Monday, 10 August 2009

Happenings and ponderings

Lots of things have happened this week and lots to think about so I shall start off with the happenings. On Sunday 6 youngsters from the orphanage got baptised and it was lovely to see the orphanage director congratulating them on their decision. There is such a sense of family from the folks who come from the village where the orphanage is situated, that doesn't mean it is perfect but they do support each other. After the meal I saw an event that I have rarely seen elsewhere and is testament to the work the work of the director on the children, two of the girls started to tidy up without even being asked. Teenagers spontaneously clearing up!!!!!!!!! Unheard of!!!!!! Impossible!!!!! But I tell you the truth that really happened.

We had visitors from the UK here this week from our old church. It was lovely to see them and be able to show our new home and our piece of land. We traipsed them all around the field but the youngsters baulked at going into the forest - probably just as well as they weren't really dressed for the part but Graham and Steph came with us and they were delighted to see so many fungi of different kinds and they were naming them all as we went along. I must admit to never really taking much notice of fungi but it was exciting to have the different sorts pointed out, from the purple topped ones, a perfect red headed one to the "angel of death" one which is highly poisonous. It was also fantastic to take someone around who was so enthusiastic about the place and enjoying the adventure of discovery.

After we got back from our trip to the land we decided to pick one of the enormous round mystery objects up our garden as it certainly looked like a watermelon from the skin colour, well kind of, and a nice slice of watermelon would have been a lovely end to the day. I took the knife and plunged it into the object and as it fell into two pieces we realised that this was no watermelon, or melon of any type it was a pumpkin. It was an under ripe pumpkin but at least it tasted like a buttery squash - quite nice really apart from the fact it is so huge and now we have the problem of what to do with it, being underipe it won't store so well anyway we decided to make pumpkin and ginger chutney with some of it and roast some to make roast squash soup.

Just for your entertainment I thought I would let you know that we bought two more fly-swatters this week. Entertaining? Yup! Sure is if you have ever seen me prancing around playing fly badminton. I have to say I am getting quite good at it and the flies that circle around the lights, even when they are not on (why do flies do that?), are brought to a swift end by some nifty swatting techniques. Mwaahhh!

Ian took part in a cycle race here in Ergli this week. He came 900 and something out of over 1200 competitors. You can see how many folks there are in some of the pictures and Ian was at the back because he was a newbie, no wonder he didn't get a better place as there were too many people to get around - well that was what he told me. Our village only has 2800 ish inhabitants in the whole of the parish so over 1200 riders is an enormous number of folks to contend with and they did it rather well, the whole thing was very well organised with police stopping traffic where necessary, a car park provided on a spare piece of land, and relevant marking out of the course. They finished the race in true Latvian style with porridge and tea for the riders but Ian didn't get his because there was such a long queue and it was quicker to go home for a drink and a rest. By this morning the place was neat and tidy there was only a crisp (chip) packet to be seen lying around. They had borrowed the apartment's bins (trash cans) for the occasion but they were returned by this morning - we had wondered where they had gone yesterday and were a little worried as 3 small wheelie bins between 18 apartments even for Latvians is not enough, we can manage on 6 but not 3.

The last happening which is not that amazing really but for us significant is we bought a gazebo with fly netting, four plastic chairs and a table. It is not exactly an astonishing purchase like a tractor but significant for two reasons. The first is that we have somewhere to sit and rest on our land without getting eaten alive by the dear little insects, I even did a bit of studying but that won't work very often as it is hard to work with Ian around as he is either sitting down with me or strimming and making a lot of noise but at least we can have picnics there now or just sit and think and plan. The second reason is that we can now take folks to the land and we can sit around and talk or pray which I think will be an important part of what we do on that land. So a gazebo and four chairs and table may not be much but it is a start.

Now for the ponderings.

I was reading this week about Asset Based Community Development, ie development based on the assets of a community and I thought why not have asset based evangelism (not sure I want to use the' evangelism' word since it has so many connotations but it is the best I have for the time being).

John 5:19- 20 Jesus gave them this answer: "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these.

So Jesus looked to see what was already going on and worked from that. How often do we look at a situation and see what isn't there and act on that? God is at work before we even get there, he doesn't need a hand to get somewhere as if he has a mobility problem, he is already there and active, if anything it is we who have the mobility problem, we can't be everywhere at once. We can, however, start from where we see God working and with what we have and where we are, we can move forward little by little. I think as a Christian community we can often start from what we don't have, we don't have a good worship team, we don't have a good PA system, we don't have dynamic preaching, we don't have a good team of prayers, we don't have......... etc etc etc. and I think we have to stop that kind of thinking and start looking for the positives and build from there. After all if Jesus can feed 5000 from five loaves and three fish I am sure he can take what there is in a small community and make something wondrous out of it.

Another set of thoughts generated from my studying this week was on giving (sorry if this makes the post a bit long but my thoughts don't understand brevity at times). We want to do "good" by giving so we give to reliable organisations that feed us with visions of success. But how often do we "give" when we know there is a good chance of failure? We should be good stewards with our money but what happens if we dealt with our money in the same way Jesus dealt with his? Jesus gave his money to a thief (John 12:5-7) and I don't think Jesus was unaware of this but I believe he was waiting for a redemptive opportunity that didn't come. Jesus going to the cross, a symbol of failure, shows how our giving should be, a total giving of ourselves with no assurance of success except success in the Heavenly realm maybe. We cannot measure our successes by the World's standards, we have to measure it by God's standards; "Of course!" you all say! "Isn't that what we always say?" We might say it, but do we match it with our cash? Do we match it with our giving of time? Complete with no guarantees of success? We have to learn to embrace failure in order to release the future, we have to learn from the past failures. We have to acknowledge when things aren't working and use that as a spur to looking for creative and innovative solutions instead of carrying on as if there wasn't a problem and hoping no one notices. As givers we have to give the recipients freedom to fail, so that they can try again with a revised plan, or the same plan just a different timing or a complete change of plan. We shouldn't condemn people or organisations as failures. Just because something failed doesn't mean that it will never work, wasn't worthy of our backing or mean those involved were untrustworthy, it just means it didn't work at that time, in that place, with that plan. Let's be prepared to risk our money and our time with less certainty of success, not wildly gambling like the bankers before the crisis but as people prepared to invest in the things of the Kingdom which don't always have the success that the World can measure but has eternal worth.

Enough pondering it is internet trawl time and the first site is one that Ian found about Latvian history, the English is not perfect and can be a little difficult to read sometimes but it certainly gives you a good impression of the history of this nation and the subjugation it has endured. It is no wonder that some are looking for the safety of someone to tell them what to do when they have had centuries of other nations dictating to them what to do. My prayer is that the Latvians will see the great gifts they have in themselves, without becoming conceited or proud as some fear but humbly and graciously share those gifts with other nations, the Latvians have a lot to give.

One gift they have given is to demonstrate solidarity during the Baltic Way. I mentioned last week that the Baltic Way has been added to the Unesco's Memory of the World, where they add significant events worth remembering and this week I found a site that aims to get the Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians to demonstrate their solidarity again by a run from Tallin in Estonia and Vilnius in Lithuania to Riga in Latvia. The run will finish in Riga at 8pm 23rd August but if you click on the map from the link above and move the cursor over the dots you will see where the run is expected to go and what time. Try and join in or at least be there to support it if you can, let us show the Baltic nations they are not abandoned and we support them in their efforts to make a society free from domination and corruption.

Big news of the week on the Intenet regarding Latvia is that they don't want the stag nights of drunken Brits - a double edged sword indeed. The majority of Brits do behave who visit Latvia (here is the recently retired Ambassadors blog on the subject 24th March), and no Latvians do not hate all Brits but you have got to sympathise with the locals having to deal with the hoards who walk down the street in a big gang all wearing their football shirts or fancy dress and talking very loudly, they look and sound intimidating. I hadn't realised how loud the English were until we went to Denmark and I was reminded of it when I went back to England this year, I kept wanting to ask people to tone down their conversations. So do come to Latvia, it has some beautiful places to see, some lovely people to meet, yes there are those who won't look at you but years under communism does that to you, but there are those who will serve you as best they can and are a joy to meet, just remember to keep the volume down.

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