Press Release: 2020 Friends of Estonia GatheringJune 16, 2020
Note: This is the “summary” version of the meeting minutes. The full version is available for download as a PDF file.
FOE Meeting Notes_2018
Friends of Estonia Gathering April 27-28, 2018
Bellevue UMC in Nashville, TN
Jim Davis opened with a welcome and prayer. He introduced the Estonians and Bishop Alsted.
Kim Reisman gave a devotional on Genesis 11: 1-4. God scattered them, and they read it as punishment but that was God’s intent. Noah’s sons spread out. God has a plan to scatter us over the face of the earth. There’s an arc which starts with creation and ends with the new creation. In Romans 21 – 22 God’s full intent is seen. God redeems and restores creation, we’re not taken out. Even though diverse, we can be connected with our love for Christ.
Bishop Christian Alsted
- There are some changes happening in Estonia. The first is that Taavi will end his term as D.S. after 13 years. Taavi served in an excellent way with a shepherd’s heart, wisdom and love. He cannot announce the new D.S. as it needs to be affirmed at Annual Conference in June. A good leader is in place. Taavi will continue to lead in other ways.
- Second change is Meeli is retiring as Rector of the BMTS. A new Rector has been confirmed but it cannot be announced yet. Meeli has led from a situation of financial crisis to a place of financial stability and balance. We can’t lean back and say we’re home free. We need to continue to build.
- She led them through the accreditation process. The 3 years was up last year, and they hoped for another 3 years but they got the best as they are accredited for 7 years.
- They are working to develop a Master of Divinity with Asbury Seminary with a focus on cross-cultural and church planting. It is the only program of its kind and will have significant impact on the churches in Estonia and the Baltics and hopefully beyond in all Europe. It will be taught only in English.
- There are 236 who will have graduated after this year. They hope to get to 250 next year.
- Some elderly clergy will retire this year and the coming years. They never fully retire but still serve. The reason for mandatory retirement is because of young, talented clergy that need to get into ministry. He has great confidence in the young clergy. They develop for other denominations also.
- Many want to support the pastors and that’s good but please get in touch with the D.S. first as this allows them and the cabinet to follow the priorities they have.
- Mary Ann and John Mullen prayed for the Bishop.
Taavi Hollman. Estonian District Superintendent
- He gave greetings from our brothers and sisters in Estonia. He read a letter from Olav Parnamets expressing his heartfelt thanks. The first FOE in Kodiak was the 3rd year for the BMTS building and there were financial problems. He met John trundle in Rio and he invited him to come. We assisted in helping to repay the bank loan. He referred to Mary Ann Smith as the Mother Teresa to Estonia.
- Alcohol misuse is a big problem. Some statistics: Estonians drink the most in the world, average 3.95 gallons per person per year.
- The local apportionments for salary have increased over the years, started with 1 Euro per month, increased to 2 Euro in 2013, 3 Euro in 2016 and 5 Euro in 2018.
- Mentoring students’ needs to be deepened. Mentoring, discipleship and counseling overlap.
- The 5 young people who attended the Shadow Program in GA came back refreshed, with new ideas and have implemented those new ideas. They visited the most growing congregations in South GA.
- Rapina celebrated 30 years and they bought a new building.
- The clergy had continuing education.
- There is increased laity involvement. There are 5 clergy and 5 laity, 5 men and 5 women.
- John Wesley’s sermon book published in Estonian is at the printing house. There will be a 280-year Aldersgate celebration at Paide on May 26.
- Harry Burger prayed for Taavi.
Kim Reisman – World Methodist Evangelism
- Kim gave greetings from the Ukraine.
- The strength of WME and FOE is willingness to meet whatever needs arise.
- How FOE got started was salaries and building, ongoing work is to continue to meet needs. WME addressed need for training pastors. Poised to continue to be aware of missional needs. Part of working together is to be open to meet needs of the church in Estonia and the US.
- WME’s side is to recognize the need to raise up leaders.
- Another new experience is a teaching experience called “Convergence”. The US is becoming more secular. Take clergy and lay people to England to explore.
- Exploring creating labs to bring the best and brightest and brainstorm a specific need.
- Excited about new possibilities to be in relationship. Being open and creative where God wants us to go.
- Q & A: Q- Are they trying to grow Connecting Congregations? A- Not just one on one church to church but open to connection to a ministry. The Bishop mentioned that churches are more interested in projects, i.e. seed money to start a new church. Estonians need to identify the projects. WME is not seeking churches to connect. They have regional secretaries to identify connections.
- Rachel Davis pray for Kim.
Calvary UMC Report – Genna Mansperger and Andy Morris
- They have been going since 2004. They are still in relationship with some of the children. They are sending requests for camp this year.
- Going home from camp is tough. One kid was sad, said he had never had a group of people treat him so well.
- Q & A: Q- Spiritual aspect at camp? A- They pray before all meals, have Bible lessons, show the gospel by example and model God’s love. The Lighthouse leaders guide them. They might not tell the exact Bible story but give an example.
- Jim Davis pray for Calvary UMC.
IMT – Jeannie Reimer
- She works with Friends of Latvia and Friends of Lithuania. She sees the same energy here, God’s love for the Baltic countries.
- Started out building churches now it’s more relationship based.
- Asked the Lithuania churches how the US churches can be better partners as dependency and unequal relationships can set in. They shared some things that were being done that were not good. The US church didn’t ask about what their needs were. Example was a church sent English Bibles which weren’t useful, and they had to pay the expense to get them. The book “When Helping Hurts” looks at partnerships in this way. Are there ways we can all look at each other and learn?
- Q &A : Q- Are there any inter-country ministries? A- The Bishop said there are several things going on. An example is the D. S.’s meet regularly. Pastors met across borders. Training events such as the School of Congregational Development (included Nordic countries too). Year for God is going to Lithuania. All the D. S.’s are BMTS Grads.
Q- Are the number of churches similar? A- Estonia’s has 25, Latvia has 13 and Lithuania has 10.
- Jim Davis pray for Jeannie.
Ullas Tankler – GBGM
- His role is not to represent Estonia. There are regional reps for Europe, Eurasia, north Africa and Middle East. His area covers 11-time zones. His heart is in Estonia but he also sees the big picture.
- Totally new development with the Methodist Church in the UK looking at relationship with Europe differently, will be connected to global missions.
- GBGM is involved in Estonia with having a missionary couple there. They provide salary support for several people working in key areas that are not employees of GBGM. They sponsored Olaf’s book and John Wesley sermon books. They have received 1 and sent 1 Global Mission Fellow. Helps them develop and broaden their horizon. It takes a 2-year commitment. Would like to have more Estonians participate.
- Harry Turner prayed for Ullas.
Lighthouse –Veronika Fjodorova and Regina Multram via Skype
- Mission: Children Center Lighthouse supports development of children from deprived families and enables safe environment for free time activities.
- Vision: All children finish comprehensive school, attend at least 1 hobby group, are aware of healthy choices and traditional values. The Children Center has significant influence on children’s coping in their adult life.
- About 55% of the yearly cost is covered by Tallinn City Government. They updated their contract for renting from the City Government and they have it for the next 5 years. All other costs depend on donors.
- They have 33 kids, ages 7 to 17, Estonian and Russian speaking. They offer food, clothing, school and hygiene supplies.
- Their motto is “Every Child Needs Care”. They hope through this work they can express their love and care for the children who need it so much.
- Jan Meilner prayed for the Lighthouse.
Mt. Bethel – Karl and Page Henry
- They are grateful for the relationship with Kohtla-Jarva. It was brick and mortar at first but they wanted more and learned ways to know how to get more youth involved. Involvement is year-round as they assist in any needs. They go with an open and willing mind and enjoy the people in the country. Keep in mind who sends you.
- Sergei and Galena were the rock in their area. They were able to help them get a home church. It is 95% complete.
- Rachel Davis pray for Mt. Bethel.
Meeli Tankler – BMTS
- Meeli thanked us all for being with the Seminary. Prayers and financial support are appreciated. Two important things are purpose and results.
- Their goal is to prepare Christian workers with the academic, practical and spiritual training necessary to make a difference for the Kingdom of God. They do it by offering Seminary studies ( 3 years); Continuing education for UMC pastors; 7 sessions Lay Preachers Training.
- Since the first class in 1998 there have been 222 graduates serving God’s Kingdom in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Finland, Romania and Russia. There are currently 64 students from 5 countries. They hope to have 14 graduates this year.
- Highlights of the last year: 14 graduates in June 2017; 24 new students in August 2017; Search for a new President announced; Students’ study trip to Finland (part of a class on diaconal ministry in cooperation with Salvation Army); Conversations continue with Asbury TS team about joint master’s program.
- 22 attended the lay preachers course and 5 of them are going on to Seminary.
- There are 2 deaf students who are learning by sign language. They are from the Pentecostal Church.
- Q&A: Q – How many languages? A – Estonian, Russian and English, plus sign. English is in the minority. There is a Finland student who is originally from Ghana who is studying in English.
Q – Cost to attend and scholarships? A – Official fee is 1700 Euro per year. Most students are on partial scholarship, there are no full scholarships. Methodists get the largest scholarship. The tuition system has changed over the last 9 years. Started with no tuition. State universities are free, so it takes a commitment.
Q – Endowment fund? A – She had a brochure available with information on the endowment fund. It gets some income now but not much because it is not very large.
- JD Landis prayed for the seminary.
Artur Pold – Camp Gideon and Johvi
- Artur gave a testimony from last year regarding his miraculous healing of cancer. He was able to be a witness to his doctor and nurses. Last May the doctor gave him a certificate of health.
- Johvi – It will be 25 years in autumn that he has served this congregation. New churches have started through them. He has a desire to start a Russian-speaking congregation in Oslo, Norway. They do different social projects such as feeding the hungry with soup kitchens and giving clothes. They work in cooperation with the social ministry at the state and local levels.
- Camp Gideon – Through the camp many doors have opened and the state has noticed. They want to continue cooperation. They have about 1500 each year at camp.
- Sunbeam – They have 70 workers. The salary fund is more than €60,000. They have 16 children. They received a new van from Germany. They have chosen younger generation leaders to help with the camp as his daughter is full time with Sunbeam.
- He thanked everyone for their support and help.
- Q&A: Q – Cost to attend camp? A – Different cost for different camps. One day costs €15 and this includes 4 meals a day and a hot shower. Some kid’s parents pay, some from the church, local municipalities and some full scholarship.
Q – What is the origin of the camp? A – It was a communist Pioneer Camp.
- Karl Henry prayed for Artur.
Andrei Hinkonen via video
- He sent greetings. He started 4 years ago and they are growing and expanding the ministry. Many joining are young people. 20 youth serve on the media team.
- They have worship time, Christmas service, drama and youth ministry which will reach even more.
- They are starting Finnish language very soon.
- Thankful for prayers as we are all doing the same work.
- Challenge to become part of furthering Kingdom. They want to buy land and a building for ministry which will cost €2 million.
- David Himmelsbach prayed for Andrei.
We had a celebration for Meeli and Taavi’s “retirement”. Mary Ann Smith and J.D. Landis spoke about Meeli and Eddie Fox and Harry Turner spoke about Taavi. They were each given gifts and we had a cake in their honor. There is also going to be a monetary gift for each one of them that people can give to. Donations should be made to Asbury UMC with their name in the memo line.
- Greeting, prayers, special music, hymns and scripture.
- The offering will go for the Kohtla-Jarva church building which is almost paid for. A second need is the Wesley sermon book project.
- Sermon by Taavi Hollman. He talked about God’s faithfulness. This fellowship has proved over the years the faithfulness of God through our and their ministries. Whatever happens in the world God will be faithful. Greek has one word for faithful and faithfulness. They can’t be separated.
He shared some personal stories from his birth where he almost died and his military experience. Trustworthy is our God. Trust him to the end. Used example of smart watched he received for his 49th birthday that tells him where he stands on his weight and if he’s not getting enough sleep. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a smart watch that would tell us if we go too far from God? Need to trust him more? Looking too much at wrong screen? God has given us this in the Holy Spirit. We should be faithful to Scripture, God, His call and the mission He has given to us we are soldiers in the army of the Lord. Sometimes bad things happen to us, but He leads us through. Sometimes we don’t get our questions answered. Whatever happens let us be faithful to God. Since this is his last talk at FOE he sang a song and played the piano. It talks of being a soldier in the Army of the King. Very moving.
Closing hymn of “Great is Thy Faithfulness. Taavi gave the benediction in Estonian.
Saturday, April 28, 2018
Jim opened with prayer and a devotional about seeing all of Scripture in light of why we’re all here. In Genesis 1 – Everything is good. How it was supposed to be. Genesis 3 – All is broken. God reveals His plan of salvation. Plan of redemption through Jude.
We all have the same story, created in God’s image, we sin and Christ redeems us. God’s plan is for the world, not just individuals. The great commission is to go into all the world. God’s plan is working. We as Gentiles have been grafted in. The question is often asked why do we go across the world when so much needs to be done at home? God wants us to go to the nations. As believers we work together to bring the gospel to the world. We serve a great God!
Joosep Kunder – Agape Church in Parnu
- He came to the U.S. 18 years ago with a handbell choir. He gave a testimony of staying with Nancy Eubanks while here and the relationship he and his family developed with her. It was neat that she was also at this meeting.
- He works with the youth group helping the leader. Last year they had an overnight camp with 2 great preachers, worship night, barbecue, recreation and Bible study. It was a real blessed time and they want to do it again.
- David Lewis prayed for Joosep.
Jim Davis announced the offering last night was $2849 and 5 Euro.
- She shared her connection to Estonia and the experience she had when there on 9- 11. Agape Church and Joseph’s family surrounded her with love. Life changed that day and it was the first time in her mission life that she was the one hurting, needful and afraid. She was good at giving but not receiving so she learned about receiving that day.
- Jim Davis prayed for Nancy.
Estonian Youth via video
- They had a camp with the theme “Burning Heart”. They learned about John Wesley and their Methodist roots. They had Bible study, worship and fun.
- They are thankful for our prayers and financial support. Lives are changed.
- Rachel Davis prayed for the Estonian Youth Ministry.
Julianna Gunby via Skype
- Julianna moved to Estonia last June, about 1-hour East of Tallinn, and is teaching English to 5th – 9th graders, ages 11-16. It is the same everywhere for teachers, they work a lot. Teenagers are challenging. Every day is different. It took her 2 months to learn to speak slowly.
- She’s had to adjust to the culture. Some things she was prepared for, but some things have been harder.
- Harry Burger prayed for Julianna.
Rachel suggested we take time to acknowledge and praise what is going on.
- Success of Helsinki congregation.
- Place for new pastor’s. Reason for Vitka to be finished. A new minister might be able to go there and live.
- Reconnect English Methodist Church and the United Methodist.
- Encouraged by the Bishop. He has a great spirit.
- Growth of Artur’s efforts. Quintessential missionary at home.
- God incidence of Nancy Eubanks and Joosep here at the same time.
- Inspired by the talent, caring and passion of the FOE group.
- Openness and welcomeness felt.
- Leadership at the Seminary. How far it has developed.
- Taavi’s sharing in song last night.
Taavet Taimla via Skype
- He moved to Brazil as a missionary. He will be married the end of July to Veronika, from Tapa.
- Taavet will be finished in Brazil in May. He will a part of a Christian camp in Tulsa, OK with basketball players for 2 weeks in June. It will be a reverse mission, hope for them to encounter God. He has been working on it for 2 years. There are still some details to work out.
- He has joined TMS Global, a mission agency. He will also teach at the Seminary.
- David Morris prayed for Taavet.
Heather Steger – Asbury UMC Team Report
- This year will be Heather’s 4th trip to Agape in Parnu to help with V.B.S. They provide V.B.S. supplies and some construction supplies. She takes a team of 10-12 and they stay at the church.
- First year they had 30-40 children and last year they had about 100 one day. One family wanted to plan their vacation in Parnu around the V.B.S so their son could attend as he did last year.
- She shared the story of her daughter Isley who fell in love with Estonia her first trip and has gone back every year. She has raised funds for herself and others by making all different kind of greeting cards.
- Jim Davis prayed for Heather.
Rachel – Announcements
- Executive Board was introduced. David Himmelsbach, Marc Lyon and Carolyn Yoder rolled off the board. New members nominated were Andy Morris, Genna Mansperger, Karl Henry and Kim Reisman. Nominations accepted.
- Direct anyone interested in the Seminary Endowment Fund to contact them.
- Possible locations for next years meeting are Calvary, Nashville and Mt. Bethel. Date will be set later.
- Thanks to Marc and Jean Lyon for hosting.
Closed with Communion service led by Peter Van Eys.