Just to show that Latvians don’t have a monopoly on songs which celebrate the summer, I have given this blog the title of an extremely old English song in celebration of the summer. Those of my vintage who live in the UK may recall singing it as a round in school music lessons. Well, summer has well and truly come in here in Latvia, although in the past couple of weeks we have not enjoyed, if that’s the right word, the kind of heatwave that there has been elsewhere in Europe!
Children have been off school here since the beginning of June, people are away on holiday, programmes in Salvation Army corps are reduced, and activities characteristic of the summer months are underway.
It’s the season for tourists. At the riverside in Riga from time to time there are enormous cruise liners docked, and you can see little groups of people all around the Old Town taking in the sites following a holiday rep carrying a numbered card like a lot of unruly school children. Occasionally the visitors come our way as was the case the other day. Peter and Barbara Dawson, Britishers now living in New Zealand, were making a nostalgic trip to Europe to mark their 40th wedding anniversary. They had been in charge of the work of The Salvation Army at the children’s home at Skangali some years ago, so it was interesting to meet them to to hear about their time here in Latvia. They do say Latvia gets in your blood once you have been here, and they certainly have good memories of their time here and a love for the country.
It’s camp time. As I write one camp has just finished and the other is starting next week. The children’s camp which has just finished was held at the aforementioned Skangali. Ilona, the Children and Youth worker here, and her team had worked incredibly hard to make an interesting week for the children. The medieval theme of light and darkness was brought to life by turning the room where the children met into a medieval castle, and the long-suffering staff dressed up appropriately. There was a bit of a dilemma because the team was short of men so Central South Division of the Salvation Army in the UK came to the rescue of a damsel in distress, Ilona, and sent four knights in shining armour (well, metaphorically speaking anyway!) to the rescue. My part was to meet Nathan, Luke, Johnny and Simon at the airport and take them to Skangali. It was good to meet up with them again and hear their family news.
There’s time for reflection. Sarah and I had decided we would take some time out during the quieter time in the summer to try to do three things: to discern what part God intends us to play in the unfolding story of The Salvation Army here in Latvia; to prayerfully focus on each leader in the Region; and simply to get to know each other better. We went to the lovely summer lodge featured at the top of this blog. It is evidently of German origin and dates back to the 18th century. I’ll try to put some pictures in the Gallery. It is a quirky, random, place – made even more quirky by the fact that we were sharing the venue with a camera crew filming a naked lady getting into a bath in the middle of the dining room, for an advertisement. Weird – or what! To more serious matters; the idea that the Army in Latvia is ‘growing up’, ‘coming of age’ has been one which has emerged for Sarah and I in the past six months. We were excited to find that Ephesians 4:14-16 added substance to these ideas and helped us to shape them. Possibly more about that on another blog at some time in the future.
It’s wedding time! We are all looking forward to the wedding of two of our young people, one an officer and one soon to be commissioned as an officer, Erika and Arturs. It is to be held at Skangali and is a real ‘gathering of the clans’ with people coming from all over the world, it seems. It is to be held outdoors (weather permitting!) so I’m looking forward to joining in the celebration of their love, God’s faithfulness, and the special beauty of these long summer days!