Estonian Methodist pastor Rauno Ojassoo turned 50 years old on January 1st, 2021 and Andres Kapp joined him to ask about his path to God and pastoral ministry.
It is written, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him“. I became a Christian after my wife Katrin and I asked advice from the new pastor of Haapsalu UMC Urmas Rahuvarm, after an Alfa Course session, what to do in a certain difficult life situation. Pastor Urmas said take it before God he will surely help you. That was all it took, God helped and we remained close to him. We were invited to Alfa Course by my grandmother who had been a long-time member of the Haapsalu UMC. Who is a Christian? Is it the one who hails from a family that honors Christian traditions and is baptized? I had been all of that before but I did not know God personally. He had helped me earlier but I did not recognize the living person behind that help. Today I know personally the living God who has created the heaven and the earth and has sent His only begotten Son so that I too may have life and to the fullest.
I did not choose my home church, our family has been connected to Haapsalu Methodist Church for many years. My grandmother who invited me to Alfa was its member since 1926 when she gave her life to Christ when she was 12 years old. Also, my grandfather Valdo Ojassoo was a Methodist pastor who served congregations in many places in Estonia – Haapsalu was his last place of ministry. Since our home was in Haapsalu and still is, it made sense to stay here. Having worshipped God in the Methodist congregation for two decades, I have taken note of Karl Kuum’s question which was asked a long time ago: “What people are those Methodists?“ and Vassili Täht’s answer: “These are serious people who have experienced new birth, pursue sanctification and love all believers.“ I do experience this authentically today in this fellowship. We can find a biblical basis for that from 1. John 4th chapter: “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.“ God’s children see beyond the denominational borders and testify together about Jesus Christ incarnate and as the Lord!
My calling did not come like a lightning bolt from the sky, but I rather grew into it. I have divided it into three stages. The first stage was joining a congregation which took me from knowing about God to knowing Him personally. During that time God started to reveal Himself as alive to me, answers came to my questions, I learned to pray and hope. I experienced the power that built me up when I gave witness to how God has led me. I started studying more in-depth the Bible and spiritual literature. The first sermons and testimonies felt like “coming from somewhere, my pen only wrote“.
The second stage was experiencing collective responsibility in terms of being a proclaimer together with other Christians, to proclaim what God has done and will be doing. My knowledge of God became deeper and moved toward dependence on Him. By that moment the spiritual euphoria had been substituted by sobriety and peace. Direct changes in ministry, more responsibility in services, reading the Scripture, giving testimonies, commentaries on Bible passages became more like sermons. I felt that God was giving me something and it needed to be shared. Later my area of responsibility expanded and preparing and leading worship services became regular.
The third stage was receiving the assurance – God has called me and equipped me and the entire earlier experience had been directing me to start with the clergy position. My active service in pastoral ministry within recent years has only confirmed this assurance. My experience has been that I have significantly grown while being with God, also I have experienced my dependency on God as well as how He carries, arranges and comforts me. No human can completely understand His decisions or ways, we can only realize like Job did that He is the Creator and entirely merciful. Grace has an essential value and understanding this as a human is the key for everything, if you are able to lay aside your pride, selfishness as well as your own strength in order to experience the grace in which God has looked upon meager me a long time before I in my arrogance ever wanted to know anything about Him. He has not only looked upon me-but upon every human being. Even if I wouldn’t want it, considering myself better than others in my pride. God is an amazing God of grace, forgiveness, and salvation – this needs to be proclaimed!
My testimony as I graduated was as follows: I came to study because I wanted to better understand myself, other people, and God! I found many good people who love God and the time we spent together was a very enriching experience. My studies made me more courageous and open in terms of seeing new challenges in my spiritual development. The most important thing that I understood was that other people have sought answers to the same questions centuries earlier – i.e. moral terms “good,“ “must,“ “correct,“ etc. The theological education helped me to better discover myself, which are my real theological views, how do I understand God, how do other people understand Him, how do their experiences look like. I really like to analyze things, to study reasons behind doing or not doing something, why people make particular choices – I want to understand, not to condemn. As I wrote in my school testimony, my biggest discovery and confirmation was that people are interested in the same questions. An incredibly interesting person was Immanuel Kant who was interested and found many answers to the same questions that I’ve been interested in. The same is true for Karl Barth and this realization gave me an amazing assurance for my work today in which I often have to look behind the “facade.“
Excellent question, we often shy away from saying that hardships in life do that to us, the Bible does not say that rest and amazing life is here today. The rest of God’s people is still ahead but we have received hope and assurance that the Victor has won against the evil and brought life but suffering for Christ remains a part of this life, these are the words of Jesus: “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.“ The incredible help came again and again and “He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.“ (Psalms 40:2) Singing the blues is a sin, a sign of not trusting, one should not remain in this. But tell to God honestly about your every feeling (why hide those?), including failing, anger, and doubts. He knows all about us anyway, we’d better learn about ourselves by His help. If it gets really hard then I will go and share it – if you have a burden and you share it, you will feel better. Let’s share things, first to God and even better – to God through a fellow believer. Try it, it helps!
One of my leading verses has been leading me from the very first moment I started systematically listening to sermons and participating in Bible studies, its from James 1:25: “But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it-not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.“ I consider “doing it“at the end of the verse the whole life, starting from being in the faith because “Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.“ For me believing is also doing, up to small everyday life matters, let alone loving a neighbor. It is written: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.“