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.
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!
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! http://www.bridgebuildersint.com/People.html
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!
Chuck’s apartment is in the heart of the old city of Riga. Today I woke up just before the city, refreshed and so ready for this day. It was a sweet blessing to sit quietly in the front room and hear the infrequent sounds of a city waking up — heels clicking on the cobblestones below, a car navigating the narrow street, the sounds of gulls circling above.
I’ve been reading in John since the beginning of this year. Today I focused on John 14:12-14 which led me into Isaiah 61. Today the Lord connected these scriptures for me. I’ve always seen Isaiah 61 as Jesus’ job description so to speak. The scripture perfectly describes for us who He is and what He came to do. Today in John 14 I saw the truth that as we have faith in Jesus we will do what He did when He walked our earth – in fact Jesus says we will do greater things! Wow! What a promise to pray into and hold onto! I found myself thinking of the things Jesus did as He lived among men and then I went back and read through Isaiah 61. This now is my prayer — that Isaiah 61 and beyond will be accomplished in and through our lives – both here in Riga and in Corvallis!
Love and blessings! Claudia
John 14:11-14 “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” Isaiah 61:1-11 “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion — to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor. They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations. Aliens will shepherd your flocks; foreigners will work your fields and vineyards. And you will be called priests of the LORD, you will be named ministers of our God.You will feed on the wealth of nations, and in their riches you will boast. Instead of their shame my people will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace they will rejoice in their inheritance; and so they will inherit a double portion in their land,and everlasting joy will be theirs. “For I, the LORD, love justice; I hate robbery and iniquity. In my faithfulness I will reward them and make an everlasting covenant with them. Their descendants will be known among the nations and their offspring among the peoples. All who see them will acknowledge that they are a people the LORD has blessed.” I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign LORD will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.”
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.