Saturday of this week found me in Sarkani, a small hamlet in the middle of the countryside where, I am given to understand, during Soviet times, Soviet military were housed. Now the blocks of flats are very run down and the municipality have housed here amongst others, some people with addictions and others who are difficult to place. When the Army first went to Sarkani they were greeted with hostility, but now the Army has beautiful premises there built under the project title of ‘Change a Village’, primarily for the children of the village. They have a little library, computers, and it is generally a lovely environment in which they can play and ‘chill out’. The day I went the weather was glorious and at the end of the meeting there were children outside on the huge trampoline they have there, and others raking the grass of the newly-constructed football field which had been cut the day before. I also saw the greenhouse in which they are growing tomatoes, and a little vegetable patch outside where they are growing radishes, and hopefully, marrows or pumpkins (can’t remember which!). There were adults there for worship too, including at least one lady who, by God’s help, is trying to turn her life around and kick her addictive habits. I was so impressed by her immaculate appearance. Others have found purpose in helping at the Army and some have even become soldiers. It was a happy afternoon and I came away with the inevitable, but always welcome, flowers and also a large box of delightful chocolates! Ilona and Dmitijs along with Diana (of Minnie Mouse fame – see the post before this one) are the young officers there. They love what they do and have a real sense of privilege in serving God in this setting. I must admit that I admire them. It’s a lonely posting. They have no friends of their own age anywhere near them, but they don’t complain (at least, not to me!). They are trying to change a village – through the children.
Sunday I went to Daugavpils. It meant an early start to go to the east to a large town right on the Russian border. This is a Russian-speaking corps led by Marina and Janis. They have a fascinating and colourful story of their own, and have been leading the corps since last summer. The picture is of their young grandson Armeen (not sure if that’s quite the right spelling!). He has already got the Salvation Army bug really badly and says that when he grows up he wants to become the General of the Salvation Army! His mum, Victoria, is part of the worship group, and very good music they produce too! It is the first time that I have seen ‘older’ people in such a group, but they were clearly fine musicians and really enjoying using their gifts to serve God. The hall was well-filled and, whilst I couldn’t actively join in the worship, it felt good to be with this group of people. Janis and Marina have a heart and vision for people with addictions.
After the meeting there was a time of fellowship and before setting home, Ronalds (the translator) and I were treated to a great meal of cold beetroot soup (much, much nicer than it sounds for those with conservative tastes!) and chicken and salad. The picture is of the very cheerful cook who came in on a Sunday especially to cook for us. I am learning that the phrase ‘jums esat laba pavare’ in Latvian (‘You are a good cook’) is not only very accurate but very useful too!
After a 12 hour day we arrived back in Riga to finish part 2 of ‘All in a week’s work’.