So… I was in Latvia at the start of July for 17 days. Our team this year was a joint Exodus – Glasgow Westend Vineyard team. We had 4 team members, but once in Lativa we linked up and worked with other teams.
The first week we helped to run a kids camp in Zosna. Half the kids were from the local city, Rēzekne, and half were from the orphanage in Ruzina. We were working alongside a local pastor, another Exodus team, and a Navs team. Our days were spent running around with kids, pushing kids on swings, playing frisbee, volleyball (some of the boys on the Exodus teams got a bit too into this…!), doing Bible studies, having campfire banter (Pregnant Phil… ’nuff said!), going to banya (incredible!), and dancing to Pharoah, Pharoah and Making Melodies. We were in a beautiful location too, right between two lakes.
In the second week we moved to Ruzina, were we helped to run a prayer conference and did some work in orphanage (same one the kids from camp were at). We stayed with a local missionary, Levi, who is a complete legend. There where 8 nationalities (I think) at the prayer conference… its true what people say, there is a real power in unity. We had a morning and evening meeting every day, both of which regularly lasted at least two and a half hours. We went into the orphanage a few days, playing with the kids, painting their faces, ballon modelling, singing silly songs etc.
The orphanage we were in is the best one in Latvia, so they have a good life materially (bunk beds, TVs, sofas, play sets, swings, etc), but they seem to be starved for love. The first day we went in, this little kid ran up to me and hugged my leg so tight, he just would not let go! They just want to be held, to be played with, to be loved. There is a hunger for love. Some of them have the saddest of stories… I only heard 2 of the kids stories, but they alone are enough to break your heart.
As I sat on ‘holiday’ in the US shortly after this trip, I was broken. I wept for these kids. My heart cried… “Jesus if you don’t intervene, what hope do they have? You are their only hope. You are my only hope.”
Our last few days were spent in the capital city, Riga. Here we spent time together as a team, processing, debriefing. We also did some ministry. We gave away some bottles of water. We went to a church meeting with some folks we met on the streets. We witnessed incredible healings. We saw more of God.
Personally, I received confirmation in my mind for Africa. The simple, laidback lifestyle. The poverty. I can do it.
Latvia was a very humbling experience. To be there from a perspective of coleading a team provides a new dynamic… I am partially responsible for these people, for their wellbeing, their safety. To be trusted to that extent by the team members, by those in authority over us, by parents, is humbling. I only pray I gave God glory through it.
Part of my heart is now in Latvia. There are kids I lost my heart to there. Someday (soon) I hope to return.
[Pictures coming soon… some are on flickr already]