Sheer Perfection

If I want to sum up or describe the last three days, only one image comes to my mind. It’s an odd one but it has to do. I picture Mary Berry tasting one of the Bake Off delicacies and saying emphatically, This is sheer perfection.

These days have been sheer perfection.

We picked up Dr G. P. from Tallinn airport on Tuesday afternoon. He is a wonderful and an equally strange man. He doesn’t like small talk, he doesn’t care about sightseeing, he seems to be not very interested about what’s going on around him, and at moments I feel very awkward around him. But it takes him less than two minutes on our way from the airport to downtown or from the hotel to the Seminary to start explaining the details of Christ’s redeeming ministry, past, present, and future to me. It’s as if he breathes Biblical theology, it’s as if this was the only thing that ultimately mattered to him. His daily bread. I’ve sat next to him in the class room for solid three days now, interpreting until half unconscious, and I see how excited he gets and how deeply these topics move him. I don’t think the students noticed but I have seen tears in his eyes more than just a couple of times over these days. It’s so touching and so beautiful it gives me goosebumps. And the good old Newbold feeling has come back to me, those moments when I would go to the Leading Motifs class and would sit on the edge of my chair and would look at the lecturer with my eyes wide open, and would think, My goodness, the Adventist theology must be the most beautiful thing in this world.

So half of these days I’ve spent in the Seminary with our students and some pastors from Estonia and also from Latvia. It has been a terrific course. But the rest of the time has been equally good. And I don’t know if it’s an objective reality and all the good things have just happened to happen to me for some inexplicable reason, or if this is purely subjective and I’ve finally reached the point in life when small things can bring great joy. Or if it’s a combination of both. In any case, the sheer perfection has also continued outside the classroom.

We came to Tartu on Tuesday evening and I landed at my cousin’s place again. As his family is on a longer vacation, I have their lovely apartment all to myself again. This place has grown to be such an important place for me, I caught myself calling it ’my home’ yesterday. It really has turned to be my home in a sense. It’s become my hiding place, a place that lets me breathe and lets me rest and lets me forget about my troubles. There are only a handful of places that can do this, and this is one of them. Every time I have my early morning cup of tea in this kitcen and see the bell tower of the nearby church, I feel a wave of happiness wash over me. I can’t quite explain it.

But I haven’t been hiding myself here, although I could have done it had I wanted. Instead I’ve been out having a late birthday dinner with my dad, I’ve been to the local gym sweating out the interpreting stress, I’ve taken a long evening walk near the place we once used to live in Tartu, I’ve been to a wonderful jazz concert with the Seminary’s principal and her husband. I also met up with a friend yesterday afternoon – it was sort of a coincidental meeting, not anything planned – and we ended up having a long and honest and good conversation. I hadn’t spoken to him properly for some time now and that ’let’s sit and talk’ thing really did good to my soul. Two hours passed like minutes. And when he had walked me home (see?!) and I got upstairs, I could hear the downstairs neighbor – who just happens to be one of the best jazz guitarists in Estonia – play his guitar. I would just listen, completely still, not wanting to make any noise or miss any note reaching me quietly through the floor, and would think, Sheer perfection, sheer perfection.


Ecumenical Love

This week has turned very ecumenical, and it’s only Tuesday.

Ecumenism sounds so very boring but the truth is quite the opposite. It can be truly lovely.

We had the privilege of hosting the arch bishop of Estonian Lutheran Church in our office yesterday. The arch bishop is a wonderfully smart and sharp and witty man. I think the Lutheran church could not have done any better – they really elected the best man for the job. I have met him here and there, I’ve heard a couple of his speeches, and I see him once a month at the Council of Estonian Churches but we had never had any closer encounter. I hear he had declared some time ago in the media that he would like to get to know other Estonian churches better. Aparently ours was the first one he visited. We weren’t quite sure whether it was just a coincidence, an alphabetical choice, or curiosity. I personally suspect the last one – I think he was curious.

It was a nice and informal conversation we had with him. For the better part of the two hours he spent in our office, he wanted to know more about our structure and functioning. I didn’t have much to say. But in the end he was like ’So what about your theology?’ And then I did a happy dance (in my head, of course). So we told him. And I have to say this conversation made my heart so very glad. We told him about our theology and what and why we believe – and when I felt like I didn’t know how to go on, A. took over and then I. took over and by the bunch of us we were able to make it all very clear. And I was so proud of my colleagues and for the fact that we have come to a place where we can cherish our identity and explain it freely to someone as important as the arch bishop. There was no pride, no hitting or bashing with the Bible, it was balanced, it was friendly, but most importantly, it was Biblical to its core. Sometimes I get so very tired of all the theological fringes and fanaticism in our church. Then I find a lot of joy in conversations like these. There is a good and balanced way of doing theology, these moments remind me. What a relief.

Next time I’ll go to the Council’s meeting, I will shake the arch bishop’s hand with a different feeling. With a different confidence. And I might do another happy dance in my mind when I think about yesterday’s conversation.

With Mr Arch Bishop
But today I spent the whole day in the Seminary as it was the much anticipated and equally much dreaded accreditation day which all the colleges and universitites have to go through. There were a group of very serious looking people from the government and other universities who came to evaluate the Seminary’s progress and academic standards. I had to represent our conference since we have a contract with the Seminary and our students study there.

The place was like a war zone. The interviews took place in the library room in one wing of the building. The serious looking people didn’t leave that room even over the lunch time – lunch was taken to them there. We had our ’base’ in the other wing of the building, in the principal’s office. Groups of people went to the library room and then came back, and there was ever so much cheering and talking about how it had gone and what the serious people had asked and how the answers were given. A lot of coffee was passed around, and a lot of chocolate. We were serious too, and then we had good laughs which helped with the stress. Strategies were discussed, main points repeated. The president of the Baptist conference felt like praying. I too went over the important documentation and rehearsed my answers in my head because I too needed to know my stuff and do well, both for our conference’s sake as well as for my Baptist friends sake.

And the best thing about it was that I felt like home. Don’t get me wrong, I have a solid Adventist identity but it is just so cool to be part of such a process when you feel like your presence is appreciated and that you’ve become one of the Seminary’s family. The most of the Baptist conference’s leadership was present and no-one as much as raised their eye brow seeing me there, discussing Seminary’s future.

I had to leave before the ’after-party’ and sushi dinner to come back to Tallinn but I thanked the Almighty for all these wonderful contacts He’s given me across the churches.

This kind of ecumenism I love.


And I have a new favourite song - Coldplay's Everglow. It has hit a nerve in me. 


I said I would explain why I was so tired this past weekend.

There are some processes that take so impossibly long that one can lose faith in them many times along the way.

It was in the summer of 2015 after I. had come back from the GC session in Texas when he told me about dr M. B. I had heard of this name many times but I hadn't met him myself. He's a professor in Andrews University and is considered to be one of the best scholars when it comes to issues relating to EGW and her ministry. He had come to I. and told him he was willing to come to Estonia and teach our students and pastors if need be. Now, these kind of professors don't go around, offering their services to conferences as remote and far away as Estonia. There's a catch - Dr B.'s mother-in-law was an Estonian, a war refugee who had fled Estonia after the Soviet occupation and who had made her way to the USA. She had married there and brought up her daughter in Estonian spirit. So Dr B. has family connections here and this is why hes has a soft spot in his heart for our corner of the world. Anyway, he said he'd come and teach an intensive course.

As this matter was in the jurisdiction of educational department, I was the one who had to get in touch with Dr B. I did. But the process was so long and so slow, a couple of times I lost all hope in this. Sometimes it took him a month to reply to my email, and when he did, we had serious difficulties finding a time that would suit both him and us. I grew rather tired of it and sometimes I'd forget about it for a long time. Until I. would ask me if I had had any progress. Uhmm, no. But I'll get in touch with him again, I'd say, sighing. And so I did. Finally we were able to pin down a date, and then proceed with smaller technical details. Translating course materials. Inviting Latvian pastors to join us. Taking care of bookings and reservations. I'm not a good administrator so it all took me an enormous amount of effort and energy. But on the 17th of February Dr B. finally arrived, together with his wife and daughter. The whole thing had taken more than a year and a half.

But it turned out to be worth all that trouble and work. I expected him to be good on the topic of EGW - I mean, he is a professor - but I hadn't really expected him to be that good and systematic. He really knew his stuff. And not only the academic stuff, he was also very pastoral, there were moments when it was obvious he had switched into his pastor's mode and he started half-preaching. It was very cool. So we spent three long days at Nuutsaku resort centre, listening to him. Four classes of 1,5 hours every day. We were pretty soft in the head by the evenings - especially me after all those translating hours - but fortunately there was sauna and there was the huge fozen lake for frisbee flying and there were some board games and there were friends.

I couldn't quite believe when it was all over. It was as if something I had been looking forward (with disbelief) for such a long time was suddenly gone, in the blink of an eye. I felt empty inside.

And that's why I needed that recovery weekend.

But the good thing is you don't have much time for emptiness in my job. Just yesterday I received one final email of confirmation (and plane arrival/departure times) from Dr G. P. He's coming from Newbold to teach us in two weeks time. And I'm so excited - I remember his Leading Motifs class, the last class I ever took in Newbold, and how it made me an Adventist again. I remember his genius, and how he would go over his class material and talk to himself quietly before the classes began. I remember how I admired him. And how he swung his arms and got into preaching mode as well, and how some "Amens" were heard in the class... And now he's coming.

I'm aslo in the middle of negotiations with Dr L. T. He has promised to come to Estonia too, either in the end of this year or the beginning of the next. If he does, if he preaches here and gives us a seminar on the Old Testament, dear heavens, after that I can resign from my job as the educational director with a light heart, knowing that we were able to host the best of the best of Adventist academics here. Pretty much all my Newbold heroes will have been here. Oh, wow.