Report from the Banks in Estonia, Nov. 2001
Dear Loved Ones,
It's autumn in Estonia, and we can feel the chill of winter coming. The leaves have changed colors and fallen from the trees, and three times we have had snow. The days are becoming shorter and the nights longer. The warm sunny days of summer seem like a dream...
The work here in Tallinn continues to go forward. Yesterday was a very special Sunday in the life of our congregation, especially for us. You see, our 25th Wedding Anniversary is tomorrow, November 13th, and today, November 12th, is Ron Warpole's birthday. Both are major celebrations in this culture, and so another attempt at "Potluck Sunday" was planned. We were led to believe it was for Ron's birthday, and he that it was for our anniversary, so we were BOTH surprised! Flowers, gifts and congratulations were given, and the whole congregation enjoyed a special time of closeness as we moved chairs, set up tables, and enjoyed sharing a meal together as God's family here in Tallinn. Everyone enjoyed this "relatively new" experience, and now we can hardly wait for another excuse to do it again! =)
There are many things to share with you, but I want to focus here on the things that are going on in our children's ministries. As many of you know, this summer was our first ever attempt at having a Vacation Bible School, though we have had seven children's Bible camps here in Tallinn. The first part of July we had our "Bible Day Camp" (as they would call it here), with the members of the Regina, Saskatchewan family mission team doing the teaching. After it was over, we dedicated our Thursdays to continuing to follow-up with these children, and hosted "Thursday School" every week for the rest of the summer. Mike and the teens had weekly planning meetings, where stories, skits, games, crafts and snack were planned, and then on Thursdays everyone pitched in, and the good news about Jesus was shared with these neighborhood kids. It was a terrific success, and we began to see our Sunday Bible class attendance increase as well.
When school started we needed to make adjustments, so we began the Thursday afternoon "Bible Club" for neighborhood kids (and any of our own church kids who could come). Our hour-long meetings are divided into four parts. Each month we focus on a different one of the fruits of the Spirit; each month a different character quality; each week a different memory work project; each week we work on projects and entries for the Leadership Training for Christ convention to be held Easter weekend in the States. (We now have 20 kids who want to participate in LTC! If you are interested in sponsoring one of these young people, or if you have told us you wanted to in the past, please write us back about this.)
The response has been amazing. These kids are memorizing Bible verses, character definitions, and working very hard on their entries for LTC. Last week our own Galina Koroljova (whom we've mentioned many times as the young lady whom we hope to quote someday in "The Gospel According to Galina") visited the Bible Club meeting last Thursday, and when it was over she said, "I feel so encouraged by watching these children!" We are all encouraged by their diligence and desire...
Many of these same children have been coming on Sunday mornings to our Children's Bible Class. Several have expressed a desire to assist in the teaching, and this has been a big help to Debbie. With attendance in this class being anywhere from 35-45, there is much to do, even in the passing out of pencils, papers, markers and scissors! Yesterday in class three of the Bible Club kids were assistants: Vadim (his 12th birthday was the day before), Oxana (age 12), and Katja (age 11). How great it is to start them out young, while they are excited and so willing! (See the picture with these three, plus Lena, our translator.)
One more thing that the kids have taken on as a project is the collecting of food to prepare for the Cheer Baskets that we (as a congregation) will give out the week before Christmas. On Wednesday in "Girls' Class" (another time we get together with the kids, this time girls only, ages 9-13) we decorated a box with Christmas wrap and ribbon, to have a place ready to receive any food items that might come in (see picture). On Thursday, the next day, the kids began to bring food items themselves, and by Sunday the box was already half filled. The kids also have begun collecting new and used toys -- wrapped up nicely -- to put in the baskets for children who might not otherwise get toys as Christmas.
This group is just one of the groups that we are privileged to work with. There is also the Tuesday night group that comes together to practice their English by studying from the Gospel of Luke... Men like Oleg, a young newly married man who believes that the Bible is important, and wants to know what it says! Men like Evgenie, the father of Vera (a girl in Jaime's class at the ACE School) whose wife has cancer and is not given long to live. Women like Svyeta, who cares for her 17 year-old handicapped daughter full-time, but still is filled with overflowing joy. The ladies' class is another group that fills our classroom and enjoys study and fellowship on Wednesday nights. There is also the Men's Class, the Mark Class, the TEENS classes, so many wonderful people with which to work.
We are honored that God is blessing this work so, and it would not be possible for us to be here working with the Estonian people if not for you... for your constant prayer support, for your encouraging notes and letters, for your financial support and gifts. We thank God for your love and sacrifice in our behalf. We hope that you will continue to lift the work here up to our Father, who is so faithful to give the increase as we plow, plant and water.
God bless you richly as you serve Him where He has you...
Because of Jesus,
Mike and Debbie Banks