Carelinks | Riga ~ Winter Welfare
The Riga Bible Center and Winter Welfare scheme was recently visited by Bro Trevor and Sis Alison Routledge from the Knowle & Dorridge ecclesia in the UK. They again demonstrated what it's possible to do without knowing Russian or Latvian. Trevor and Alison ran their presentations through Google Translate, then ran the result back into English to iron out obvious errors, and then a Russian sister [who doesn't know English] read out the Google Translate output in Russian, correcting any grammatical errors as she did so. There's really great potential here for brothers and sisters of all talents to come and trade those talents - cooking, cleaning, speaking, sharing, building, painting. Let us know if you'd like to get involved. You can see 30 minutes or so of Trevor & Alison's presentations and music recorded at: http://youtube/S23x18QiKWQ.
The week they were over saw the baptism of two very different sisters; DZINTRA, wife of brother Yuri, seen here with her husband, and
ELINA, an invalid with a withered arm who lives largely on the streets. Her baptism service was likely the only time when even on earth, she had had so much fuss made of her in her life [not to mention all the Heavenly rejoicing]. Pictured above right: Vanessa graciously ending Elina’s special moment by drying her hair - you can see Sis Elina’s bread bag on the table, part of the left over food we gave her after the feeding scheme. We continue getting around trying to help our most needy brothers and sisters. Some can only stay in the night shelters for about 280 / 365 days each year, and this means that in the Winter [when everyone wants to be inside because of the cold] some have no ‘days’ left. They can however stay there if they pay just over 2 Euros / night. Seeing they have no income this is also hard, so we have been assisting with this in a few cases. It is too bad if sisters in their 70s struggling with high blood pressure and other issues, women who worked all their working lives, are now let down by the system and are basically told to sleep on the streets in the snow.
Those with communicable diseases [especially TB and HIV] aren't allowed in the night shelters. So those most in need of assistance are totally failed. So many of our members have TB. A chorus of coughs goes on throughout our meetings. We delivered food to two of our most needy members who are living under the stairs in a deserted building. Access is only through a loose window in the building. Not much fun living in such a snow covered building without heating, running water or toilet facilities.
Brother Trevor reports as follows: “Life at home is busy and I tend to take a day at a time, so preparation for Riga was limited. As we set off for Riga I had not looked at any books on Latvia or spoken to people about their experiences and so had little idea of what to expect. We had volunteered to help in a ‘soup kitchen’ for a week but as time grew closer I had become aware there was rather more to it. I have done some work with people in difficult places and so was not entirely unaware of possible scenarios we may meet. However, now we were off to a land we knew little about, to help some very poor people who spoke Russian! This was all because Andy and Mel said it was a great thing to do, they were going for three months and would like some help. So my impressions:
➤ things in Riga are a lot more organised and structured than I imagined, with a well practiced routine.
➤ the group consists of close to a hundred people daily [many of them baptized]; they are a mixed group of people including some very intelligent and educated people.
➤ there is a close bond among the group and they are emotionally connected.
➤ there is a willingness to contribute by some, this I understand is continuing to develop.
➤ the afternoon visit lasts for 3 hours: firstly, there is a time for coffee and chat, secondly, there is a Bible time with lots of energy and engagement and thirdly the meal which is very orderly and quickly over.
At the end there is clearing up which is a big job, here some of the people again do their part to make this work easier. We did visit a night shelter one cold snowy night and also an empty building where some others were living. Life is very tough with no real solution in sight.
In Summary: the decision by the Bolers and the Downtons to support the Heasters through a three months feeding program with the help of friends has fed about 100 people a day over the cold winter, taught willing listeners more about the Bible message, brought people together emotionally and very significantly helped take people back to a level in life where they are better able to participate in activities and make contributions of their own. As ever, it is people like us who have had the privilege and opportunity to go out and get involved and leave our comfort zones who learn or continue to develop.
A final thought: if the tables were turned and I lost everything, it would be me first in the queue to find support from being part of the community in Riga that we have been part of, for just a few days. So a great and worthwhile project.”