It seems a while since I did ‘catch up’ on where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing, so here’s a resume of what went on in January.
I was fortunate to have a friend with me from the UK to celebrate New Year. The festivities began on New Year’s Eve with a party at the ‘Army’. It was a fancy dress party and so Mary and I went as Cinderella and her Fairy Godmother – a real sight to behold, and great fun. We then walked down into the Old Town (not in fancy dress, you’ll be pleased to know) along with hundreds of other people and joined in the celebrations and watched the fireworks go off. It was a great evening.
I’d got it into my head that, for the next day, I’d invite all the people who live in this block of flats to come for New Year refreshments, a mad idea given that I was on the back row when God gave out the gift of hospitality! However, I did it (with a little help from my very hospitable friend, Mary) and in the end about 17 of my neighbours came around, thankfully not all at once. It was a nice start to 2014.
The annual Christmas party rounded off the week. We returned once again to the manor house at Ramava, although we’d been before this was a new venue for the party. The charm and beauty of the house made it an ideal setting, and the meal and thoughtful little touches that had been added by Iveta and her team made it a lovely occasion. I am continually surprised by the inventiveness of the Latvians with whom I work. A few days prior to the party we had each been given some modelling clay at morning coffee and asked to make something that reminded us of the New Year. None of us were quite sure what this was about, until we arrived at the party and sat down for the meal. We discovered that in the middle of each table were three or four of the models we had made and each table was given the task of constructing a story using them. It was a wonderful way to get people interacting and start the conversation flowing.
The first visit of the year was to a little place called Sarkani which I’ve written about already. I went with Ilona, the Children’s officer for the Region, and Inese, the newly-appointed Director for Social Programme in the Region, a post which will support, and hopefully move forward, the work we do. This was a good opportunity to introduce Inese to some of the valuable work that is going on, and for Ilona to use Dimitrjs and Ilona (another Ilona!) as ‘guinea pigs’ in testing a new project which aims to help plan the children’s work for the year ensuring that all aspects of a child’s development are covered in the various activities that are planned.
Liepaja over in the west of Latvia was the next port of call. It was soup kitchen day, and already there was a queue outside waiting to be served, and a group of volunteers inside preparing vegetables and other ingredients. The second phase of a Project sponsored by the Salvation Army in Norway had just begun which aims to teach life skills. Velta, the officer, and Olesja, the project coordinator, were really pleased with the start that had been made, not least because at the first meeting the participants had been more open in sharing with the group that might have been imagined. What is really lovely to hear is that some of the ladies who met together in the first phase of the project continue to meet and give each other support. I shouldn’t really leave out mention of Agnese who does a great work with the children and young people, and Maruta, the cook, who made us a lovely lunch! The following Sunday Iveta and I again met up with Velta when we travelled west to Saldus, an outpost of Liepaja which is about 100 kilometers away! It was good to share with the folk who came to worship, and with Gints and Revita , the only two Salvationists who live in Saldus. I don’t know why, but a particular highlight of a visit to Saldus is sitting around the table after the meeting and sharing together over a cup of coffee.
Life is never dull, and the month ended with a day trip to Stockholm to attend meetings with some of the loyal and generous supporters of the work here in Latvia.
Now to see what February brings!