I wrote in a recent blog (‘An Ordinary Weekend’) about Self-Denial and our Partners in Mission. The project is now completed with the sum of 1800 euros having been collected around the Region from Latvian salvationists and friends – not quite as much as was raised last year, but a commendable effort nonetheless. Thank you to all those readers from the Army in Latvia who took up the challenge to support the work of the Army worldwide!
We had a really great example of this partnership in mission operating during the actual period that covered the Self-Denial Appeal. One of our more wealthy partners, Australia Eastern territory, with headquarters in Sydney, wrote to me some time ago suggesting that there might be ways in which they could support us by offering expertise and different kinds of resources. It was agreed in the end that we could benefit from the unique expertise that our Australian partners have in the area of personal giving and tithing, and also with regards to their ‘Bridge’ programme for rehabilitating addicts.
This was the background to the eventual visit in March this year of Majors Phil and Nancy McLaren and Major David Pullen. It was a great opportunity to have them with us, and in order to make the most of it we worked them hard – very hard! As you’ll see from the picture I even involved them in preparations for the Leaders’ training which they took part in during the time they were here! After presenting their message and materials to the leaders in conference, arrangements had been made to make a whistle-stop tour around the Region. The officers in the Region really came up trumps in encouraging their corps members to attend these gatherings in various venues around Latvia and there was a really good atmosphere of fellowship in each of them. At each of the venues Phil spoke about the importance of tithing and giving to God what we are able to give, and David spoke about the importance of being a transformational church based on the recognition that we minister to broken people through the prism of our own brokenness. Phil, Nancy and David were so well-received that I think they could possibly have set up a Latvian sweet shop in Australia when they got back from all the gifts that they received! David made the ‘mistake’ of saying that he had fallen in love with a Latvian sweet called a ‘zephyr’, and word spread around like wildfire so that he was feted with packets of said zephyrs wherever he went!
The journey to Daugavpils was a memorable one. It took us along roads, and tracks even, which I had never travelled along before. We managed to find some snow and stopped the van so that the obligatory photo could be taken in the snow! We also managed to see an end of season fisherman fishing on the ice on one of the lakes, a sight which our Australian friends had not seen before.
There was an additional benefit to this tour around the Region with our Australian partners in mission. New partnerships were formed between corps in Latvia too. The Salvationists from Bauska had joined with the new corps plant at Saldus for this occasion. They came complete with a scroll they had made which they unrolled and read out to the congregation offering the hand of friendship and partnership between Bauska and Saldus! Although it was a bit of fun, it was a nice touch, and a lovely time of fellowship together followed the meeting.
It was three tired Australians who started their journey back home! I want to say, ‘Thank you so much for coming and sharing what you had with us. It starts us on another chapter of our journey here in Latvia as we ‘unpack’ and implement what you brought for us’. I like to think that, in the true spirit of partnership, we gave something back to our Australian friends and that they have gone back enriched by this quite unique experience of extending the hands of Christian friendship right across the world.