Monday, January 17, 2011

I'll Be Back, Part 3 and Surprise Announcement

The year was 1994 and we were in Estonia. It had been 50 years since my father's feet had last touched Estonian soil. It was homecoming for him. For us, it was an introduction to the land we had heard about all our lives.

For fifty years Estonia seemed to sit in a time capsule. Not much had changed. My dad could still identify the homes he had lived in and the familiar landmarks of his childhood. We zigzagged our way through birch forests while the stories replayed themselves in my mind.


Photo by Otto de Voogd

One sunny day, we visited my grandfather's grave. He was buried, appropriately enough, outside one of the first Christian churches erected in Estonia in the 15th century, Saha Chapel. How I wished I could speak to him and tell him what an impact his life, and death, had made on my life. My sister and I made a rubbing of his headstone. To touch his name was the only contact we could have with our grandfather this side of Heaven.

But, someday, when Jesus returns and calls out those who have died believing in Him, my grandfather will rise from his dusty grave. He will meet the Lord in the air, enter that Heavenly City, and live forever with the God he loved and served. I want to be there too.

"For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words." I Thessalonians 4:16-18.

Later that week we attended the church where my grandfather had served as pastor. I was saddened to see how small it had become. I had seen prewar pictures showing a thriving, growing church. Now it was only a handful of believers. The Communist occupation had worked hard to stamp out religion of any kind and was, unfortunately, highly successful in its tactics.

One lady smiled as we entered. She had known my grandparents, attended my grandfather's funeral, and stayed faithful to God during the difficult years of occupation. She knew who we were and greeted us as though we were long lost friends.

Sometime after the sermon ended, a man entered. He reeked of alcohol and tobacco. "I heard that relatives of August Holmstrom were here." He said in Estonian. My dad rose to speak with him. This man had been baptized by my grandfather, but the years of occupation had turned his heart from following God. "Come back to Him now," my dad encouraged. "No, now it's too late," the man shook his head sadly.

On our last day in Estonia we wandered the cobbled streets of old town Tallinn. The red tiled roofs and stone walls preserve its Medieval look and I had to wonder how many people in this city knew Jesus. With the Communist occupation ending, would the people return to God or run after western materialism? Would the baton my grandfather dropped be picked up and carried again now that freedom had come? What could I do? Somewhere, deep inside my heart, I knew I would be back.

In the years since that visit, I have returned to those thoughts often, continually asking myself, "What can I do for the people of Estonia?"

When we felt that God was calling us to adopt internationally we began to talk about which of the various countries we should adopt from. Estonia jumped to the top of the list rather rapidly. We have contacted an agency that handles Estonian adoptions and are half-way through reading the material sent to us. We have started a special savings account and are adding a chip-in bar to this blog for those who would like to help out. I may not be able to share God's love with an entire country, but, with God's help, I may be able to shower His love on a few of its orphan children.