By Dan and Katie Roth, BBI Misionaries to Latvia
(MADONA, Latvia) – About 10 days ago, we wrote and asked some for prayer for our annual outreach with our Dutch sister church. Now we want to say ‘thank you’ to all who prayed and let you know what happened! I think every year we say, “Wow, this was the best outreach ever!” Is that because of our poor memories, or does it really just keep getting better all the time? I think it does get better because we take new steps of faith each year and our experience grows both spiritually and practically.
The work kicked off on Monday by bringing 3 1/4 tons of food staples from the supermarket to the church. This mass was separated into 250 equal shopping bags weighing 13kg (28.6lbs) each. Next came the boxes from the “Happiness” store with 500 bags of candies inside. Then our Dutch friends arrived, four men and two women, and Katie and Diks led a training session on how to do door to door ministry.
On Tuesday, we started visiting homes and delivering packages. We found people to be generally open and grateful both for the practical help as well as the visit. We surprised people with, “Happy Valentine’s Day! We are Christians and we want you to know that God loves you!” Many of these homes had been visited in previous years and people were so happy that they had not been forgotten. We gave each home a flyer inviting people to our church services and also our Celebrate Recovery program. We offered to pray for people and were rarely refused. Everyone has some need they wanted to bring before God – sickness, employment, family harmony.
People were invited to come to the church and get clothing, blankets, and toys sent from Holland. And did they ever come! Approximately 20 cubic meters of goods came by truck and by Saturday evening, it was gone.
One thing we incorporated into our visiting this year was the element of ‘treasure hunting’ that some of us have been trying out on the streets in Madona over the last few years. We ask the Holy Spirit to give us ‘clues’ as to which particular people he wants to bless on that day and then go out looking for those precious people. So some teams spent a few minutes quietly asking God for these clues before they went out – for names, appearance, particular health problems or difficult life situations. Then we kept our ears and eyes open as we came into contact with people during the day. One of the Dutch ladies had clues which led her to speak to an older lady with very sad eyes, and indeed found that she was experiencing great sorrow. They prayed that God would bring comfort to this lady in a special way, and she was clearly touched. Others of us found specific people with physical conditions that we were able to pray for. It was so encouraging to be able to share how God had seen these people in both their physical, emotional and spiritual need and cared enough to send ‘encouragers’ their way.
One of the men that comes to Celebrate Recovery was surprised when one of the teams showed up at his house. He said that when the Christians came into his home they brought peace with them and that peace stayed when they left. He was so excited as there had been a lot of tension at home. One woman had undergone unsuccessful back surgery some years ago and could barely walk. After the team prayed, she said she felt much better. Another woman was very touched by the Valentine’s Day gift. She asked, “How did you know that my name was Valentina? And did you know that my late husband was Valentin? He always brought me candies and flowers on this day!”
We estimate that 400+ homes were visited. All the food and candy packages were given away. Two nursing homes, an orphanage, and a soup kitchen also were visited. We had many visitors at the church service on Sunday. We estimate that we had 80 people all together which is very full for the size of our building. We didn’t see any new faces at Celebrate Recovery on the Thursday. However, we had a full group of 25 or so. And we believe that as people are made aware, they will come when the time is right.
I think what excites me the most is seeing our church members stepping out of their comfort zones and bravely ministering to a hurting world. Each year more answer the call and join in. And this year our small groups have decided to do some follow up. 20 or so of the most open homes will be revisited from time to time with additional food baskets. Each small group is committed to “mission” and this is what they want to do on their “mission evenings”.