2020 FOE Gathering – Register NowJanuary 20, 2020
Art Does MissionsMarch 19, 2020
Tree of Life Church – Elupuu Kirik
“We would like this building to become Võru Methodist Church!” said Mr. and Mrs. Kask to superintendent Olav Pärnamets and to Kaupo Kant, a recently been ordained pastor of Ruusmäe congregation, pointing to the half-complete building in the living district of Võru. The year was 1993. Pärnamets accepted the kind offer, and in early spring the following year, the parties traveled to Tallinn to formalize the transfer of ownership. On the way there, a logging truck heading the opposite direction lost a log off the back of its trailer in front of the Kasks’ car. Thanks to God, the log bounced off one of the strongest parts of the car, and no one was hurt. Later that day, the ownership of the building on Uus St. (New St.) in Võru was transferred to the Estonian Methodist Church.
The Kask family owned a wooden furniture company Kokla at that time, and they worked to complete the house of worship. The Methodist Church leadership hoped to have the new home of the congregation opened as a part of the World Methodist Council meeting on October the 2nd, 1994. The Kask family, a bit worried about the timeline, pushed ahead. Koit Kask, the father of the family, planned to be in Sweden at the time of the opening, to take part in an entrepreneurship conference along with a delegation of Võru entrepreneurs.
Koit decided that there would be more opportunities to join this kind of delegation, and opening a church could be a once-in-a-lifetime event. The Võru mayor tried to convince him to join the group in Sweden, but Koit had made his decision. That fateful choice saved his life. Koit’s dedication to his God and the local congregation prevented what would have been his tragic death. The entire delegation of Võru entrepreneurs was killed on September 28th, 1994 as the cruise ferry MS Estonia sank. The tragedy took the lives of 852 people. The loss of MS Estonia is a national tragedy and one of the deadliest maritime accidents in Europe. Only the loss of the RMS Titanic claimed more lives.
On October 2nd 1994, the Võru Methodist Church building was ready, surrounded by a beautiful iron fence with crosses. A huge crowd had gathered on the Uus St. and a big tour coach full of people had arrived from Tallinn. In attendance were: the Credo choir, Dr. Eddie Fox as the preacher for the opening service, the Bishop of South Africa, and visitors from Germany and various places of Estonia.
The vast crowd that had been there on the first worship service started to fade Sunday by Sunday. The team was small, and the building was cold. The more conservative people of South Estonia viewed the young pastor and his wife, both from the capital, with distrust at times. On one Sunday sometime in 1995, there was a service where the only persons in attendance were Pastor Kaupo and his wife, Thea. Though there were tough times, the future was to be warm and bright.
The Võru congregation gave new life to its children’s ministry in 1995 when the Palo family from Raiste village joined the church. In that same year, the church gained at least one new member after a wrong-number phone call resulted in an invitation to worship.
Below is a timeline of significant events since the church’s formative years. The congregation today is a stronghold of prayer warriors praying for people all over the world. Some of these prayer recipients are people the congregation has met and worshipped with on mission trips to Latvia, Lithuania, Finland, England, Udmurtia, Mari El, Khanty region, Brazil, Israel, Barbados, and Bulgaria. The congregation also prays for many people whom they have never met. The congregation also has been a leader in partnering with local and regional governments to assist, grow, and expand local food banks. The Võru food bank (Võru Toidupank) is available six days a week with three paid employees. During campaigns, there are an additional 15 or so volunteers. May 2020 will be the food bank’s 5th anniversary!
As the congregation looks back in the event of the past, they whole-heartedly admit that what God has opened, no-one can close.
Võru - Tree of Life Timeline
19981998 - Children's Ministry GrowsA major breakthrough in Children's ministry took place in 1998. Lea Palo started organizing a pre-teen program called Piibliklubi (Bible club), early attendees included Grete Lepa and Merlin Metsla. Ele Palo (now Ele Paju) and Tea Võro (then Tea Land) started their studies at the Baltic Seminary. Regular Saturday services were started in the home of the Tiigi family in Viitka. The following year the basement floor was ready, including a restroom, a kitchen, and a fellowship room. This made it possible to host more events and also to start the Alpha course.
20002000 - Hospital Ministry and Viitka Begin
In the year of 2000, regular ministry started in the Special Care Services unit of Võru Hospital. This ministry still exists today with a regular attendance of 1 to 7 people from the unit every Sunday. Also in 2000, a small awakening took place in Viitka, including three baptisms. That prompted us to establish a congregation in Viitka. The UMC Viitka congregation was inaugurated on August 19th, 2000. Pastor Kant (and family) departed for Asbury Seminary in the USA. The three congregations were left to the care of three young workers. Vladek Manninen, a BMTS student, took the responsibility for the three congregations, Ele Palo helped the ministry in Võru and Enno Sarik helped in Ruusmäe.
20032003 - Kant Family Returns and Varstu missionThe Kant family returned in 2003 from Asbury Seminary in Kentucky USA. The work to build a vital congregation in Võrumaa continued step-by-step. As a result of mission work in Varstu by a Norwegian mission group, 10 people converted and there was a need for follow-up. A church planting project in Varstu lasted for 4 years and lasted until 2008.
20042004 - The Physical Building ContinuesThe Võru congregation's building did not have an occupancy permit, and emergency services would not certify the building for use. An architect was consulted, and a board member of the church shared a vision of the existing building being used for children's ministry and a new chapel would be built adjacent. V õru's partner congregation, First United Methodist Church - Montgomery visited us for the first time, and in discussion with the local town government, they promised to help us build the extension to the then existing building. That congregation in Montgomery is still a partner congregation. They have supported everyday life in the Võru church, growing the congregation and helping with many other projects. It has been a miraculous provision of God.
20062006 - A bold Vision of prayer and healingIn 2006, God gave an encouraging spiritual vision along with a scriptural calling: Isaiah 61:1-3 – that this church would be a house of prayer for all the nations, and He gave a desire to move in the guidance of the Holy Spirit and in His inspiration. the Võru congregation became bolder in building up a prayer ministry and praying for the sick, anointing them with oil.
20072007 - Breaking Ground on Uus StreetAfter nearly two years of paperwork, infrastructure requirements from the city, and detailed planning the ground was broken on the new building as part of the 100th anniversary of the Estonian Methodist Church. On May 23rd, 2007 Friends, neighbors, and church members joined by the major of Võru, Kersti Kõosaar, pierced the ground with ceremonial shovels. The major, after the project's completion, was quoted as saying, "She has never seen before nor has she seen it after that someone starts building a building without any money." She saw this as a testimony that God exists!
20092009 - God moving forwardIn 2008 recession came and the building fund became thin. The building project was paused. The foundation had been poured and yet the work could not be finished. In the New Year's Eve of 2009, a missionary Yuri Velloso arrived as a warm Brazilian sun. As the snow melted, the walls began to rise and we could celebrate our 15th anniversary between the walls which were the height of a man. Our dear prayer partner Doris McCray came to encourage us and prophesied that God is moving forward.
2010 and 20112010-2011 - From Lows to HighsIn 2010, the church encountered another difficulty as it had to move out of the church buiding and into the Võru Salvation Army space. The year 2011 was a real breakthrough both spiritually and physically. Many large-scale tasks were finished and the congregation had help from a voluntary group from the USA. Miraculously, the roof got on by the end of November and as the last man got off the roof, it started snowing.
20122012 - moving back inAt Easter of 2012, they allowed to move back into the church building. Symbolically, Taavet Taimla carried the same Bible into the building that he had carried during the inauguration service in 1994. The work of Kuzaan and Clarien Van den Berg began in Võrumaa together with their three teenage children and a stepdaughter Lelde. A jointly organized tent mission event took place in the town center and in the fall they focused on youth work. As their background was Youth With A Mission, the Võru congregation suddenly became very international. A 19th anniversary was celebrated in the new, yet unfinished sanctuary together with Timo Lige (a famous Estonian Christian musician) and his family band. Programs called “365 days until opening” and “We are standing on the Word” started looking ahead. All the congregation members, as well as all the visitors, were invited to write their favorite Bible verses on the church floor in their own language. A few hundred scriptures were written on the floor in around 20 different languages. A miracle happened and on the 20th anniversary of our congregation, Võru Tree of Life congregation was ready. There were still bills to be paid but the other Estonian Methodist congregations heard the call for help and it was a moment of great tension. However, a miracle happened again and all the bills were paid by December the 30th!
20142014 - Prayers and Feeding Ministries GrowThe year of 2014 was special in many ways. In May, Võru Food Bank was established, but at the same time, a huge wave of conversion started. God called people through dreams, an inner conviction, and open hearts. That year 18 people gave their lives to God. Many in the congregation believe that it was clearly the fruit of their South African friends' prayers. This motivated the church to be more active in prayer ministry and as a result, they started having prayer meetings every morning. In March 2015, The Van den Berg family felt that God was calling them to move on. But the harvest was great: on their sending-out service, 7 youth were baptized and the congregation received 14 new members. It is an all-time record!
20152015 - Prayer Clinic and English campsIn the fall of 2015, the Prayer Clinic was started. It is the 7th and so far the youngest prayer clinic in Estonia. In the summers of 2015 and 2016, Võru EMK held English Camps and the youth and children's ministry remain strong.
08-Oct-20192019 - EluPuu (Tree of Life) - Võru EMK celebrates 25 years!
- Kaupo Kant 1994–2000
- Ele Palo (Paju) 1999–2000
- Vladek Manninen 2000–2002
- Ele Paju 2002–2005
- Ove Palo (youth pastor) 2005–2006
- Ele Paju 2005-2010
- Kaupo Kant since 2003