It was a Home Cafe Day in Tallinn yesterday. The idea is very simple - people are given an opportunity to open a cafe in their garden for a couple of hours. This concept has become really popular in Estonia and many towns have their own Cafe Day. So does Tallinn. People enjoy it very much as it gives a chance to get to know their own communities better. And as we were looking for a project with our church planting group anyway, we decided we'd open a cafe. R. and V. offered their back yard for the venue.

We did some serious planning, sitting around H. and V.'s kitchen table but when the cafe really opened yesterday at noon, we were far from being ready. Or at least we were far from being ready to see such a big crowd. The first half an hour was chaos and mayhem. We didn't know exactly how the orders were meant to be dealt with and how the information was supposed to be passed from the counter to the kitchen and then to the table. So at first everyone was running around and shouting orders and there was neither law nor order. But law and order have the incredible ability to manifest themselves in situations like this so after the first shock everyone in the team found their place and purpose. Burgers were being flipped on the grill, smoothies were being blendered, everyone finally learnt what this or that cake looked like, the waiters and waitresses came and went with a lot more efficiency and a lot less shouting. And suddenly everyone was having loads of fun.

We had such a warm and sunny weather yesterday, which was a real surprise since the autumn had decided to decend on Estonia last week and we all thought it was here to stay. But the summer still had the upper hand yesterday so people were chilling all over the back yard and we needed to get some extra tables and chairs because many customers were just standing for there weren't enough seats. People who came were extremely friendly and relaxed and our initial nervousness disappeared. We were supposed to close our cafe at 4 p.m. but as people refused to leave and we still had a mountain of pies and muffins in the kitchen we kept the cafe opened. It might have been around half past five that the last customers left and we finally had a chance to grill some burgers to ourselves. There was a lot of high-fiving after that.

What I liked about yesterday the most was the cooperation. We have been meeting with this church planting group for a long time, but there is a big difference between sitting around a table, sipping tea and trying to come up with our core values, and running around customers and having to make everything run smoothly under pressure. And still stick to the values we decided upon, not killing each other. It made me happy yesterday to see how we manage to cooperate and get things done. It is something that gives me assurance and confidence as we move towards opening the new church. It's a privilege to be a part of such a great bunch of people.

I grabbed my camera as I was hurrying to our cafe prep yesterday morning. It's been a long time since I last held the camera in my hand, and it felt good.


There aren't many news otherwise. Still no books, and I'm growing very impatient. I'm planning to hit the gym again this week as I'm starting to feel a lot like a jar of jelly. But music wise I've turned back to my old love, Bobby McFerrin. There was one day last week that I wished I could have skipped altogether but I kept listening to McFerrin's Hold On that morning and it made it all a whole lot better. And then on Saturday night, after I had come home from my preaching trip and put my feet up, I made a mistake of clicking on one of his videos. And once you do that, there's no end to it. I can watch one video after another, go on for a long time and laugh like a kid while watching. I think this one is my favourite right now. That man is made of music, I say.


The eye saga continues.

My left eye started hurting on Monday evening. I had just come from the clinic where I had the protective lenses taken out which I had had to wear during the first week, and my eye wasn't happy. It actually kept me awake half the night which, given the amount of time, gave me an opportunity to go over all possible scenarios that might happen. By 2 a.m. I had come to the perfectly sound conclusion that my left eye was most likely going to, you know, explode. So I called the clinic first thing in the morning and explained my situation (I did leave out the exploding bit though) and they arranged me an appointment right away. There a very kind nurse with a very kind smile explained to me patiently why my eye was feeling the way it (she?) was. She looked like she gets those nervous patients coming twice a day. Anyway, she gave me another medicine (now they have taken up a whole shelf in my fridge) and another kind smile and dismissed me. I did feel a little bit embarrassed for turning into a drama queen like that but A. called me that night and told me that I have paid these people so much money that I could go for check-ups daily if I wanted to, and that indeed made me feel a bit better.

The annoying thing is that I can't work properly, which would be ok if I didn't have to. I didn't get everything done before Valencia and annual leave so I'm having to do stuff now. I was putting together the Greek exam on Wednesday morning in my office and I looked absolutely ridiculous, trying to see all those little breathing marks. I will look equally ridiculous today, trying to grade the exams. Double vision is not fun.

Which, really, brings me to the other topic. With yesterday's exam being over, I can say that the Greek semester is done. One semester down, two more to go. I went to Riga on Wednesday evening and as it turned out to be the warmest and loveliest of all evenings, I sat in an old town restaurant and thought about the whole thing. I recalled how two years ago Newbold guys got in touch with me and knocked me breathless with their offer. We need someone to teach Greek and Homiletics and we thought you could do it, they said. I remember jumping up and down and screaming my head off, I was so happy. And I remember how I pictured it all - that I would descend on Riga with some star dust around me and I would do all this with effortless elegance. Now, sitting in that restaurant, I realised how differently everthing had turned out. There was no star dust, there was no effortless elegance. No. There were sleeping pills and there was hard work. And yet, the fact that I have been able to do it while going through the toughest time of my life - I'm surprised I came through this spring more or less sane and intact - it all makes it so much more valuable. In fact, I felt like celebrating on Wednesday evening. If it had all been effortless, I would not have appreciated that experience much. It would have been just another task. But now it all felt like an achievement. And again I came to the age old conclusion that going through difficult times does something to us - it shapes and grows us.

And this brought me to a text. Last Saturday I made an attempt to read the Bible, I didn't succeed but what little I was able to read was from John 15. Jesus talks about branches there and how there are two experiences that a branch can possibly go through. One is being cut down, the other one is being pruned. Both of them must hurt really bad, and there must be a moment when the branch is not sure which one of these experiences it is going through. It hurts like hell. God seems to be given up on me. I think I'm done, I'm being cut down. And yet, how many times, looking back on our darkest of times and toughest of experiences, we actually realise that God was not cutting us off but instead, He was pruning, He was taking extra care of us because He saw the potential of fruit, and He knew that only by pruning the branch it has a chance of bearing better fruit.

I'm still not sure what God was trying to do or teach me or grow in me that past spring. But in any case, it felt really good to be in Riga, to take a late evening stroll and to think about the past semester. I could still use some elegance and star dust for the coming semesters, but even with things being the way they are - I'm grateful.


Brand New World

I had barely touched down after Spain when a new adventure was waiting for me. It was a kind of an adventure I didn’t want to talk about beforehand, there are things one feels more comfortable talking about in retrospect, when everything has gone nicely and smoothly.

So. Last Tuesday, after a long time of waiting and after some serious consultation with my bank account and doctors I had an eye surgery. I got rid of my -4,5 glasses, once and for all, hopefully.

Medicine and technology these days... they are a rocket science. They are not almighty, I know that all too well, but some things have been made very easy and painless. To have a touch-free, cut-free and pain-free laser surgery which takes about 15 minutes and after which you walk out on your own two feet and with your own two eyes seems almost too good to be true. But it’s true. I can confirm.

The surgery itself turned out to be hilarious – not quite what one would expect of such serious business. Here’s why. I had had two very thorough check-ups on my eyes over the past six months and in that process I also had to fill up a dozen or so forms with all sorts of information about myself and my medical history. So I walk into the doctor’s office on Tuesday morning - the doctor being clearly a very successful and confident young man - and he casually sits me down for the last brief check up. He glances at the papers I have filled and suddenly gets raving excited about the fact that a pastor has walked into his office. „Oh, what a pleasure!” he exclaims. „I’ve just recently had a Buddhist monk come in for a surgery, it is so lovely to have such spiritual people coming to our clinic. OK, the lights are going to be blinding for a moment. Did you say you’re from the Lutheran church? No? An Adventist? Keep looking straight now, I need to check your eyes with this machine. So in two sentences, what’s the difference between Lutherans and Adventists? By the way, I’ll show you the selfie I took with the monk later.” And I’m sitting there, thinking, „Is this for real?!”

It was for real. And later, having been taken to the surgery room, the nurse joined in: „So, doc, were you baptised as a child?” „No, I wasn’t, I wonder why people don’t get baptised much any more. Is it because the life is too good and we don’t feel a need for a greater power? Oh, you’re so lucky to have your faith. By the way, is there, like, a Bible verse or a book you could recommend me if I wanted to know more about Christianity? A Christian minister right here, can you believe!” And I’m doing my very best to stay in the conversation but having one of your eyes taped shut and the other kept open with some gross braces and having stuff done to it, it can really be a bit of a conversation killer. So I let them talk. But the hilarity of the moment is not lost on me and I don’t even have time to get nervous and get my palms sweaty before the whole business is done and over and they help me up. I feel a bit dizzy and disoriented after the surgery so they let me sit there for a few minutes and keep talking to me. The doctor goes to his office and comes back in a second and says, „Hey, I sort of believe in a more holistic approach to health, so here’s a CD for you if you want to watch it later. It’s pretty good.” It’s Forks over Knives. And I’m like, „Let’s talk about holistic approach to health, after all, I’m an Adventist!” Haha! So we do. It turns out he has heard of Loma Linda, and of the fact that Loma Linda Adventists are the longest living urban community in the world. You don’t run into people like this in Estonia every day. Anyway, once I feel I can leave without bumping into doors and walls and am on my way out, he gives me his business card and asks me to let him know when I’m next preaching in Tallinn’s church. „We like to do cultural stuff with our staff occasionally, so let me know, we’ll be there.” Deal, brother.

It doesn’t matter how good the doctor or the technology, the recovery is still slow and rather painful. During the first days I would get serious headaches, the eyes would be sore and itchy. On the third day I had such a strong doudoubleble visivisionon I could barely do anything. I have had to take 6 or 7 medicines daily so my bedroom looks a lot like hospital. My left eye feels weird at times and that worries me. There is no gym, no sauna, and no books available for a while and I miss them all. Some moments I get impatient and am sure my recovery is much slower than it should.

But in between those times I would still have some moments of amazing clarity. I dared to leave the city on Friday and spent a lazy double-visioned weekend at my cousin’s place in Tartu. When sipping my morning tea out on the porch, I would look at the birch tree they have in their back yard and suddenly I would see leaves, and I mean, distinct individual leaves, not one big green mass I’m used to see. It’s amazing. Or I would look at my kitchen curtain and it would have all those delicate lines and shades which, I swear, weren’t there last week. So even now I get a glimpse or two of the world that is clear and sharp and detailed. I had completely forgotten that the world could look like that. It’s as if the world is brand new.

Two more months and I should have perfect eyesight.

And I literally don’t know where my glasses are. I haven’t seen them for a week, and frankly, I haven’t looked for them either. For all I know, I might have left them in the surgery room. And for all I care, they can stay there. It is an euphoric feeling not to know and not to care. Because for the past million years, for every second of the past million years I have always had to know where my glasses were. So this feels like freedom.


There is no news about books today haha. But as I’ve had to spend a lot of time listening to music, I can say that nothing nothing can beat Adele’s Hello these days.


I’ve been home for less than 24 hours so all the emotions and memories are one big mess right now. I have not had time to systematise them. So this is a random collection of my thoughts in an order just as random.

I have been to two other youth congresses before and the realisation that this one was very different took me by surprise. The difference was not due to different speakers or location or worship styles, it was the fact that I was working there that made all the difference in the world. During the first days I hardly participated in any of the activities (except for the worship services). I had only my talk and my workshops on my mind. When others took part in all the fun activities, I would spend time pacing in my hotel room practicing my talk or would spend some sweet hours at the hotel pool going over my workshop materials. Even the fact that we lived in a hotel a couple of hundred meters away from the congress venue made it all feel like I wasn’t really part of the congress life. And I was okay with it. I guess I’m getting used to work and to give at places to which others come to relax and receive – at camp meetings, worship services etc. So it actually took me by surprise that once I was done with my workshops and the stress level dropped, the congress emotion hit me hard. Suddenly I found myself sitting there in the big meeting hall on Friday night and on Saturday night service and crying my eyes out during the worship and the baptism service because everything was just so beautiful and emotional. Then I finally felt that I was part of the crowd of 4000 youth, part of the emotion, part of the uniting faith. It was beautiful.

It was a wonderful feeling to go to the hotel restaurant every morning and to see the most dedicated and talented group of people our church has here in Europe all around me. There is this special energy when a large group of wonderfully talented and dedicated people come together. Some of the sound technicians were up and running for 18 hours a day. One evening late I sat in the lobby with K. and P. who were putting together the program for the next evening, discussing thoroughly and seriously the order of songs. Every tiny detail needed to be thought through. I saw the band members lying on the stage floor during a pause in their practice. I saw the hosts practicing their lines backstage. I saw Newbold and Friedensau lecturers getting ready for their workshops. It was the most inspiring thing to see.

And then the talk. I am clearly not the most objective person to talk about it but from my biased and subjective viewpoint I can say that I did my best and I have no reason to feel ashamed. What I was the proudest of was the preparation, the constant practising. I really did know it by heart. And this was the only reason why I was able to speak without any notes and without going blank in front of the crowd. It was a pity I didn’t really see people – the lights were blinding so I only saw people who were sitting right in front of the stage. But maybe it was good, maybe it would have been too intimidating to see them, I don’t know. But I do know that I will watch my beloved TED Talks in a different way from now on. These presenters all look effortlessly cool and elegant and smart but the truth is there is a lot of sweating and hard work and even insecurity behind the facade. But these things make the success even sweeter.

I also learnt a simple equasion I didn’t know before: a modestly pink lipstick + blinding lights + cameras = raging neon pink. I will be wiser next time.

+37'C is a terrible temperature to endure.

And meeting my people! Oh, what a sweet sweet thing. For example, I was hanging out with Dr M. P. a lot. He’s one of those people who has amazing amount of life experience, I don't think I could ever get tired of listening to him. It was on Saturday morning that we happened to eat breakfast together and we got so carried away that once we realised, everyone else had left the hotel and we were late for the Sabbath morning service. But honestly, marriage, absurdity of life and Camus really needed to be discussed.

They were wonderful days, they really were. I’m richer, I’m more experienced, I’m refreshed. And I think I'm being taken more seriously. I couldn’t ask for more.

Q/A session after the talks.
The main speaker, pastor S. L. did a great job.
The place was massive.
We broke the world record for the biggest nail mosaic. 100 000 nails.

With Dr M. P. Some reunions are sweeter than others.
The talk.