The weekend of Valentine’s Day proved to be a busy one in Vidzeme, the area to the north of Latvia, so much so that I took the unprecedented step of staying in a hotel in the lovely town of Valmiera for the night so that I could share in what was going on.
It was a day of great rejoicing at Sarkaņi a place I’ve written about before. Just to remind you, it is a small village where there is a great deal of need and where we have a lovely children’s house. Children from around the village are welcome there and, under the leadership and care of Ilona and Dmitrijs it has really become a little family where the children help to prepare food and also have a weekly cleaning day. The aim has always been to expand the work to reach adults, but this has proved difficult and sometimes disheartening when progress seems to be being made and people slip back into old habits. There are some adults who attend the weekly worship meeting which is held on a Saturday, and it was from amongst their number that two of the three ladies were made soldiers in the Army, whilst the third was a young woman who came to the centre as a child and is now old enough to have made up her mind to be a soldier.
Ilona, the officer, led the ceremony which involved the three soldiers each making their promises and then solemnly signing their Soldiers’ Covenants at the Mercy Seat, the place of prayer and repentance which is to be found in Salvation Army halls the world over. Next came the congratulations, and the flowers, and the gift of a Bible for each of them, and we concluded the celebration with food, of course!
I looked at Ilona as she led the service, glimpsing something of the joy she felt on this special day, and marvelling at the fact that the difficult and often depressing environment in which she and Dmitrijs work and minister had not dimmed that joy, and the hope and excitement which shone from her face.
The next day I returned to Sarkaņi to conduct a Council meeting with the soldiers there to talk about the church and it’s progress. The three soldiers were present resplendent in their uniforms, eager and enthusiastic to work out ways in which they could reach their village with the news about Jesus who had changed their lives.