Estonians dont have a lot of patriotism. At least it doesn't show most of the time. Except in song festivals when thousands of people get together to sing, and tens of thousands come to listen. Sometimes we sing for freedom. 20 years ago thats how we got our independance (Singing revolution). Yesterday night we celebrated Estonian re-indpendance day. The key event for that was a night song festival, just like the ones 20 years ago. We couldn't miss it and drove up to Tallinn with a car full of people to joing the thousands of people singing once again for freedom. It was quite amazing night. There were more than 100,000 people gathered. Although there were also 5000 singers you really couldn't tell a difference between the choir and the audience. We were united, holding up hands and waving Estonian (and Georgian) flags. It was 6:30 in the morning when we finally got back home. Proud to be an Estonian. But more than that I am thankful for the freedom that we have as a country. Thank you God!
PS You can find a really good post written by an american living in Estonia about the songfestival night here.
We have some very exciting personal news to share with you all, as proud and as pleased parents that we are, even more so are we to announce that the end of January Emma will be having a new baby brother or sister!!
Anna is 12+ weeks along in her pregnancy and feeling better everyday. She has had a whole new experience of some mild nausea with this baby that she didn't have with Emma. Emma is already giving mommy's tummy kisses and I am also very excited about becoming a dad again.
We had our 12 week Ultrasound today, so attached is a picture, even though it's quite hard to read anything out of it! We would appriciate your prayers and support during these next months, as the baby grows and develops and for more patience as parents to train Emma to be a loving and obiedient sister.
Risttee church has only one mission - to lead people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. This Sunday we had a big celebration as 7 young people gave a public confession that Jesus is their King and Saviour.
Craig and I returned in the end of last week from Soma school in Tacoma, WA. It was a great time. Definitely very stretching.
There were 11 international guys attending Soma School (+ around 10 americans)
Most lasting impression on me was left by Jeff Vanderstelt and his talks about the Gospel, what is church, and the identities of church/christian. It was specially powerful to me cause trying to understand the Gospel has been an area where God has working in my heart the most. I am convinced that the understanding of Gospel (and the full gospel) has to be the foundation of everything that we do, and everything we are. I am still trying to process some of the things Jeff said about the gospel. For example the full gospel (means+purpose): Means of Salvation (Gospel power): God-Sin-Jesus-Faith not works Purpose of Salvation (Gospel story): Creation-Fall-Redemtion-Restoration
It was great to see how their church model worked. Instead of "come to us" (attractional model) they are definitely hard-core "lets go out to them" (missional model). They are really gospel based. people in their communities really get that the church is the people. And it was also interesting to observe their dialogical story-based teaching style. People in Soma really know the Story (their term for the bible, more specifically for the redemptive arc of bible stories).
Missional communities (small groups) are really on mission, that can be the specific neighborhood or target-group specific mission. Besides that very many people had their own personal mission projects. That was really great to see.
We are starting to process everything that we heard during that week to see what can we learn from it for our local context.
Appart from everything I learned there, it was hard to be away from Anna and Emma. But I have to tell you, NW seems to be a great place to go back to. I love the nature there. Totally my type! Maybe one day I can go riding the bikes in the mountains with my family there
We just returned from spending a week with Josiah Venture family in Malenovice, Cz. It was a refreshing and a stimulating time. Starting with JV council meetings where we concentrated on what is needed in different countries to double the fruit in the next 3 years. The theme for this years spring conference was spiritual warfare. So often we forget that we are soldiers in the battle field filled with unexpected attacks. Instead we have the mentality of retired bum who has got a free ticket to heaven and doesn't know what to do with his time.
JV council members
Emma loves two things above all other: 1. Animals (furry and moving) 2. Babies (not so furry but also moving) She went hysterical in the conference when she saw another small kid.
We got back today evening. At 3am i will catch a bus to Tallinn to fly to Seattle, USA. Craig and I will spend a week and couple of days in Soma school (church planters school that Acts29 network Soma school is organizing). I am really looking forward to that time. It will be great. But at the same time I really would want to go right now since I see that there are many strategic things that would need my attention here. And i dont want to leave Emma and Anna behind.
You can be praying for all the travels and that the time there would bear kingdom fruit in the years to come in Estonia.
These are some pictures from the JV spring conference
Last week I realized my long-time dream and bought a bicycle. And a helmet to protect my head.
My calculations were, that 1) having a bike enables us to go for nice bikerides as a family on warm summer nights 2) I save money on gas by riding the bike to the office. That way Anna can use the car
Well, the truth probably will be that if we go on a bike ride once in 2 weeks then thats pretty good. And brief calculations also show that i wont save tons of money on gas. So financially it makes no sense to spend the money. Probably it is more feasible to rend a bike or sth.
I guess i spent the money on bike as an investment into emotions. Emotions of feeling good after working out. Emotions of spending an evening together with the family while emma is sitting behind me in a baby chair lauging. Emotions of feeling the wind and sund, or rain and cold while driving the bike through the city.
Selling emotions - thats where there is the most money.
This Sunday we will start a new series in Risttee church called "Confessions of a pastor". Throughout 4 weeks I will be talking about the areas in my life where I am struggeling the most. There are of course more than 4 confessions that i could make but after choosing among them here are the ones that we will talk about: - I can't stand of lot of Christians - I have to fight hard to keep sexually pure - I am a slave to time - I worry all the time
On one hand i really look forward to these weeks cause i know that God wants to use these weeks to deal with a lot of stuff in our church. On the other hand i feel scared, cause being open like that wont be easy for me. I have never been good at showing my emotions, specially communicating them.
You can pray for me that God would give me the right words and courage to be open. And that the horizontal confessions (between me and the people) would turn into vertical confessions between God and everyone.
I don't know if you have ever felt that your brain is so full of information, that it can not take any more. ALl the places that we have visited and things that i have heard have pushed me into this limit and now things are starting to mix up in my head. Today was a great day that we spent around the Sea of Galilea - the center of Jesus' ministry on earth. While I am still processing everything in my head, i will share with you a picture of my friend from South Africa. Watching him dancing and singing makes me feel sad that i dont have any black peoples blood in me!
In Jerusalem you can see almost on every step the conflicts between Christianity jewish and muslim religions. That has been going on for centuries. One visible element of that is the fate of different building through centuries when they have switched sides. It is not uncommon for a church to become a mosque and then a church and then a mosque.
Golden gate is in the middle of the wall. Around and below that you can see the cemetary
One specially sneaky thing that the arabs have done is visible if you look from the Mountain of olives to the temple mount. There is a big sealed gate leading to the old city. It is called the Golden Gate. According to the jewish tradition (based on some bible texts) that is the gate from which Messiah will enter the city of Jerusalem. To prevent that from happening the muslims have sealed the gate and created a muslim graveyard in front of that gate. And of course no jew will step into the muslim cemetary. You can call that preventive strategy. Or cheap play.
Looking for my master to return as the King of Kings, Peep
It hit me yesterday, looking up to the huge and massive archways of the Holy Sepulture church - the huge power of religion. What has been done in the name of it. How many lives have been impacted for better or worse through out thousands of years. Were they jewish, muslim or christian. Intimidating and saddening.
The power of religion from one hand - and the Message and Way of Christ on the other hand. I wonder what would Jesus feel and do if he would come to nowadays Jerusalem. What would he feel and do if he would come to our church. If he would come to me?
Yeah, i cant forget the contrast between religion and the person and work of Jesus...
Holy Sepulture church - possible location where Jesus died (catholic and orthodox tradion)
Jews celebrating bar-mitzvahs by the western wall
Group of israeli soldiers (they are so young) in a bible-study group in the old city
Why was the Son of God, Jesus, led to the wilderness by the Holy Spirit right after he was baptized? I dont know. But we returned from the Judean desert where Jesus was tempted. 80% of the world's deserts are not sandy but rocky. And Judean desert is one of the rocky ones. Kilometres after kilometres hilly slopes and only yellow-white-brown stones everywhere. If you are not careful you can fall and cut yourself pretty bad.
I have to say that the Israel that we have seen so far is not like a well kept, nice and neat western country. It is strange to think that countries and nations have been fighting over this small and barren (50% is desert) land for thousands of years. I guess that is what can happen when God chooses a piece of land and declares it His own.
Conference is starting in half an hour so i'll get going. I will update the pictures in the evening.
And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
I am sitting in a nearby cafe shop with wireless internt to write the last couple of words before heading to bed. Today people are still just flying in and so it was a free day to do whatever you wanted. We spent couple of hours in the center of the city, wandering around without any purpose and direction. On thing that is really confusing for me is to figure out what religion or nationality are the native people that i meet on the streets - arabs, jews, orthodox greek or armenian. The only easy target to spot is american church tourist. And there are a lot of them.
I have a new head cover
Are thes jewish or palestinian guys - im not sure.
I just had one of the most memorable sauna experiences. After delicious dinner i decided to test out the spa in the hotel. I met 4 palestinian guys in the turkish sauna. They were middle aged and very hairy. They didnt speak a lot of english and i spoke none of the arab. But we had fun communicatin. After explaing me all their names (Suz means horse in hebrew and rabbit in arab for example) they rubbed eachother with sope and started massaging each other. After that we headed to the hot tub. It was a small hot tub and there were 5 of us. I also understood that you can not be a true arab if you dont have 12 kids. And then they talked about their different lives, but i could not figure out what they meant by that. Tomorrow we have to get up at 6am. So time to walk through the warm and dark night back to the hotel. Shalom.
After a smooth day of travelling we made it to our hotel at 4:20am. We were the first ones to arrive from the whole 200 people that will be here for the GYI summit the next 11 days. It was great to finally get some sleep in nice beds. We had a great time in the plane with Märt (director of Going UP and my brother) and Mihkel (director of Freedom youth movement) talking for hours about ministry in Estonia.
In Schiphol airport: Mihkel meditating in the meditation room (while the arabs were praying towards meka in the background)
View from my window
I have to say that although outside the hotel looks very fancy, inside it is in a typical mediterranian style, where everything is not in very tidy and fixed up. But thats the south.
The conference will start this evening and before that we had couple of hours to swing by the center of Jerusalem. It is hot and sunny - just like the middle of summer in Estonia (sometimes). Quite a differece from the snowy Estonia :)
I am really looking forward to the next days, as we will be following Jesus' footsteps in this holy land and city. Jesus on location - that is the theme for the days. My prayer is that the person and work of Jesus would become more real to me.
PS In the hotel internet access is so costly (230EEK per day) that i have to figure out some other ways to be connected every once in a while.
We havent had a real winter this year in Estonia. Except the 3 days in the beginning of January when it was quite cold. But other than that it has felt like the gray-muddy-dark fall has been extended from 3 months to 6. On some expetional days we can see the sun though. Here are some pictures of Estonian winter 2008:
Bright sun shining through the trees creating a light tunnel
Both Anna and I started this year a journey through the Bible using the Message. It is the first time for me to read the Bible through in english. For my simplified verbal english skills the Message "translation" is a great thing. I love the richness of the language.
One sentence that has been haunting me for a week now: "..., for by this time the name of Jesus was on everyone’s lips." (Mark 6:14)
Wouldnt that be great! Thats what i desire for Tartu and Estonia.
The other great verse is from the Psalms 84 "And how blessed all those in whom you live, whose lives become roads you travel"
Here is a piece of trivia for you - do you know what is the worst day of the week for pastor?
It is Monday! Thats when you feel most drained and empty. Overwhelmed by problems and challenges.
This Monday morning i really felt that way. On days like that i start to compare the size of the vision with the current reality and it feels so out of proportion. I look at the number of people coming to church and feel discouraged. I look at the challenges that don't seem to resolve and feel worried. I think about the sermon that i preached the day before and wish that it would have been shorter and more convincing, not so informational but rather transormational.
These are the thought that were running in my mind this Monday morning. Even though i know that Risttee church is Jesus's and He is the one building it and I am replacable and priviledged to give my best in this season of my life.
But then we had the Monday morning staff meeting. And I was filled again with new strength and joy to continue. Spending time with the team, seeing them pouring their lives into the vision of seeing God start a movement in our city and country was what i needed.
I am so thankful for the team on both sides of the Atlantic.
Yesterday Emma, our dear precious daughter, had her first sauna experience. She was sitting bravely in a 100C heat. After 5 seconds she got too hot though and started whining. But on the lower level of the sauna bench she was doing just fine. It was a proud moment for daddy!
After a revitalizing sauna experience she had tons of fun in the bathtub, kissing the reflection of herself in the mirror and kicking and splashing like her life was dependant on that.