I’ve just been in Estonia, researching ministry opportunities. In addition to our plan to send several short-term mission teams next year, a donor in the US has offered to give significant funds to help build a center for disabled children in Jõhvi, in Northeast Estonia.

My trip was a first step for Stoneworks in gathering information and beginning to make decisions about the project. We have a long way to go, but I am encouraged that we will open the center.

There are about 100 disabled children in the area; these children live with their poor families and have no support at all. They are not mainstreamed, don’t attend school, and rarely leave their homes.

A couple of years ago, a group of Estonians started the process of opening a center to help disabled children, but their funding fell through. As a result, there are several people who are ready to make this center a reality.

Here are some of the people who are involved:

First is Artur Põld, pastor of the local Methodist Church and has a vibrant ministry. Artur is also a ‘deputy’ (an elected official) who is very active in the community, particularly with social services. He oversees soup kitchens, second-hand shops, and other services to the poor.

He’s also he director of Camp Gideon, a Christian camp where we had a team last summer.

Artur has desired to open a center for disabled children for many years. He has helped build a team and is the visionary who is guiding the process.

We are partnering with Artur in many ways. He is very open-hearted and I like his emphasis on spiritual unity.

Here he is with his wife Valya; they made a great dinner for us, look at that salmon.

I also met with Andres Toome, the city architect. Andres is a strong Christian and will design the center, if we build a new building or restore an existing building.

Andres has identified city property where the center may be located. We are waiting to hear if the government will allow a center to be built on that land. It’s in a great location, right in the heart of the city. We hope to know in a few weeks if it will be possible to build there.

This project has the full support of the local government. I even met the mayor briefly. While in the county offices, we prayed for the center and openly spoke of our faith and how the Lord is leading us.

Sirli Tammiste is the director of social services in Jõhvi.  We had a great meeting where she voiced her full support for the project.

She supports partnership between the government and the church. She said that the municipal government will provide funds for ongoing expenses for the project, once the building is complete. Government funds may also be available for part of the building project.

She also introduced us to the director of programs for disabled people. It’s great to have such support from the government.

Artur has made many friends, and they are all ready and willing to partner with us.

Lena Shevnina is a teacher who will be the director of the center. She is a very strong believer who is very excited about overseeing the center.

Her life story is very interesting. She came to Estonia from the far north of Russia just before the collapse of the Soviet Union. When Estonia became independent she was ‘trapped’, no longer a citizen of the USSR and not a citizen of Estonia.

There are many people like her in Eastern Estonia — those who are ethnically and culturally Russian but who found themselves outside of Russia when the Soviet Union fell. Lena has a great attitude, and her faith is fully apparent as she lives with joy. She will be a great director of the center.

Please pray that we will abide with the Lord and follow His leading as we make decisions about how to best serve disabled children in Estonia.

Here are pictures of the lot where we’d like to build: