More Difficult to Find, Needed as Much as Ever
By Chuck Kelley
PHILOMATH, Oregon – When I started BBI 20 years ago, I had a dream to build 1,000 bridges to and from Latvia. In those years most of the bridges involved church to church partnerships. For many years BBI has been known for the sister churches we have helped to connect. Since 1994, we have helped to create long and short term partnerships and ministry alliances involving more than 150 churches and ministries. 93 of these involved Americans from 14 states. Each partnership focuses on developing more effective leadership, ministry and outreach in Latvia.
In recent years it has been increasingly difficult to find willing American partner churches. Reasons are many, but here are a few.
- The break up of the Soviet Union took place twenty years ago. In recent years, news stories about any nation from Central of Eastern Europe are few and far between. Out of the news…out of mind.
- In the early 90‘s it was sort of fashionable for American churches and ministries to try to help these fledgling countries. It is no longer fashionable.
- Twenty years ago, ministry in Latvia was surprisingly inexpensive. Not so today. This is a hindrance for those who measure the worthiness of Great Commission investments in terms of maximum bang for the buck. But even though a healthy partnership involves money, it is not about money. It is always about genuine relationship first.
- Christian Ministry is difficult everywhere in Europe, including Latvia. There are few reports about fruitfulness that can compare with the huge numbers used to describe effectiveness in the Global South. Nevertheless, Europe remains the least evangelised continent on earth. Latvia is one of the neediest countries in Europe.
- Finally, the American financial crisis has greatly impacted the support of anything related to world missions. When people are unemployed or financially nervous giving patterns change. The typical church receives less offering money and hence releases less money for international ministry. This impacts what the local church can do itself, as well as how it can support international missions.
Even though these factors are not insignificant, BBI is still searching for new sister churches from the US. Last year we were able to find new partner churches in Omaha, Nebraska and Grand Prairie, Texas. In recent weeks, pastors of three good Latvian churches have asked to meet with me to discuss the possibility of finding them sister churches. I have told them that I will try, but it will take awhile.
Allow me to tell you about a church in Valmiera, Latvia. It is the most important hub in northern Latvia. There’s a old church there with a new pastor, vision and youth ministry. These folks want to reach their city for Christ. They have dreams, energy and ideas. And they are implementing as much as they can, if there were ministry partners who prayed for, thought about, related to and assisted their ministry, there would be even more fruitfulness.
So, here’s my question to all BBI friends. Do you know of a church or a pastor that you think would be interested in discussing potential partnership ministry in Latvia with me? If so, please let me know right away. You can email me. firstname.lastname@example.org