Latvia Visit Report
This visit was from Nov. 15-25th, 2005, and was centred on Riga, the capital city. Bro. Martin Rozestraten, from Holland, and three from England, Bro. Marcus and Sis. Gwladys Heaster and myself attending.
Latvia gained independence from the USSR in 1991 and very recently joined the European Union. Population is approximately 2.5 million and about one-million live in or around Riga. Riga has excellent roads and some motorways and is being continuously developed. However, there is still much poverty, with many families living in one or two small rooms in seemingly endless dilapidated blocks of flats. (They seemed endless when Marcus and I delivered leaflets and, because they all look the same, at one point we found ourselves going round and round in circles, almost delivering to the same block twice! “Haven’t you been here before?”!)
Bro. Martin and Bro. Duncan (of Riga) visited three Sisters – Alexandra (an old lady who survived two years hidden in the forests during the German occupation), Aija, who is unwell and Lilia, who has no fixed address and was living in a shelter. Lilia was able to join us later at the Bible School. Further visits to members of the Riga ecclesia followed on Thursday.
On Friday we went to the very modern centre of Riga where we delivered leaflets at the busy shopping centre and the railway station. Later, we helped pack the car with provisions for the Bible School held at Lielupe, a suburb of Riga. All those able to attend stayed in an old ‘Soviet era’ hotel where we were permitted to do our own catering organised by Sis Cindy. About 30 attended, including two or three friends not baptised.
The Bible School began on Friday afternoon, with Bro. Martin giving two excellent studies, one on “Every member of the body is important” (e.g. 1 Cor. 12:21 – “and the eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of you…”) and the second on The Prayer of Hezekiah.
On Saturday, I gave an illustrated address on ‘Justification’, with special emphasis on explaining the atonement achieved by our Lord Jesus. Bro. Martin spoke on the conversion of Paul and I gave an exposition of Dan. ch. 4.
The happiest event was the baptism of IRINA (sister in the flesh to Sis. Tanja) who had been in contact with the truth for about two years.
On Sunday at the breaking of bread our new Sister was given the right-hand of fellowship by Bro. Duncan and I was privileged to give the exhortation. Sunday afternoon was sad, as we had to say ‘Goodbye’ as, one by one, brethren and sisters took their journeys home. However, after clearing up we were able to travel some 80km to visit two Sisters, Anita and Sulamite her daughter. They showed us a weaving loom acquired following the death of a relative. To supplement their tragically low income in the struggle to survive they are making scarves to sell, especially to brethren and sisters.
Scenes from the Latvian Bible School
Photo: Bro Duncan, Sis Sarmite, Bro Marcus, Sis Gwladys
Sunday night I said farewell to Bro. Martin as he had to leave very early on Monday morning to fly back to Holland. He speaks excellent English and such was our rapport that I felt I had found a new friend in the faith – one full of the truth and very sensitive to the needs of others.
On Monday, the 21st. Marcus and I delivered leaflets advertising a free meeting to be held on Tuesday evening, the 22nd.
To me, Tuesday, the 22nd, was a highlight. Bro. Duncan drove us over 300km to visit Sis. Sarmite (pronounced ‘Sharmeeta’) in isolation. She lives with her husband in a house in the forest about three miles from the nearest houses. Their water comes from a well near the house! Baptised a year ago, Sis. Sarmite is an ex-‘Jehovah’s Witness’. I could see she was totally in love with the truth and she has tried to tell the true gospel to all her acquaintances, but they will not listen – as yet! Living where they do, many think the forest is inhabited by ‘demons’ and ‘tree-spirits’, such is their superstition! (superstition, incidentally, on which thrives the false beliefs of orthodoxy and JWs.).
Let us realise that God is calling people to Himself, not just in cities, but sometimes in remote villages and lonely houses, far, far away from the mad bustle of city life. Maybe in such places, closer to nature, people have more time to think about God and to ask the vital question, ‘What IS life REALLY all about?’.
Tuesday evening we went to a local hotel where over 50 people of all ages came to our free meeting to improve their English and to learn about the Friends, at the Speaking English Course, based on Mark’s Gospel truth from the Gospel according to Mark. Let us pray that the Lord will bless this work as it proceeds and call yet others to the glorious hope of life in Christ.
I thank God for being so encouraged spiritually and for meeting so many lovely brethren and sisters in Latvia. Let us all pray for the blessing of our Heavenly Father on the work in this country, to support the ecclesia in Riga and those in isolation and to spread His Word to His eternal glory.
Bro David Webb (Walton, UK)