Matt and Lea Edminster have been serving together in Estonia since the winter of 1998, when Matt made his first trip to Estonia with Alongside Ministries. The following year, Lea’s church in Viimsi, Estonia asked Alongside to send a short-term missionary to assist with the church’s growing youth ministry. Matt was posted for a 2-year stint in Viimsi, after which he intended to return to the United States to pursue a career in medicine.
However, after two years in the field, new panoramas had been opened up and Matt asked to extend his assignment for another two years. Soon after, Matt and Lea began dating and married in May of 2002. The next year, they left to attend seminary at Regent College in Vancouver, BC returning to Estonia in the summers to conduct children’s camps in the countryside. After graduation, Matt was ordained as a Presbyterian minister and the couple embarked on the next phase of their ministry and family life in Estonia.
Matt and Lea initially returned to the Viimsi, Church where Matt served as pastor’s assistant from 2007 to 2012 and Lea resumed her work as an English teacher. In 2012, Matt was called to pastor the Evangelical Free Church in Rapla, Estonia and the couple moved with their three kids Kevin, Miriam and Matilda to make a new home and put down roots.
Estonia is the northernmost Baltic state, sharing borders with Latvia to the south, Russia to the east and – across the Baltic Sea – Finland to the north. It’s population is approximately 1.5 million. The official language is Estonian, though a significant minority speaks Russian.
In spite of a long history of foreign domination by powerful neighbors, Estonians have maintained a strong sense of national identity and have proven themselves hardy and industrious. The most recent foreign occupation was that of the Soviet Union. In 1939, the Soviets invaded Estonia, wresting control from Nazi Germany. Neither army was welcome, but nonetheless sovereign Estonia was swallowed up by the USSR for the next 50 years. On August 20, 1991, Estonia reclaimed its independence and has since rebounded politically and economically becoming one of the region’s success stories. Estonia is now an active member of both NATO and the European Union.
While streched and strained under communist rule, the Church in Estonia persevered through limitation and emerged from the crucible refined. Today, the Estonian Church continues striving to be a bold and effective witness to a deeply secular context. As with other European nations, this includes speaking into a post-Christian, post-modern, materialistic and increasingly neo-pagan culture.
Alongside Ministries International has been involved in supporting the work of Estonian pastors in local churches, teaching catechisms, leading Bible studies, calling on the poor or the new members, and investing time and friendship in young Estonian Christians. The Edminster family is based in Rapla, Estonia and focuses particularly on youth outreach and rural mission.
Alongside is an international fellowship of Christians working together to strengthen the Church and advance the Gospel in Europe. Our purpose is to encourage and empower Christian leaders and churches through an international network of prayer, partnership, and practical help. For over twenty years we have partnered with churches and leaders in Albania, Austria, the Czech Republic, England, Estonia, France, Germany, Scotland, Canada and the U.S.
Matt and Lea have been serving with Alongside Ministries in Estonia since 1998.