What they say about buses, at least in the UK, is true for this blog – you wait ages and then four posts come along all at once! I was determined that I would get caught up today with all the things I had waiting in a queue to blog about.
This post is for the people who like more or less a diary of some of the highlights of the past month.
Summer is now in full swing, but there have been some visits during this month and they have included Iecava, to the south of Riga, Liepāja on the western coast of Latvia, Liepa to the east and Daugavpils to the south east of the country. No pictures, I’m afraid, of our visit to Iecava and Liepāja, but it was good to meet with the Corps Council at Iecava and with Captain Velta, and Oļesja who assists her at Liepāja. At Liepāja we were greeted by a couple of bright young ladies who are part of a cohort of young people who are involved in work experience at Leipāja during the summer. One of them made a very mean (good) Latvian version of what I would call gazpacho – cold soup. It was particularly delicious on a hot day.
At Liepa we met with the officers to have a conversation about how we might support them in giving the soup kitchen premises a makeover during the summer. I have reported elsewhere about the visit of the young people from England, so together we hatched a plan as to how members of the group might be involved in the ‘beautify Liepa kitchen’ project whilst they were in Latvia.
Since Sarkaņi was just up the road from Liepa we decided to pop in to see how their Day Camp was going. They had over 30 children who attended regularly and who were transported in imagination each day to the times of Moses and the Exodus of the Jews. If I recall correctly, we had to greet the children with a high five and a ‘shalom’! As you can see, the staff had gone to a great deal of trouble to dress appropriately and also decorate the hall. I have also included a picture of the Day Camp here on our building at Riga 1 because I thought their Bedouin tent was quite impressive! Ilona, the Regional Children’s Officer, has assisted eight of the corps in Latvia to put on a similarly-themed Day Camp this year. The last one at Drusti is being held as I write. It will be interesting to hear the reports from the exhausted, but doubtless happy, team when they get back at the weekend!
Ineta and Inita, twins who help a lot at the corps with translation, are also dancers. I still can’t get over how many young people are passionate about traditional Latvian country dancing. It is really lovely, if surprising, to see so many young men, in particular, involved. The twins had a ticket which they gave me so I could attend ‘Lec Saulīte’ translated as ‘Rise, Fair Sun’, and was a huge festival of Latvian dancing and culture drawn from around the country to celebrate the summer solstice. I’ve tried to show pictures of the event as the night lengthened.
The ‘Lec Saulīte’ event was a precursor to Ligo, the most popular festival in Latvia which celebrates midsummer and the longest day. I had some friends staying with me, and we wandered down to the banks of the Daugava to see the festivities in full swing, and entered into the spirit of the whole event by staying awake until gone 4am to see the sun rise again. It seemed very strange to be drinking coffee in Costa in the middle of Riga at about 2am in the morning, with everything around us operating as if it were the middle of the day!
Then to Daugavapils to spend time with the folk there and meet up with Jānis and Marina. It is always good to sense their vitality and genuine passion to see the lives of the people in their care changed by the power of Jesus. The sung worship was so helpful, and it was great to see the children and the puppets take part, thanks in large measure to Victoria’s interest and support. An additional joy on this visit was to be able to meet Antra who came with me to translate into Russian. It was great to share part of the journey to Daugavpils with her, and to hear something of her life and Christian testimony too.
Latvia does seem to be a bit of a magnet for overseas groups at the moment. During this month we have had not only the group from the UK, but also a group from Denmark. They were the managers of the various recycling centres that there are in The Salvation Army in Denmark and it was good to enjoy their company and have them with us. They were led by Henrik Anderson, an erstwhile leader of the Army here in Latvia.
Well, that’s it for this month. It gets you up to date with my various comings and goings and the work of God’s Kingdom through The Salvation Army in Latvia.