I have to confess that sometimes I do not realise how fortunate I am to be able to enjoy such varied experiences as I do here in Latvia. Such was the case the other day. I woke up and groaned inwardly at the prospect of a very long day and was less than enthusiastic about getting out of bed to face it! Later, however, reflecting on all that had happened I felt slightly chastened.
It was a day of complete contrasts. I had received an invitation from the President of Latvia to attend a meeting dedicated to the celebration of Orphan Day. Resplendent, therefore, in my best bib and tucker, I headed off to the House of the Blackheads which currently houses the Chancery of the President of Latvia. This is a really iconic building in Old Riga which was first built in the 14th century but was rebuilt in the 1990’s. From the outside it is both impressive and beautiful.
With my official invitation, complete with coat of arms on it, at the ready, I presented my ID to the security men on the door and was eventually ushered into the splendid reception room where it was clear that the guests of honour for the event were a large number of parents and their adopted children. We rose to greet the President and his wife, and he and other dignitaries started the proceedings by giving speeches to mark Orphan Day. The event ended with activities for the children themselves, and we adults were delighted to be entertained by them.
As soon as the event ended I hurried back to the office to get ready to go to another engagement in the nearby city of Jelgava. This city is also home to some beautiful buildings, chief amongst them a stunning palace built in the 18th century. However, my destination was not this palace, now part of the University of Latvia, but somewhere much more modest in the middle of an area of residential flats. We parked up, and got out into the darkness and found our way to a door into a small meeting place, where I was greeted warmly. I was in Jelgava to celebrate with them the first anniversary of the re-commencement of The Salvation Army in that place. I say re-commencement, because Jelgava is the place where the Army first started in Latvia in the 1920’s, so in many ways the Army has now ‘come home’.
The small room was full of people who had come for the celebration, including some from The Salvation Army in Bauska who had come to support. It was lovely to see people who have now become part of the team that work there under Helena, the volunteer who runs the place, and such a joy to be able to worship with the people there. At the end of the evening each person was given a food parcel as they left, and a great time of fellowship and worship had been enjoyed by all.
Returning home that evening, I reflected once again on all the opportunities I would have missed had I not come to Latvia. It had turned out to be ‘one amazing day’!