Tere Eestist! (Hi from Estonia!)
Saturday was a great day! For those of you who receive the OMS Canada Contending in Prayer guide, that was the day you prayed for our Bible study day in south Estonia. Livia and I were both sick, making it hard to prepare, but Friday evening after work we drove 4 hours south, to within a stone's throw of the Russian border for the first of a series of Bible study days. Saturday morning, the tiny village congregation of Viitka (average Sunday morning attendance of less than 10) was filled with 26 adults plus kids, ready for 5 hours of Bible study! Friends from a total of 5 congregations gathered, eager to spend time listening to and discussing God's Word. The theme was standards for a relationship with God, looking firstly at Elisha's encounter with King Joram in 1 Kings 3. I dealt with the Old Testament, explaining the story and the spiritual principles behind it, and then after lunch Livia took those same principles into the New Testament and into their personal lives. It is so exciting to see people hungry to learn from and apply God's Word! Livia and I were so exhausted in the days leading up to this Bible Study day, we really didn't know if we could manage. But God is good and your prayers certainly helped! God willing, this is the first of a series of Bible Study days we will be doing with these congregations. Keep praying!
-Mark and Livia Nelson
Tere Eestist! (Hello from Estonia!)
This past year was hard for Lívia as she adjusted to teaching in a new school in a new community, but praise God it has gone well and her relationships with co-workers as well as the kids are developing nicely. Some time ago we asked prayer for a very troubled 6th grader. Your prayers are working! Lívia has been able to build a relationship of trust with him to the point where a shift in his attitude is seen, despite the fact that he still claims to hate school. As a teacher, she is limited in how she can present the Gospel, but her testimony comes through very clearly! Keep praying!
One of Lívia’s goals for the year ahead is to put Bible studies that she has lead into a written form that can be distributed. There is a very great lack of Bible study material in Estonian and Lívia’s approach is exactly the very practical approach that is needed to help people develop their relationship with God. Finding the time and energy, however, is a major challenge, so prayers are appreciated.
For me, the last months have been about handovers. Mostly planned and prepared for in a way that will take God’s work in new directions and allow me to focus on the Seminary and Bible school.
Handover #1: Estonian foreign mission work has a new leader. Kaire (who graduated from the Seminary in June and has been on several of our mission teams) officially replaced me this spring taking the seat I had on the Estonian Evangelical Alliance’s board as mission committee leader. This handover took more time than I expected, but I trust that God’s timing is best and I see that Kaire has the skills and energy to take this work forward.
Handover #2: The Bible school for indigenous people groups in Russia is relaunched with a new leader. For security reasons I won’t be giving details, but I can say that a new group of 22 students started recently. I am so happy to see the creative teaching approaches that are moving a step beyond what I did in the past, making the teaching method more relevant to their culture. That is what handovers should do! I feel like a parent watching my child beat my own record! I am so happy! I wish I could tell you all about it.
Handover #3: The Seminary has a new leader, Külli Tõniste. Külli was my student when I first came to Estonia. She went on to do a master’s and a PhD in New Testament and with her American husband Doug has been back in Estonia teaching with us for 3 years. On August 1 she will officially become our Rector (president). I was her teacher, her boss, and now she will become my boss. Honestly, I am really looking forward to it! We have had lots of conversations about the direction the Seminary needs to go, and I really believe that God can use her to take the Seminary to new heights. Most importantly: she understands the importance of prayer and keeping God central to what we are doing.
Handover #4: We have a new head of the church in Estonia: Robert Tcherenkov. Unlike the others, Robert has never been my student, but he was my partner for the last two years leading the Estonian Bible School program. Working together helped me to get to know him better and to see the heart that he has for God. I really believe he is the right man for the job and although he is facing a huge challenge, I am looking forward to seeing what God will do.
As you can see, there are a lot of changes and we really believe that all these new leaders can bring a new start to the church in Estonia. Please keep praying for God’s guidance, strength and protection. Estonia is not an easy place to serve God and your prayers are an essential part of what we are doing.
Have a great summer!
-Livia & Mark Nelson