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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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Update from Tallinn - December 2014


Remember us?  I've had it in mind to update everyone for sometime.  I didn't realise the last time we'd put an update out here was back in July! That is a long time ago!  In fact, looking at my frequency of blogging, this post will be number seven of the year, that's all.  That's the lowest annual total in the seven years I've been blogging!

It's not for lack of things to write about.

I guess it's not totally true to say I haven't been blogging entirely.  In November I was given a weekly spot on the Families First blog, my short posts on 'Mission as a family' go out every Friday and you can find the last one here

And if I'm brutally honest with you, as I've always intended on being on a blog titled 'hearing my heart' these last few months have been quite a struggle. We'll come to that later.

Here are the headlines for this update:

  • POG Camp in Latvia in August
  • NEW Weekend in Helsinki in September
  • New School Term, New Job for Rachel.
  • Regular Prayer Events Started
  • Team Growth - Present and Future
  • Parenting Course
In August (which does feel like a lifetime ago and it actually was, especially when I look outside!) we traveled down to the small town of Ergli in Latvia to join many others from around the Baltic region, as well as the UK, for the 'Presence of God' conference, hosted by Mike Betts and his team from Relational Mission.
Matt Medd, together with the other guys in the Riga church plant, had done an amazing job of organising the event for us all.
There were meetings for the adults and a whole program for the children who loved their time together.  Many new friends were made and existing friendships strengthened.  As well as the UK, there were people from Poland, Latvia, Estonia, Finland and Sweden.
As you can see from these pictures, the weather was great and the campsite perfect for hanging around and spending time with friends. For the more adventurous, there was the zip line, which both Rachel and Mia tried out!
The lake was great for swimming in, though Mia did develop some form of skin infection that resulted in a trip to a local doctors there.
The teaching was fantastic.  Mike Betts and Angela Kemm, as well as Phil Whittall (Grace Church, Stockholm) really encouraged us.
The sense of being together, coming from similar situations and yet caught up in something bigger, was really fantastic.
Many people had been able to meet up at an event in Stockholm earlier in the year in May, when Terry Virgo had traveled to Sweden to speak on Grace.  This POG event in August, longer and with more people present based around a camp site, allowed greater relationships to be built and formed a second meeting point in the region for the year.
A third one was about to happen too, this time in Finland, the following month.

NEW Event - Helsinki

Kevin and Lydia Jones, together with their team in Helsinki, did a wonderful job of hosting a Friday-Sunday conference.  The NEW event has been around for some years in the RM family and I'd been to the last two, speaking at the last one, both hosted in Riga.  This was the first time it had come to Finland, the church plant there barely one year old.
Again this time I had the great honour of being asked to share at one of the sessions, speaking about the realities of church planting, but with faith.  I think I managed to stick to my mandate and in truth received the best feedback and encouragement I think I've ever had.  The other speakers, all from the UK, did a wonderful job in serving us over the weekend, as did the team that were looking after the children.
Rebekah had been able to join us from Tallinn, though sadly Arnoud and Elisabeth had had to pull out at the last minute, though their oldest daughter did also travel with us for the trip.
Again there was a great sense of togetherness. Latvia, Sweden, Finland, The Netherlands, The UK and of course Estonia was represented.
Looking back, I realise how much I cherish these times together.  The travel and time, and of course expense, is all worth it because of the chance to meet together, with people going through the same things you are, in contexts and nations very similar to our own.

And so we hit the Autumn...

The summer had been a busy time as I mentioned in the last update, with these camps and conferences following on as mentioned above.  Midway through August, the transition into a different time was already happening. Rachel started a new job as a class teacher in the Tallinn European School. The school itself is only in its second year, and Rachel is a class teacher to grade one children.  The job was only meant to be part time (Mon-Thurs) and while it has settled down a little, in time but not energy levels, in the early months it was fair to say it was all consuming, and in many regards still very much is.  There have been a few Friday's already when she's needed to be in, and one whole weekend when she had to be at school for some special training taking place!  Several months in, it's said she's got the most difficult class in the school. Much grace is needed and your prayers for her would certainly be good.  It has opened up new doors and many avenues of relationship.  It's another step at integration for us as a family.  And it's certainly one of the things that has added to a very real, very intense few months.

Prayer Events

On the back of the summer, with the sense of momentum and fresh vision seemingly building towards a key phase approaching, we entered September with a week of prayer, finishing on the Saturday night with a prayer and worship night, which we did in partnership with another local church.  It was thought this was just a one off event.  
For that night itself, events transpired that three churches were actually together.  By the end of the night, which was enjoyed by all, we were left with the feeling that God was in this, and maybe something more regular should happen, where churches come together, laying down agendas, gathering to worship and pray for Tallinn, Estonia and the nations.  I spoke with the other churches and settled on the feeling that a regular bimonthly prayer event should take place.  We held the next one therefore in November and saw four churches represented.  We're hoping there will be at least five present when we meet next in the New Year, on January 10th.  The photo shows the worship band for the last event, made up from people from three different churches.

Going forward, I do feel for next year these prayer events, happening across churches in Tallinn, are really important times for us and appropriate focus and time should be given to them.  The last move of God that happened in Estonia, whilst it was still part of the Soviet Union in fact, happened in the late 1970s.  In a Union that denied God, common practice was to force all denominations to use a single facility.  It was a clever ploy - rather than going as far as to outlaw the church entirely, they knew throwing them all together, each with their different traditions and beliefs, and the church would end up destroying itself.  Well, it didn't work, of course.  And what happened in Tallinn, in St Olav's Church in the Old Town, was they started to pray. Churches forced together and now praying together.  And dramatic things started to happen. Miracles and healings.  News spread right across the Soviet Union and people came to Tallinn, until the KGB forced the revival to shut down, giving the leaders at the time an ultimatum that sadly they agreed to.
Whilst we live in relatively free times, the spiritual climate in Estonia couldn't be darker.  It's sometimes tangible. We've had several people comment on passing through Tallinn how they had this spiritual sense of something, an oppression, not felt in other local capital cities, a region that is all very secular with very few churches.  What is it about Tallinn and Estonia that makes people say this?  I don't know, but we feel it too.  Prayer is the key because prayer is talking to God and He is the only one on which this matter ultimately depends.

Lights in the Darkness

We are of course called to be lights in the dark world.  The excitement and activity of the summer, with the events in Tallinn and relational events elsewhere, gave us sight of something beyond us.  It's as if the realities of being once more 'on the ground', with natural daylight drawing shorter each day, has taken its toll. The momentum and energy there was in September has come and gone. Whilst the midweek home group has always been weekly and still is, the autumn saw us launching a fortnightly Sunday gathering more like a church meeting than anything else.  Gathering events would still happen around them.  But we haven't seen the crowds coming and these meetings have slowed us down, if I'm honest.  With a new year approaching, I need to look again with eyes of vision and understand what God has for us next.

It's God Who Has Gathered the Team

One thing I keep coming back to, when I often ask the question "how are we possibly going to see a church planted here" is to remind myself that it's His church, and His job!  Also, I take great encouragement from the fact that the team that has already gathered, and which is still growing, is God's doing! Right from Arnoud & Elisabeth, the first family to move to join us, through to Enrico, Stephen, Ketlin and Rebekah, all have come because God did something in their hearts, which caused them to get in contact.  In August, Maki joined us too.  Japanese by birth, she'd just moved from Panama in central America to take a job at the International School.  She brings a lot of passion and is very much on board with us, which I'm so thankful for, even if I don't yet know what it is we are needing to do as a church plant!
God has also spoken to another English lady, Sherron Fensome, who is looking to move to Tallinn in April next year. Please pray for her as she makes final preparations, especially in relation to a job.
What's become clear to me, and something so different to our experience in St Petersburg, is that to plant a church in Estonia will take a long time.  It's like a warfare situation.  Some wars are won quickly, airstrikes, shock and awe.  Others are long and drawn out, person to person, decade to decade. In relation to church planting, Estonia is certainly the latter.
And we are prepared for the long haul.  We have settled here, we largely love life here and never felt this was going to be a quick effort.  But it also drains vision.  To see people not attending something, to hear other churches longing for the same thing we are - to see just one person saved!
So it's a time of assessment.  Of reflecting on where we've been and where we need to be going.  Most of all, it's a time where we need to hear God on what to do next.

Parenting Course

One thing that we have wanted to do for a long time and were able to put on recently was a course to help parents. Gary and Fiona Blackwell, from Stockport Family Church, UK, helped us greatly by coming over to Tallinn for a long weekend and as part of that putting on this one off seminar, that saw a largely new crowd of people gathered, if not a huge crowd.  It was perfect for what followed.  We were able to put on a Kids Club at the same time so that the parents, in theory anyway, could have time to talk during the seminar without the distraction of their children.  Future courses for parents, as well as courses looking at marriage, are still in my thinking, as we look at practical ways of really helping people in Tallinn.

Visits

Tallinn remains a popular destination and the last few months have seen people passing through.  Some just as tourists, others exploring opportunities here.  I mentioned Sherron above, who was here when John and Liz Barrett, from Alton, Hampshire, happened to be arriving for the day on a Baltic Sea cruise.  We all met up for some time. Rachel was taking this photo, and Mia was at ballet at the time.
Josie Rogers, a student currently in St Petersburg, is also a more regular visitor to Tallinn, having been over in the summer to help us with the team.  She is planning on coming to do a voluntary year (or more!) in Tallinn from September 2016.
John Putman, a church leader from the UK, was also passing through again. He'd traveled up from Riga and had two nights in Tallinn, sharing during our midweek meeting.

Tim the Writer

A growing part of my professional life over the last few years has been in relation to writing, as I hope many of you already know by now (or I've been doing something rather wrong in my communication of this exciting fact!)  How I balance the increasing demands of a writers life with that of church life (not to mention, of course, my higher priorities as husband and father!) remains a challenge I need to still understand. Clearly, with church at the stage we are still at, there is less of a clash - I dare not ask myself the question that am I part of the reason we are still at this stage?
With my second novel due out next month (January 2015 - and yes, you will hear a lot more about that in the coming weeks!), I'm working hard to develop this important next step in my writing career.  Over the last month or so I've seen an explosion of followers on social media, my author account on Twitter has gone through the 5000 followers mark and grows daily.  It remains to be seen, following on from the relative success of my debut novel, what this translates into take up for the new novel, titled The Last Prophet.  
A third novel is already written in first draft form and I will start a fourth novel in January.  One thing that is coming to light over recent weeks in Estonia is that in certain circles, I am becoming known because I am an author.  And this is leading to questions of why I chose to live in Estonia if I can write anywhere - which leads onto church.  Just last night, having introduced myself as Tim, two internationals were talking with me, and when I said I was an author, they both said "Oh, you are Tim Heath.  Yes, we've heard of you.  We should have guessed!"  That doesn't happen too often, I should say.  Not yet, anyway.  But it does show me that maybe God would open a door into Estonia, through my writing life, that raises the profile of Christianity?  Last week I was also in a conversation with an Egyptian businessman, a fan of my book, asking me about making the film version of it here in Estonia.

And I like to write.  I'm sure if you are still reading this, you know that by now.

But let me ask you a few questions.  If I was to publish a Christian book called "Adventures of Faith" which detailed our journey and what God has done, what else would you like such a book to cover?  What elements would you like to know about?  The Adventures of Faith series has been a long running part of this blog - there are six parts already written and my thinking is that part seven, the seven years on reflection, could be exclusive for the eBook? 
What else would be good to be included?  Let me know.

Also, seeing as this is the first update since July, would you like to hear news more frequently, or is it okay as and when?  Let me know too!

Finally, even as I've been writing today's update, I'm more aware that 2015 needs to have a strong prayer focus, central to everything we are and everything we do.  Would a Tallinn prayer weekend in 2015 be something you'd get excited about?  A time to come visit, walk and talk lots, see the sights and have a night of praying together.  A come see, come live weekend that is lite on structure and meetings, strong on relationship, fun and prayer! Would this be something you and/or your church might be excited about?

As you can see, I'm looking for feedback this time.  Feel free to comment wherever you saw this post - either here on the blog, on Facebook, Twitter or as a reply email.  

In case we don't get a chance to say so otherwise, have a wonderful Christmas and New Year - and maybe we'll see you in Tallinn too in 2015?



Wednesday, August 20, 2014

God Speaks - Words - Part 6

There has been quite a gap between this and the last entry, but I'd like to welcome you back to the latest part of a series that I'm calling "God Speaks..."
Over these nine entries, I want to look at some of the ways that God speaks to us (it's not an exhaustive list of course - I'm sure others can add to it!). Because He does speak.  All the time.
Because God is real, because He loves us and because He is good - He speaks.
Usually, it's us (mere people!) that fail to listen or maybe fail to understand that it was God speaking to us.
I want to share from my own life, as practical examples, some of the ways God has spoken to me.  In all, I want to briefly look at these nine ways that we hear from God:


Dreams (click here to read this section)
Visions & Pictures (click here to read this section)
Through Others (click here to read this section) 
Angels (click here to read this section)
Bible (click here to read this section)
Words
Small Still Voice
Burning Bush
Audible Voice

Personally, I've experienced six out of these nine ways listed - and as we go through the series, I'll make these clear how that happened.  So, here we go with the next part!

Part 6 - Words

What do I mean by words - of course, we all speak with 'words' - the language might change from country to country, but around the world, people use words to communicate.  We've touched on the written word in the last section - the Bible - the inspired, written word of God (inspired through the Holy Spirit, written by people at the time of the events, often eyewitnesses, or soon after the events).  We'll cover words through audible means later.
In this section I want to look at what the Bible calls words - of knowledge, of wisdom....the list goes on.

You see, even in this 21st Century world we live in, God still speaks to us - more so than ever!  More people on the planet, means more people who God desires to have relationship with and therefore speak to.

This particular way of hearing from God, like all the others, can have a very instant impact.  Take a word of knowledge for healing, for example.  And this is something I've experienced first hand!

The Bible tells us we can do the things Jesus did.  It tells us to pray for sick people that they might recover.  It also talks about words of knowledge.  I've prayed for many people who are sick - I don't know the stats, but I know not all have got better straight away (far from it!).  But, I've also prayed for people following a word of knowledge, and in these cases, things work a whole lot differently.  People get healed.  Why this happens I do not really know.  Faith is certainly raised (though really, I guess, it shouldn't be - the Bible tells us sick people got better when Jesus laid hands on them, so really that should be enough).  Often, it isn't.
But, if I'm in a gathering of people, and God has highlighted something very specific to me (for example, arthritis in the left hip and moving down the left leg), and then someone happens to be there with that exact condition, why wouldn't God heal that person?  Does God need to brag that He can revel someones need and leave it at that? Is the faith raised in the sick person because they'd heard their condition mentioned?  Does the one praying, who has seen someone respond, feel more confident in their praying?  Well to answer these - God doesn't need to brag and yes, faith is raised for sure!

The above example actually happened when I visited a church in the Peak District many years ago.....even as I was sharing what God said to me, a lady behind me (she was singing in the worship band) shouted 'yes' with real joy - three people in fact responded to the call for healing from arthritis, though I prayed with just the one person - the 'yes' lady who had been standing behind me.  She told me she'd been waiting 17 years for God to give someone a word for healing about this condition - that's a long time of suffering, and why she needed a specific word, I'm not sure.  I'm sure she got prayed for regularly, but today, of all days, God had picked her out.  And God healed her.  The report back that week (I was passed on the news) was that she was totally healed. Praise God!

Words aren't always about healing - there are words of prophecy too.  These are speaking words over people that release destiny, bring encouragement, emotional healing, love etc.  In other words, they build someone up.  If you are left discouraged, downtrodden, or beaten up after being told a 'prophetic' word, reject it.  Walk away.  True, not all words we want to hear, but even challenging words can be brought in the right way - too often, it's just someones own opinion (or frustration!) packaged in 'thus saith the Lord" - oh, and while we are at this, it's YOU that speaks - use normal language, and your normal voice.  God, believe it or not, doesn't speak with King James English in the 21st century.

Be careful about bringing words regarding the following area, unless you are 'seasoned' in the gift (even then, I'd still say be cautious) and with someone else too: Who someone will, or won't marry.  I guess you could add to that births and deaths.  There are some who I'm sure can, it's just a difficult thing to bring.  God can show the person who they'll marry just as easily as tell a stranger - if we think it relies on our words only, we have a too small of an understanding of our great big God!

I've been on the receiving end as well, many times.  A key phase for me was between the ages of 17-19.  As a 17 year old, I was picked out of a crowd of 2000 people by a gifted and recognised prophet in the UK - Gerald Coutes. He pin pointed some stuff in the present (stuff he couldn't have know but God) and then was very specific about stuff in the future - 17 years from then, in fact.  That was for when I was aged 34...(17 plus 17....but you can do the math...)  I turned 35 last Monday, so this is all very timely!
It was a lot for a 17 year old to take in whilst being very exciting - it was the first time such a direct and specific word had been spoken over me.  It opened me to the understanding that God actually speaks to individuals - it got me moving into this gifting too, but only after a second encounter.  You see, I walked away thinking "Wow, in 17 years time, things are really going to be happening for me....I can't wait to see what that will look like".  So I waited......
Flash forward nearly two years - I was now 19 and at my first Stoneleigh Bible Week, in the summer of 1999 (there were to be two further years before the two week event, which drew 25,000 each week, was finished in 2001).  I was in a 'seminar' with the theme being the supernatural.  A man named Andrew Davies (he would have been much younger than I am now, thinking about it!) was leading the meeting - and in a time of praying for people to step out in the gifting, shortly before I brought my first ever word over someone else, he came over to me.  He referred to the word from two years before (again, only God could have told him this - he'd never met me before, knew nothing of my history) and whilst affirming it, said God wanted me released in the here and now.  Wow.

I guess the last 13 years have been one adventure after another!

God speaks.  He wants to speak to you, to speak destiny, to show you his love and compassion.  He's desperate to speak to you, and for you to know him more.  Yes, people can misuse this gift, or make things up completely.  Let's not make the mistake of neglecting it altogether because of the potential danger, when the potential blessing goes way beyond anything this world has to offer.

Why not ask God to speak to you for someone else today - listen to what he would have you encourage them with and then go tell them!

Next up - The Small Still Voice

Monday, July 28, 2014

Tallinn Mid Summer Update - A Church Plant on the Move!

So much has happened since we last updated you here back in May.  That does seem a long time ago now.

Here are the headlines for this update:
  • Estonian Song Festival
  • July Outreach Week
  • Long School Holidays Start
  • Kids Club
  • Red Arrows Come to Tallinn
  • The 'Street Cafe'
Thanks for all those who have been praying for us - a lot of effort has gone into events that have happened here in the last month or so, and its great to have been covered in prayer as we've done what has been needed to be done.

Schools Out

As was the case in Russia, schools in Estonia break up very early compared to schools in the UK.  Mia's school actually was a little later than most, finishing for the summer in the second week of June. The highlight of this period for Mia was her school ball.
For two years now, one on Mia's regularly weekly lessons has been ballroom dancing.  She put her skills to good use, as did all her classmates, in the May Ball, which happens every year for the first 4 grades. Having missed it last year, due to us being in the UK for a church weekend away, she was glad to be a part of it this year.  For those that are on Facebook, you might have seen a few of the videos posted from the dance.
Long school holidays do pose a bit of a challenge for working families.  Most locally based people send their children off to the grandparents.....sometimes going a month or two with only the occasional visit.  For foreigners, like us, this isn't an option.  Summer camps are also common, and Mia went to one last year, though not this year.  We did however put on a summer camp ourselves, albeit for just three days, as part of the July outreach week, which we'll get to later.

Red Arrows In Tallinn

June also saw the famous British aerial display team flying the skies of Tallinn!  Arranged by the British Embassy here, the Red Arrows were here as part of the connection between the Estonian and British forces.
It was a great show, and thousands of people packed along the roads next to the bay to watch.  For a few more pictures, and some video, check out my Facebook profile on the 23rd June.

St Petersburg and Helsinki Trip

The end of June/beginning of July also saw our family return to St Petersburg for the first time since we moved away on 1st March 2012.  I've been back several times myself since, but just on my own, or with others from Tallinn. We had heard that if you take the Peter Line Ferry from Tallinn, you can be in the city for one day and do not need a visa (a three day option is also possible from Helsinki).  So we'd planned the dates a while ago, picking the one where it landed in St Petersburg on a Sunday, so as to be able to see our friends at Hope Church.  And so it was, on the evening of Saturday 28th June, we were on board the ship, which left Tallinn at 7pm, ready for the overnight to St Petes.  It docked at 9:30am on Sunday morning, and we were at the place where Hope Church meets by 11am - in good time for the 11:30 start. We shared a bit from the front about Tallinn, before catching lunch with folks after church in a nearby shopping centre.  We were driven back to the harbour by about 4:30pm (so had just five and a half hours with the church!) ready for our departure.  The ship left at 7pm, and then docked in Helsinki again at 8am Monday morning.  We had the same cabin for the overnight crossing, having been able to leave our belongings safely there whilst in Russia for the day.  It was more comfortable than we thought, which was a bonus.  We left the ship once in Finland (this one does a round trip- SPB-Helsinki-Stockholm-Tallinn-SPB) and was met by Kevin Jones, who's family moved to Finland last year in order to church plant in the Helsinki area. It was the first time our two families had spent time together.  Again, I'd met them all before but not the girls.  We stayed with them for a night, our children getting on well, and because they were all sharing a room together, not getting to sleep before midnight!
We were then on the Tuesday morning ferry back across to Tallinn.  We even met someone we knew well on this ferry - it seems even a sea crossing is a small enough world to meet someone we know!
The Newfrontiers church plant in Finland, as well as being at a similar stage to us in Tallinn, is the closest relational link and for this reason especially, it was great to spend time together with them.  We should see them again next week - more on that later.

The Crowds in Tallinn - on the Worlds Biggest Stage

The 5th and 6th July saw Estonians (and just a few internationals!) gathering for the 26th Estonian Song Festival, which now only takes place every five years. Literally hundreds of thousands of people converge in Tallinn, bringing costumes and traditional dress from all over Estonia. There were over 100,000 people at the song festival grounds - we have never been anywhere so crowded before!
Every choir in Estonia took part, including Mia's school. The festival opened with a parade.  This started in Freedom Square and went for about 6km all the way to the song ground - and took hours!  They marched in order of cities, starting with Tallinn of course and worked out.  The Tallinn choirs must have numbered hundreds - it took over an hour just to get through our city!
Here are a few video's that were taken from that day:



Tallinn Starts the Procession


Four Hours Later - Showing the Starting Point of the Parade



From the Song Ground Festival Itself




It was a very hot day - the start of a very hot month in fact!  A great memory indeed!  It's funny to think that in five years, when Anya will be 9 and Mia 13, they both might be singing in the next one!


July Outreach Week
A huge focus of church activities this summer was the arrival of a team, from various churches, coming to Tallinn on 18th July.  Actually, that was when the first group arrived. Between Friday 18th and up to yesterday, Sunday 27th, we had people with us.  The main group, and reason for the week taking place in the first place, came with Colin Baron from CCM (Manchester, UK).
Two people also joined us from Hope Church St Petersburg, there were three from Open Door Church, Kettering, UK, and two others as well from different Newfrontiers churches in England. 
The week had been planned some months ago but there was still a lot to do in the final week - in fact, just days before coming, we were only just picking up t-shirts from the printers, as well as church contact cards and Kids club fliers. The website was also just getting finished (check out www.hopetallinn.ee and let us know what you think!)
With the core down to just six for the summer, there was a lot resting on the small team in Tallinn. The main events in the week were as follows - church (both Sunday's), two BBQs, a 3 day kids club, some teaching sessions, and a joint meeting with another church.  We also fed everyone pizza on their first night in Tallinn.  On both Sundays, we looked to invite others to the church meeting happening in our home.  The first Sunday, 20th July, was hot - the temperatures rising higher as the week progressed.  We had 25 adults and 5 kids in our home, to worship together and then hear Dave Wade (Blackburn, UK) bring an encouragement. Yesterday, with the team mainly gone already, we still had 11 adults and 10 kids, including a first time visitor from Tallinn, and a Dutch family of six on holiday from Maastricht (southern Netherlands) where they are part of a church. Adrian Horner (Kettering, UK) was our guest speaker this time.
What has been exciting, is that in two of the last three times we've met for church, there has been a locally based visitor coming for the first time.  Rebekah headed up the Kids Club, which happened from 10-1 over three days. We rented a school hall, that she had found, nearby to where we all live.  Its in a very needy area, and some children from a nearby social home were able to be a part of things too.

The team were brilliant.
We had the issue of language - there were Estonian only, Russian only AND English only speaking people present - so it was trilingual! 

Our vision at Hope:Tallinn has always been to plant a church that reflects the local city we live in - so this was a good taster for things to come.  We believe in unity, not separation, so while the language issues make it harder to do things, we'll take the time needed in order to do them properly, and more truly reflect this great city we get to live in.
We were praying that there would at least be some children!  We were so encouraged to see so many come - there were in fact between 26-28 each day, with quite a few only there for a day or two, so an amazing group of new families that we've now made connections with.
Something that happened that had been unplanned (at least from our end!) was what became the 'Street Cafe' that was happening outside the school gates during the time of the club.  It was there to offer the parents a drink and a time to chat, but soon was catching the attention of anyone passing by!
Even passing vehicles were not left out - there is a great photo on the Hope:Tallinn page of a passing lorry, the construction workers being passed a drink through the window!  Language was sometimes an issue for the cafe team, but I was able to be there for some of it, as well as Enrico from the team here.  We were able to pray with a few people, and invites were given out with our contact details on.  We will see what comes from all that.
At the end of the club, every child was given a medal and certificate, and offered the chance to pray.

Hope:Tallinn - What Next?

We've been praying for team growth - going into a summer that saw the team reducing to six adults, whilst Stephen and Ketlin where back in the USA for a few months, you'd think things might have felt quieter.  In fact, two people have already joined. There are others looking in too - some already moved to Tallinn, and looking for a church to call home.  Two others are currently still in the UK, but exploring what it might look like to move and join us at Hope.  One of these visited us last week - the other is coming over in September.  It seems God doesn't go on holiday in the summer!  This has built a sense of momentum.  Some bigger things are around the corner - September is already looking like an exciting building time. More on this in due course - all in all, it does feel as if we are taking another step forward when we enter the Autumn.

Finally - Latvia next week

Starting next Tuesday (5th August), there is a conference - Presence of God - in Latvia, hosted by the Riga church plant, but its happening about an hour east of Riga, in the countryside.  Mike Betts and a team from Relational Mission (Newfrontiers) are coming across for these 4 days.  As well as our family, Arnoud and Elisabeth are also going with their children, as is Enrico from Tallinn.  Rebekah is off to Russia that week with a Love Russia camp in the St Petersburg area.  In Latvia, we'll also see the families from Helsinki, Stockholm and some other places. A truly Baltic gathering!  As a family, we are taking two days to travel down (stopping off at two places on the way down, and back again) as well as camping for four nights at the venue. Please pray that we'd get really refreshed and encouraged from this time away.

Praise and Prayer Points:


  • Thank God for a great week last week - the team served us well, they seemed to love the city, and many new relationships were formed.
  • Praise God for visitors to our church events.
  • Pray for continued growth within the team - God is passionate about bringing the right people to us at Hope:Tallinn.  The team are not people I've recruited, but people God has called!  That means so much to us!
  • Pray for a great week next week in Latvia, especially with all the nearby church plants being represented too.
  • Pray for the months ahead - for the seeds scattered this last week, and for much fruit to come
Thanks for bearing with me!  There's been so much going on, I hope you feel encouraged reading this, as much as we are seeing it here.  God bless!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Late Spring Update: Healing, Progress and a Royal Encounter

It's been quite a few weeks since we last sent something out.  A weekend in Stockholm, a visit from Prince Harry, a successful Easter event and a team weekend away are just some of the things that have taken place.

Summer arrived early too. Shade temperatures in the low 30's has Tallinn feeling rather warm and beautiful, if not a little close at times. Town Hall Square, in the picture here, has the outside seating areas packed out already. The first of the cruise ships have already docked - tourist season is also upon us!

Headlines for this update:

  • News from the Easter Event
  • Getting more than we thought from Stockholm Weekend
  • July 'Missions' Week Update
  • Prince Harry Visits Tallinn
  • Team Weekend Away
  • Visitors and Team Growth?
Toddler Group Families Easter Event

Last time we mentioned that as a church plant we were putting on an event for the families from the toddler group. It happened on the Easter Saturday and gave the team a chance to meet with more parents from the weekly group. In total there were 15 adult visitors and 16 children.  The venue served us really well, all the children heard the Easter story as well as doing other traditional things.
For many of the dads that came along, it was the first time any of us had met them. Among them included a politician as well as a professional basketball player!

The day before this, Good Friday, we'd driven 90 minutes south to the small town of Võhma, where we'd been invited to a BBQ. We'd done this last year - it's funny how traditions form so easily.  We were blessed with the warmest day of the year (so far, at that point!) and it was wonderful to spend time with the family there (a British family who've lived in Estonia for about 11 years) as well as met friends coming up from Latvia to join us all.

Last time we also mentioned how we are continuing with the Christianity Explored course on a personal basis each week.  Elisabeth, part of the team here, is meeting with an Estonian lady once a week to go through the material. Please pray for her as she continues with this.

Reign in Life - Stockholm Weekend

At the beginning of May, I got to go away with Rachel to a two night conference in Stockholm, hosted by Grace Church.  Terry Virgo was coming across for it, and spent two evenings talking about a subject he knows so well - Grace.  It was a brilliant time.  We were able to connect with folks up from Riga, as well as across from Helsinki, the UK and of course our friends in Stockholm. Flic even came across from St Petersburg.
During the day on the Saturday, there was an additional time for leaders, and Terry spoke about the filling of the Holy Spirit.  We'd got a chance to speak with him a little, which was lovely. He is such a humble man, with time for everyone - on the Saturday night, having spoken 5 times over the two days, he was praying for people for well over an hour.  He's not a young man anymore, but his passion remains the same!
And having gone forward, with about 11 others, for prayer for back issues, something quite extraordinary was about to happen.  Sitting down at our feet, he gently lifted our legs.  One leg was shorter than the other - a common reason for back pain, and 80% of the time the main reason.  Mine too were different lengths.  He prayed a simple prayer - and without feeling anything, without him pulling either leg, or me moving, the legs became equal.  Just like that.  And it was the same for all of us.  This was no hype, no show.  This was not for the cameras. It was simply Jesus healing people through the power of the Holy Spirit - just like the Bible tells us.
I stood up, walking to one side as he continued to pray for others.  I hadn't felt anything change, but was able to touch my toes without pain within minutes.  I even did it in front of everybody.
Since then, as my body has adjusted, there were some days when it felt bad. But I know I was healed.  Yes, I continue to do my strengthening exercises - it's for my own good for the long term.  But today, writing this, there is a huge difference.  Massive.  It's been 18 months of pain and difficulty.  One prayer and the power was broken. Healing has come.
So I'm going from strength to strength.  I'll keep you all informed.

Let me just say something at this point.  Healing is central to who God is. Healing makes what is done in faith, ie belief in a living God, come into reality.  After all, if God is real, wouldn't he still be able to do the things the Bible tells us he did all those years ago while on earth.  And He did.  I'm a man of faith, but my life has been scattered with times when these things happen.  Praying for sick people and they recover.  I've been on the receiving end enough times to know that God is alive.  And here is something more - if you are sick, and want to come to Jesus for healing, He is more than able to make you well also.  If you want to find out more, let me know.

A Week in Tallinn this July

Colin Baron was recently in Tallinn - he shared at our Vision Sunday and we had a day together before he flew back to Manchester.  In July, he is bringing a group of students over from his home church, about 12 in total.  There are a few others coming along too - Adrian Horner and two or more from Open Door Church in Kettering and one or two others as well. From Friday 18th July to Friday 25th, most of these will be in Tallinn. The plans are coming together.  We are still praying for the right venue to use as a base for the team in the week, so please stand with us in that area.
As part of the week, we'll be running a three day kids camp in a local school. We'll also be looking to do quite a bit outside - and have at least two BBQ's in the forest/beach near us!
Please be praying for the team coming over.  For most of them, this will be their first time in Estonia.  Pray for our planning of this event as well, that we find what we need to find and have enough translators etc for the week.  We'll be having two Vision Sunday's in a row - one with the team here, and one when Adrian Horner and his wife are still in town after the week.

Last Sunday, as mentioned above, was a Vision Sunday.  These are once a month (at the moment) meetings where we run more of a church meeting, talking vision out as we do things, we trust.  And though not all came that we invited, for the first time to this event, we did have a visitor with us, who came with her two children.  So praise God for that!
Please pray this meeting starts to grow over the next few months (well in Autumn really, besides the two in July).

Team Weekend Away

The two nights before Colin arrived, we managed to get away as a team to a lovely venue around 90 minutes east of Tallinn.  The aim was to build relationships by spending more time together, as well as worship God, soaking in his presence without the time restraints we normally face.  I also talked for one session on Vision & Values, which went down really well.
Each of the 8 adults and 5 children that now make up the growing core team are an answer to prayer.  It's great to see the outworking of God's plan for us all in Tallinn.  Because of the stunning weather, which started just before that weekend and has continued since, we were able to do worship outside in the covered BBQ area.  I even did my talk on a hillside, looking up to the rest of the team.  Can't say I've ever done that before!
From Right to Left - Arnoud & Elisabeth with Anna-Ruth, Ketlin
& Stephen, Enrico, Rachel with Mia & Anya, Rebekah, me,
Mattias & Vera












But Before The Weekend....

I left Tallinn on the Friday at about 5, with Enrico, Stephen & Ketlin in the car with me, heading east.  It was to be a 90 minute drive through stunning Estonian countryside.  Rachel, Rebekah and Mia & Anya were coming on by train - actually a quicker journey at just 60 minutes, but they were leaving later.  Before that, they had a small matter of visiting Freedom Square (with hundreds of others) trying to get a glimpse of Prince Harry, who was due there at about 17:15.  Their train was due at 17:45 I think, so it was cutting it fine to say the least!
Many of you will know already what happened next, but for those that haven't seen, or who just want to relive it, here is the video Rachel was recording when Harry turned around....



Needless to say, when I picked them up from the station at the other end, flags still waving, they were all rather excited. I'd not had any contact, so had no idea exactly what had happened.
With limited internet option at this retreat centre (at least for me), we were not really able to process all that took place until after we got home.
A reporter from The Sun newspaper in the UK had interviewed Rachel and Mia straight after Harry spoke with them, though it failed to make it into the Saturday edition.  There were many videos on YouTube from the day, Rachel and the girls appearing in some.  Maybe the best picture that got shared was the one on the right - we only saw it because friends shared it with us stating they knew the little girl in the photo!
It's a photo shared on Facebook that shows the moment Prince Harry took Mia's hand.  And the guy who shared it - Toomas Hendrik Ilves - who is only the President of Estonia!

Visitors & Praying for Team Growth

Rachel's mum and dad were with us at the end of April for a week.  My mum comes over in about two weeks as well for a week.  We had Colin with us for a night, and Sveta, from St Petersburg, has been in town for about a week. She is praying about Tallinn and what that might mean for her, so please pray that she knows the way forward.
As a family we've been very close to Sveta during our time in Russia, and since. Our girls are both very fond of her.  If God was to make it clear to her to join us, she'd be a great blessing to us all.

And since writing this, another friend has confirmed they will be joining us in July for the mission week.

Prayer Points


  • Thank God for an amazing team, for time away, and what that means for our future together in Tallinn
  • Pray for more growth - we are asking God for a core team of twelve, to give us the strength to launch well.
  • Pray for July - for all those coming across, and for the planning on our side, as well as finding a venue to use for the base.
  • Pray for our summer events.  The changing season means doing things a little different.  We have a Summer BBQ at the Beach on 1st June.  Pray for a huge crowd (and the BBQ's to feed them all!)
Thanks everyone!  It's been quite a few weeks.  Princes, Presidents, Healing... The next weeks couldn't possibly top that, could they..?!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Easter Update: Salvation, Favour and Team GB


It's not been all that long since the last update, but quite a bit of fun stuff has been happening, so I wanted to update you all on this.

We shared news last time about the start of Christianity Explored.  I also talked about favour and in the past we've asked for prayers for the first person saved.

Well, in different ways, we've seen these happen this last month, and I'll share today what that means.

Here are the headlines of today's update:

  • A Young Girl makes a Big Decision
  • Christianity Explored Update - What We've Learnt and Where We Go From Here
  • Helsinki/Espoo Visit
  • Writing Favour with Amazon
  • My Team GB Footballing Debut!
Changeable Seasons

The photo above is from nearby Tabasalu, and is part of my growing collection of beautiful nature photos that have been taken around Estonia.  Here is a link to the album.  
Last time, I mentioned that Spring had come early (for Estonia, anyway!) and it has really stayed - we did have some funny weather, as this next photo shows.  Knowing snow was forecast, I managed to take the same photo, at the same time, exactly a day apart, to show you the contrast we sometimes have to.
It shows (in the sunshine!) an outdoor temperature of 25.1c on the first day and then it dropped to just 1.9c on the following, slightly snowy day.

And in many ways, the changing seasons of weather are models of the changing seasons in a church plant.  One day its like one thing, the next it's something totally different. We've certainly seen that with the CE course, and we've learnt a bit from it too.

Christianity Explored

The great news for our launch was that people came!

We had the venue - a restaurant not far from home, that did great food, at a good price, and had space for us to run what we wanted.  They'd even advertised the course for us on their Facebook page, as I'd mentioned last time.  We'd printed off 500 leaflets, most of which got given out, and had some large posters put up, including at the University.
And then people who said they were coming, started pulling out.

Maybe no one would come?

Thankfully, our first guest turned up - an Estonian mum, with her little boy, from the weekly toddler group.
And then, once we'd started the food, a Russian dad also turned up, with his two children.  The oldest daughter goes to school with Mia.  The kids were brilliantly entertained in the Kids Club, and the adults got to eat, and discuss together.

Whether it was the content, or the perception that this was going to be too 'religious', we don't know, but for various reasons (some very genuine as well!) nobody came to week two. Though many had expressed interest, actually committing to coming turned out to be too much.  One family even asked us to stop inviting them to these 'religious' events (though only these - they remain friends and want to come to other events still).  So it's been a real eye opener as we've begun to scratch the surface and see what actually lies beneath this culture.
We will be taking the ones who are interested through the rest of the course - this will be starting in a home soon, a smaller setting.  There seemed no reason for us to run the rest of the dates at the restaurant.

We're at the planning phase of running an Easter event for our Toddler group families, plus a few others.  That will be in less than two weeks, so please pray for favour and attendance to this new event, whilst continuing to pray for the two or three that will continue, in time, with the CE course.

Sow in One Place, Reap in Another

It's been a Biblical principle that's been around for a long time - and how true it proved with us recently in Tallinn.  With all the efforts going into the promotion of the CE course, the leaflets and posters and Facebook events, something else was happening.  Something unrelated to all this.  An eight year old was sharing the gospel with her class mate.
To retell the story fully, we need to go back a few weeks.  'N', as we will call her, is a student that Rachel teaches English to.  In a lesson maybe one month ago, a date (eg 50BC) came up, and there was a question about what BC meant (in Estonia, they have a different dating system for the years before Jesus, which does not include reference to him).  When Rachel explained it related to Jesus, the girl had never heard of Jesus (not uncommon in Estonia!)  So following that lesson, we were praying for N.
Now, about a week later, Mia came home from school to say that there had been an interesting conversation among her friends.  N had said something like "One day the world will end and everyone will die, including God" to which Mia replied "No, I don't believe that to be true - this is what I believe" and she went on to tell N all about heaven, Jesus and forgiveness of sins.  A few days after this N came back to Mia and told her she'd prayed the prayer Mia mentioned, asking Jesus into her heart and saying sorry for all the wrong things she'd done.  Mia then lent her a copy of a children's book she had which explains more of the story.  A few days later, the book was returned - she didn't need to borrow Mia's copy any more, her mum had ordered her her own copy!  N came to church yesterday to be part of the Kids club that Rebekah runs.
I was younger than N when I first prayed the prayer - and it's all it took for me.  So while she might not understand everything (what adult ever does anyway!), we are celebrating a young life saved, in a girl choosing from an early age to allow Jesus to shape her future.  Yes she's got some way to go, but praise God for that first step!
And we are also so proud of Mia who feels able to stand up for what she believes, in a context of absolute unbelief, and communicate this in a clear, childlike way, to her peers.

Finland Trip

In March, I also did an overnight trip to Finland (it's easily done in a day from Tallinn) where I got the ferry across to Helsinki, and made my way to Espoo, which sits to the West of Helsinki, about 15 minutes by train. Dave Henson met me there, with Kevin Jones, who moved with Lydia and their three children within the last year to start a church plant. Whether the church will be in Espoo or Helsinki, is yet to be clear.  Espoo has a population of, roughly, 300,000 and needs churches too.  
It was great to spend time with the family, and with Dave.  On the following morning, we went to a nearby lake and chatted while the youngest son, who is not in kindergarten, played in the park.  Finland has many lakes and forests.  It's the trees I remember most, and why moving to Estonia so reminded us of everything we love about Finland.
I then traveled with Dave on the two hour crossing back home to Tallinn, where Dave spent a couple of nights in town, sharing brilliantly at the Wednesday home group, before flying out early on Thursday morning.

Amazon Promotion

Last time up, I mentioned having been contacted by Amazon about possible inclusion in their Daily Deal.  Well, the story develops.  They wrote back last week, to not only say that I had been selected for inclusion (my novel Cherry Picking, to be more precise) but that it wasn't just for one day, but for three weeks as part of their Spring Deal!

So please, spread the word.  Cherry Picking has been included with other great books, by Authors like John Grisham.  I've included some Social Media links below to make it easy for you to share with others.  Every sale does matter, and it also helps push me up the charts, which results in more awareness (especially if it can make the Top 100 again!)

Facebook - Post
Google+ - Post
Twitter - Tweet

Tim Represents His Country - Finally!

It was always a boyhood dream to play for England.  I didn't really care in what sport, or field really.  Aged maybe 15, I remember clearly feeling disappointed when my Head of Year suggested I change something in my Record of Achievement, which was being written at that moment.  I'd put that I wanted to 'Represent my country' at some level and she'd changed it to "Play to my highest ability" so as to not 'disappoint' me in later life.  I felt dejected.  It's certainly one of those cutting to the heart moments I remember (for the wrong reasons!) from those, now less significant, school years.  I was writing short stories at the time - who would have thought that this would form such a part of my future!

Last week, I played for Great Britain (representing the British Embassy in Tallinn, anyway!) in the Diplomatic Cup that is held annually in Estonia (and probably many capital cities) among the various Embassies.  The UK team were a little short of numbers, so I got involved.
We were never going to win the cup - most of us had never played together before, and the one lady on our team had played 'maybe once' when she was 15.  But it was fun to wear the shirt, and play in the four group matches.
Rachel, Mia and Anya cheered us on well from the stands, watching the first two matches before leaving for a birthday party.  We played France and Moldova (both narrow defeats, one literally with the last kick of the game) as well as Georgia and Armenia, who both won by bigger scores than just 1-0.
But it was the taking part that counts, and as the first sport in 15 months since I hurt my back, great that I made it through the day at all!  I was rather sore on Sunday and unfortunately I'm having a few back issues with it going into spasm but maybe this isn't related.  If I'll play again next year, we will have to wait and see.  There was talk of the 'team' doing some actual practice together before hand, and if that happens, and my back improves, maybe I will play - next year, maybe we will have a little more chance.

So it just goes to show - don't take the words that were spoken over you in your youth.  It doesn't limit who you are, or what you can be.  Only God gets to set your destiny.  And maybe, one day, you will get to represent your country. Regardless what your Head of Year might have otherwise said.

'Missions' Week

For want of a better word (mission is a mindset remember, not a thing we turn on or off), we have the formation of a special week of mission happening in Tallinn from 18th July until 25th July 2014.  There will be more on this in the future, but anyone who might be free and would like to get involved, at least you have the dates.  So far, it seems we have a group of students coming over from Manchester, with Colin Baron and another one or two church leaders, and it's proving a bit of a focus to pull others to come and join us that week as well.
So if you are interested in joining us, in what will obviously be the highlight of your summer, please book those dates off and we can let you know details of what will happen in the future - most likely inclusion will be a three day Kids Camp (and probably time on a beautiful sandy beach too!)

Family

The gaps between school holidays (and the recovery time they allow) is starting to show a little as health has been a challenge, and not just for our family.  The team seem to be showing some strain at the moment, with various illnesses going around.  Please pray for healing for all.
Home life is very busy for another two weeks, before the weeks holidays that comes for Easter.  Please pray for health and rest, especially for Rachel who has a lot of teaching on at the moment.  She also might (or not?!) hear back from the European School this week about a possible job share option from September onwards.  It has to be the right option if they do call, otherwise it's not worth pursuing.  

Prayer Points

  • Easter weekend event
  • July 'mission' week - that we plan it well!
  • For 'N' and those that will continue with the CE course
  • For the nearby church plants we are connected with - Helsinki, Riga and Stockholm (incidently, me and Rachel are visiting Stockholm next month, as the church plant there have managed to get Terry Virgo over for the weekend.  Rebekah will kindly look after our girls for the two days).
  • For continued favour on my writing life
Thanks everyone!

Next time, it already sounds like we'll have a lot more to update you all on.