‘I’ve got you under my skin’

I really wouldn’t call myself a Frank Sinatra fan, but when I thought about writing this post, the first line of his famous song seemed appropriate

A few weeks ago I had an urgent email asking if we might be able to take a group of young people and their leaders from the north of England to visit Latvia and do some practical work for us in some of our centres here. I am in the fortunate position that I can be the nice person who says ‘yes’ to such requests and then it is left to folk like the indefatigable Iveta, whom I’ve written about before on this blog, to get the trip organised.  I have to confess that I had not quite realised what the logistics would be of moving a group of 14 English people around to various centres in Latvia, but Iveta, with the amazing cooperation of other Salvation Army leaders here in Latvia managed to do it. A huge thank you to you all if you are reading this. You know who you are!

The teenagers and their leaders painted playground equipment, stripped out a soup kitchen and prepared it for painting, and helped in a couple of places with  children’s summer programmes and camps.  They ended up at the beautiful seaside campsite we have in Latvia, painting and repairing, and in between, toasting sausages and marshmallows on a camp fire, washing their hair in the sea at 10pm at night, and generally having fun.

Iveta and I went to meet them on their last night before they flew home last Saturday. The whole group were effusive in their thanks. The accommodation had been much better than they had expected, and some of them had fallen in love with the freshly-prepared Latvian food they had eaten, much to my surprise, I have to say.  They’d also had rich fellowship with some of the Latvians they’d worked with, despite the language, and maybe sometimes because of it! It will, I think, go down in the history of the visit that Inga, trying to explain what a cockerel was in English described it as a ‘chicken’s husband’ – much to everyone’s amused delight! In short, tears had been shed and nobody wanted to go home – a sure sign that the visit had been successful.

The response of the group also illustrates what normally happens when people come to visit us here in Latvia. To continue the quote from the song, people will tell you that Latvia gets ‘deep in the heart of me’, something about the place and the people get visitors hooked. As far as the Salvation Army experience of Latvia is concerned, I think it has something to do with the vibrant, real faith that so many people have, their dependence on God, and their joy at being involved in seeing Him at work.  Whatever it is that captivates people does seem to be infectious as well. The young man who made the speech the night before the group left, thanking Iveta and me and presenting us each with a signed card and a gift, spoke simply and sincerely about the way that the trip had changed some of his attitudes and prejudices, and in short, changed his life. When I opened the card and read some of the comments the young people – and leaders – had made, it became apparent that he was not the only one who had been deeply touched and even changed by the experience:

‘Thank you for making this opportunity possible’                                                             ‘Thanks for making the experience so amazing’                                                                              ‘Thank you for organising one of the most eye opening trip of my life’                                    ‘This has been amazing, changed mine and the young people’s lives’    

….these were the best ‘thank you’s we could have had and made it all seem worthwhile. After all, personal transformation and changed perspectives are at the very heart of the Gospel  and is the message that salvationists, both here in Latvia, and around the world, try to demonstrate in word and deed.                                    



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4 Responses to ‘I’ve got you under my skin’

  1. John Thompson says:

    Hi Christine,
    Thank once again. It’s such a joy to read your blog. Alongside Winton Corps we too have some folk out and about working in Ukraine doing very similar work. Our A/CSM has been fitting out a kitchen in a corps centre and his wife and daughter have been running a summer camp. Trusting that they will all return safely next weekend.
    We journey up to Leeds on Saturdayto have the w/e with the Grinnell’s, before we go on to Northumberland and hopefully a visit to Holy Island. Last Saturday they held ‘ Lark in the Park’ and over a 1000 turned up even though they had a thunder storm!.
    Warm regards
    John & Janet

    Sent from my iPad


  2. Tom Hallsworth says:

    I must say discovering this blog almost 8 months after the visit has been a highlight of my year so far. Sat here in the not so picturesque town of Saint Helens choking back tears remembering the, Love, Faith and Beauty that I (well we all) saw whilst I was in Latvia.
    When I think back on the time In Latvia with the young people we took (not that I’m much older myself) I am filled with joy, and hope for the future, there are no words that can explain the feelings and memories we took back from Latvia.
    I must once again offer a whole-Hearted thank you, to yourself, and Iveta, Arturs, Erika, Linda and all the other officers whose names I daren’t try and spell, and to the young people in Seda, lepa and lepaja; who showed us what true trust faith in the Lord is.
    AS someone who now works with young people sharing the gospel message full time, I can only hope that I can show, the Love and Joy that the Lord can bring to our lives, If only half as much to one young person as you helped inspire in myself and those Teenagers that we brought with us.
    Love, prayers and Kind regards
    Tom Hallsworth

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