Early on, as we planned our trip to celebrate with Matthews Church, we thought we would travel to Latvia on October 22 and return home on November 2. I’m so thankful we adjusted our trip to October 12 through October 25. There are lots or reasons for my thankfulness, not the least of which is Matthews Church will have their 2nd Celebration Sunday with only local friends present and this seems right to me. As I’ve shared in previous blogs for previous trips our Latvian friends set the bar for hospitality. They will love us and care for us at great cost to themselves. Their 2nd Sunday Celebration will be intense and beautiful and when it is over they will be able to rest, not take care of us. They will never complain, and I know that they love us, but friends take care of friends, right? So I rejoice that we are on our way home.
Our trip changed in timeframe because our friend and partner in serving and loving Latvia, Chuck Kelley, suggested we might want to come to Latvia early enough to view the “Secret Double” Art Exhibition. We did this and were blessed by the focus on depression and the helps available in Latvia. Yesterday we got to meet with the staff of Chuck’s Latvian organization, Partners, and heard more of the background of the exhibition. We visited with Vineta Zale, Office Manager; Almers Ludviks, Latvian Director; Madara Molnika, Mission Development; and Madara Lazdina, Art Director. It was helpful to hear about the history of Partners in Latvia and to better understand the current strategies employed to support and encourage the church in Latvia and participate in the spread of the gospel.
From Partners we spent several hours walking the city, taking in sights, finding souvenirs, and beginning the ‘good-by’ process. Our sightseeing included one last last breath-taking adventure. Mid-afternoon we found our way to the Radisson Blu hotel and the Sky High bar where we enjoyed an afternoon ‘tea’. Why this particular place? We were served as we took in a 360 degree view of beautiful Riga from 26 stories high. I’ve included one picture, but our cameras couldn’t overcome the afternoon sun glare on the windows that our eyes had no problem with. The view was amazing.
We returned to our rooms to pack in preparation for today’s early departure and then found our way to a restaurant not far from our hotel. We had earlier received an invitation from Matthews Church to join at this restaurant with the Evergreen Sister Church and key leaders from Matthews Church for a final meal together. The room was lovely, the meal options delicious and the fellowship sweet. Steve and I had the blessing of sitting near Ainars and Mairita Purmalis, Laima Dravniece, and Egils and Elina Ergli. Ainars has limited English — way more English than either Steve or I have Latvian — but Laima and the Erglis were able to help us understand when help was needed. How I long to be able to speak and understand the nuances of the language to communicate our hearts! There is no place like home; this is undeniable. But with every visit to Latvia I leave a little bit more of my heart in this place that feels like family and home.