Monday, 18 January 2016

Ultimate Six Month Update!

Brittany & Elias  

Resident super-gifted writer & photographer Brittany has written & shot most of the photos for this update. She, husband Ben & two year old Eowyn moved to Helsinki from the US over a year & a half ago & have since had baby Elias who is nearly one. We're grateful to God to know them all!

It’s been a whirlwind of a year since the last post was posted some six months ago. We praise God that while this blog has been a bit quiet for the past half year, He has not. Now feels like good time to sit down and reflect again as we go into the New Year.

Firstly, I want to say a big thank you. All of us can tell that the prayers you’ve offered during the in-between have been heard. It is great to celebrate God's faithfulness. Thank you for your kindness and diligence in praying for our families and this church plant. Amongst other things, we’ve seen jobs acquired, locations secured, grace extended, community building and gospel conversations happening here in Helsinki. Prayer is the biggest key here, God has been kind to us and your prayers keep us encouraged and keep us journeying on. Please, do continue with that good work!

Where we left off:

While we expected a quieter summer [as is the custom here in Finland], in actual fact we saw much community building activity happening during June, July and August. We met at cafés, went swimming, spent time together in our homes and built deeper relationships with one another. We also had a whole lot of birthday parties. If there's one thing this church does well, it's throw a good party! We found out fun things about each other (like Luke Morrison’s affinity for slack lining and my lack of affinity for such matters.) We tasted each other’s favorite foods, we laughed with each other. New relationships were built as we rubbed shoulders with one another. This summer really was a sweet time of gathering and having fun together.

As the summer months rolled to a close, we found ourselves on a hunt for a larger building location. At first, a door seemed to open and then it closed (the building sold.) Surprisingly, by a clear act of God, the building we had been using for our #sketch events opened up for our use. That however, seemed to be a temporary situation as it was too being sold. God had plans for us in the midst of it though, as following some discussion with the soon to be new owners, we were able to secure using this same location for the whole of 2016! It’s been a great location for us. It seems to be well known in the city, central and easily accessible and more accessible for new comers, compared to when we were meeting in each other’s homes. We are grateful for this provision as it certainly meets our needs and establishes us further to reach even more for His Kingdom (and keep peace with the neighbours in our apartment buildings! We are a bit of a rowdy bunch!)

With meeting at this venue, we’ve found a larger, less domesticated feel to our gatherings. We have more space, enough chairs[!], a clear meeting place and time [which has encouraged many more visitors], and improved facilities for kids. Yet, with the growth, we’ve felt the accompanying growing pains, just ask the folk who serve hauling boxes of toys and materials to and fro, making refreshments, setting up sound and projection equipment [this is in addition to preparing teaching, kids activities worship etc.] We’ve worked hard to figure out how to maintain the family feel we loved when meeting at each other’s homes while needing to embrace a more structured church life required to accommodate growth. While we are still working out the kinks, I don’t think the leadership could do a better job. It’s taken a great deal of leading with grace as we figure out how a small group can learn to run this all well. As a participant, I can’t help but praise God for our Leadership.

During one church meeting, while Alison was leading worship, a guest brought out his flute and started playing. He and she together created such beautiful music we all (for a few moments as our heads searched everywhere) thought angels were singing. How exciting that a first-time guest felt welcome enough to share such a gift. We certainly were blessed by it.

Our #sketch events have been a fun way to invite new faces into our church and also hear what God is doing in other parts of the world. It has been a time of getting perspective on how we’re doing, as well as as opportunity to encourage and pray for other European church planters around us. My husband and I have gotten to host social events that have coincided with the #sketch weekends [on the Saturday before] and it has blessed me to get to see so many of God’s people come into our house. I never thought I’d be living in Helsinki, drinking a Latvian beer while talking about God’s kingdom! Nor did I ever expect to get to laugh so deeply with people we only met a short few hours ago. 

After a few of the #sketch events we’ve been able to all go out and have lunch together. I’m quite sure that we surprise many a server as a larger group of people fill up all their tables! It’s been such a fun time to be together and enjoy food with one another.

We’re reaching a unique time with this church plant. We’re stretching way outside of our comfort zones, yet also finding ways to work within our giftings. Kev and Lydia have done an incredible work at creating an atmosphere where we all get to try out things. Their encouragement and opportunity to allow God to move us into new areas has been something unique to this church experience. I’m grateful I get to be a part of it through this season. We’re all figuring out what we’re good at, and also what drives us (versus what drains us). It certainly has its moments as we sort it all out! Step by step, we’re working towards really figuring out how to grow and support each other.

We've been able to enjoy some really great nights focused on specific giftings throughout the year and these evenings have given us an opportunity to learn more about worship, prophesy, leadership, and more. We're extremely grateful for the time with Paul & Hazel Flood, Joop Bakker, Laurence Turpin, and others who have offered their time and wisdom to us.

To say it’s been all sunshine would be a drastic oversimplification (we do live in Finland, after all. Come winter, there is no sun!) Our marriages have been refined, we’ve gone to each other with prayer for our parenting, prayed for people's difficult job situations, we’ve all felt a little worn out and ragged at times. Some Sundays we all show up even more desperate than usual for God's presence. God has been gracious to this church plant in many ways, and he has not excluded our lives from suffering and challenge. Perhaps this has allowed us all opportunity to practice giving out grace as we build into each other. When you get involved in church planting, I suspect, there isn’t time or energy to build up walls. What a blessing it is to have such quality people to be vulnerable with.

In all honesty, good things are happening at the Helsinki Church Plant.

I think the sweetest thing that happened this year was the welcoming of our newest (and most adorable) member, Miss Dorothy Jones. She is the delight of Sunday, and we all just love her.

If you get the pleasure of coming out to Helsinki, you can be sure one of us will ask you when you’ll be moving to join us. If you get asked this, don’t feel pressure, we only want what God wants, but we have a sneaking suspicion he wants you here ; ) In all seriousness, if God calls you to join us, you’ll have a great bunch of open arms here. We can’t promise easy, but we can attest time and time again that we are serving a God who has provided, who cares, and who is doing His work here in Helsinki.

May He receive all the Praise!

As you continue to pray for us, please pray that those who have committed to our church plant would feel strength and encouragement to continue to give their best to partnering with God and using their talents and giftings to serve and faithfully build with us. We want to be willing to move forward, but patient with His perfect timing. Pray for continued grace and peace as we serve Helsinki. Pray that God would continue to bring His people (both those that are already aware of Him, and those who currently don't know Him) into our doors and that we would reflect His awesomeness. Pray we be a blessing to this city and a blessing to each other. Praise God for all the work He's already done.

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  1. Such a privilege to know you all and be part of your journey, can't wait to see you soon

  2. Ah, guys, we love you and can't wait to get to see you again! Brilliant to read news from the beautiful Helsinki church peeps X X X

  3. Thanks for the update! We haven't met you guys, but already feel such deep love for this church plant. Blessings on you all.

    1. Thanks Sarah for the note. It's so encouraging to hear from you from time to time, especially as you have lived here and know the place well. Keep in touch!

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