Gratefully Engaging the World Around Us
By Dan Roth
ERGLI, Latvia – The new year kicked off with a bang for Madona Baptist Church as our friends from Wilhelmina Church in the Netherlands joined us for a week of fellowship and outreach. This was an amazing opportunity for us to get out into the community and surrounding areas, providing practical help for those in need as well as demonstrating and sharing the love of Jesus.
The first week of the year is a festive time in Latvia. It follows the New Year celebrations and precedes the Orthodox Christmas celebrations. This, along with the school holidays, make it an ideal time to visit people. Children are at home and our church youth and the Dutch youth are also free from school responsibilities.
Such a week as this takes special preparation. The Dutch go to great effort months in advance, collecting a truck-load of quality used items such as clothes, blankets, baby beds and many useful things for the nursing homes. They also collect a considerable amount of money to buy food and other essential items. Madona church also prepares by collecting the addresses and phone numbers of those who need help. This is largely done through a newspaper advertisement that runs weekly in the local paper from October through December.
This year, 230 food packages were purchased and distributed. Most of the recipients had a home visit and those outside of Madona were taken the clothes and blankets they requested while those who live in Madona were invited to the church to collect what they need. They also received a Christmas photo of the group and a Billy Graham tract called, “How to Know God.”
In addition to the home visits, evenings were spent visiting orphanages and nursing homes. We also visited two soup kitchens. New this year was the Madona soup kitchen! The Celebrate Recovery group that meets at the church has been reaching out weekly to the soup kitchen clients; this gave us an ideal opportunity to meet with them and share the Gospel. Praise the Lord!
The soup kitchen ministry is just one of many good things that have come out of this annual outreach. Another is the development of the weekly orphan ministry. A third is the new faces we see in the congregation as a result.
It is not too difficult to imagine this week as a time of frenzy, where not everything goes as planned and occasionally tempers flare. It is true that there are not only tears of joy and sorrow but also frustration at times. Still, it is a powerful opportunity for the church body to be a family, co-laboring to accomplish a noble task. It is also wonderful to experience being part of a bigger church family with brothers and sisters from another part of the world, serving together. It is a tremendous joy to watch the confidence and compassion of the youth as they reach out to both the young, the old and those in between.
So we begin 2018 – With much to be thankful for, engaging the world around us as we find it.