Seeing the Sites with Peter and Baiba

Saturday was a great day! Peter and Baiba planned out a day to show us a bit of Latvia. It was wonderful, but I was too tired to post yesterday!

We’ve discovered that the day in Latvia tends to start later than at home – usually breakfast is around 9:00 a.m. or later, but on Saturday Peter and Baiba picked us up at 8:30 a.m. The weather was Corvallis all the way — drizzle and around 45 degrees. We drove northeast of Riga about 85 kilometers to Cesis. Cesis is a beautiful city of about 20,000 that has been continuously in existence since 1206. We toured the ruins of a castle built at the founding of Cesis. We carried candle lanterns through narrow steep rock-cut stairs up into the turret tower. Peter mentioned Psalm 119 ‘Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet’ and how it often shows us only the next step. These candle lanterns were just that and we were careful to stay close together so we could see. At one point there were ‘stairs’ to the dungeon that turned out to be a ladder down. Both Peter and Baiba climbed down to look, but Steve and I stayed above and took pictures instead!

I have to post one picture we saw in the entry area to the castle museum. The man in this picture just has to be Mike Hartwig’s ancestor! šŸ™‚

A Hartwig Relative?
A Hartwig Relative?

The Cesis skyline is dominated by the steeple of the St. Janis church that was built beginning in around 1281. It is the biggest Medieval church in Latvia outside of Riga. We toured the church and then climbed the steeple to the church bell. The church is currently in use – attended by around 400 people. As we walked through the church I kept wishing the walls could talk — oh the stories this place could tell!

Before we left Cesis, we stopped into the local public school to see the delegates at the quarterly meeting of the Baptist Church leaders and lay leaders. We met several of them including Peteris Sprogis, Archbishop of the Baptist Church, and then shared a lunch meal with them. It was good to see this group of people who love the Lord and work together to serve Him in Latvia.

From Cesis we headed out to the area of Ligatne. There is a Rehabilitation Center at Ligatne, which is great, but the truly interesting thing in Ligatne is the secret Soviet Bunkers under the Rehabilitation Center. We toured this underground facility discovered in the 80’s after the fall of the Soviet Union. The bunker was built for the purpose of evacuating Soviet political and power elite in the event of nuclear war. The equipment in the bunker is obviously aged, but much of it still works. Even more amazing to us is the fact that there are 36 such bunkers throughout Latvia.

We drove through more Latvian countryside on our way home. We made one more stop and Steve, Baiba and I rode a tram over a little river valley while Peter drove around the valley to pick us up. Just upriver we could see a bobsled run, a ski area, and a skeleton run. Usually they are covered in natural snow this time of year, but this year there is only artificial snow to cover them.

Riding the Tram
Riding the Tram

Steve and Peter spent much of the trip home talking about Sunday, the coming week, and possibilities for our Sister Church relationship. Baiba and I power-napped in the backseat! It was a good time. We got home tired and blessed to have spent a day with good friends enjoying the beauty of their home country. We were in bed just 12 hours after we left home yesterday morning and slept hard and sound. And then comes Sunday!

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A Day of Firsts

2 Year Old Edvards - the Newest Beaver
2 Year Old Edvards – the Newest Beaver

Friday was a day of ‘firsts’, but before I talk about that day, I just had to post a picture of Edvards, Peter and Baiba’s 2 year old boy. When we had dinner at their home on Thursday night we gave them the various gifts we brought for them – quillows from Maxx, cards from Lori, a scarf from Tina and various Beaver clothing from us and SCC. This is Edvards in his new hat which he loved!

Chuck and Vineta
Chuck and Vineta

We started Friday off with breakfast by Chuck where we enjoyed getting to know his Lativian fellow workers – Vineta Zale and Lienite Bemere. Chuck is President of ‘Bridge Builders International’ the organization that facilitates sister church relationships and so much more for the Latvian Evangelical church and churches stateside. You can learn more about Chuck’s organization at the link below. Vineta and Lienite both share Chuck’s passion and vision for the Latvian church and bring their unique gifting into the partnership. It was a joy to get to know them more and find out how to pray for them!
http://www.bridgebuildersint.com/People.html

Pastor Girts Asnevic
Pastor Girts Asnevic
Vilandes Baptist Church
Vilandes Baptist Church

After breakfast Peter picked us up for a brief auto-tour of Riga Baptist Churches on our way to meet Matthews Church staff. Our first stop was Vilandes Baptist Church where we met Pastor Girts Asnevic. God utilized a unique method of church planting in Riga. At the fall of Soviet Russia, church buildings that had been confiscated for Soviet use were returned to the use of church bodies. Wherever a church was returned a Pastor came and a congregation began. Initially the pent up demand for places to gather, learn, worship and serve the Lord meant a large influx of believers into these churches. Today it is harder, but faithful service still bears fruit for the Lord. I asked Pastor Asnevic how we could pray for him and his request is for more leaders in the church.

Matthews Church, 61 Matisa iela, Riga, Rigas Pilseta
Matthews Church, 61 Matisa iela, Riga, Rigas Pilseta

At Matthews Church we enjoyed meeting with staff membersĀ Andis MiezÄ«tis, Small Group leader and Preacher;Ā Maris Dravnieks, Worship Minister; and Liene Indrane, Children’s Minister. We heard them share their ministries and the prayer requests of each heart. For Andis – more leaders; for Maris – fresh inspiration as he leads worship; and for Liene – more volunteers. I know that Jamey Mills, Randy Tryon and Kim Simmons could all relate to those requests! By the way, I included the Matthews Church address in the caption of the picture to the left. If you are a Google Earth user, google the address and you can see the streets we were on yesterday!

Before we left for the apartment, Peter took us on a tour of the building. It is a beautiful and very versatile structure. I especially enjoyed peeking in on one room of their pre-school where a whole flock of little ones slept soundly. I could only imagine the energy in that room just a short time later! Ā Another thing I was taken with – there is a picture of a banner that hangs in a stairwell. It has been in that place for some time and Peter couldn’t really tell me about it, but it spoke to me. The spire of a church is in the background and I see people perhaps bent in sorrow, but certainly bent in prayer. Ā I forgot to mention that just before the tour of Matthews Church we were privileged to share lunch with this group of Pastors. We ate what the Pre-schoolers ate that day — a delicious traditional soup that I think was very similar to the recipe I found for Frikadelle Soup and a very light Strawberry puree that I think might have been Strawberry Kisiel – a recipe from Belarus. I say ‘I think’ because our new friends weren’t sure of the names of the items and the wonderful cook couldn’t speak English and was very shy!

http://www.jsonline.com/features/recipes/188905941.html

http://laurenaiken1.wordpress.com/2012/05/18/strawberry-kisiel-forever/

The final first for Friday was a ‘Steve and Chuck Only’ opportunity. Peter came and picked up Steve and Chuck and whisked them off to a Pastor’s home to the northeast of Riga. This Pastor has a sauna in his basement and often hosts sauna (pronounced sow-nah) parties for the local Baptist Pastors. Ten men, all local Pastors plus a not-so-local Pastor, gathered together to eat and sweat and cool off and talk together, a very traditional and ancient practice. I didn’t get to hear all of the details of this male-bonding event, but it sounded like a Ā little bit of heaven — even though it WAS hot! Over the course of the night Steve went three times for 15 minutes each time into the ‘oven’ – one time it was 180 degrees in there! After the 15 minutes in the sauna, the men went to the outside porch to cool off. A wood stove heated the sauna and water was poured over the hot rocks to create a rising steam. All of this made for an interesting experience, but what sounded like heaven to me is that the guys talked and talked and talked! Again, I’m not privy to the details, but I know a lot of really good sharing went on in the midst of heat, rising steam and ten men who really love the Lord. Hmmm – I wonder if we could add a sauna on to our house in Corvallis?

A Riga Sauna
A Riga Sauna

Today Peter and Baiba pick us up for more touring – including a climb to the top of one of the highest steeples in Riga and a tour through some Russian bunkers! Tomorrow our work begins in earnest as Steve will preach at Matthews Church and then Monday we begin teaching at the Baltic Pastoral Institute. We feel your prayers – thank you so much! We also love and miss you! May the God of grace give you everything you need to fulfill every good purpose of HIS and Yours as you serve Him!

Love and blessings, Claudia and Steve

Walking Tour With Chuck Kelley

We arrived safe and sound and got to enjoy hugs from Baiba and meet her two boys Filips and Edvards when she picked us up at the Riga Airport. Then on to Chuck’s apartment and settling into our temporary housing here in Riga. Chuck needed to keep us awake until 9:00 p.m. Riga time, so we took off on a walking tour of old town Riga. What a beautiful city! Chuck is an awesome tour guide and knows the fascinating history of this city well. Then this evening Peter and Baiba treated us to dinner at their house where we got to meet Ruta and their cousin Tom, as well as enjoy Chuck’s company.

What a sweet start to this journey together!