By Charles Kelley
One of the most common questions I have heard Americans ask through the years is, “Why Latvia?” Underneath that critical question is the notion that Latvia is just a small, obscure country. “Surely it can’t be very significant.”
I could list a dozen reasons why I have invested my life, energy and personal resources to help and bless this little nation. Here are three:
1. Why Latvia? Because of its strategic location. It is a hub of the North and a gateway to the East. Riga is known as the Queen of the Baltics. Its position on the eastern side of the Baltic Sea is one of many reasons why Russia has always wanted Latvia for itself. Putin is not very shy about his desire to expand Russia’s dominance to include Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova and the Baltic Republics.
2. Why Latvia? Because of its perseverance through centuries of foreign rule. Not very many peoples have kept their identity for more than 1,000 years of occupation. I believe God has protected the Latvian people for purposes greater than any human can predict. Through the centuries the Latvian culture, language, art and achievements have grown and developed. Today’s Latvia is filled with world-class brilliant, creative and talented people who add enormous value to Europe and beyond.
3. Why Latvia? Because God loves Latvians. I continually see the Lord doing phenomenal Kingdom things in Latvia, for Latvia and through Latvians. When I first visited Latvia almost 30 years ago, I couldn’t even dream that I would see a free Latvia, let alone a place where God would use our ministry to touch countless people from all walks of life. This list includes teachers, farmers, musicians, women, men, children, soldiers, orphans, teenagers, politicians, prisoners, pastors, ministry leaders, students, artists, addicts, alcoholics, seniors and business professionals. Whenever I get discouraged and lose focus, I intentionally remember the great things He has done…and is DOING today.
This leads to the second critical question: Why Today?
1. Why Today? The short answer is, “because we can.” This is not a simplistic response. Rather, it is clothed in awareness that we have no guarantees how long Latvia will remain free. We work in a country facing severe political tensions. Over 50,000 Russian troops are massed along the Latvian and Estonian borders. Many political and church leaders wonder about the future of Latvia’s freedom.
A few years ago I asked former President Ulmanis a serious question to which he gave a serious reply. I asked, “Do you think that Russia will invade Latvia again?” After a long period of silence he answered, “They always have.”
2. Why Today? God is on the move in Latvia today. The Lord is guiding significant, creative ministry all over the country. I am not just talking about what our organization is doing. Over the years I have grown to know hundreds of pastors, ministry leaders, teachers and missionaries from a multiplicity of backgrounds and denominations. And many in Latvia are responding to the Lord’s invitation to know, love and follow Him with all of their heart. It’s fun to be where the action is.
And now the third question: Why BBI?
1. Why BBI? God has chosen to use our ministry in surprising ways for more than 20 years. We are in a unique position of influence for the church in Latvia. We have served on behalf of and in Latvia from the first days of freedom. And He has chosen to grant us favor in the eyes of church, ministry and national leaders.
We take this position seriously. We must understand the times in Latvia. And we must know the best course that the Lord would have us pursue. Rather than focus on one area – like clean water or needed books or a specific training program – God has called BBI to be nimble and to respond with multiple programs to address multiple TIMELY needs.
2. Why BBI? Because our work is more vital today than ever. With Russia on its doorstep, the need for strong churches, effective substance abuse programs, orphan outreach, solace through the arts, women’s ministry, pastoral training, evangelistic camps and individuals mentoring has never been greater. It is amazing to note that while many fear the future and the impact of an aggressive neighbor to the east, more Latvians sense their own need for a Savior and Lord.
I will finish where I started.
1. Why Latvia? Its strategic location and cultural importance are unparalleled.
2. Why Today? We don’t know how much time we will have the freedom to do this marvelous work.
3 Why BBI? Because BBI’s ministry is more important today than ever.