[ Latvia pictures online at Flickr now ]
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]
Last night we ran a quiz to fundraise some money for our Exodus trip to Latvia. I’m blown away by the support and generosity of our friends here. The energy in the room was incredible. Felt so loved and so supported by those guys! And not only that…
Just before the last round, we were £2 short of our mimumum amount need for Lativa… when a guy walked up to me and handed me £20! We finished the night £18 over target.
Starting to get more and more excited about Latvia…
I spent the weekend out in Paisley with our Exodus team… much fun! We had a lot of time to just chill out and get to know each other.
On Saturday we helped Davy out on the streets of Paisley town center, giving out free ballons, sweets and drinks. Davy and his wife Ann are in the process of planting Paisley Vineyard, so we offered to help them out Saturday. I’m not sure who had more fun… us giving away the stuff or the people receiving it! I for one loved it.
We spent some time praying and sharing together as a team on Saturday night, along with Reuben (our main prayer partner) who came to join us for the evening/Sunday. Sunday included a visit to Paisley Elim church… a very welcoming place. When members come to talk to you as a visitor, it actually feels like they really want to talk to you! Which is a lovely feeling.
A wee gift we had in our rooms when we arrived… yummy scones!
Team bonding… Twister style!
Pretty knackered after all that… I’m off to bed…!
Thought it was time I updated y’all on the summer plans… I’m pretty excited!!
You may remember I’ve been involved with an organisation called Exodus for the past few years. Last summer I went on a leadership development trip with a team to Chicago, and the summer before I did some street worship and the likes with a team in Holland and Scotland (at the Edinburgh Fringe Fesival, what an experience!). Well, this summer I am co-leading a team to Latvia. Our team is based in Glasgow (Exodus is Northern Ireland-based), and runs in partnership with Glasgow Westend Vineyard. We will be working with some local missionaries, running kids camps and taking part in a prayer conference, while seeking opportunities for prayer ministry. We are so excited about this trip! We fully expect that God is going to change our lives again big style – He never fails!
We will be in Latvia from the 1st – 17th July.
Next stop: USA. This is kinda a family holiday… they are going to Washington DC and New York from the 14th – 28th July. For anybody following this, you may notice they leave when I’m still in Latvia! I’m flying out to meet them on the 19th July, spend a few days in DC then head up to NYC with them for a week. They leave on the 28th, I will be in the States until the 8th August. Haven’t quite decided what I’m gonna do then, probably just spend some more time in NYC before going back down to Washington, as I’ll only have 2 days there at the start. I’m thinking about a bit of a canoe trip… anyone know if Washington DC is good for this? Would love to connect with Mark when I’m in DC, get a visit to Ebenezzers for definite.
So thats Latvia 1-17th July, USA 19th July – 9th Aug.
Anyone else want to connect while I’m Stateside?
We spent 3rd Aug with people from Willow Creek Community Church.
In the morning we spent some time hanging out with Dave, who works for WCA. We talked about the strategy of the church, and spent a long time talking about small group strategies. I love how he described the change in their perspective of discipleship: it used to be ‘mechanical’, a series of steps to go through, but it’s now viewed as ‘organic’, doing life together.
Next stop on the road was Willow Creek Community Care centre. This ministry provides food and other forms of care for those in need. Joe (ministry director) described how they discovered that were they thought they were serving families in the church who were going through a one-off crises time, they were actually serving the ‘working poor’ – people who worked 2 or 3 jobs and still couldn’t make ends meet. This discovery impacted how they did ministry. We got to see around their facilities (they are moving again in October!) and meet some of their volunteers… incredible people.
At the Commuity Care centre, we also met Jill, who joined us for the rest of the day. She is a minister in Scotland, not too far away from where I will be studying. One of the most genuine, lovely woman you could meet. We caught up with her a few times during the Leadership Summit, and she was on the same flight back to Dublin with us. I’m looking forward to catching up with her when I move to Scotland!
Our last stop of the day was at the CARS Ministry, where we met Pete. This ministry accepts donated cars, and then either fixes them up to give away to people who need them, scraps them, or sells them to make money to keep the ministry funded. They receive on average 125 cars every month! While that figure seems huge to me, Pete described to us how cars are much more disposable in America than in Ireland. The concept itself can work anywhere, it’s transferable to your own context.