This place. I had never heard of this place until about 6 months before I found out I was going there. I signed up to go on a Let’s Start Talking mission about two weeks after I decided to whole-heartedly live my life for God. Like some of the best things in life, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I remember dreaming about it… about what it would be like to get off the plane. It was a place that I could hardly imagine, this medieval little country with a history further back than I can count! Of course when I dreamed about it, I actually dreamed about Russia– St. Basil’s Cathedral to be exact– because it was all I could put in my head for what it might be like.
The first summer we went to Estonia, we were in Tallinn. By the time we got there, I had only been a Christian for 7 months. I had to prepare devotionals. And sing… with just three other people in the room. Most of the time we sang for fun, my wonderful friend Kelli and I learning most of the songs for the first time. We laughed so much while we were there. My heart was really bursting. I read through the New Testament for the first time while I was there. In many ways, this was also my first time sharing the good news. It was a sweet time of fellowship between Peter, Reba, Kelli and myself, with the the Hales & Langstons (missionary families from the US), and with local Christians . I removed myself from my own culture and immersed myself in another, with a language I could not speak, grocery stores I could not understand, and truly lovely people whom I have grown to love so much. What a formative time for me.
Every day we met with several local people and read the book of Luke with them, one-on-one. To this day, whenever I read through the LST text I can hear the Estonian accent reading the words. It is pretty much impossible to read it any other way, even though I have read it with Chinese and Korean readers. One of the best things about reading through the Bible with people who have never read it before, or with people who don’t believe it, or with people who do believe it, either way, you really get to know them. I became so close to so many of my readers, learned of their past hurts, learned about what they love, what they think about life, death, George Bush (even though you aren’t supposed to talk politics, sometimes they would bring it up!). We built really meaningful friendships, and I pray that those seeds that were planted will someday grow into a beautiful, fruit-bearing tree.
The second year, we went to Tartu, Estonia, and though it was hard not to spend the summer with the friends that we made the preivous year, we were blessed to make so many new friends in such a quaint, lovely city. This time, I had been a Christian for a year and 7 months. I think about and pray for my friends in Estonia so often, and my heart hurts when I see pictures, hear stories, read blogs, etc. from Estonia.
Estonia will always be in my heart and I really pray that I am able to go back there someday soon. Estonia has been on my mind a lot lately, even more-so since Liis and Iiris’ accident. (Iiris is recovering, but still needs prayers!). Today I was editing and preparing many of my Estonia pictures for print as I am making an Estonia wall, so that every day I can go there, even if just for a minute.
Thank you, Estonia, for shaping me.
(By the way, Calgarians, FriendSpeak is coming to our church in the near future! Soon you will have the opportunity to reach out to those in our local community who need help with their English, and help from Jesus.)