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.

Follow on twitter: @Kevin_J_Jones
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Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Long Awaited News!

Brittany & a new church plant member: Elias    

Brittany has written this update [although I may have been a bit creative with some of the captions]. She, husband Ben & two year old Eowyn moved to Helsinki from the US a year ago & now have baby Elias. We're grateful to God to know them all!

Brittany is a great writer & a super photographer amongst many other things... 

It’s been an encouraging past few months here in Helsinki! I wanted to pop in again and give a glimpse of what’s happening (from a member’s point of view) here with the Oh-So-Wonderful Helsinki church plant!

We Spragues have recently celebrated our one year of officially meeting and joining Kev and Lydia (we share this anniversary with Jani, he joined on the same Sunday one year ago as well!) and it’s been an incredible thing to consider all God has done in the past 365 days. Not only have we been growing in number (the Jones’ recently moved to a bigger place just to have it filled with more faces! Praise God!) but there has been a growing sense of cohesiveness and community in our group. The culture that is being formed in this community is so rich. We’re grateful to experience it.

While there are many exciting things ahead, today I wanted to share some of the highlights from the past several months. It's so encouraging to me to reflect on what He has done so far, and it makes me all the more confident of his continued work here in Helsinki!

Hard to believe this bird was running around the apartment just 30 minutes before this photo was taken!    

 Supporters look on in amazement as Brittany goes head to head with that turkey!  
[Final score: Brittany 1 Turkey Jerky 0]    
Back in November of 2014, we all gathered to celebrate an American Thanksgiving meal at our place. This was our first official holiday away from family and from our home country. The group loved on us by indulging in our traditions. Having this special group of people join us in our home (and in filling our bellies) made us feel deeply honored to get to be a part of this group. We even had the pleasure of meeting a few new faces at that event and they've since stuck around! Some major milestones were reached on that fateful night: we were able to persuade Kev to play a board game (and all the angels sang!), tried our first glöggi, and became thoroughly convinced that this group was special. 

We as a group ended the year with even more Christmas celebrations (like an awesome glöggi party put on by the Jones'!) and took time to reflect and dream of what the future year would look like. 

January through April birthed a rhythm of  meeting together weekly at the Jones’ for worship, community, and feasting. We have a few AMAZING chefs and bakers in our midst. Mr. Kev Jones himself makes a cheesecake that is top tier (a slice of which, I am sure, would leave Jesus Himself well pleased.) These past several months of meeting together have given us all opportunity to serve one another and be served. Several have taken a turn at leading worship, facilitating discussions, creating kid’s projects and lessons etc. It’s been a tender time of fellowship and growing together.

In March, we had the deep pleasure of having Paul and Hazel Flood from Bournemouth UK join us for a week.  They led an evening of prayer and encouragement that left everyone deeply uplifted and spiritually connected as a team. The gift of their presence and encouragement is still being felt months later.

Sports day fun in Helsinki [practice for next years turkey chase]    

In May, through Lydia’s work, we were able to have a fun Recreational Day in a school gymnasium. Several friends came to the event and it was a great time getting to share a meal, throw balls at the children (ha!) and really celebrate the littlest members of our congregation. I think everyone slept well that night!

Great time together at the recent #Sketch event [can't really think of a turkey related caption for this pic, but hey that's what the comments section     below is for right?]    

We  most recently had  the opportunity to do another #Sketch event in downtown Helsinki. We kicked off the weekend with a fun barbecue Friday night, then on Sunday, received an encouraging word from Tom Shaw from The City Church in Canterbury UK. We enjoyed worship lead by Alison Morrison. It was an awesome time together and was an encouraging exercise in having church in a more public setting.

Just a few weeks ago, Ben, Patrick and Kev officially submitted the documents required to make us an association with the Finnish Government. This will help allow us to open a church bank account, facilitate members giving, hire premisses more easily for meeting, employ staff in the future etc. We received notification just yesterday that our application has been granted and Relational Mission Helsinki Church Plant Ry now exists. The Ry bit stands for rekisteröity yhdistys, which as we all know is Finnish for registered association. We've known that the church plant itself exists for a while now[!], but it's great to hear that we have some growing legal status to reflect what is already happening relationally here on the ground.

Amidst all the sensational events, God has been bringing incredible people to join our church family through the year. Most recently we added Luke & Alison Morrison! We have been eagerly awaiting their arrival and it is so exciting to share that they have officially moved to Helsinki from the UK. We are all praising God as we’ve witnessed His divine hand in orchestrating their coming and we are already feeling the impact of having them with us.

We have been blessed so much by the Jones family and all that God is doing here through this church. Thank you for your continued prayer. While it's fun and exciting to write about all the cool things God is doing, He has been faithful in carrying this group through hard winters, stressful schedules, job interviews, financial struggle and life circumstances not so easy to write about. It is with joy that we can recount these fun times with you and it is still with joy that we get to share in Christ's suffering in building his Kingdom. I personally have caught glimpses of the sacrifice that many of these families have made, especially Kev & Lydia, in following where God calls. It is encouraging to see the fruit that has come from the past few months in the form of events and new faces, but God is continuing his good work in our personal lives as well. Most certainly God is using this church to speak truth to each other as we journey through the darker seasons (as I can personally testify!) All this to say, I'm most confident that the prayers you take time to make are changing lives here in Helsinki. We are directly benefiting from your prayers. Thank you. We are so grateful for the way you persevere in your commitment to praying for Finland

Summers in Finland are a super special cultural experience (the whole country seems to go nearly silent as they all migrate to their summer cabins!) but a whole lot of us will still be gathering in the Helsinki area to worship, fellowship and enjoy one another's company. We look forward to seeing all that God has in store for this church as we go forward into the rest of the year.

Follow on twitter: @Kevin_J_Jones
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Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Living as a Community on Mission

Sunday was extra special and a bit different for us as we were joined Live via Skype by Adam Bradley from Life Church in Peterborough, England. He spoke to us as a group, sharing the story Nehemiah and helping us to see how closely this account of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem relates to our journey here in Helsinki, as we seek to see this city and the lives of the people who live here rebuilt, restored and transformed to the glory of God.

After 120 years of desolation the city of Jerusalem and its walls were in a bad way. Not dissimilar to the city of Helsinki, which although architecturally looks very modern, clean and well kept, like most European capital cities, is spiritually run down and in need.

1.    Adam's initial challenge to us came from the first three verses of the book of Nehemiah. Nehemiah is not afraid to ask the big questions and to understand the grave situation Jerusalem found itself in. This was a great provocation to us to also ask the big questions. What is really going on here in Helsinki? What is the state of spiritual desolation in Helsinki? What are the issues causing people to live broken lives here in the city? 
This question focused discussion afterwards about how we can try to ensure we remain purposeful and intentional and avoid passivity, as we seek to bless the city according to some of its biggest needs. These are excellent questions to ask for any going into any new or cross cultural church planting situation. 

2.   In chapter 2 verses 17-18 we see a wonderful attitude of people’s willingness to commit, roll their sleeves up and put their hands to whatever they could do to help at that time. The response of the people is we’re with you, let’s get started! As an extension of the first point they acknowledge the reality of the situation but readily commit to serving the vision by doing what they can do now.
Adam reminded us that “pioneers feed themselves on the bread of vision”! Although we are currently small in number, a bright compelling vision for the people of the city of Helsinki should enable us to roll our sleeves up and take steps in doing what we can do now, even if these things cause us to feel out of our depth.

3.   Throughout chapter 3 we see a remarkable picture of a group of people willing to play out of position. Not restricted or limited by their egos or perceptions of natural talents, they are so compelled by and committed to the vision to see the walls rebuilt, that they are happy to play whatever part they can towards that goal. We don’t hear: well I would help, but that’s not my gifting actually, rather a resounding: here I am, send me!

4.   In chapter 4 verse 6, we read that in the face of huge opposition and adversity they worked with all of their hearts! In just 52 days they had accomplished something remarkable in repairing the walls. There are sacrifices to be made when living as a community together on mission. Partway into our building program here in Helsinki, we need to continue to work together in partnership, and ask: what does it mean for us to be an all of your heart Community? Everyone is needed as a vital part of the team and we all have significant roles to play.
Cobbled together technology & resources at our end [note the projection tablecloth on the wall]! but an amazing message from Adam, heard loud and clear in our apartment in Helsinki all the way from Peterborough!    

5.   At the beginning of chapter 4 we read about people who are willing to live on the edge of defeat. They were ill-equipped, outnumbered, unskilled and building with broken stones and shoddy materials. They were not master builders by any means and as a consequence they were making a less than perfect job of repairing the walls, but they repaired and secure the walls all the same. This is an extremely challenging picture. Rather than fall into the trap of waiting until they were 'ready' to begin the project, the people regard this as a project of faith. They choose to consider the promises of God much more highly than the reality of their own skills, tools and materials.

This presents a huge challenge to me and to us as a small church plant group.  As a relatively risk averse person, I could easily look at our current situation and think we’re a long way off doing anything. We are not properly equipped or resourced, we are not particularly trained, we don’t have finances in place, we don't have the physical space, and the on-going challenges just of living here leave us all with very little free time or energy. We could easily fall into the trap of looking at these factors and talking ourselves out of doing anything on the basis of not being ready. But those rebuilding the walls in Jerusalem understood that they were working within the promises of God. With that in mind, they’re best off not entertaining thoughts about whether they were equipped, or what would happen if they failed. This is not an excuse for a slapdash, anything will do attitude, but we must never allow perfectionism to paralyse us into inactivity.

We too are here based 100% on the promises and provision of God. Time spent hearing stories of others in the group, of how they came to be here and their journeys from various far-off places around the world, would convince you that we’re all here in Helsinki at this time for God ordained reason, and to be part of a bright compelling vision, which He is calling us to partner with Him to see realised. That’s why we are here. Not because we’ve got it all together, with all the equipment and all the answers!

6.   So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty-two days. And when all our enemies heard of it, all the nations around us were afraid and fell greatly in their own esteem, for they perceived that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God.
Nehemiah 6: 15-16

One can’t help but feel excited when reading these verses, that despite their seemingly disadvantaged initial position, not having equipment, materials, or expertise, the walls were actually finished and they had done it!
It’s so exciting to be on mission in community. What feels like a rollercoaster at times is also an opportunity and a privilege to get to experience special moments like this, were against all the odds, by feeding ourselves on the bread of vision and working together with all of our hearts, we get to see Gods seemingly impossible promises being fulfilled again and again!

Thanks Adam! It was such a blessing to have you join us on Sunday!
You can hear more from Adam by checking out the Life Church webpage or by following him on twitter.

Please pray for us as the group discuss and explore ways to further serve the community around us and engage with the big questions about the current situation here in Helsinki. Possible issues to pray into:
  • We have a number of small-scale project ideas to bless and connect with the community around us. One of these ideas is to start a regular Finnish speaking conversation group. This would help us to regularly meet others, particularly forming links with non-finns, who can easily feel socially or culturally isolated. 
  • Many of us now have deepening friendships and relationships with colleagues, neighbours and others. Please pray for boldness and opportunity for a greater measure of the Gospel to be shared within these relationships and to see these individuals to understand their need for God and miraculously come to faith.
  • As I mentioned, we are small in number, lacking in time and in resources. Please pray for grace that as we faithfully try to plant the small amount of seed we have, that God multiplies this and causes an unprecedented harvest. Pray that we will be a community which is willing to step out, take risks, work with all of its heart and is not preoccupied with all the areas we lack in.

Follow on twitter: @Kevin_J_Jones

If you feel you would like to help financially, this can be done through The City Church Canterbury. Contact Simon Clark to discuss the best way to do this.

Friday, 10 October 2014

A Tale of Global Relations

Brittany, Ben & lovely Eowyn

Our friend Brittany has written this piece. She, husband Ben & two year old Eowyn moved to Helsinki from the US a few months ago & have become great buddies of ours. We're grateful to God to know them! I'll let Brittany tell more of their story. She's a great writer & a super photographer...

Hello! Happy fall to you! My name's Brittany. Ben (my husband) and I have been a part of Kev and Lydia's church plant for the past five months. Kev and Lydia have given me the opportunity to share a bit of what God has done here and I was delighted at the chance to share personally how we've seen God at work. It's a real pleasure getting to share with you. Thanks Joneses for the opportunity.

Back stateside my husband and I [the planners that we are], wanted to find a church home before we moved to Helsinki. I searched a lot of web pages, but was lacking all sorts of peace with the search. We were ending our nights a bit discouraged and had a rather bleak outlook of what we would find in terms of Christian community once we arrived here in Finland.  One night, I was searching for ‘Helsinki mom blogs’ (because moms know all the hidden gems, right!?) and google randomly led me to the very blog you’re now reading. How’s that for Divine appointment?

I remember reading through page after page of this blog and turning to Ben and saying “I found it!” I wrote a comment on the latest of Kev and Lydia’s posts asking for more information and then a few weeks passed. They were out on Holiday, but despite the silence I was pretty set in my resolve that we need not look further. We found our people. We got a lovely response shortly after and our relationship began. We started corresponding amidst boxes and packing slips, and I breathed a huge sigh of relief that Jesus found us community before we even made it across the pond. I kept thinking “God is clearly the God of Helsinki.”

About a week after we moved, we had our first meet-and-greet with the Joneses. The day itself turned out to have its own epic tale that foreshadowed the wild, yet clearly God-ordained friendship that would continue to grow over these next several months. Our interactions with the Joneses have continually made our hearts rest easy, regardless of the fact that we have several kids to wrangle and that our deep conversations are often patch-worked through toddler mediation and English vs American-English translation (Like Pants vs. Trousers!) Good thing Kev has such a good wit.  Needless to say, we’re a lively bunch.

Yet, God has carried us. God has used the Joneses in countless ways, even in redeeming the ‘wait’ that we struggled through preparing for Finland. (We were waiting over a year, and had major bouts of discouragement during that time.) To discover that the Joneses wouldn’t have been here if we'd moved when intended and to see the way God used the delays for our good has caused my heart to be slow to assume I know how a story ends.

On that note, a little back story: When I was 16, I had a prophetic word spoken over me that I would get to speak to dignitaries from all over the world. Back then, I was planning on majoring in Global Relations and this important prophetic word fit like a puzzle piece in my 10 year plan. Years passed, and here we are in Helsinki, Finland. A few weeks ago, we got to participate in the NEW Europe Weekend; a conference hosted here in Helsinki.  My husband and I got the pleasure of meeting so many of you and many of your children loved on our little girl.  It blessed us. Thank you.
A glimpse of God's family; friends from far & wide joined together, worshiping & dreaming of mission in the nations  

I never did major in Global Relations, and in many ways, I forgot that prophetic word spoken years ago. Then, on Sunday, after meeting so many of you from Estonia, the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, the UK and so many other nations, I felt God remind me of that word and say: these are my dignitaries. It has been a deep pleasure to get to mingle with Joneses and so many of you who read this blog. You are God’s chosen people, his royal priesthood, his dignitaries being sent all over the world. I’m humbled to be able to be in community with you. I’m glad to learn that the way I predict a story’s end is often so different from God’s reality. The prophetic words that a teenage girl interpreted to bring glory to self, was rather fulfilled much more beautifully by God’s glory in his loving community. I like that story better. Getting to see how God has used time, and place and even struggle as crucial aspects to His design in bringing His Kingdom has brought so much hope to my heart. I especially love how He uses His people.
Prayer for many church planting & pioneering situations happening across Europe     

The Helsinki Church plant is still in its early stages, and while I think God has clearly placed vision of where He wants to lead His people here, I also am encouraged by Kev and Lydia in their wisdom in waiting to see how God reveals His story for Finland. I’m excited to see if perhaps even a few of you reading this are about to be a part of this story here, and I’m eager to see and hear the ways God writes His BIG story of bringing all His people to Himself.

I'm learning the beauty in God creating a culture of remembrance throughout the Old Testament. Hearing and seeing of the ways God has shown up past-tense gives me hope in the present that he'll keep doing just that. Hopefully as the days get darker and we struggle through winter, church planting, or just living lives in a fallen world, we'll make a practice of remembering the chapters God has already written in our stories and the ways he's already redeemed. May we be sharp at remembering and quick at retelling of his works. 

From what I’ve seen so far, it really is a beautiful tale.

Follow on twitter: @Kevin_J_Jones
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Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Maistraati vs. The Joneses - Full Match Report [Thumbs up!]

It has been a few months since our last post. This hasn't been down to lack of activity or due to things suddenly becoming very uneventful. So much has been happening, that it has been hard to know when to press pause for a moment to think and process all that has been happening. Today however, we received the jolt we needed to finally get some news out!

Where I grew up in the great naval city of Portsmouth, long before the internet and 24 hour coverage on Sky Sports, if we were unable to make it to Fratton Park to watch the mighty Pompey, there were three ways to find out the outcome of the match. The first was to listen to Radio 5 Sports Report and catch the classified football scores read out just after 5pm. This required being in the right place at the right time to be within earshot of a radio and also to maintain the rigorous concentration to stay focused long enough for the announcer to get into the lower divisions where Pompey resided [and do today]! The second was to ask somebody at the pub and the third was to call in at the local news agents and pick up a copy of the Saturday Sports Mail. Details of the match could be read on its pink Financial Times-esque pages, but the first thing to look for on the front page was the expression of the Pompey Sailor. Forlorn and dispirited with thumbs down indicated a defeat that day, while upbeat wide-eyed with thumbs up was a sure sign of victory. A draw was signified by something in between!

Many will have heard of our ongoing struggles negotiating the immigration system since arriving here in Finland. Our lack of Finnish relatives and the fact that we weren't coming to work at Nokia put us in the anomalies column with the immigration authorities. In their view [not ours], people rarely leave England and move to Finland without family ties or being forced to by their employer! This has caused the immigration people or Maistraati, as they are known, to have kept us on special probationary measures since we got here. It's been a hard battle, and the Maistraati are nice people, but tough cookies who show no mercy when it comes to thinking outside the conventional box when considering our unusual [to them] case!

It has been frustrating at times and humbling and eye opening to be viewed with such suspicion. The reality though was that until we entered the second year here nothing would change. We will have been here for one year towards the end of July and it seemed that we would need to wait until then. A surprise chance arose though when Lydia's boss recently began organising the staffing for the year ahead. Lydia received her next one year contract a few days ago [several months before its start date]. We decided to chance our arm at the Maistraati and they accepted this and several folders worth of other paperwork as sufficient evidence that we intend to continue here into the second year and beyond.

We are thankful to God that we have secured victory in our immigration situation much sooner than we anticipated. No extra time and no penalties, but a decent win in normal time! Barring any unforeseen complications, we look forward to being able to register at the medical centre and know that if we or the children become ill we will be able to receive medical treatment. Just in terms of our own momentum and sense of personal encouragement, this feels like a great milestone, to be able to say that we have a permanent address here at last.

There are so many other encouraging things happening right now. We are continuing to enjoy our friendship with the brilliant Finnish/English family who were here long before us. They are so fun, warm and supportive, with such a heart to see the lost reached and the church restored in Finland. We are excited to be hosting the The NEW Conference for European church planters and pioneers, here in Helsinki in September. It will be such a privilege to be able to serve others considering a cross-cultural or pioneering journey, at such an early stage in our church planting story here in Finland. We are very excited about this! We are also delighted to have met the Sprague family, who have very recently moved over from America for work, and are already eager and committed to partnering with us and recognise the huge eternal significance of being instrumental in building something from very small, which we hope will be long lasting and far reaching in Helsinki and beyond. We are having regular contact from a number of others from many nations. this is such a joy. In addition to these connections with other believers, we are enjoying forming a network of non-christian friends. This has been much easier than we had anticipated here in Finland [a place notorious for isolation and social boundaries which inhibit the framing of relationships between neighbours, colleagues etc.] God has been so faithful in opening these and many other doors for us. When faced with an inevitable moment of discouragement, it has been so useful to stop and consider all of the fruit we are beginning to see around us, particularly through relationship and often despite the more practical challenges. When we look at the tide of relational connections emerging and forming [remembering that we had very few contacts when we first moved out] we see God's faithfulness and can trust that this is just the beginning and He will see all of these things, and more, through in ways which go beyond our greatest hopes and expectations.

     Jubilent scenes after the showdown at the Maistraati today. Lydia slides on her knees at the final whistle!

More updates soon. But please pray for:

  • Team to continue to form - for the existing contacts to form deep relationships & for a sense of community to form.
  • Luke & Alison Morrison - they hope to move here to build with us this summer, but need great favour with jobs and all the other practicalities. They are such brilliant community builders [among many other things] and are vital ingredients to the team forming here.
  • Provision of resources - [finances, but also time and workers], to enable us to continue in the momentum which is beginning to develop.
  • Wisdom for the next steps - for the Autumn in continuing to build genuine, discipleship, grace community and serve those connected to us, and to be on the front foot in stepping out in the atmosphere of momentum which seems to be forming.
Also you may want to follow the new Relational Mission Helsinki Church Plant Facebook Page to get more frequent news, see more of what we're getting involved in and become part of the community.

Follow on twitter: @Kevin_J_Jones