A 45 minute wait in the queue at the Post Office to post a small package to the UK was not the best start to a Saturday morning, nor was the sleet and snow which accompanied me on the trip there, after a week of almost wall to wall sunshine. Things did get better, though, as the weekend progressed.
Late Saturday afternoon I set out for Skangali where a small group were meeting for an annual conference which is called ‘Design for Life’. It is an opportunity for the young and not quite so young to spend time listening to what God is calling them to do and discovering the direction which their lives should take. I felt a sense of privilege to be welcomed into a close fellowship which had obviously already started to form, and to be a part of the worship and prayer ministry which took place in the evening. I was moved by how many of those present expressed the desire for prayer, not so much for their own needs, but for wisdom and strength to minister to the needs of other people and offer them hope.
Worship on Sunday morning was shared with the congregation here in Riga where I am a member. It was the final Sunday of what the Salvation Army call Self-Denial Appeal, which is the annual missionary appeal which is held worldwide. As the name might suggest, it is usually held during the Lenten period, and echoes the idea of giving up something in order to give to others. This year each week for a month parts of the world which have been especially linked with Latvia have been featured, our Partners in Mission, so we have ‘travelled’ to Australia, Hong Kong, Papua New Guinea, India, and, finally this week, to Tanzania.
Another special feature of the day was an opportunity to share in a kind of open day with the Scouts, so, after the meeting we all went out to the car park to enjoy hot soup, coffee, tea, and the chance to cook over an open fire. Not the kind of weather for a picnic, but the idea was that if the scouts can brave the elements then so should we adults! There were also games, some information about how the Scout Movement started and a chance for the Scouts to show us all what they do. It was also a time to highlight the leaders and to thank Jānis and Ineta for all the work they do. They were duly rewarded with a box of chocolates and flowers respectively. The scouts deserve a blog on their own at some point in the future.
The outdoor experience was a little challenging. It was cold! I was therefore glad to get an invitation to go back inside the hall and enjoy Birthday ‘kūka’ with Biruta, who had had a birthday this week. This was a more sedate and certainly a much warmer experience, where I joined with Janina, Baiba, Ursula and birthday girl Biruta – all of whom like me, will not see 60 again- and enjoyed delicious nut and chocolate cake, orange and mandarin tea, and other tasty items. It’s not easy communicating with this group. In the main, it is the younger people who speak fluent English whilst people of my age tend to be bi-lingual Latvian/Russian. It is a source of some sadness to me, therefore, that I cannot communicate easily with people of my own age. However, today somehow we managed. A mixture of their English and my woefully inadequate Latvian, and I was able to be part of their fellowship. I looked at this group of unassuming ladies, all with their stories to tell, admiring their strength and enjoying their company, and reflecting on their huge importance and influence in the Army church here in Riga 1.
So that’s about it. That’s my ‘ordinary weekend’!