Today we woke up to rain thrown against our windows, but with a plan to do a two hour walking tour of Riga with Laima and her friend Ligita. Ligita is an excellent tour guide and can guide in either Latvian or German, but knows little English. So Laima and Ligita guided us together. Before we left the weather sweetened and we walked about in some sunshine and no rain! Hooray! We saw many buildings and sights important to Riga and to Lativians and learned a bit of Latvian history to boot.
We realized that to be at our best this afternoon getting to know another Matthews Church family, we really needed some downtime. So after a lunch of wonderful crepe-like pancakes we returned to the apartment for a short rest. Then off to Ogre and an afternoon with the Babrovskis family. On our way we stopped at the Daugava river and got to see the oldest rock building in Latvia – the remains of a church. It is now stranded in the middle of the Daugava due to dams that help control flooding. Still, every August the water level is reduced and people can walk over to the old church building. They enjoy picnics there and some even marry there. I love it that the oldest builiding in Latvia is a church!
We drove on just a bit further, a total of about 30 kilometers / 18 miles from Riga. What a blessing we enjoyed in our time with the Babrovskis family. The home they live in was built by their grandparents about 50 years ago upon their return from seven years of exile in Siberia. The home is solid and comfortable and a wonderful support to the gatherings of this loving family. After introductions we sat down and were treated to a wonderful meal of potatoes, salad, and a delicious thin pork patty with tomatoes and cheese on it along with some crisp home grown/squeezed apple juice and a curd-based yummy dessert. We went on a short drive into the heart of Ogre and walked through a lovely area that had once been a resort or health spa and is now a beautiful pedestrian mall. We walked to the Ogre river and began to cross the bridge only to see a wedding party approaching us from the other side. We went around them, not interrupting their ceremony and watched for a bit. The bride and groom appeared to make some promises and then the groom locked a padlock on the bridge and together they threw the key into the Ogre River. As you cross the bridge you can see many other padlocks — evidence of prior wedding commitments.
We returned to the Babrovskis family home and spent some more time with the family during which they offered us the chance to experience a sauna! At the first trip Steve and I took to Riga, Steve experienced a sauna while I enjoyed a much needed night at home. So I was pretty eager to try this. We all went out and scoped out the sauna that Marks built behind the family home. IT.WAS.HOT. In the final analysis Laima, Kim, Linda and I all decided to try the sauna. It was a new and pretty delicious experience! Linda and I did only a bit over 5 minutes, then a cooling period and another 3 or 4 minutes. Kim and Laima toughed it out quite a bit longer. Later we found out that the temp in the sauna was over 200 degrees! A bit high for us novices, but even so, I think I’d quickly build a fondness for this particular exercise.
When we returned to the house to clean up, we were shocked to find a whole new beautiful spread of food! A delicious salad, several varieties of breads and cheese, and a crazy beautiful cake. The food is the plain homemade food the family eats, but it is so delicious and the quantities were amazing. As in our experience last night, the family completely opened their homes and hearts to us. All of us feel like we are learning the true art of hospitality as we are welcomed into Latvian homes. We are humbled and blessed by the sweet and good-natured love of every Latvian we meet. Before we left we gave each member of the family a sleeve of Oregon quilt cards crafted by our own Gail Bartlett. Then they turned around and gave us each a little souvenir of our visit and promised another when we meet again sometime this week! We were astounded at their generosity.
We spent a few minutes explaining why we are in Latvia and asked if we could pray over the family. It was a sweet, sweet way to end our time in their home and I think all of us were blessed by this experience. We set out to return to Riga, but within a very short distance of the family home we drove into a forested area, parked our cars and set off up a very steep trail to a wooden watchtower that rose into the sky. Our goal was to climb to the top to see the skyline of Riga framed against a sunset sky. Most of us made it — it was a VERY high climb — and we can say the climb was well worth it!
Every member of the Babrovskis family has received many invitations from us to come visit Corvallis. And here is another — Mr. and Mrs. Babrovskis; Elina and Matiss; Lasma and Edgars Kozlovska any and all of you are most welcome to visit any and all of us at any time!
Tomorrow is Sunday and we are so eager for time at Matthews Church! Please pray for us as we bring a greeting from all of you to them and pray for them. And we’ll pray for you — we miss you Suburban family, but we are loving make news friends and seeking the heart of Jesus for this relationship!