Gaining by Giving

A Timeless Lesson from the Soviet Years

By Charles Kelley

RIGA, Latvia – Yesterday while reading one of my favorite living poets, Malcolm Guite, I suddenly remembered an old classic Latvian poem by Janis Rainis.

I learned it during my first visit to Latvia in 1985.

Latvia was occupied by the Soviet Union, extremely poor and without any sense of hope for future freedom.  It was my privilege to preach in three churches.  I am confident that I was more blessed by the services than were the people by my messages.  I couldn’t help but notice that, during each worship service, two offerings were collected. I further noticed that virtually everyone put something in each offering.

The pastor explained that the first offering was for the church and the second for the poor. “But isn’t everyone poor?” I asked. He instantly agreed and added, “But some of our elderly are extremely needy and have no one but the church to help them.”

Later that week I read and memorized the Janis Rainis poem:

Janis Rainis (b. 1865; d. 1929 ) was the Shakespeare of Latvia.

 

“You may gain by giving;

You may gain by taking

But what you gain by giving,

will never be taken away”

 

Through the years, friends of BBI who have supported this ministry have also shared that they personally commit us to regular prayer. I’m always astonished and grateful. You see, I know that, according to the example and teachings of Jesus, nothing of significance happens in ministry apart from prayer. Right now, I am in the midst of a 7 week ministry trip in Europe. And I would humbly ask for your prayers.

This is Chuck in front of his favorite bakery/coffee shop just a one minute walk from his apartment in Riga’s Old Town. He didn’t know the basket was trying to give him a halo…thus sainthood.

The first week of October was spent with our team in Estonia, participating in the European Evangelical Alliance and Arts Plus Roundtable annual meeting, and the opening event of our brand-new, traveling exhibition “Courage to Be” which focuses on disabilities. I spoke on four occassions. Currently, I am in the middle of two weeks of general ministry in Latvia, including time at Eagle’s Wings Camp. I will preach in Vilnius, Lithuania on November 4th. Finally, Almers and I will take part in the Eastern European Leadership Forum in Ukraine from November 7th – 11th, during which I will speak three times.

That Pastor from 1985 was correct. We are in need of the Church – the gifts and prayers of the Body of Christ – to help us.

Thank you, dear friends of BBI for all that you give… it can never be taken away.

 

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