Answered Prayer and a Sweet Goodbye

How I praise God for our prayer warriors! Steve slept a good 12 hours last night and woke up feeling significantly improved today. He felt so rough yesterday evening and sometimes in the night, that I thought I might be teaching on my own today — I’m so thankful that wasn’t true! Thank you all for your faithful prayers — it feels like you are right here with us!

As we left the house today we remembered that Liva, the Academic Dean at BPI, had shared with us that today is her ‘Name Day.’ Each day of the year has 4 or 5 names on it that are celebrated on that day usually at work and sometimes at home. The person whose name is celebrated brings cake or treats to share with everyone, so Liva brought us all a yummy blueberry/chocolate layered cake. Chuck told us that it is appropriate to bring flowers or small sweets to the person celebrating their name day. We picked up some beautiful tangerine colored tulips for Liva and the guys brought her an orchid. Chuck made sure we knew no even numbers of flowers and no white flowers because that is what you send for a funeral. It is so helpful to have someone who knows the culture to give you hints!

Liva's Name Day gift - a flower from the men of BPI
Liva’s Name Day gift – a flower from the men of BPI

We finished our time of teaching at BPI with a lesson from me this morning on Transformational Ministry & Marriage and Family Ministry, Steve teaching on The Importance of Staying Faithful During Hard Times, and a time of questions from the men of BPI. It was an enjoyable day of hearing the hearts of these young men for the Lord and for the people of Latvia. At the end of the day they presented us with some yummy looking Latvian sweets and abundant thanks for our time with them. We got some pictures with them and also with our interpreter Vesma and then we said goodbye until we meet again. Happily I will get to see Vesma again on Saturday as I have opportunity to meet the wives and fiancees of these men and speak encouragement into their lives. I can’t wait!

I took a few more pictures on our walk home from BPI today. The transit system here is pretty amazing. We haven’t had need to use it because most of what we do is easily walkable, and when needed people have given us rides. A lot of people walk, a lot of people drive, but there is also an electric tram system, a bus system, and a rail system. I don’t have pictures of the rail system, but you can see the bus and tram. It all seems quite efficient and moves a lot of people safely and quickly.

As we walked home there was a new little statue where there had not previously been a statue. I realized that this was a man, actually not far from where the opera singer had been plying his trade earlier in the week. People find very creative ways to make a little money here from our opera singer, to a man who stands in one of the parks we walk through each morning playing his trumpet (yesterday we heard “Mack the Knife”), to this man posing as a statue and to a ‘grandma’ who sits on the street in the cold playing her tambourine. I know times have been tough here — when we went through the crash in 2008, Latvia did too and was even harder hit. Times are looking up a bit, but it is still hard to find a good job. Please pray Jeremiah 29:7 prayers for the peace and prosperity of Riga and of Latvia in general. Pray that God’s Word would spread in power. Pray for these young men and women who have a deep heart for Latvia and some pretty insurmountable challenges in front of them. God is able and they need heart and encouragement as they enter ministry.

Today there was a new statue where there was no statue before. People find very interesting ways to make money here.
Today there was a new statue where there was no statue before. People find very interesting ways to make money here.

Thank you again for you prayers. Steve teaches Bible Study tonight at Matthews Church, so your continued prayers are appreciated. Tomorrow night I speak to the ladies of Matthews Church and then on Saturday afternoon I get to speak to the wives and finacees of the men of BPI.

We praise God upon every remembrance of you!

Love and blessings,
Steve and Claudia

Baltic Pastoral Institute – Day 3

Wednesday, February 26 — Steve and I made the walk to the Baltic Pastoral Institute again today in weather that was still dry, but a bit colder than we’ve been enjoying. Today Steve taught the first two sessions of the institute on serving in your cultural context. He will teach this same material tomorrow night at Matthews Church during their Thursday night Bible Study. Steve spoke of the dynamic tension between living in our culture and knowing it well enough to call it to Jesus while not becoming so much like our culture that we mirror it. There were some very good discussions that came out of this. Steve’s goal was simply to encourage the men to keep looking at their culture and through the Word, prayer, and discussion, to continue to discern the way to engage culture without crossing the barrier into sin and becoming too worldly.

I taught on Women’s Ministry. I began my lesson by picking up where Steve left off and asking the men to consider the role of women with new eyes and outside of their cultural context as much as possible. We talked about the hearts of women and the way that Jesus valued women, listened to them, and ministered to their hurts. And I encouraged the men to apply the same principals in regard to discerning the role of women in the church as they use to engage culture – to look at scripture, to pray and to process with other leaders to come to an understanding of women’s role in the church. We also talked about the structure and programs of the Women’s Ministry at Suburban.

A picture from my viewpoint as teacher -- look at them all smile! (we counted to three)
A picture from my viewpoint as teacher. Look at them all smile (we counted to three!)

We were scheduled to go out to eat with the Smith’s tonight – a lovely older couple from Matthews Church. During the Soviet occupation, Christopher Smith was a Bible smuggler and we were looking forward to hearing his testimony over dinner at a local favorite restaurant named Garlic (even the ice cream is garlic flavored). But we decided we needed to apologize and stay in tonight to give Steve a chance to overcome a cold he has been fighting. It has proven a good decision as I’ve listened to him cough and sneeze as he quietly reads his book.

I’ve included a gallery of pictures of Chuck’s apartment. It is cozy and beautifully situated. We walk everywhere and have no problem getting where we want to go. We SO appreciate Chuck sharing his place with us — it is very comfortable and fun to get to hear about his day each evening and share about our day.

Pray for Steve please! One more day of teaching at the BPI — I’m going to miss those boys! — and then Bible Study tomorrow night. Friday will be a bit easier schedule, especially for Steve, so I hope he can knock the bug that’s gotten to him!

Love and blessings!
Steve and Claudia

Baltic Pastoral Institute Day Two and Dome Cathedral

Tuesday, February 25 was another full and wonderful day of serving the Lord and His people and enjoying the sights of Riga.

Once again we started at the BPI after a walk across town without Chuck! We made it no problem and enjoyed the exercise. We got to BPI in time for the half hour chapel service being led by Uris, one of the students. Uris said that the Lord gave him the idea that they should exercise their faith that morning and do a half hour prayer walk. I was so blessed by that because as soon as they got back from the prayer walk, I was going to teach on prayer! Later I shared that feeling of confirmation with Uris and he said that friends have told him that he will become a prayer giant and that my teaching also felt like confirmation to him! Isn’t God good?? πŸ™‚ As the men walked and prayed Steve and I stayed in the conference room and prayed over the men, the day, and our Corvallis people. We enjoyed the back and forth with the men over the course of the day. I was also blessed to have lunch with Vesma from BPI. Vesma is our interpreter and she is very gifted in that role. She has a deep heart for the women of Riga – in particular for the women of the institute.

After our day at the institute Peter picked us up and took us back to the apartment. We did a quick drop of our books and computer and walked across the square to Riga Cathedral also known as Dome Cathedral. Peter had arranged for a tour of the cathedral for us and his staff with his friend Pastor Elijs, Pastor of Dome Cathedral. The first thing we did was climb the clock tower. If we remember right, the number of steps to the top is 286. I confess, once again Steve and I didn’t go all the way to the top, but we made it to the level just under the clock face. As we looked south from the clock tower face we could see the St. Peter’s clock tower. At the level equivalent to where we stood, but across the way, Peter proposed to Baiba just about 12 years ago (or so). She had no clue what was coming, but when the elevator stopped on a floor that tourists didn’t usually see, she knew something was up. And then there were candles everywhere — a dead giveaway! How romantic! Β What a blessing to enjoy this tour and what an incredible place to see Riga! We even had a late afternoon with crystal clear weather! Several of our new Riga friends have commented on the gift this weather is to us — so spring like! Thank You Lord! (I’ve only worn my long-johns once!)

The cathedral was started in the early 1200’s and Pastor Elijs said he thinks it was finished before the end of the century. He obviously loves this place of worship and knew detail after detail. There is a lot of maintenance work happening now, and I’m guessing all of the time, with work on the pipe organ underway at this point. Steve and I came down from the clock tower early and took in the beauty of the cathedral interior with Liene. As we walked around the organ ‘maintenance man’ played little snippets of various arpeggios and even some short phrases from classics that made me long to hear a full organ concert. So beautiful!

I was impressed with the organ and Steve was impressed with the pulpit. The pulpits in cathedrals often remind me of the prow of a ship. Pastor Elijs preaches from the pulpit every other week. He graciously unlocked the door to the pulpit and let Steve climb up to see what it feels like to be in the ‘driver’s seat’. Warning to Suburban’s Building Committee — there could be a pulpit remodel in our future! Β πŸ˜‰

After the tour Steve and I grabbed a quick bite at a ‘Double Coffee’ just under Chuck’s apartment. Coffee is their featured beverage, but Double Coffee has a varied menu of breakfast, lunch and dinner items and the atmosphere is cozy and inviting. It was perfect for the limited time we had last night. After dinner it was off to Matthews Church where we shared a testimony with the Celebrate Recovery group. This is a group of between 30 – 40 individuals who are supporting each other in their journeys in sobriety in the Lord. We spoke about how the Lord is supporting us in our day to day journey of missing Becky. It was a privilege to participate there.Β 

After our sharing time, Steve went with Peter to further explore partnership possibilities for our Sister Church arrangement and I went to Pastor Andis and Madera’s apartment at the top of the church to meet with a group of seven women from Matthews church. What a sweet time! I love these women and their hearts for the Lord and for the other women of Matthews Church and of Riga.

Wow! What a day. We were tired in that very good way when we got back to the apartment. We took a bit of time to review what we have for Wednesday and then fell into bed! How thankful I am for Chuck’s apartment and the way he has arranged it for his guests. Keep praying for us! You are our biggest blessing.

Love and blessings,
Steve and Claudia