Tuesday, March 4 – Steve and I are home safe and sound and actually awake after a good night’s sleep in Portland. We left Chuck’s place in Riga at 3:30 a.m. Monday morning, which translates to 5:30 p.m. Sunday evening in Oregon time, and traveled through Frankfurt and San Francisco to arrive in Portland at 7:45 p.m. Monday night. Traveling 26 hours mostly in daylight is a bit disorienting, but the fact that we can cross half the world in such a short time and do so in relative comfort counts as a modern day miracle in my book. Everything went well with the exception of a surprise about our luggage on the first flight out of Riga. All in all we have nothing to complain about and new information to tuck into our heads and hearts for future trips. Plus we brought back chocolate! Lots and lots of chocolate! 🙂
There are so many things that I will keep in my heart and savor over the coming weeks and months. I’m eager to share my experiences with the women I love from Suburban, some of whom were mentioned by name in the prayer teachings I shared with the women of Matthews Church and BPI. Steve and I will also have opportunity to share our experiences at a Senior’s Potluck later in March and we’ll share briefly in a Mission Moment at SCC on Sunday morning March 16.
We will keep the Suburban Latvia Link bog active. You won’t receive daily updates until the next trip, but off and on we will keep you updated with prayer requests and information about what is happening with our Sister Church relationship. As Steve and I process this most recent trip, there may be one or two more posts about that experience.
We can’t thank you enough for your prayers and support. From a personal standpoint I can tell you that this trip has been an amazing experience of obedience, walking in faith, trusting the Lord and seeing His sufficiency and provision. It is a delight to experience the reality of body of Christ relationships halfway around the world. I felt like ‘family’ from the moment I met my brothers and sisters in Riga. I hope we have the blessing of welcoming some of them into our Suburban home over the coming years too!
Love you all and can’t wait to see you at SCC!
Steve and Claudia
Sunday, March 2 — It is hard to believe that in about 7 hours we will be heading to the Riga airport to catch a Lufthsana flight for Frankfurt, Germany for the first leg of our trip home.
The opera last night was quite an experience! The National Opera is topnotch and they presented “The Marriage of Figaro” with professionalism and creativity. We attended as the guests of Peter and Baiba and all of us thoroughly enjoyed the opera orchestra, the staging, the voices — it was all so well done. It think we were all a bit surprised at the rather ribald nature of the story line of this particular opera. I confess, had I done my research ahead of time, we would’ve been more prepared for this as even in Mozart’s time “The Marriage of Figaro” was considered risque. In some ways the impressions I’m left with after the opera are a perfect picture of what I will be praying for Latvia. There is immense national pride here and a treasuring of freedom. The people love music and cherish history. They are cultured and modern in their thought and the culture is challenged by the same things that challenge American culture. They long to grow in the Lord, see others come to Him, and see culture transformed by the light and life of Jesus.
Today Steve and I were blessed by Chuck Kelley as he allowed us to choose one of his paintings to take home. I love this because a painting is the perfect prayer reminder for me. We chose his painting called “Festival of Light Goes to the Opera”. The painting will hang in a very visible place in our home as a reminder to pray for Latvia. I really enjoy Chuck’s paintings. You can see some of his work at the following link or look online for artist Charles David Kelley.
This morning we returned to Matthews Church and heard Peter preach. It was Communion Sunday and I thoroughly enjoyed the services. A larger choir sang this weekend and did a wonderful job lifting even us English speakers to the Lord. There is a special lectern reserved for the preaching of the Word and Peter stopped and knelt to pray as he stepped up into the lectern. At communion time the men came forward to serve communion all dressed in dark suits. Before serving communion everyone of them knelt around the table to pray private prayers of confession. I loved seeing these men humbly doing this and being the first-fruits of personal confession for this body of believers. Peter’s sermon was good solid Bible teaching from Luke chapter 5.
One other unique and helpful thing at Matthews Church – since Peter is there early and then preaches two services, the ladies of the church provide a snack for him to enjoy in his office between services. There is a half hour between the services and generally Peter doesn’t leave church until 2:00 p.m. which is when the family eats lunch/dinner together. The snack really does tide him over. Although they think of it as a ‘snack’ both weeks that we got to partake of it, the food was wonderful! Colorful, beautifully presented, tasty — something I would expect to see in a very nice deli at home!
Hmmm – I’m not at all hungry, but I seem to be focused on food because now I’m thinking about the amazing lunch we enjoyed! We took Peter, Baiba, Ruta, Felips and Edvards to lunch to say ‘thank-you’ for the way they took care of us during our stay. We went to a unique and HUGE restaurant called “Lido”. Lido has about every type of food you can imagine. The food is cafeteria style and there are stations for fish, chicken, beef, pork, pancakes, salads, desserts, etc., etc. The food was also excellent! So often it seems like cafeteria food is abundant, but not all that appetizing. This was definitely not the case at Lido. The prices are also very reasonable. So if you come to Riga, be sure you try a Lido before you leave!
This has been a trip of many firsts for me and Steve. It has been personally enriching and encouraging. We’ve made many new and delightful friends and gotten to know some ‘already-friends’ much, much better. Even in such a short time we feel we know our Latvian brothers and sisters better and our hearts have been knit together. We still don’t have the full picture of what the future will bring, but we are eager to explore that together. Steve will bring some ideas home to our Missions Ministry Team and soon a group will be called together to help pray into and formulate plans.
Many thanks for each of you who helped support this trip, who have prayed for us over the course of this trip, and who we now ask to pray us home! Thank you to Bill Zipp for maps, and books, and hints and encouragement. And a heartfelt thank-you to Chuck Kelley for his amazing hospitality and helps for us while we’ve been in Latvia. Chuck loves Latvia and he loves the Lord and his evident love reaches into the heart of anyone who spends time with him.
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:20,21
Saturday, March 1, 2014 — Once again today we enjoyed a slower pace. We had only two commitments today; early this afternoon I enjoyed sharing with the wives and fiancees of the men from the Baltic Pastoral Institute and this evening Steve and I get to attend the national opera with Peter and Baiba.
Steve and I are just beginning to feel comfortable with finding our way around Old Town Riga. We learned earlier in the week how to get through Old Town and to the Baltic Pastoral Institute (BPI), but finding our way around where Chuck lives has been a challenge. We walked around a bit this morning and had lunch at a little Italian place with good pizza for Steve and good salad and soup for me. On the map below, we are located very near the Domed Cathedral.
After lunch Steve walked me part way to the BPI where I met with the wives and fiancees and he went on to the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia. Latvia was occupied from 1940 through 1991 first by the Soviets, then by the Nazi’s and once again by the Soviets. The Occupation was a very hard time and there are many still alive today who remember gaining freedom. What is happening in the Ukraine is disturbing for Latvians. It raises their fears about losing their freedom and coming then again under Russian rule. If you’d like to know more about the Occupation, please check out the museum site link below.
I loved sharing with the wives and fiancees of the Pastors from BPI. I’ve been in the place these young women find themselves and I spoke a word of encouragement to them. Then they asked questions! I hope and pray that what I shared in answer was an encouragement to hang on and to trust that God can provide them all they need for life and godliness.
Soon we head to the opera. I took some pictures as I walked by there today because tonight it will be dark. I think Steve is even looking forward to this new experience! I also included some random pictures from last night and today. Enjoy!