A Postcard from Russia

Well, well. Autumn is here and we put on winter tires just in time; we’ve just seen the first snow of the season. Many of the leaves have now fallen. It’s been a glorious Autumn.

After a tremendous amount of travel (Central Europe, Germany, Montenegro, Estonia, Finland and Norway), we are now at least settled in the same general area. I’m in Estonia for a few days taking care of some business (like putting on winter tires) and head to Russia tomorrow.

On Friday we had a board meeting of Sunbeam, the center for children with disabilities in Estonia. That program is doing very well (but is in need of financing, as is often the case). The director, Ursula, is a very good leader, and more children are joining the program. In addition to the wonderful paid staff, we also have two interns from the USA serving for several months. The leadership team is pictured below.

One VERY good outcome of the meeting is our intention to open a Christian kindergarten in one wing of the building. I hope to have more news about that in the coming months. This was Artur’s idea, and we all agree that it will be a wonderful thing to have a Christian school there, starting with a kindergarten. Continue reading

News of Sunbeam

Everything is in great shape at Sunbeam. I’m visiting Estonia for few days and just had a nice meeting there. The video below is of the Green Room, where most of the work has been done recently.

sunbeam feb 22 013 300x171 SunbeamGod has built a good team of leaders. I’m very happy to partner with board members Artur Põld and Andres Toome and Program Director Ursula Randlaine.

On Monday we’ll meet with parents and children, and we’re waiting for ONE MORE inspection before we get the CO: the government requires a sound test for decibels in the room. Of course, the room is super quiet and the kids will make more noise than anything in the room, but it’s another expense and will eat up time while we find a company to do the sound test.

We are also receiving bids on the work to finish the offices and therapy rooms. We hope to make a decision about that on Monday. If all goes as hoped, the offices will be all done in a couple of months. But, things always seem to take longer than we’d prefer. . . . .

Ursula said today that it’s been good for the process to take a long time and have many challenges. It’s helped the team grow closer to one another, and our faith has been built as we’ve depended more and more on the Lord for His guidance, wisdom and peace. It’s all good.

At the end of this video Ursula talks about a special table that was donated by a Norwegian ministry. You can see more pictures here.


Sunbeam Has Been Aproved for a Grant!

We are VERY happy to announce that Sunbeam has received a grant for €40,000 ($52,000). In addition, donors from American recently gave $12,000 (€9,250) for the completion of renovations on one group room. Based upon these funds, we hope to have children in the program on Dec 1.

There is still a lot of work to do on the building (2nd group room, offices, kitchen, guest flat, outside work, etc), but this will allow us to open the first group room and staff up.

This grant is from the Estonian National Foundation of Civil Society (NFCS). It is for the development and launch of Sunbeam’s program of providing day care service for children with disabilities. Sunbeam applied for the grant in cooperation with the Estonian Council of Churches.

Here is some more information about the grant: Continue reading

Sunbeam Open House

I was in Estonia last week for the Open House at Sunbeam. The mayor of Jõhvi, city administrators and townfolk came to learn more about the center and see our progress. Mary Walsh and Janice Himmelsbach, supporters from the US, were also there. They are in town advising the staff about the program.

Things are coming along pretty well. We already have three children signed up, so it’s nice to know that we can hit the ground running when the building is ready. We’ll need more money to finish out the building, though. All in all, it’s great to see what’s been accomplished since February 1.

In addition to the center for children with disabilities, we’ve also rented a portion of the building to the Salvation Army, a kindergarten and a youth center. A Christian dance company is also talking with us about renting the hall. So, Sunbeam has become a ministry center, more than our original vision for only a day center for children.

Tearing It Up

Here’s an updated I just posted on the Stoneworks site:

We are in Estonia for a few days, catching up on the work at Sunbeam. We’ve had some great fellowship time with people; it feels good to be here.

Yesterday we had a meeting of the board members and hired a bookkeeper. Workers continue the renovation of the rooms and offices. The local church is quite involved, and it’s great to see the sense of community among all involved.

We expect to pour the floor next week. Today we purchased the tubing for the in-floor hydronic heating system.  Andres is doing a great job overseeing the work. It’s great that he’s here to manage the project.

Here are a few pictures, with some ‘before’ pictures for reference:

The kitchen before:

6 8 In Goes the Floor

And today!

IMG 1306 1024x576 In Goes the Floor

One of the main rooms before:

15 room 1 In Goes the Floor

And today:

IMG 1300 300x168 In Goes the Floor

The old floor was pulled out, sand and new plumbing have been laid down (see above), next comes a vapor barrier and insulation (see below). After that, they’ll put in rebar and the heating system and pour concrete on top of all that. It will be very nice when it’s all done.

Offices are also being renovated, and we’re talking with other ministries that are interested in renting rooms. I think we’ll work out a deal with the Salvation Army; they want to use a few rooms for their meetings and ministry. We hope that rental income will cover the cost keeping the building.

As Sunbeam grows, we hope to use the entire building, but for now we have some free space on the second floor (we don’t have an elevator yet anyway, so we can’t use the second floor for helping the disabled children).

You can also see that Artur was interviewed for a TV show today: Continue reading

Now THIS is fun!

Over the past several months, I’ve often said that ‘I may have some good news about Estonia soon’. Well, today I have some good news about our work in Estonia.

For over a year now, Stoneworks has been partnering with several people in the US and Estonia to help establish a day center for children with disabilities. There are over 100 children with disabilities in that area and they have no access to services; they are at home, quite isolated from the world. They need help, and we are called to help them.

An American donor is giving a significant amount to help start the program, and in the process we’ve opened an Estonian charity named Päikesekiiir (Sunbeam) to run the program. But we didn’t have a building. Until yesterday.

The city of Jõhvi has given us use of a great building in the city center. And here it is:

sompa 5a spring 1 Sunbeam    The Beginning

We have it for 30 years at no cost! We have the keys and will start renovation soon.The building is in better shape than it may appear. It has a new roof and new high efficiency windows, it has a new security system and recently had firewalls and fire doors installed.

Pastor Artur Põld, architect Andres Toome and myself are the founding board members of the Estonian charity Sunbeam. Stoneworks represents the US side of the project, and also involved are Finns, Swedes, Norwegians, Germans and Brits.

 Sunbeam    The BeginningIn addition to housing the center for children with disabilities, the building is large enough to house many more activities. It has a great assembly hall, conference rooms, we’ll build housing for mission teams, and host other events there. It’s in a great location, right in the middle of town.

Currently a youth center and kindergarten use a few of the rooms. They will pay rent to help offset operating expenses. There is much more room for expansion. And there is a smaller building on the lot that we hope to turn into a wood-working shop.

entrance Sunbeam    The BeginningThere is much to be done to prepare the building for the ministry. Though some parts of the building are in good shape, we need to renovate several rooms, build two wheelchair accessible bathrooms, reconfigure and rebuild the entrance (ramps, roof, doors) and offices, upgrade the heating system, renovate the kitchen, build a fence, and much more. Here are the initial designs for the first floor, where Sunbeam will be housed.

So, now that we have the building, much more is needed: mission teams to do construction, funds for equipment and operations, people to help train volunteers, and on and on.

sompa 5a spring 6 Sunbeam    The Beginning

We hope to open Sunbeam on June 1 — International Childrens’ Day.The next four months will be quite full and quite fun! And I’ll be posting more news as we move along.

You can read more and see more pictures and videos here.

Donations to support the center can be made here.

Soli Deo Gloria — To God alone be the glory. He has put this in our hearts, and He is bringing all the resources needed to help these children. We thank Him for guiding us.