We are thankful to God for the fruitful co-operation of Tartu Academy of Theology with the Estonian Lutheran Church Seminary, now going on 5 years. We all feel the same heartbeat that binds us together, valuing Scripture and a personal relationship with God.
Support that has been given to TAT from our brothers and sisters in Christ has not only been very significant for the Seminary and TAT, but evidently also to the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church. I know there are very many prayers in addition to these donations and we have felt the special blessing that comes through faithful prayers.
The Seminary has seen good developments in co-operation with TAT during these 5 years, but much more is ahead of us. We have a long-term mission that needs committed work during future generations. Our task is to raise a new generation of church leaders to guarantee continuity of mission work among Estonians. TAT is a good example: Pastor Eenok Haamer started TAT 25 years ago and today his son, Siimon, continues in the mission.
Obviously our work isn’t without problems and obstacles. We are still strongly influenced by 50 years of Soviet occupation when Christians underwent strong pressure. Today the Estonian Lutheran Church, the largest Christian denomination in Estonia, is struggling with decreasing numbers of church members. As a result of this, we have a situation where the Church no longer has sufficient funds for pastors training in the Seminary. Usually one third ($125,000 USD) of the Seminary’s budget has been covered by the Estonian Lutheran Church, but according to the budget for next year it will be only $82,000 USD. This creates a $43,000 USD shortfall. Church leaders are of course aware of the importance of pastors training for the Church, while at the same time parish pastors struggle with their daily income.
To fill that gap, the Seminary along with TAT is organizing a fundraising banquet in the spring of 2018. These kinds of events are not common in Estonia but we are trying something new and hope to raise at least $10,000 USD. We are looking for a matching partner for this event to make it more successful and to make a strong start with a new tradition in Estonian society.
If someone would like to help us with this shortfall a donation can be sent through the same channels as you send to TAT, just write the designation as “TAT–Seminary”. It is of course very important that stable financing of TAT also continues.
We feel deeply that the work in our hands is God’s given call and mission. It isn’t just a job or an option for us. Thus, we should boldly go on with the ministry of training and equipping pastors and workers for His name and Kingdom sake. Together with the Lord of the Harvest and our good partners we can complete this mission. Jesus’ encouraging promise is still true, “I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit - fruit that will last” John 15:16.
Rector Ove Sander celebrating Holy Communion with students.
At the time in 1991 when Estonia was becoming free from Soviet occupation many people found their way to church. I was at the time in my last year high school and my parents suggested I go with some classmates to confirmation. I was not baptized and everything connected with church was very unfamiliar to me. Never the less, I found a good contact, Pastor Eenok Haamer who was leading the confirmation classes. His speech touched my heart and after confirmation I continued to go to Sunday services. In the beginning I was sitting alone, but it wasn’t very long before Pastor Eenok called me to be a member of the church council. Because of his invitation I decided to go and study at the Academy.
Even when taking the entrance examinations, I didn't realize that I go to college. I just wanted to know more about religion and faith. I didn't think at all about a call to be a pastor. Today I can say that one step prepared the next for me. I believe that all of this has been God's plan for me.
I have very good memories from my college years. I remember with thankfulness, distinguished professors with whom it was good to talk about theological topics. Friendships that were formed during studies continue to be important today. My schoolmates are working in different congregations all over Estonia but we still find ways to grow together in friendship. Special fellowship between students of the Academy was developed with daily prayer meetings, common church services and summer sessions. We didn't receive only academical education but we also learned to pray and trust God together.
Now I have been working more than 10 years as a pastor in the same rural parish where I was baptized and confirmed. Already during my college years Pastor Eenok encouraged me to serve next to him. With support of my schoolmates I started a Sunday school in my congregation. Today my wife, who is also alumni of the Academy, is a Sunday school teacher and also the organist.
I'm thankful I had chance to learn at this school, to grow in faith and to find lifelong fellowship of Christians.
Through the partnership between East European Missions Network (EEMN) and Estonian Lutherans, we were privileged to facilitate two Friendship English Language Bible Camps, one hosted by St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Tartu, and the other by St. Lawrence Lutheran Church in Kuressaree, on the Island of Saaremaa. Working together with Tartu Academy of Theology, thirteen friends from CO, CA, WA, IA, and ND joined in a Team to provide worship and teaching centered around the life experiences of Joseph. In each camp participants were placed in classes according to their level of English (Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced), while children were divided by age level (Elementary, Middle School and Sr. High).
Since the wall came down in 1989, EEMN (which began in 1991) has held Language Camps in several countries in E Europe and Russia. This was the 12th year of Camp in Estonia, and it has been a joy to welcome many people, some who have been coming most of those years. Each day opens and closes with much robust singing and some sharing of testimonies by Team members, while the children put on skits. The daily schedule includes two class periods for teaching and a break time for snacks. Language lessons assist people with their conversational English and we use Bible stories based on characters as the curriculum base.
Over the years many friendships have been developed, and we have seen people move into different levels with their English and deeper levels in faith. Since the education system in Estonia includes learning English from elementary levels, many have found it helpful to have opportunity to practice speaking English with those whose primary language is English. Through the sharing and learning in classes there is much joy and laughter as we work together!
Team members each commit a time of about 12 days for one camp (about 18 days 2 camps), and each raises the money needed for travel and expenses (this year about $2400). Training and preparation is provided through EEMN, and we make use of Skype or Zoom conferences to get to know each other. Team Leaders, Pastor Bob and Patti Nordvall, can be contacted if you are interested in being part of the Estonia Team in 2018. You can also contact Director, Pastor David and Angela Breidenbach, EEMN, regarding one of the other Camp options for serving. We would love to visit with you!
Contacts: Bob and Patti 701-391-0182 pastorbob(at)eemn.org
David and Angela 505-321-2820 pastordavid(at)eemn.org
For more information go to www.eemn.org
Youth are presenting
Joseph’s story in the
English Bible Camp.
Every year it is at the same time a bit sad but also so very encouraging when June arrives. Students with whom we have shared our lives during several years are prepared to graduate. It is joyful when these former students become co-workers in the Kingdom of God. 12 students received their diplomas on June 16th. 6 finished an undergraduate program, 3 completed the graduate program and 3 two year church musician course. 4 are planning to continue their studies to become pastors, 3 graduated pastoral care and counseling (i.e. the hospital chaplaincy specialty), and 2 are graduates of the Christian Culture master program. This means we are able to again provide new workers for the church in Estonia. God be praised!
This Spring I had the opportunity to spend time in the States from April 28th through May 10th with my 16 year-old son Eerik. First, we visited Bethany Lutheran Church in McCallsburg, Iowa, bringing them greetings, an update, and thanksgiving for their partnership with us. Then we participated in the LCMC Leadership Conference in Omaha, Nebraska. Eerik actively participated and was able to meet many people. After that I flew to Denver for two days and Eerik took a flight to Philadelphia to spend some time with our friends there. After my time in Colorado, I traveled to Minneapolis for the weekend and visited several congregations in Minnesota. At the end of the trip I spent two days with my son in Philadelphia.
12 students graduated on June 16, 2017 (some of them are missing from the picture).
I had many fruitful meetings with our partners and new ideas for co-operation were created. It is a blessing to have so many good friends around the world, knowing that they care for us and Estonia. Mount Calvary Church in Excelsior, Minnesota offered the possibility of having a summit of Friends of Estonia in the beginning of October while I'm again visiting in Minneapolis. I have been asked to be one of the speakers at the LCMC Annual Gathering. I'm happy that good ideas are becoming realities: the first Friends of Estonia Summit will take place October 9th at 7 pm at Mount Calvary Church (301 County Road 19, Excelsior, MN)! Come and learn more about our work and the challenges we face. Share new ideas and possibilities with our other partners. We so appreciate your support. See the invitation below announcing the event for more information.
Special thanks to Brian and Barbara Felt from Denver who covered all our travel costs: in- and outbound flights, domestic travels etc. Also, special thanks to all of you who opened your homes to us. God bless your loving hearts.
Our student Kristjan wrote in his testimony for the April newsletter of his tremendous life-changing experience of realizing that God Is. I certainly agree with him and add that We Are because of His mercy!
Fear is what makes people powerless. This is why our proclamation of the Gospel remains weak, as we are carrying with us fears for situations and future events which we can’t avoid or redesign by worrying. How can I get up from the burden and stand tall?
By training at the Academy those who are needed to help and encourage others, I have understood that I am not able to do what is needed with my own strength. I would like to honor the Lord, but what I say sounds so powerless. I have then turned and will continue to turn there, from where our help comes.
The most important message of Christ’s resurrection is: Do not be afraid! Go with Him to the first morning of resurrection. You will hear it there. Frightened people are coming to the tomb, but what a miracle, above them stands a group who are ready to testify of Him, of the victorious Lord Jesus! Only when we give our fears into His hands, can this miracle also happen to us.
Why do people believe they can honor Christ without inner transformation, depending on their own strength? Without becoming free from fear it is not possible to sanctify the Lord Jesus in our hearts. On the road of following Christ, the steps must be taken in the right order. When we reach to the sanctification of Christ in our hearts, it is revealed what He has come to bring us and His true power becomes visible.
May Jesus give us courage and trust!
It’s difficult to say the moment when I became a Christian. I have been always aware of my Father’s warm and enlightening direction–as a child wandering in forests, as a teenager on the streets, later in the army and today studying theology. I was a fisherman for many years. In the beginning of my career as a fisherman I was a greenhorn in the eyes of old jack-tars. One early-spring morning I went with three old fishermen to let down the nets. Men were studying the sea with deep looks to find the best place for their nets. When all had let down their nets then one of them discovered that I also was in the boat with my nets. Nobody examined the sea any longer and my nets were just let down into the sea. They wanted to get back home and did not want to waste any more time. Next morning we went to bring out the nets. It was a big surprise! These jack-tars got only some fish. Finally, we brought up my nets. The nets began to break under weight of fishes. There was silence in the boat. I was looking to the sky and I knew–God Is.
I have seen many miracles. Admission to the Academy is one of them. I came with the aim to become a better servant of God. My miracle starts when I see all that I have. I’m living in a rural area in the parsonage of a local congregation. Sometimes people come to talk with me. We talk about God’s direction in our lives. When this stranger is leaving he or she is not any more a stranger but my brother or sister. I feel fellowship in Christ and I understand that this is the way to serve God, it’s the expression of God’s love.
I have been working for years in an orphanage and have learned much from the children. I believe I have learned more then I am able to teach them. I learned to experience God. My wish is that God’s will, not my will, be done in my life. Training at the Academy has opened my mind and heart and it has woken me up. I often give thanks to God for connections I have been experiencing with professors and students of the Academy. God’s grace is holding that school. I pray for wisdom from Father to find the best use for the knowledge I will receive from that school during my life journey. I won’t verbalize my future service, I’ll follow the Lord’s direction. He is the Alpha and the Omega.
Pastor Harri Haamer was arrested in the winter of 1948 because, despite of being forbidden, he continued Christian youth work under Soviet occupation. He was sentenced and deported to the Kolyma Gulag in far-eastern Siberia for an eight-year term in a labor camp and an additional three-year term of “limited freedom.” This was eventually reversed in 1955 when he was notified that he had been “arrested in error.” Harri Haamer was permitted to continue his ministry upon his return from Siberia. However, the convicted pastor was not permitted to resume pastoring at his former congregation in Tartu which had a big university with many young people. Instead, he was sent to the rural congregation in Tarvastu in eastern Estonia. He ministered there from 1955 until his death in 1987. He passed away on August 8th, 1987 at the age of 81.
Harri wrote a book about his journey which took him to the Gulag labor camp. It was first published 3 years after his death and today it is already translated into 5 languages: Finnish, Russian, German, English, and Danish. The first paperback was printed in English in 2007. Print-runs have not been large. This book has not been accessible worldwide but now I have joy to announce the book is a published e-book of We Shall Live in Heaven in English. It includes a new ending chapter of “The Journey Home” written by Harri in 1982, but missing from all previous publications. Also, an additional introduction explaining the sufferings of the Estonian nation and the Church has been added. You will also find two paintings of Harri’s depicting the Kolyma nature and labor camp.
To purchase an e-book for $5.99 through secure PayPal payment go to "Books". All the profits from the sale of this book will go directly to Tartu Academy of Theology for the education of clergy and pastoral care givers and counselors in Estonia, one of the world’s most secular countries.
Hopefully the book will reach out to the bigger audience and income from sales will help us to continue our mission work in Estonia.
Soon we hope to publish an e-book also in Estonian, Russian, German, Finnish, and Danish.
Tauno Väinola is writing in the introduction of the Finnish translation:
Though Haamer’s diaries do not add anything substantively new to the already published works about life and conditions in Soviet prison-camps, their significance lies in something else. While taking the reader through Estonia’s bitter tribulations and painful memories, his accounts testify of the sustaining power of a Christian’s faith and hope. As Harri Haamer would affirm – while imitating the arrogant intonations of the prison guards – “Hopelessness has no place in Our program.”
Pastor Bob Nordvall have written about the book:
As we find ourselves in a world that is ever more hostile to the Gospel, do you wonder how you would fare if you were persecuted for your faith? This book will give you courage, for it was the Holy Spirit that sustained Pastor Haamer through those long years. More remarkable still to me was the testimony of another Estonian pastor, “After Harri Haamer came back from Siberia, he was fearless!”
Pastor Bob Nordvall
TAT representative in U.S.
National Field Coordinator of
East European Missions Network
cell: +1 701-391-0182
Pastor Siimon Haamer
Dean of Tartu Academy of Theology
cell: +372 515-9127