Encouraging in Estonia

Settling back home in Texas, I thank you for your prayers and support for my ministry this summer in Kundra, Estonia.  I praise and thank God for His faithfulness and goodness to me while I ministered in Estonia!!

When I arrived in Estonia, I thought I would be preaching in churches and teaching in the church in Kunda (the small village where I lived) and working the English and Children’s Camps. These were not the most fruitful areas of ministry; rather the fruitful part of this summer was unlooked for and unplanned.

It was the ministry of encouragement to Janek and Rebekka Puusepp, the young pastor and his wife with whom I lived while in Estonia.  Their ministry to plant a church in Kunda was difficult on several different levels.  A year ago, the Puusepps uprooted their family of two boys and moved to Kunda where they were strangers.  This was a dramatic change in lifestyle because church planters don’t make much in Estonia (neither do pastors). Rebekka is a nurse and works in Finland to help make ends meet.  She leaves home and works for 8-10 days, then returns home for about a week before returning to Finland.  This kind of separation is one of the hardest things they have to endure for the sake of the gospel.

The Puusepps gave up a nice home surrounded by family and friends to go to Kunda, a very depressed village with high unemployment, poor schools, alcoholism, and drug use. Kunda also has a very high population of Russian speakers.  Many of the Russians were unhappy when Estonia was liberated from the Soviet Union in the early 90’s.  The language and other cultural barriers between Estonians and Russians present hurdles for the ministry.

Another challenge Janek and Rebekka Puusepp face is a lack of workers for the ministry, a common problem in Estonian church plants.  A church wanting to start a new work often recruits a single couple. Because resources are scarce, there is not much help available to them, and many couples leave the ministry after a few years.  Often the new people who start coming to the church are elderly and feel incapable of doing much, especially with the children’s and youth ministries so vital to the future growth of the church. Church planting is hard work, especially when you are trying to do it alone.

Janek and Rebekka were discouraged, tired and wondered if they needed to “move on.”  It broke my heart because Janek is so well suited to this kind of ministry.  He is a warm, welcoming and easy to talk to. He does a great job of caring for and shepherding people. Rebekka has a wonderful relationship with the ladies in the church—when she is able to be with them.

So, my ministry was to listen.  I did what I could to encourage Janek and Rebekka and point out the really excellent work they had done.  I shared with them that I sensed the Lord working through them.  I offered practical solutions to some obstacles concerning recruiting and manpower. I provided a sounding board for new ideas for the ministry. I helped Janek think through strategies for doing discipleship and for involving others in the work of the ministry.

I am most excited about the final meeting we had with the Carmel Church (parent church) that supports Janek and Rebekka.  I am amazed how the Lord prepared their hearts to receive my report.  I had the opportunity to express the need for a team of people—families—to do the ministry in Kunda. We talked about ways to recruit families from their church, how to do a 6-week campaign to highlight the importance of planting a church, and to inspire families to join God as He changes Kunda from a place of darkness into light!

I have spoken to Janek several times, via Skype, since I arrived home.  I am excited to report that the Carmel Church is really working hard on recruiting families and getting Janek and Rebekka the help they need to continue the work in Kunda.  God has even moved in the hearts of some of Kunda’s older people to begin going with Janek as he visits the poor and the sick in this little town. Janek and Rebekka are very encouraged! God is moving in Kunda and it is a privilege to have been part of it! Praise the Lord!

On the recommendation of Carmel Church, the Baptist Union in Estonia has invited me to return to conduct regional short courses for bi-vocational pastors who do not have the opportunity to attend seminary.  Pray for the Lord’s leading and provision in this area.  God bless you again for your prayers and support!

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