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I'm a passionate writer - and therefore spend most of my time writing thriller novels. But I also live an interesting life in the nations. This blog is here for that aspect of my life - our life - I live with my wonderful wife and two daughters.

I believe in encouragement. I live for obedience. I believe in learning from our experiences, and this blog exists for both of those, and more.

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I was part of the leadership team in St Petersburg, Russia - which planted Hope Church in 2009.(www.hopechurchstpetersburg.com).
In March 2012 Hope Church sent my family to plant into Tallinn, the Capital of Estonia. I therefore lead this small but growing church plant team. Here is the website for Hope Tallinn (www.hopetallinn.ee)

For details on our journey here, read the series called Adventures of Faith which is linked for you on the right hand column, just below. That details our original journey to Russia and then onto Tallinn 4 years later.

Author for fiction novels - Cherry Picking (2012), The Last Prophet (2015), The Tablet (2015) and The Shadow Man (2016) are available on all major bookselling sites. Please visit: www.timheathbooks.com

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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!