A note from Haralds in Latvia

I wanted to share this note from Harald about his ministry in Latvia. I have condensed some of it to put on his WITH partners page, but loved the whole thing and wanted you to be able to read it.  I am happily married to Iveta. We got married very late but do not regret it 🙂 We do not have children. We hope God will give us. Grobina is about a 4-5k town and Liepaja has about 73k people. Grobi?a is the oldest Viking settlement in Eastern Europe from 4th – 5th century. Grobina Church is around 86 people in size. All of us are first-generation Christians, including myself. We value personal relationships where we can trust. Ministry cannot be done if leaders don’t trust each other. We meet regularly and share about our prayer needs. We have seen no matter how much we try to work on relationships it takes a miracle for us to work together, because though we chose to stay together, as doers, feelers, and thinkers a conflicting environment would be very natural for us. And we experienced that, too. Despite our flesh and different personalities, thanks to Jesus we survived as a team. I find it a great privilege to work together with different people than I am. Do I like it? No, not always. In addition, we have 4 home groups. One is hosted by my wife and is for women. I am currently helping one group and train their leaders. Groups read the Bible and share their lives and do ministry together, for instance, clean the sanctuary, prepare meals after service, do some “help” works for church members (not regularly, but when it’s needed). We are challenged to discover hope in a future for our Church because all natural tendencies from human perspective are not promising because of depopulation of the country. Despite of what is going on nationally we are called as a Grobina Church how we can be relevant and reach people with good news to help them to grow and mature in Christ. I strongly believe that even our failures are part of God’s plan how He can mature us. That brings us farther to the conclusion – we are not Him. We have to redefine what it means to be successful as a Christian. So we are teaching to observe what God is doing when things go wrong and how He is different compared to the worldly standards. We do not own people in the Church even if we are entrusted to participate in their upbringing as Christians. In a provincial church like ours, we have to accept our daily reality of people leakage to the bigger cities and more prosperous countries. We might not contribute to this process directly but we are challenged to have faith that Jesus will use them somewhere in the World, that we are not dependent on youth, but on Jesus alone, and our time and energy are not wasted. I have to admit I have been tempted to think that it’s all in vain. So we are challenged to have faith that despite visible tendencies God will provide for our church. We have seen this tendency that disappointed people are leaving Latvia. We lost around 1/5 of active educated young adults and their families since the 2008 crisis, and this tendency is not over even today. During hard times we miss our understanding of what God is doing now for us. I have to ask myself this question very frequently. In other words there is a positive side to all negatives we encounter. I am surrounded with highly motivated leaders who are in Grobina because they choose to stay. In this regard I am a lucky pastor. Since we are not rich with human resources, we are challenged to make, for instance, worship service more simple that does not make our leaders too weary. In the ministry we have to experience that our burdens are taken away. Large congregations can afford large ministry staff and worship staff resources, etc. In our current situation with a people shortage, in ministry we cannot provide everything. Earlier we were stressed out over the issue of meeting certain ministry standards, then we quit doing that (thanks to Jesus) and started to do ministry that helps people to know Jesus better and operate according to their gifts. We stopped worry about ministries that we could not carry on. For instance, at the moment, due to the pregnancy of our Sunday school leader, we have to prayerfully search for someone to take her place. We don’t really see anyone at the moment. We pray that we could be more observant and discern who could take her place. So this is our prayer need. In summary we want people to experience who Jesus is in everything they do in ministry and in all life. That would not help us much if we would be busy with programs that do not bring life. Many ministry elements we are doing are done in the same way as I believe many Churches in the world do them. So we are not unique in that. I am sure we would not do it if we would not experience our Lord in all this.          

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