After the team arrived safely in Tartu on Sunday evening, on Monday, several of us opted to travel with Pr. Eenok & Eja, and Pr. Siimon Haammer to south Estonia. There Eenok gave us a personal tour of the place where he and his family were in hiding, while their father, Pr. Haari Haamer was serving a sentence of hard labor in a Siberian Gulag.
Later that day, Pr. Siimon Haamer took us on a tour of the new, Home of Hope building project, where completion is expected by November, with a grand opening set for 28 November! Please visit the Tartu Academy of Theology (TAT) webpage for up to date information and news about this inspired vision for community outreach and evangelism in the heart of Tartu! The day was capped off by dinner with the Haamer family and our EEMN Estonia team.
On Tuesday, the team spent the morning sharing in devotions and exploring St. Paul Lutheran Church, where the camp would be hosted. Several of us also walked down the street to experience the KGB Museum, which resides in the basement of the building where thousands of Estonians were detrained and endured horrendous interrogations before being deported to Soviet Gulags. It was a sobering reminder of the very difficult past from which the Estonian people are still attempting to cope. Kelly's plane landed later that day, in Tallinn, and then she took a bus to joins us in Tartu.
On Wednesday, many team members had the opportunity to visit the amazing, interactive Estonia National Museum, where we gained a much better perspective on the Estonian culture, history, and challenges that remain today. Sandy arrived that evening (after a 24 hour delay) and we were finally all together!
The Estonia Life Camp in Tartu was a resounding success, as 34 adults and 10 teenagers participated and explored what it means to have healthy Relationships with Family & Friends, in Dating and in Marriage, and with God. In all the years that EEMN has been hosting camps in Tartu, the conversations and enthusiasm seemed much more Spirit-led than in previous years. Much of this had to do with the reformatting of the camp and the curriculum, which focused much more interacting and conversing about the content of the study and encouraged deeper relationships to be built among the attendees and the team members. Most importantly, our host ministries were very encouraged and they are already looking forward to an expanded version of the camp in 2020! To God be the glory!
Following the closing camp session, on Saturday evening, the team hosted the teen campers for a pizza picnic in the Haamer's back yard. It was a great opportunity for informal fellowship time and bonding. On Sunday morning, Pastors Bob, Kathy, DMC, and David all travelled to different parts of Estonia in order to preach and bring greetings to the congregations at Kambja, Magdalena, Mustvee, and Tartu. The teen camp participants joined Pr. David, Angela, Pr. Sandy, Kelly, Patrick, and Andrew at St. Paul Lutheran in Tartu in order to sing the "Family" song from camp and to bring greetings. Following worship, we all went out to lunch for a final opportunity to spend time together. Later that afternoon, the entire team reunited just in time to head for the bus station (Bussijaam in Estonian) for our trip back to Tallinn.
On Monday morning, Estonia Evangeical Lutheran Church Seminary Rector, Rev. Dr. Ove Sander and his wife Liina treated the team to breakfast. This was a wonderful opportunity for everyone to share our observations and experiences from the camps and to discuss how the Lord is working in, around, and through the Church in Estonia.. Monday was also the day for the team to spend deliberate time in debriefing, which is a crucial step in the reentry process before returning to our lives at home.
The Lord provided in so many wonderful ways during our time in Estonia and we look forward to how He will continue to use Bible camps to draw others closer to Him. To God be the glory! Amen!
Thank you for your prayers and support of the team and our partners in ministry in Estonia!
The first week went by so fast; and because the internet was almost non-existent we were able to focus even more intentionally on the work that God had planned for our team. On Tuesday afternoon, we loaded onto a LUXBus for the 4-hour ride (including a 20 minute ferry boat) to the island of Saaremaa. One of the more adventurous aspects of the trip is the 20-minute window of time for us to de-board the bus, order and eat dinner at the cafeteria that resides on the ferry, and use the restroom before we land and begin parading the cars and busses off the boat! Happily, no one got left behind and we were actually able to take in the beautiful view and snap some photos from the deck.
On Wednesday, the team was able to take a walking tour of Kuressaare and we also visited the Kuressaare Castle. At the time of our visit there was an outstanding 3-floor experiential exhibit about the Soviet occupation of the Baltic States, during the time of the U.S.S.R. Later we were able to enjoy more team bonding over coffee and watch Andrew continue his sampling of exotic coffees (this time he ordered a latte)! Later, we enjoyed a team dinner at the Windmill restaurant.
Thursday began the first day of the Estonia Life Camp. When making plans for any of the EEMN language or teen camps, you never know quite what we'll get until the opening session begins! The camp at Kuressaare was no exception, as even our hosts were not sure whom might join us. As it turned out, there were quite a few adults that joined Pastor Bob & Patti and Pastor Dennis & Pastor Kathy for the Adult Seminar and several teens that joined our team for the Teen Life Camp.
The camp theme for, both, the adults and the teens, was Relationships and what it means to have healthy relationships with Family and Friends, in Dating and Marriage, and with God. The camp day combines group worship/teaching sessions and small group discussions. The teens also watched the thought provoking movie, Let There Be Light, which was a catalyst for deeper conversations about spirituality, while we learned and shared a lot about walking with the Lord through the different relationships in our lives. The adults engaged in some of the most spirited conversations the adult seminars have ever had in years past! All were blessed and encouraged to continue growing in their walks with Christ and those with whom they share their lives.
Another important aspect of the camp day is the sharing of testimonies by the team members. We were also happily surprised to learn that, Lisette (the daughter of our our host pastor, Anti) wanted to share her story with the entire camp. Lisette said she was inspired and encouraged by hearing the testimony Angela shared the day before.
Long before our team headed to Estonia, we spent 6 sessions in team training. Much of what we learned was about being a team and how we become a family missions unit in traveling, living, and taking meals together. There are many blessings in the team experience, including our time spent in daily, intentional devotion time. We also manage to have a lot of fun together, too!
On Saturday evening, the entire teen camp was invited to join with some Finnish brothers and sisters in Christ, where they had gathered for a camp. in Puha, Estonia. After sharing in a meal and conversation, we all gathered for evening worship, sharing testimonies about God's goodness, and sang hymns and praise songs, together. All-in-all, there were 5-different nations represented in the room, but only one heart that is in Jesus Christ.
Before leaving Kuressaare, in order to head back to the mainland, for Tartu, the team worshipped at the Kuressaare Lutheran Church, where our host, Pastor Anti is is the lead pastor. Pastor Bob preached a powerful Transfiguration Sunday sermon about the importance and primacy of God's Word and the family of God that are our brothers and sisters in Christ, across the world! Pastor David Michael also led the team in singing the "Family" song and also blessed the congregation with a riveting version of How Great Thou Art. Afterward, we were accompanied to the bus station by a few of our island hosts and teens! The most difficult part of missions is saying, "goodbye,"
Next stop.... Tartu! Amen!
Please continue to lift our team up in prayer for travel mercies (especially as Anna returns to the States and Sandy and Kelly begin their travel to Estonia), health, safety, and for the Lord to move powerfully in, around, and through each of us in Tartu and throughout our time in Estonia. To God be the glory!
The entire EEMN Estonia Team is all together in Tallinn! Pr. Bob & Patti and Pr. David & Angela arrived on Friday, while Mot & Pam, Andrew, Patrick, and Anna arrived on Sunday afternoon. Pr. Dennis and Pr. Kathy, and Pr. David Michael (DMC) arrived on Monday afternoon. The great news is that everyone's baggage arrived, too!
Pr. Bob and Patti began their adult Soul Guards education seminar (similar in concept to Stephen Ministry), in Nomme-Rahu, on Monday afternoon.
After the remaning three team members arrived, we were invited take a private and exclusive tour of the Estonia Parliament Building. Long-time friend of EEMN, Eva-Liisa now works at the parliament building and was able to arrange for our entry and then guided us on the fascinating tour of the parliament building. This was the site of the landmark legislation that declared Estonia's succession for the former Soviet Union and moved this incredible country into an entirely new era of independence and prosperity.
The team also enjoyed being able to sample some of the local cuisine and Andrew tried a cappuccino for the very first time (pinky raised and all!). His verdict? "Tastes like coffee." :-)
We are bonding well as a team and look forward to finish preparing for the camps that lay ahead, as well as our transition to the Saaremma Island village of Kuressaare, on Tuesday! Thank you for your continued prayers. Specifically, we desire prayer for the team jet-lag to subside soon and that the Lord would prepare hearts and minds to receive the grace, love, and mercy of the Gospel in Jesus Christ. Amen!
Our team training is done; packing has begun; and we are excitedly preparing to head for Estonia in just a few days! Please pray for travel mercies, including that our baggage all arrives the same time we do. Pray also for our Estonian hosts and for the students who will join us in the camps over the next couple of weeks.
This year, camp will be different for our veteran team members, host congregations, and for the participants as we are geared up to host teenagers, as well as many of the same adults that have participated in years past. In response to requests from our Estonian ministry partners, EEMN retooled the curriculum and the camps in order to better serve teenagers who are experiencing a time in their lives where there seem to be more questions than answers. In response we will host a confirmation-style camp that will focus on the importance of Relationships - with our Family and Friends, in Dating and Marriage, and with God. All of these relationships influence our self-esteem and how we view God and interact with Him in our daily lives. We are very excited to see what God does in, around, and through us!
Stay tuned for more updates and thank you for your prayers and support!
Pr. David & Angela Breidenbach are the Executive Director and Director of Development & Operations for East European Missions Network (EEMN).