Today’s blog is by Rachel Lewis, one of the high school students who is a part of this year’s Estonia team.
Four days ago, our mission team left for Tallinn, Estonia to run a city camp and an English learning program. Our mission was to reach out to the children and teens of Estonia and teach them about God. When we arrived at the airport, we were all excited to get there, but we still had a long way to go.
The flight to Estonia was definitely an experience, as some members of our group had never flown overseas, or never flown at all. After about 20 hours spent on different planes and in airports, we arrived at the airport in Tallinn. The first thing many of us noticed was the lack of the usual airport noise. There were no people talking, children crying or repetitive announcements over the speaker, and we were all very aware of how loud our own conversations were. This silence is part of the culture of Estonia, and it can sometimes clash with the very social culture we have in Canada.
After gathering everyone’s luggage, we made our way through the gate and saw the usual crowd of family members and friends holding signs for the people coming through. We all felt welcomed when we saw our family waiting for us as well – Dayna, Ryan, and many others. The tired atmosphere of the group melted away when we saw the Estonia church team waiting to greet us.
To keep us awake until bedtime that evening, we walked around the town. This was fascinating to the people who had never been to Europe. People excitedly took pictures of anything interesting, including doorknobs, doors, windows, and the cobblestone ground.
The hostel we are staying in is a nice place, with lots of bathrooms and very comfortable beds. This, on top of how tired we all were, ensured we had a great sleep that night.
When we left the hostel to go to church on Sunday morning, we could hear music and cheering in the distance. As we got closer, we could see that an Estonian Independence Parade was coming down the street. The loud celebrations and brightly colored outfits were especially interesting because they were such a change from the normal environment in Estonia.
We got to experience even more Estonian culture at church that morning. The entire service was translated into either Russian or English, and was quite interesting to hear. Most of the songs had parts in Russian, Estonian, and English. Despite the language difference, it was a great service.
For the rest of the afternoon, we went on a tour of Old Town led by Stas, a member of the church in Estonia. He enthusiastically told us about all the buildings and shops in Old Town. Even though we had walked through the city before, knowing the stories brought it to life.
Monday was the first day of City Camp! The six to thirteen age group arrived around one, and we started with a game of musical chairs. Most of the kids didn’t speak a lot of English, but we found other ways to communicate and build relationships with the kids like smiling, laughing, and cheering.
At five, the teens came for City Camp. The first game we played was Four on the Couch, a favorite game for most of our youth group. The Estonian teens also enjoyed it throughly and were very competitive. It was awesome being able to get to know the teens through games and conversation. After singing and a lesson, we headed to dinner at the local mall along with a bunch of the Estonian teens. Even though we had our differences, we were all able to find many things in common.
I’m excited to see everything that will happen in the next two weeks!