Day Ten: Sightseeing With Hardijs

Hardijs Rozenfelds is a busy man. He has a very responsible job as an anethesiologist and works regularly in four area hospitals and once a month in the small community of Madona in Eastern Latvia. He is the Chairman of the Board at Matthews Church going on five years now. His wife Vigrita works in Pharmaceuticals and they have three grown children. Along with many others at Matthews church he has planned the 150th Celebration and has one more major day of that celebration this coming Sunday. And the man sings in the choir! I tell you all of this not to impress you with his power or accomplishments, but rather to also share that Hardijs took the day off of work today and spent the day touring us four Oregonians around his Latvia. He shared stories from his days and his faith and his church and his country. He shared his life with us. And he insists upon taking us to the airport at 5:15 Wednesday morning because this is how his Grandma taught him to treat guests. Because this is the kind of man that Hardijs is. What a blessing his friendship is to us. 🙂
Hardijs picked us up at our hotel and we headed to Balta Kapa, Salkastri for a glimpse of the Gulf of Riga. The morning was crisp and clear and the view stunningly gorgeous. The natural area is well maintained and we walked on wooden boardwalks to a perfectly situated viewing platform where we stopped for photos and the chance to drink it all in.

Explorers on a Nippy Fall Day
Token Group Selfie! 🙂
Balta Kapa, Salkastri

From Salkastri we climbed back in the car and wended our way to Sigulda. The roads took us through varying country – from forested areas to farms to small communities.  As we neared Sigulda, it was amazing to realize how many of the beautiful golden leaves had fallen from the trees in the week since Steve and I visited.  We drove a short distance along the 280 mile Guaja River, the only major river that begins and ends in Latvia. We saw recreational facilities including a golf course and ski hills and an obstacle course. And we saw the training facility for the Luge, Skeleton, and Bobsled Olympic events – a facility that attracts athletes from several countries to come to Sigulda to train.

After enjoying the beauty of Sigulda and surroundings, we headed over to Ligatne and the Secret Soviet Bunkers. Steve and I had actually gotten to tour these Bunkers a few years back with Pēteris Eisāns. At that time we went in a large tourist group. Today it was only the five of us and our English speaking Latvian guide. Even going a second time through there was nothing boring about the Bunkers. I was surprised once again at how recently they were kept ready for utilization in the case of a nuclear war. Decommissioned in 2003, the Bunkers were designed to house Soviet elite leadership 9 meters underground for a period of three months should a nuclear strike warrant it. 

Our capable guide Regina, at the door to the Bunkers
A Meeting Room graced with Latvia and a bust of Lenins
Lenins, Randy, Mike

Mike and the Hotline

There’s a new sheriff in town
You too can have your very own Soviet era gas mask – 8 euros

From the Bunkers we traveled to Cesis. Cesis is the home of the Cesis Castle, built in the 1200’s. It was the first place the Latvian flag flew and the first place it flew again when Latvian independence was regained in 1991. Today it is the home of various cultural events including the Baptist Song Festival. We stopped in Cesis for a meal together and then walked around the community a bit during the golden hour. The temperature had dropped and the wind had picked up so we left fairly quickly to begin our trek back to Riga, but first we took a brief side trip and hike to see the Ergli Cliffs not far from Cesis. 

Hiking to the Ergli Cliffs
Looking down at the Gauja River

Capturing the View

We traveled west to Riga into the gathering night with a deep orange sky in front of us. We ended our day with a quick dessert together. I have so many impressions from this day….

  1. Latvia is beautiful, pure and simple!
  2. Our guide at the Bunkers is married to an American and one day she said to him that it was awful that America might have bombed her and destroyed her. He said, “But I didn’t know you then; I didn’t know it was you!” Isn’t that the way with all war?
  3. Hardijs shared some of the very personal ways Matthews Church provides benevolence and some of the challenges inherent in Orphan Ministry in Latvia. Knowledge brings deeper understanding.
  4. We talked of war and peace and of fear and certainty and in my heart I kept on thinking “Thy Kingdom come Lord!” The solution to all our ills is awaiting the signal from God for the return of Jesus. In the meantime let us continue to encourage one another as we see the day approaching.

Tomorrow we will enjoy a visit with Chuck Kelley’s staff at Partner’s here in Latvia. We’ll do some final walking tours of Riga, and then tomorrow evening a meal with Matthews Church leaders and Evergreen Baptist, their Sister Church from Bixby, Oklahoma. And then a few short hours after that we head home!

I believe that relationship breeds purpose. Several ideas have been planted during this trip as we’ve interacted with friends here in Latvia. I’m eager to see how God puts flesh on them. And, no doubt, seeds have been planted that we can’t even see — those immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine things that God specializes in. So much anticipation!

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