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!
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!
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.
At Matthews Church we enjoyed meeting with staff members Andis Miezītis, Small Group leader and Preacher; 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! 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. 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!
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 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?
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