Amazing Growth in Riga, Latvia


One of the great things Sister Belinda Burns was involved with in her two months work with Carelinks was to produce invitations to a mothers’ Bible reading club in Riga, Latvia. Most people in Eastern European cities live in large apartment blocks with all the mailboxes at the entrance; and these days the mailboxes are stuffed full with junk mail and advertising fliers. And so Belinda and Cindy photocopied a simple invitation, and sewed a piece of material and a bow onto each one- so that people would go, "Wow... what's that?" when sifting through the junk mail. Those special fliers got a great response; we also put up posters in the windows of the Riga Bible Centre. One woman, INGRIDA, was taking shelter from the rain in the entry of a housing block, and she noticed one of these very pretty fliers on the ground. She picked it up... and came to the mothers’ club along with her 18 year old daughter and 20 year old adopted daughter ZANE. Those meetings are wonderful- reading a Bible chapter, doing Bible marking, sharing tea and coffee, listening to life stories and problems, and teaching the women to pray. Ingrida took home Bible Basics, and read every page. She started attending the Sunday meetings. Recently, Sisters Anna and Barbara Ryder from the Horley, UK, ecclesia have been in Latvia, and it was great to have their company in baptizing Ingrida and Zane in the Baltic Sea. They were both simply so very happy emerging from the water. There is really so much interest- do come and get involved or support as you are able from afar.

Photos: Belinda and Cindy; advertizing the mums' Bible Club; prayer together; walking to baptism together; "Do you believe the things concerning the Kingdom of God and the Lord Jesus Christ?"

We recently baptized GALINA , a resident in a state facility for the elderly and handicapped. There has been talk for some time of closing down her facility, which means she will have to go live in the night shelter as she has no relatives. But at the night shelter, you have to leave by 08:00 a.m. and return only at 19:00 [7 p.m.]. Our sister has been terribly worried at what was going to happen to her as her health is very weak but not bad enough to be permanently hospitalized. She found a Gideon's New Testament at the facility, and started desperately reading it. She then came into contact with one of our sisters, who gave her more literature and introduced us to her. Although it's not clear still whether her facility will be closed , she really has a great peace and calmness about her now. Here's our sister with some vitamins we were able to give her [along with her original Gideon's New Testament]:


In some countries such as Turkey, arriving refugees are dealt with by the United Nations. In others, the state itself deals with them. Given the effective bankruptcy of several smaller Eastern European states, they have no funds to spend on welcoming refugees and asylum seekers who cross their borders.

In one such Eastern European republic, a Soviet-era labour camp has been brought out of dereliction in order to serve as a holding centre for the refugees. It’s a pretty fearsome looking place, comprised of dilapidated barracks and with barbed wire all over the place. By the hand of pure Providence, copies of Bible Basics were taken in there by someone quite unconnected to us. We were permitted to visit the camp to meet with two men who were earnestly seeking after God’s Truth and baptism into His Son. W. had previously been a refugee in another country where he stayed for 8 months. During that time he became convicted of the need for baptism into Christ, and had asked no fewer than 6 churches to baptize him. Each had refused or not shown any interest in him- after all, who wants an asylum seeker living on the street as a of a member of a respectable church. Once he entered the camp and found Bible Basics, he realized why God had so strangely delayed him- he now learnt about the true Gospel in more depth. He read the book all through one night, and gave it to a former Moslem refugee, S.  He had been considering Christianity for a long time, discouraged from Islam by the Islamic extremism he had suffered from in his homeland. The camp inmates have nothing to do at all, 24/7. There are few books for them to read, and no access online. So it was inevitable that W  would share his new found convictions with S  and that S,  too, would devour the message. So it was with great joy that we made visits to the camp, culminating in the baptisms of W  and S during the visit of Sisters Anna and Barbara Ryder from the Horley, UK, ecclesia. Baptizing people in a former Soviet labour camp is no easy matter. There are no bath tubs for a start. We got permission to bring a large plastic paddling pool into the camp, and filled it up with water in the exercise yard- surrounded by barbed wire. We had to hold up the sides of the pool to get enough depth of water for the immersions. But, we got there, and with much joy baptized these two brethren. The camp guards even assisted us with this, and also with the considerable task of emptying the pool of all that water afterwards. The photos speak for themselves.


So we continue to marvel at how God so earnestly seeks to draw out a people for His Name in these last days. We are delighted to report that brother Rowan Barton of Australia has moved to Eastern Europe for 6 years whilst he studies medicine at the University; Rowan has become a solid supporter of the work and has already gone to visit and break bread with our new brethren. If the paperwork is arranged ahead of time, visitors can spend most of a day with our brethren, they speak English and it’s a wonderful pastoral opportunity. It may sound a lot to ask, but we wonder if anyone, maybe from Western Europe, would be up to the challenge of flying out for a day and spending it with these wonderful brethren, discussing the Bible readings, breaking bread with them, giving and taking words of comfort? Whatever, please do pray for these new brethren- life is really quite depressive living in those circumstances with little contact with the outside world, and with nothing to do all day. At least we have been able to give the camp many copies of our Speaking About Jesus’ ‘Improve your English through reading the Bible Course as well as Bibles and other literature.


Our witness here continues, and whilst Anna & Barbara were over they were able to witness the baptism of ZOYA. The women are allowed to stay in the shelters for a limited number of days a year. The other days they sleep with friends for the odd night, or we provide shelter for them. They are not allowed to leave any baggage at the shelters - they are just literally night shelters; they are allowed in at 7 p.m. and must be out by 8 a.m. This means that they have to take all their possessions with them during the day, that’s why our meeting place in Riga has a back room full of bags belonging to various sisters. There are too many of our brothers and sisters in the shelters to think of providing all of them with permanent accommodation, but there is now a subsidized shelter, a kind of bed-and-breakfast arrangement, that offers accommodation for about 3 LVL / night in dormitories, that’s about 6 US$ or 3.50 GBP. So we seek to ensure that none of our brothers and sisters are left on the street or sleeping at the railway station. If you feel moved to support these expenses, please let us know. We’ve explained before that the minimum wage is so low that many who have jobs can’t afford to rent a room, and so they end up sleeping at the night shelters if they have no friends or family to live with. Unlike many Western countries, these places aren’t simply a refuge for alcoholics or drug abusers, there are also many elderly people without families who have to live there. Generations of Communism sadly destroyed family life, with the failed belief that the state would always provide.

Here's sister Anna [centre] with sister Zoya [right]

As a cameo of the kind of poverty we’re trying to assist, consider this recent incidental report of Duncan & Cindy: “We were sitting here in the flat at 9:30 this evening and I had a missed call- it’s the usual thing, most people have cheap cell phones but no credit, so they call you in the hope you’ll call them back. It was one of our sisters, a lovely, sincere, good living widow with three children. She asked if I could come with the car and meet her somewhere and transport her and some heavy bags to where she was staying. So I went and found her standing on the street wearing  a heavy, very nice fur coat. As it’s not yet winter I was surprised. She explained that she knows a postlady, and this woman trusts her as a reliable, Christian woman of her word. This woman hadn’t delivered the mail for the last two days, so, she had called our sister and asked her to come and take the mail off her, and deliver it. In return she gave her the nice fur coat and some small money. Our sister explained she had sold her coat at the end of last winter to pay some bills, and she needed a warm coat for this coming winter. So, she agreed. Now she has mail sacks at her place and tomorrow will go out with her children and deliver the mail”.

So please do continue your prayers and support for the great work going on.

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