Several years ago, knowing that Rachel had left town to travel, Jim was asked by a coworker where she went. When Jim responded “in Estonia,” the person replied with a question, “In her studio?”
We could blame the humorous mix-up on bad hearing, but the fault was more likely based on poor knowledge of geography. Although it seems that a lot of Americans have not heard of the country of Estonia, it is one of the most charming places in the world. Estonia boasts of beautiful culture, history, and, especially, of people.
Just take a momentary walk down the cobblestone streets of Old Tallinn with us as we gaze at the pristine red-roofed 13th-century buildings. We can sit in an open-aired café next to City Hall (which was completed in the year 1404) to sip on some coffee or tea as we tell you some of the reasons we love Estonia:
First, The People: This is the main reason we love Estonia. A few years back I (Rachel) went to visit some friends in the small town of Aseri, Estonia. They welcomed me with open arms and opened their hearts and homes. They were full of love, and it was there that I truly fell in love with the people. I got to experience life first hand in another culture and, even with a language barrier, felt at home. We have many friends in Estonia, each with beautiful smiles and open hearts. These are not just short-term relationships, but lifetime friendships.
Second, the History and Culture: Estonia has a fascinating history and is rich in culture and national pride. Seeing Old Tallinn gives a glimpse of that, but when you talk with individuals and/or learn of the history, rich stories come to life. From the conquered to the conqueror, Estonia has seen its ups and downs with its surrounding neighbors. Yes, the Estonian heart has stayed alive all the while. Learn of the Song Festival, the TV Tower, and the troops marching in from Russia from someone who witnessed it all and you begin to appreciate those who stand up for what they believe in. Watch the movie, The Singing Revolution, if you’ve never seen it.
Third, it’s Fun to Visit: Estonia is a great destination! There are many great things to do and beautiful places to see – from the coast on the Baltic Sea to the cities and villages to the beautiful birch forests. From lighthouses to castles and beyond. No wonder it’s a popular cruise stop these days.
Fourth, the Slower Pace of Life: Maybe the pace is not as slow in Tallinn or the other big cities, but life is a bit “slower” than in America overall. It is a place where simplicity is beauty and visiting with others is central. It helps re-focus us on the important things in life when we visit.
Finally, and most importantly, God is at Work: Estonia is one of the most atheistic countries in Europe, yet the Church is alive. Our love for Estonia is not merely our own; it comes from the deep root of God’s love for the people of Estonia. It is through the Friends of Estonia group that we have been able to maintain friendships over the years so that we are equally encouraging one-another across the sea. What a blessing our brothers and sisters are
Although we have personal reasons that we love Estonia, we love when others connect too. This is why we love the Friends of Estonia family. It is a great way to know what is happening in Estonia – specifically through the United Methodist Church – and how to connect. It is in this Friends’ gathering that we support one another and gain insights into each others’ cultures and lives. We also see where God is working and are able to prayerfully see what needs to be done.
If you are a Connecting Congregation, we encourage you to live out each year with prayer and focus on your connection by pouring out love on your sister church. If you are interested in the work we do and/or in knowing how to connect, please contact us to learn more.