growing steadily.  She already has as much as she can manage starting again next week (one draw back being the naturally unsocial hours it requires).  Earlier this year, I started a business.  I also published my first novel last year and am working on another.  Both of these are not producing much, if anything, yet, in regards to income.  The business is yet to make it's first proper client, though the teaching Rachel is now doing is able to go through its books.

So I come back to the challenge of time.  We will be diligent to throw ourselves at all that God opens up.  We believe in working hard and to the best of our ability.  Our problem is balance.  The more time we sacrifice to work and cover costs, the less time (and energy) we have for church.  In this I mean, meeting up with and building key relationships with those that God has connected us to.  Also with preparation time for preaching trips, which have been happening more regularly.  I'm due in St Petersburg a little more this Autumn as well, besides all there is in Tallinn.  With these relationships I mentioned, there are many already, and we see them as much as we can, but compared to the early days in Russia, it's much less often than we'd like!

Three Practical Ways to Help....

The first way is to help publicise my novel - every time a book is purchased, whether it's the paperback or ebook, I get a small royalty.  People are really starting to rate it well, so buying the book yourself, or getting it for others, isn't going to be a bad experience, I trust!  There are many reviews up on Amazon already, so you can see what others are saying if you want to know more.  The internet is the world's market place - so sharing the link to the book, talking about it, 'selling' it to your friends all help very much.  Writing reviews are such an encouragement.  I'm sure you can think of even better ways of getting the word (literally in the case of a novel!) out.

The second way is prayer.  Pray for favour in business, as I continue to lay the grass roots in relationships for a business I hope, but have no guarantees, will be a success.  Pray for favour with my writing.  Let God take the novel to unforeseen places.  Pray for opportunities with teaching, especially with Rachel, though more for balance as to new students....she has about all that she can manage.

The third way is monthly support.  And this is just us sharing the need.  We do not aim to live on support for ever.  Far from it.  We look forward to the day when we are off support.  But that day is not today, and this coming year, with another couple moving next week to join us in Tallinn, is a big year for building.  If our gaps in finance are met through support, it buys us valuable time, which I've always been saying, is ultimately our most valuable thing.

Thanks for lasting until the end!

Prayer Points

  • For Stephen & Ketlin Morrison, who move here next week from the USA to join us in Tallinn
  • For Rebekah as she prays about her future
  • For Adrian Horner, who visited us (as mentioned in the last update) a month ago from Open Door Church in Kettering.  We are joining them via Skype for a prayer meeting next month.
  • For the coming year, whatever that involves.
  • For continued, sustained momentum and growth of all things Hope:Tallinn.
Thank you guys so much for praying with us and standing with us.  It makes EVERY difference for us with life here in beautiful Estonia.