Gospel News · January - April 2015

Carelinks | Riga ~ Winter Welfare
t is December 2014 and Bro Jim and Sis Anne
Barton from Canada have been hard at work
this week in Riga helping with the Winter
Welfare Scheme. Here are their first impres-
sions after a week:
“It was with some intimidation that
we inquired about coming to Riga to
help out with the Riga Bible Centre
operated by Carelinks. After reading
so many Carelinks’ accounts over the
past years about the people who use
the centre, it left us with an impres-
sion that it was a society that was
predominantly indigent, living in dire
circumstances and perhaps it was even
dangerous for westerners to be here.
After some comforting discussions
with Duncan we were able to step out
of our comfort zone and come here to
help out.
We do meet many people in the Bible centre
who are living poorly, but there is a range of
poverty. Some have regular apartments but
after paying utilities, can’t afford enough
food. There are others who use night shelters
to survive most nights; there are others who
just have to find anywhere to sleep, which in
some cases may be at a bus station or under
a bridge. Last night we went to deliver fire-
wood to a woman who was squatting in an
abandoned building for lack of anywhere else
to live. We entered her home through a
window off of the hallway. There was one
candle for light, which left the room rather
dimly lit. She had no power, no water, no
bathroom, no toilet, only a small opening in
the chimney where she could maintain a
small fire to provide a minimum of heat.
There was a mattress in one corner, the
sum total of her furniture. She had been
breaking up a cupboard to provide herself
with firewood. It was notable that she did a
remarkable job of keeping it clean and as
organized as one can under such circum-
It’s a sad commentary on a place that fails to
provide minimal support to those most in
need. For many if not most in Riga and Latvia
life is much better. There is a significant
middle class and apparently a wealthy class
too, as evidenced by some of the luxury cars
we see on the streets. They have a rather
sophisticated public transportation system
and shopping that rivals most stores you
might find in the west and the prices are
lower in many cases. The scene is not too
different from what you might find in most
western nations. Most of them go to work
everyday and come back to their homes at
night. Housing appears to be somewhat
different as there are many, many Soviet era
and style apartment blocks, not always
appearing to be in very good repair but quite
functional. It’s sometimes interesting to see
upscale cars outside these apartment build-
The entry to Sis Brigita’s room through a window -
she has quite a style to doing it by a swinging motion!
Cindy takes Sisters Hannah and Anna and Bro Jim
through the kitchen hygiene training