Having worked in Paraguay more years ago than I care to remember, I remember how grateful we were for the support of kind friends in Europe and North America who regularly sent money to help us with our work. Very often that money was a real life-saver. The kind donors remained, for the most part anonymous, South America being too far away for any of them to actually visit and see the work they were supporting. One of the things, therefore, that has taken my by surprise here in Latvia is that some of the people who are generous to us are actually able to come from other parts of Europe to visit us with relative ease.
During the last month we have had three groups who have been to see us. The ‘Equip’ group from Sweden were here last week and brought with them a consignment of clothing and humanitarian aid for distribution in Latvia. They are part of a scheme run by one of the Salvation Army corps in Sweden, sponsored by EU funding, which helps to get unemployed people back to work in Sweden. They represent the huge support we get from our big sister, Sweden!
At the other end of the scale a group of young people from Denmark came over to see us. They had raised funds for our work here and had come for a few days to work – and work they certainly did!
Aldona, the officer at our Social Centre in Riga (seated in the centre of the group in the picture) had them cleaning windows and peeling vegetables and all kinds of things! They loved it!We chatted to them about the Army in Latvia and at the end of the ‘chat’ they brought out lots of beautifully knitted garments which Mums, and Grandmas and other folk at home had helped them put together.
Then earlier in the month we had a group from Finland who came to see us. These are mainly retired ladies who gather together baby clothes, sort them, wash them and repair them (if needed) and then make up the most beautiful baby boxes for us to distribute. The boxes are large enough for a baby to sleep in, have a mattress in the bottom and are filled with all the things that a baby needs from 0-12 months old. Once the clothes are removed a frill of material can then be turned outwards, covering the cardboard box and making a little crib into which the baby can be placed. A rather clumsy description, but perhaps you get the idea! After we had offered the group hospitality, it was interesting to speak to some of those involved. Although they are retired, this project has become almost a full-time job for many of them. One lady jokingly told me that they at least have Friday as a free day!
As I looked at the garments that the Danish young people had brought, carefully prepared by supportive family and friends, as I looked at the faces of the Finnish ladies whilst I was thanking them for their beautiful baby boxes, I was quite overwhelmed – even slightly tearful! It struck me that these goods come to us here in Latvia, not just because people think we need them, but they come as a gift, lovingly prepared and lovingly sent…..it really did seem, as the verse from the Bible seems to suggest, that we were ‘entertaining angels unawares’ (Hebrews 13:2)