Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Day Nine- Special Convention Sunday

They had warned us about rain.  I put on my lined raincoat, packed 2 stadium umbrellas, and wrapped up in my new scarf.  

It felt like it was in the 50s with a cold Artic breeze smacking us in the face, along with a downpour.  We found seats up top that were protected from rain, but not the wind.  Barry had a cold and I was developing one.  

After lunch the rain stopped, and the temperature increased.  The wind never stopped.

During the last talk, Bro Noumair made a great point about Jehovah being a chess master.  He can see all the possible outcomes.  So if Satan takes a pawn here and there- don't worry!  Jehovah is ten moves ahead of him.  

Unfortunately the arena and surrounding neighborhood sustained a power outage during the last video, so we didn't get to see it.  

There were signs held up after the convention.

The Russian brothers sang us out of the arena.

As our bus left, the local brothers and sisters waved goodbye to us.  

We ran into two Russian sisters who spoke a little English and joined them for dinner at a Russian cafeteria with several Russian speaking brothers and sisters from many countries.  They showed us a secret portal where they can still access the website.   They remove the covers off of the literature and place it anyways.  They said if you are caught with multiple pieces of literature, it means intent to distribute, and is a $5000 fine.  I feel better knowing they are still getting their literature.  

We took a walk into Old Town and did a little shopping.  

We ran into the brother who did much of the translating into Estonian for the convention.

Around 10:00 we walked into Town Square and there were witnesses in a circle singing together.  It drew everyone towards the circle.  There must have been at least a hundred of us singing kingdom songs together, in English, Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Russian, Swedish, Norwegian, and probably many other languages.  

Tourists and locals would walk up and ask who this singing group was.  A great public witness was given.  It was a spectacle!

It was a spiritual paradise, as we filled Old Town Tallinn with our joyous brothers and sisters.  No one wanted to leave.  The hospitality we received was overwhelming and indescribable.  I am forever changed.  There are not words to describe how this experience affected me.  Everyone worked so hard to make this week so enjoyable.  I learned so much about putting your trust in Jehovah despite what Satan throws at us.

We made it home, and we will try our hardest to keep this joy in our hearts forever.  

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Day Eight- Saturday Convention

I'll try to keep this one short.  So much of today I can't share yet.

Barry felt a little better in the morning, but felt worse as the day went on.  The weather became extremely cold and windy.  

This is the view from our seat:

You can see all the spires and towers in the distance. A train line is behind us.

They have clocks to try to get us in our seats before the music starts, but the arena is so full and the lunch break is so short (1 hour) that 5 minutes isn't enough time!  
Here are some photos of the people we met:
They interviewed a couple we met at the RTO who now serve in Korea Bethel, but Estonia was their first foreign assignment.  Later they were in Congo and Hong Kong.   They said how hard it was to get a new assignment and have to pack and learn a new language but Jehovah helps them.

A sister from the Finland branch let me borrow a scarf when the cold air became too much for me.  (I'd put my raincoat up over my ears.) She left before the convention was over and insisted I keep the scarf when I tried to return it.  What love!  
Brother Noumair gave the final talk of the day!

On the bus ride back to the hotel I met a sister from Crimea- the state that was in Ukraine but was annexed by Russia in 2014 causing an international faux pas.  

An announcement was made at the convention that all delegates that were traveling to Russia afterwards should meet with the brothers for special instructions.  They announced that last week the NWT and were added to the list of "extremist" material in Russia.  That is like being put on a terrorist list!  Haven't they learned you can't stop Jehovah?  The new rules include bringing absolutely no literature inside the country and no items that say  I am glad we decided against visiting St Petersberg, but all our dear Russian brothers and sisters have to return to such horrible treatment while I go back to JW Broadcasting and my new Bible and all the literature I can download.  

We went to eat at a restaurant highly recommended by a local brother, and it was delicious.  

Barry had elk pot roast, which I snuck a bite of, and it was delicious, like beef.

My item was called "Crispy Chicken Chest".
After dinner we took a walk to find the oldest tower in Tallinn called Tall Herman by locals.
Then we made our way down to Old Town.

And look who we happened to run in to...
We asked Brother Noumair if Brother Jackson was okay, and he said Brother Jackson's father was gravely ill so he went to Australia to see him.  We sent our love.

Then, out of the blue, I saw Julia!
Sister Hunt had met Julia in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, and exchanged our information.  We had been emailing each other trying to meet up this week, but my delegate schedule and her volunteer schedule were conflicting and I didn't think I would get to meet her.

What a spiritually upbuilding day!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Days Six & Seven: Old Town and Convention Friday

We didn't take many photos the past 2 days, but I took incredible video that I can share in a few months.

On Thursday we did a tour of Old Town Tallinn.  It is so beautiful here and so old. 

The lower town was built by German merchants who formed a union.  They would trade with the local population.  They built large warehouses to store their goods.  There must have been a little bit of animosity because the locals built a gate between their town and the German's town and they locked it at night.  

Then we went shopping.  There are many shops and markets that sell wool products, such as scarves, mittens, and hats.  

Flax linen products are also popular.  Russian nesting dolls (matryoshka) are everywhere.  

Our evening gathering was something to be remembered.  We had Estonian, Ukrainian, and Russian entertainment.  Half of the delegates are Russian, and they became excited when the Russian music started.  I wish I had learned some Russian.  

From what I can understand, on July 14 the Russian government banned import of the NWT.  This is following the ban of other literature in May for being "extremist".  Access to has also been cut off.  Haven't they learned?  

I don't want to spoil the convention, but I will show the arena.  

We sat up top under the shade, but the wind was very cold.  Even the hardy locals were "freezing" and wrapped in scarves.  One brother we met couldn't wait to go home and get in his sauna.  

Our lunch was provided for us.  The sandwiches here are strange.  This one was made with a cold fried egg.    

Estonia generally has no water fountains, so jugs of water are set up for our use.  The bathroom situation is similar to home.

We heard Brother Jackson was supposed to be here but he was unable to come so we have Brother Noumair.  (He is often on JW Broadcast.)

Russian speaking are on one side of the arena, and English/Estonian on the other.  Estonia has more Russian congregations than Estonian!  Many on the Estonian side are US delegates or from Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark- all listening to the English translation.  The Latvian sister next to me only had the Greek Scriptures NWT in Latvian.  

The translation is funny sometimes.  They keep using the word baptist for baptism, and since Estonian language has no "z", "zealous" comes out as "jealous".  

We had dinner with one of the Estonian brothers who gave his experience.  He is the only witness in his family.  He said he knew by the 3rd study that it was the truth, and he couldn't go back, even though his family was very set against him.

One experience strongly emphasized how important it was to let go of your family who do not believe in Jehovah.  

It is tough to be a witness here in atheistic Northern Europe.  You have to take a firm stand for Jehovah, and no one is accepting of your decision. You can't have your cake and eat it too.  They seem so happy about the truth here, though.  They don't look behind at all.  

We had some photo ops at the convention.  

The only down side to our trip is Barry came down with a cold and a fever today.  After eating German food for dinner, Barry felt a lot better and his fever was gone.  We couldn't find NyQuil, but locals suggested vodka.  We found an airplane sized tiny bottle of whiskey instead, and Barry fell right asleep!  

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Day Five- Service and RTO

We took a bus to the Kingdom Hall in Rahumäe.  We were paired with Arne and Lorena, a newlywed pioneer couple.  

We worked apartment buildings 5 stories high (no elevators).  We had to use intercoms to get in, like we learned about in Our Kingdom Ministry a few months back.

I was nervous, but gave my little presentation in Estonian and was able to place an invitation!  So did Barry!  The morning was going good.  

Then a woman interrupted our work.  She spoke Russian, and I don't know what her issue was, but she started blocking our entrance to the door and was yelling at us.  

Eventually we left and found our husbands, and when we came back the lady was distracted by yelling on her cell phone (I hoped not to the police).  We snuck back in quickly to deliver the invitation, but she saw us exit the building.  She became extremely irate, and so we left.  She even took our picture as some sort of evidence.  It was very bizarre.

They said this was extreme, but even still, service at home is much easier.  I'm used to hearing no and seeing doors closed in my face, but there was an anger in some (not all) of the householders that was so different than the Bible Belt.  Many people here do not believe in God.  Even just wearing our convention badges around town that use the word Jesus, some locals give us a look that could kill.  

After service we toured the Estonia Remote Translation Office where they translate into Estonian, Estonian Sign Language, and Võru languages.  Our guide was named Siiri.

We took many funny pictures with old artifacts.

We even were deported to Siberia.

I was able to see where they edit video (they use Final Cut Pro on Mac!) and Barry was able to record a talk on old studio equipment and hear it played on an old radio.

We went to the School for Kingdom Evangelizers.  

Then there was an exhibit of an apartment during the ban.  They showed where literature could be hidden, and a hidden room where literature could be copied.  Some magazines were folded and stuffed into a hollowed out bar of soap or a table leg.  One book was sewn into a mathematics book cover.  

Then we saw Brother Silver Silliksaar (who I recognized from the Faithful Under Trials video) show us how he printed literature without even having access to proper equipment.  He used nylon dress fabric cut and soaked in wax & solvent.  It smelled terrible.  It dried quickly and then he typed out a page with a typewriter.  Then they could use the press to apply ink.  The holes where the typewriter punched out wax was how the ink was transferred to the page. 

Then the KGB came and arrested Brother Silliksaar.  

But Barry converted them!  
We received the best gift!

We spent the evening at a Russian restaurant.  We had stroganoff and a beef stew.  

Then we took a walk around Toompea, the big hill in Old Town.  

We ran into some great new friends like the Mendez sisters from Delaware.

We even met a sister from Barry's Tacoma Fern Hill Congregation.  Small world!

We even saw Marlene again!

We have met so many happy Russian brothers.  The government has deemed our literature as extremist and the brothers have not had access to new literature since May.  They are downloading new literature to their tablets and phones and are so happy just to have the new magazines.  I hope they get a special surprise at the convention.  

I have to end it here, as I am overwhelmed by all the amazing things I've seen today!