A Day of Firsts

2 Year Old Edvards - the Newest Beaver
2 Year Old Edvards – the Newest Beaver

Friday was a day of ‘firsts’, but before I talk about that day, I just had to post a picture of Edvards, Peter and Baiba’s 2 year old boy. When we had dinner at their home on Thursday night we gave them the various gifts we brought for them – quillows from Maxx, cards from Lori, a scarf from Tina and various Beaver clothing from us and SCC. This is Edvards in his new hat which he loved!

Chuck and Vineta
Chuck and Vineta

We started Friday off with breakfast by Chuck where we enjoyed getting to know his Lativian fellow workers – Vineta Zale and Lienite Bemere. Chuck is President of ‘Bridge Builders International’ the organization that facilitates sister church relationships and so much more for the Latvian Evangelical church and churches stateside. You can learn more about Chuck’s organization at the link below. Vineta and Lienite both share Chuck’s passion and vision for the Latvian church and bring their unique gifting into the partnership. It was a joy to get to know them more and find out how to pray for them!

Pastor Girts Asnevic
Pastor Girts Asnevic
Vilandes Baptist Church
Vilandes Baptist Church

After breakfast Peter picked us up for a brief auto-tour of Riga Baptist Churches on our way to meet Matthews Church staff. Our first stop was Vilandes Baptist Church where we met Pastor Girts Asnevic. God utilized a unique method of church planting in Riga. At the fall of Soviet Russia, church buildings that had been confiscated for Soviet use were returned to the use of church bodies. Wherever a church was returned a Pastor came and a congregation began. Initially the pent up demand for places to gather, learn, worship and serve the Lord meant a large influx of believers into these churches. Today it is harder, but faithful service still bears fruit for the Lord. I asked Pastor Asnevic how we could pray for him and his request is for more leaders in the church.

Matthews Church, 61 Matisa iela, Riga, Rigas Pilseta
Matthews Church, 61 Matisa iela, Riga, Rigas Pilseta

At Matthews Church we enjoyed meeting with staff members Andis Miezītis, Small Group leader and Preacher; Maris Dravnieks, Worship Minister; and Liene Indrane, Children’s Minister. We heard them share their ministries and the prayer requests of each heart. For Andis – more leaders; for Maris – fresh inspiration as he leads worship; and for Liene – more volunteers. I know that Jamey Mills, Randy Tryon and Kim Simmons could all relate to those requests! By the way, I included the Matthews Church address in the caption of the picture to the left. If you are a Google Earth user, google the address and you can see the streets we were on yesterday!

Before we left for the apartment, Peter took us on a tour of the building. It is a beautiful and very versatile structure. I especially enjoyed peeking in on one room of their pre-school where a whole flock of little ones slept soundly. I could only imagine the energy in that room just a short time later!  Another thing I was taken with – there is a picture of a banner that hangs in a stairwell. It has been in that place for some time and Peter couldn’t really tell me about it, but it spoke to me. The spire of a church is in the background and I see people perhaps bent in sorrow, but certainly bent in prayer.  I forgot to mention that just before the tour of Matthews Church we were privileged to share lunch with this group of Pastors. We ate what the Pre-schoolers ate that day — a delicious traditional soup that I think was very similar to the recipe I found for Frikadelle Soup and a very light Strawberry puree that I think might have been Strawberry Kisiel – a recipe from Belarus. I say ‘I think’ because our new friends weren’t sure of the names of the items and the wonderful cook couldn’t speak English and was very shy!



The final first for Friday was a ‘Steve and Chuck Only’ opportunity. Peter came and picked up Steve and Chuck and whisked them off to a Pastor’s home to the northeast of Riga. This Pastor has a sauna in his basement and often hosts sauna (pronounced sow-nah) parties for the local Baptist Pastors. Ten men, all local Pastors plus a not-so-local Pastor, gathered together to eat and sweat and cool off and talk together, a very traditional and ancient practice. I didn’t get to hear all of the details of this male-bonding event, but it sounded like a  little bit of heaven — even though it WAS hot! Over the course of the night Steve went three times for 15 minutes each time into the ‘oven’ – one time it was 180 degrees in there! After the 15 minutes in the sauna, the men went to the outside porch to cool off. A wood stove heated the sauna and water was poured over the hot rocks to create a rising steam. All of this made for an interesting experience, but what sounded like heaven to me is that the guys talked and talked and talked! Again, I’m not privy to the details, but I know a lot of really good sharing went on in the midst of heat, rising steam and ten men who really love the Lord. Hmmm – I wonder if we could add a sauna on to our house in Corvallis?

A Riga Sauna
A Riga Sauna

Today Peter and Baiba pick us up for more touring – including a climb to the top of one of the highest steeples in Riga and a tour through some Russian bunkers! Tomorrow our work begins in earnest as Steve will preach at Matthews Church and then Monday we begin teaching at the Baltic Pastoral Institute. We feel your prayers – thank you so much! We also love and miss you! May the God of grace give you everything you need to fulfill every good purpose of HIS and Yours as you serve Him!

Love and blessings, Claudia and Steve


A City Wakes Up!

Riga Street
Riga Street

Chuck’s apartment is in the heart of the old city of Riga. Today I woke up just before the city, refreshed and so ready for this day. It was a sweet blessing to sit quietly in the front room and hear the infrequent sounds of a city waking up — heels clicking on the cobblestones below, a car navigating the narrow street, the sounds of gulls circling above.

I’ve been reading in John since the beginning of this year. Today I focused on John 14:12-14 which led me into Isaiah 61. Today the Lord connected these scriptures for me. I’ve always seen Isaiah 61 as Jesus’ job description so to speak. The scripture perfectly describes for us who He is and what He came to do. Today in John 14 I saw the truth that as we have faith in Jesus we will do what He did when He walked our earth – in fact Jesus says we will do greater things! Wow! What a promise to pray into and hold onto! I found myself thinking of the things Jesus did as He lived among men and then I went back and read through Isaiah 61. This now is my prayer — that Isaiah 61 and beyond will be accomplished in and through our lives – both here in Riga and in Corvallis!

Love and blessings! Claudia

John 14:11-14
“I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.  And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.  You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” 

Isaiah 61:1-11
“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion — to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor. 
They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations. Aliens will shepherd your flocks; foreigners will work your fields and vineyards. And you will be called priests of the LORD, you will be named ministers of our God.You will feed on the wealth of nations, and in their riches you will boast. Instead of their shame my people will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace they will rejoice in their inheritance; and so they will inherit a double portion in their land,and everlasting joy will be theirs.  “For I, the LORD, love justice; I hate robbery and iniquity. In my faithfulness I will reward them and make an everlasting covenant with them. Their descendants will be known among the nations and their offspring among the peoples. All who see them will acknowledge that they are a people the LORD has blessed.” I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign LORD will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.”

Walking Tour With Chuck Kelley

We arrived safe and sound and got to enjoy hugs from Baiba and meet her two boys Filips and Edvards when she picked us up at the Riga Airport. Then on to Chuck’s apartment and settling into our temporary housing here in Riga. Chuck needed to keep us awake until 9:00 p.m. Riga time, so we took off on a walking tour of old town Riga. What a beautiful city! Chuck is an awesome tour guide and knows the fascinating history of this city well. Then this evening Peter and Baiba treated us to dinner at their house where we got to meet Ruta and their cousin Tom, as well as enjoy Chuck’s company.

What a sweet start to this journey together!

Almost There!

Our journey began on Tuesday, February 17 in Portland. Steve and I spent the night there because our flight out on Wednesday left Portland at 6:00 a.m. I’m posting a quick update as we sit in the Frankfurt, Germany airport waiting to board the plane for the last leg of our journey to Riga. We are getting close!

Repacking - 'Semper Gumby'
Repacking – ‘Semper Gumby’

Our dear friend and partner in serving the Lord, Kim Simmons, told us before we left that our theme for the journey is “Semper Gumby” or in English “Always Flexible”. That motto was put to use first on Tuesday night. When we got our luggage into the room thinking we’d hit the hay early, the handle on my bag would NOT go down! It was stuck in the upright and locked position. So we made an emergency run to the local Target to get me a new bag. I am thankful on so many levels for this little excursion. The Target was nearby, the bag was the right size, and I was thrilled it happened at 6:00 p.m. the night BEFORE we flew and not at 3:45 a.m. the morning that we needed to catch our flight! THANK YOU LORD!


Chicago and Blue Skies
Chicago and Blue Skies

The rest of our journey today has been long, but wonderfully uneventful! We breezed through security in Portland, encountered beautiful blue skies in Chicago, and had an uneventful, and shockingly comfortable flight to Frankfurt! One more leg to go!

On Monday night the SCC Ministry leaders prayed over us after our quarterly meeting. Carey shared this scripture from Isaiah 59:21:

“As for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the LORD. “My Spirit, who is on you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will not depart from your mouth, or from the mouths of your children, or from the mouths of their descendants from this time on and forever,” says the LORD.

I see this as a promise for us at SCC and for our brothers and sisters at Matthews Church in Riga. I love this picture of the Word of the Lord in our mouths, the mouths of our children, our grandchildren, and on and on! I can’t wait to see this promise unfolding over the next days and weeks and months!

Blessings – Steve and Claudia

Someone to Love, Something to Do, and Something to Look Forward To

The opportunity for Suburban Christian Church to have a sister church partnership with Matthews Church in Riga, Latvia presented itself in February 2013.

Each year one of Suburban’s members, Bill Zipp, travels to Latvia and teaches principles of leadership to a group of students at the Baltic Pastoral Institute. Prior to Bill’s trip in February 2013, Chuck Kelley the President of Bridge Builders International and a key evangelical leader in Latvia, mentioned the possibility of having Suburban Christian Church and Matthews Church develop a sister church relationship.

Bill preparing to speak at Matthews Church

Bill brought this idea to Pastor Steve and the Suburban Missions Team and they decided that this possibility was something Bill should explore when he went on his trip. So in addition to teaching at the Baltic Pastoral Institute, Bill spoke at Matthews Church, spent time with their pastor, Peteris Eisans, and spent time with the church’s board of elders and pastoral staff team.

Bill came home absolutely convinced that God was leading us into this direction. But now he had to convince everyone else!

Peteris and Bill
Bill with Pastor Peteris Eisans

So two trips were planned. The first was a trip in November 2013 of Pastor Peter Eisans and his wife, Baiba, to Oregon. They stayed with Steve and Claudia and Baiba was able to attend Women’s Jubilee. Peteris shared in the Sunday morning services, attended a Church of the Valley pastors prayer time, and got to learn more about the ministries of Suburban and the Corvallis community.

Quite simply, our hearts were knit together in love during this trip.

The second trip planned is Steve and Claudia’s visit to Riga, Latvia in February 2014. Both Steve and Claudia will get to teach second and third year students at the Baltic Pastoral Institute on marriage and family ministry. Steve will preach at Matthews Church and as a couple they will get to reconnect with Peteris and Baiba and forge new friendships in this wonderful place with these wonderful people.

When Steve and Claudia return from Latvia, a Sister Church Steering Committee will be formed and led by Bill Zipp. Together the committee will explore the next steps forward for our sister church relationship. As sister churches we have someone to love — each other and those who do not know Christ in our communities. Within that framework of love we will work on always having something to do together and something to look forward to together.

Eight Days!

Our trip to Latvia is coming so quickly! On Tuesday, February 18 we leave for an overnight in Portland and our first flight leaves Portland on Wednesday, February 19 at 6:00 a.m.

This week Steve and I will be focused on final preparations for the classes we will teach at the Baltic Pastoral Institute and the opportunities we will have to share with Matthews Church in Riga. There are so many prayer requests on my heart right now! How blessed we are to know that you are praying for us!

  • Pray that what we prepare will be a blessing to those with whom we share.
  • Pray that we hear clearly from the Lord as we prepare.
  • Pray that we are flexible and listening to the Lord and our new friends as we actually get to develop new relationships in Latvia.
  • Praise for the way that our family at Suburban is supporting this trip! The Over and Above offering was astounding and we see this as confirmation from the Lord that this trip is HIS idea!
  • Pray over our itinerary — travel safety / mercies — divine appointments even as we travel — our adjustment to the time change, especially that we will be ready to teach in spite of the impact on us physically.
  • Pray that the Lord opens up our understanding of His purposes for this unique relationship with other believers in Riga, Latvia. I’m certain He has far more in mind than we can even ask for or imagine! 🙂

Thank you for your prayer support and love, both for us and for our sisters and brothers in Latvia!

Blessings – Claudia