Celebrate Recovery Now In Six Churches
New Vision to Start a CR Children’s Program is Born
By Katie Roth, BBI Ministry Specialist
Ērgļi, Latvia – During May I had the opportunity to participate in Prayer Days and the Baptist Union Congress, where I met with a number of people who had been at the Celebrate Recovery initial training conference as well as others who have shown interest in this ministry over the past year.
Today I made a list of places where a group of potential leaders have started the foundational phase of going through the CR program for themselves. There are six that I know of – Matthew’s Church and Salvation Temple in Rīga, Ventspils, Liepāja, Mazsalāca and Talsi, plus Madona, where we are now running the full program that is open to anyone. The pastor of Cēsis Baptist church has also asked me to come in the fall and help them get started. I remember the description of how CR became established in Mongolia, step by step, and the prophetic word received by Joe Walters from Derby as the European leadership were praying about Latvia, that a tree that grows slowly, grows strong, and I am encouraged!
At the Baptist Congress I led a seminar, sharing the story of how CR got started in Madona, and encouraging church leaders to consider how it could be used to reach out to their communities with a message of hope. I was also invited to share at a camp run by the Latvian Inter-Varsity group this summer but had to decline this invitation as our family is in Oregon for most of June, July and August. Another achievement this year was www.istabriviba.lv, the Latvian CR website as well as our new Facebook page. It is still quite basic, but has potential for development!
One of the developments this academic year has involved piloting the Celebrate Recovery Children’s Program (see website: celebrationstation.group.com) in our Sunday School group in Ērgļi. In August 2010, I attended the seminar presenting this program at the CR World Summit and was inspired to try it out in Latvia and see how it would work in a non-American culture. The program is designed to run alongside the adult meetings, so that a whole family can attend together, with the kids learning about the same recovery themes as their parents.
We are not at the point where we can do this yet, but we adapted the materials to our Sunday School setting which consists of mainly our own children and their friends, meeting in our house on a Sunday evening.
At the end of the year I talked to our assistant leaders and some of the children, to find out their impressions of what we had done together. One of the features they all commented on was the small group time, where they get the chance to reflect on the events of the previous week and share their thoughts and feelings, joys and sadnesses, hopes and fears. It was striking to look back on our first small group times and remember how hard it was for the children to listen to each other and follow the small group guidelines of no cross-talk or interrupting! Over the year, however, they have learnt to do this much better and really appreciate this opportunity to share what is going on in their lives. They have also learnt how to pray for each other in these groups and to give thanks for answered prayer.
Some of the themes and activities of the sessions made a great impression on the children (and the assistant leaders). Many of them mentioned two recent sessions when we learnt about how wounds and scars affect our lives and relationships, and about forgiveness – both forgiving others and asking forgiveness for our own wrong words and actions. The program offers powerful activities that invite children to respond to these simple, but foundational messages. There are also many opportunities for kids to read and reflect on what the Bible says about these important issues, and we have had many discussions where they have expressed deep thoughts and questions.
The relationships we have formed amongst the group over the year have been wonderful. One boy came up to me at a school winter sports event and asked me to pray with him there and then, in the middle of a snow-covered field, about something that was causing him sadness. We have also gone ‘out and about’ with the group, seeking to bless people living in the streets around our house. Going out to sing to people and share candies and a Bible verse at Halloween and Christmas was a highlight mentioned by many of the children. I have had a number of good conversations with parents during the year as well, and have heard about how some of the kids are applying what they have learnt on Sundays in their families. One challenge I gave the group was to choose an adult they did not find easy to get on with, such as a teacher at school, or a difficult relative, and to bless that person with a simple gift that we made on a Sunday evening. Some of them chose their English teacher, and were very sceptical about how he would respond to their gifts, but the following week, they shared their surprise and happiness at his positive response!
We are now considering the possibilities for translating and publishing the program in Latvian. This would be quite a big project, as the complete package includes two types of DVD. One with actors telling stories that illustrate recovery principles from the viewpoint of Bible characters and the other with worship songs for kids to sing along to, with actions and subtitles, filmed in ‘cool’ locations. I have started to dream about collaborating with Jorspeis, the band that led worship at Prayer Days, on this project! Their initial response was positive!
It has been a great encouragement that the ladies at the Partners’ office have been working through the CR step study for themselves. I hope that next year I will be able to meet with them on a regular basis to pray and seek direction for the ongoing development of this work in Latvia. We have started to talk about possibilities for a training conference in the late fall and for a camp for existing groups, where we can share our experiences and encourage one another. Lienīte Bemera and I would also like to establish a system of ‘supervision’ for groups getting started, so that we can give better support and ensure that essential elements, such as the small group guidelines, are being adhered to.
So this has been an exciting year, with much potential for future growth. I would like to finish with a request for prayer, without which we will achieve nothing of lasting value, and with an invitation to reflect on and pray from the heart the full version of the Serenity Prayer, with which we close every CR meeting:
God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things which should be changed,
And the Wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.