What a way to start a new day and week in a new country (for me, most of the team has been here before) with worship at Matthews Church! My ears are still enjoying the music they shared.
Directly following service, our team and Latvian cohorts walked over to the gym facilities to make last minute preparations and plans for the camp that’s happening this week.
We spent the evening having traditional Latvian food. The food was awesome, but that wasn’t the highlight. People and relationships with them are, which is why we are so thankful to have the opportunity to be a part of this Latvia church family. It is so good to share the same goals and work together in pursuit of showing the love God has for each one of us and how it is so worth following Him!
It was the last day at camp. It’s really funny how you can bond with kids in just five days even when you don’t speak the same language (although about half the kids spoke English to us and I think the other half could understand us when we spoke).
We heard so many positive comments from the kids. “I wish it were two weeks long”. “I can’t wait for next year”. One young boy was particularly sad (fighting tears) during the morning workout. Roberts came alongside him and eventually he confessed that he was sad that the camp was ending. (if I knew how to add an emoji here it would be a sad face)
In the afternoon the coaches played a 3 on 3 scrimmage for the kids. Brian even got to play, and did quite well for having never played volleyball before. It was a fun time and the kids enjoyed watching and cheering.
At the end of camp each kid was called up and presented a diploma signed by all the coaches, a DVD with athlete’s testimonies (provided by Athletes in Action) and the Gospel of Luke in Latvian.
Please join us as we continue to pray that God will use this experience to encourage those at camp who are already Christians, and to plant seeds in the hearts of the rest.
Philippians 1:6 “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
Day 4 of camp. Today I started to recognize that these kids have really improved their volleyball skills. One camper was overheard saying he wishes this was a two week camp. I don’t think the coaches would survive another week.
After lunch I finally pulled out the gold medal. I talked about my experience playing a supporting role and how to be a good teammate. I was also able to contrast Artis’ testimony with mine. While Artis turned to drinking and partying, I tried to be good enough on my own. Neither way will get you closer to salvation. Since they are familiar with sand volleyball I used the analogy of sand sticking to your skin like sin sticking to us. We can’t “play” in this world without having sin stick to us. And just like we need a shower to wash the sand off, Jesus will shower off the sin when we repent and make him Lord.
We followed up my talk with the bead project that Kim Simmons prepared for us. Brian told the salvation story using the beads and everyone seems to understand.
Gatis is preparing an evaluation form for the kids to fill out. It will give us some feedback on the camp as well as offer an opportunity to indicate if they would like to learn more about Jesus. It will also if they would like to come to Sunday School at Matthews Church.
After camp we had dinner with Hardijs, Gatis and his son, then headed back to the apartment. It’s our first night off since we arrived. It’s good to have some time to debrief now that camp is almost over.
Tomorrow is the last day of camp. Pray that the kids will be impacted by the experience of being at camp this week. Pray that follow up with the kids will be fruitful. Pray God’s blessing on our fantastic volleyball friends who have sacrificed so much time and energy to serve these kids (and us).
What day is this??? Day 5? Day 6? It’s starting to blur together. I’ll try and give you a quick update on activities from the past two days .
Tuesday was focused on setting and serving skills. It was a bit easier on the arms of the little ones.
After lunch Artis, one of our Latvian volleyball players, gave is testimony. We were privileged to have it translated for us. It was a very strong story of redemption. After turning to a lifestyle of alcohol and partying he finally hit bottom and cried out to God. His wife (not married then) was very influential in his faith journey. It was one of the first time he has given his testimony publicly so it was a special moment.
After camp we made arrangements to meet with Chuck Kelly for a tour of Old Town Riga. We headed out on foot for what was supposed to be a 20 minute walk. After 15 minutes we arrived at a bridge and I had a bad feeling that something was wrong. Sure enough I had lead everyone in the opposite direction of Old Riga. We had to turn around and now take another 35 minute walk in the other direction. I have now been officially relieved of all navigation duties.
We had a wonderful dinner with Chuck, then started what will be one of the highlights of the trip: Chucks personal stories and fascinating historical facts about ancient, and even recent, events. It really gave us a great backdrop from which to understand all that Latvians have been through. They have great reasons to treasure their freedom.
Wednesday camp went well. We focused on hitting and played some six on six games. I was able to find some beach balls at a nearby store that worked much better for the youngest kids.
I spoke after lunch again today. I am still finding it difficult to communicate through an interpreter (although my interpreter is great). I just never feel confident that I’m communicating well. I’ll be sharing again tomorrow so I would appreciate the prayers.
After camp it was divide and concur. Laura and Audrey were invited to play sand volleyball, with Gatis and Ance, so they returned to the Olympic Center while Brian and I went to the youth service at Matthews Church. With school out, and the university students studying for finals, the attendance was only about 10 or 12 (half of their usual size) We enjoyed some sweet worship time (Latvians really know how to do worship) and a short message on 2 Peter 2.
Afterwards Brian and I walked back to the Olympic Center to meet Laura and Audrey. We got caught in an absolute downpour (complete with thunder and lightning). Gatis offered to give us all a ride home but he discovered he had a flat tire so we all walked home in the rain.
We are now back at the apartment drying off and warming up. It’s 11:45pm and there is still a little light outside. I’m not really sure it ever gets completely dark at night. I usually wake up about 3:00am and it’s quite light out by then.
Looking forward to another great day at camp tomorrow.
First official day of camp. Laura and Audrey greeted the kids and gave an overview of the camp. Gatis opened the camp with prayer. Brian started things off with a fun group warm up.
The morning include 2 hours of skill assessments. Then, during the lunch break, the coaches divided the kids into groups by skill level.
The afternoon session focused on passing. After a little more than an hour of passing drills several kids had red forearms. At one point one of the youngest girls decided to sit with her arms hidden under her legs, so she wouldn’t have to pass the ball anymore. That’s when we decided to cut instruction a little short on the first day, and just have free-time for the last hour. After all, we do want them to come back for the rest of the week. Tomorrow we focus on setting and serving. That should be less painful.
Afterwards, we were invited to dinner by a family from Matthews Church, whose son was attending camp. Again, we enjoyed a delicious meal with gracious hosts. We would have liked to stay longer to visit, but a couple of us were falling asleep on their couch.
Camp went well today but we recognized some areas that we can improve on. Pray that the details run smoothly tomorrow.
Pray for safety for all the kids. We would love an injury-free camp
Pray for the lunch/free time activity. That it would honor God and speak to the kids
The sun is shining again today. We started the day with the discovery of a fabulous pastry/coffee shop just a couple blocks from our apartment. After breakfast we headed to Matthews Church for the 11:00 service.
We had an opportunity to greet the congregation let them know why were were there. It was interesting that the sermon was on Phillpians 2 (the same passage that Steve preached on the Sunday before we left).
After service we enjoyed some “Latvian/Canadian” pizza, and then headed upstairs to experience the service they call “The Least of These”. Over 200 people, most living on the streets, gathered to sing and hear about God’s love for them. We were introduced and had an opportunity to give a greeting to this service as well.
Then we were accompanied by Hardijs, Robert and Lauris to Rundale Palace about an hour outside of Latvia. The palace and grounds were beautiful. A stark contrast to the Soviet bunker from the day before.
We finished the day with dinner at the home of Hardijs and his family. Again another delicious meal enjoyed with wonderful people.
It’s now the next day. The first day of camp. Laura and Audrey have worked well with Gatis and Ance to put together a program we think will be beneficial for the age and skill level of the kids. Oh, and we are now up to 52 kids. It seems everyone is excited for the camp. Gatis keeps referring to this as the “first camp” implying that this may grow into an annual event. It’s such an honor to be a part of this process.
Please pray that camp will go well today. That the kids all have fun and leave with a sense of how God works through all areas of our lives, even sports.