Monday, 24 October 2011

So what are we doing here?

A beautiful rainbow, taken by Ian. I love rainbows!
A story on the BBC about how politicians embellish the truth and a chat with several friends had me wondering about the difference between what we are expected to say about being here in Latvia and what we tell people. We do believe that God sent us here, but for what purpose? To live here! That's it! It would be so easy to embellish the truth, especially as people so often ask why we are here in Latvia. Many know we are Christian and expect us to have plans and projects to "save" the community, and yes we would love people to know Jesus and have a relationship with God - the kindest person I know - but that is not our focus, it's up to God to do the saving (One digs the ground, one plants, one waters, but it is God who makes the plants grow - okay I know it doesn't quite say that in the bible but I get the impression that Paul wasn't a gardener and the digging needs to be done first, but see 1 Corinthinans 3:5 to see where I'm coming from). We love being here, we enjoy what we are doing, we long to see love and hope flourish in the community, but that does not mean giving a three point plan on how to be saved, setting up a meeting on a Sunday or even more radical on a Thursday/Wednesday/Monday (no I don't believe that is radical really) and generally ending in a holy huddle that doesn't really impact the community at all. I long to see transformation of the community as a whole, but not into yet another Westernised community full of greed and self-interest, but into something distinctly Latvian, with Latvian values rediscovered, or for people to find out what being Latvian truly is. To find their destiny and uniqueness and be comfortable expressing that. We love the people and yes we sometimes find them infuriating when they don't do things our way, but more often than not we are relaxed about them doing things differently. It's their country after all!

Wild boar damage can be annoying but you have to admire
their ability to dig up tasty roots and delicately eat them
off whilst leaving the leaves behind, without the use of a
spade, and fingers to help.
It is not just politicians that embellish the truth, so do charities, aid agencies, missionaries etc. We expect them to have a far bigger impact than they do, in a short period of time and therefore they have to write reports that are not exactly lies (or at least I hope not), but carefully worded smokescreens, to hide the fact that making a difference in societies is hard work and long term and doesn't often go the way they would like. Sometimes it is just a cover for when things are not working and they have to justify still being in the place they are, doing the things they are doing. Aid agencies have had to rethink many of their strategies when it finally dawned on them that many of their programmes were not working and in some cases just exacerbating the problems as they did not tackle the underlying power relations in an area that kept the poor, poor. Honesty about the way things really are is crucial in many ways, but it is also crucial for people donating money to realise there are no quick fixes, that things may not work and that situations change. That does not mean that people have wasted the money, it just means that the time was not right, the right people were not in place, it requires a much longer period for something significant to happen or someone got it wrong! And we shouldn't condemn people for getting it wrong, not learning from it yes, but not for just getting it wrong.

So how can anything this cute make such
A friend of mine posted a blog on snickelling - going around the city of York using the passageways and alley ways to see York from a different perspective. I think in some ways that might describe our path through life, through Latvia, choosing the less obvious ways to get around and in the process seeing more of life, more of Latvia and more of Latvian life than we would otherwise. So where has our snickelling taken us this week? (At this point while writing my blog you have to picture me with my polo neck pulled up over my nose and making a mental note not to buy the cheap kitten food again as it does not agree with Sofie's digestive system because it results in smelly wind - Eughhh!) Anyway where was I? Oh yes, snickelling! Well actually not much has happened this week, we have just tootled along through this week, part of which was rather wet, making work difficult on the land and in the garden. I dug up some of the hamburg parsley, which is the last crop to get in before the winter for storage, started packing wood chips around plants to snuggle them up for winter and working on my written proposal and presentation for my course. Ian has been busy sorting out the barn again, he's finished off the drainage inside and levelled off the floor now, so it is ready for the equipment to be stored - only it needs to dry out a bit before he can take the stuff down to the barn without causing a mudbath. Next year we need to sort out the road to the barn so we don't have the problem again at this time of the year. Besides taking the kittens to the vets for their jabs and the usual processing food, shopping and fitting in a visit to the bakery that is about it! Just regular life for us here in Latvia! Now! How could I embellish that to make it sound more exciting? Hmmmm!

Our strange visitor
Oh I know the strange incident! One day we were out on the land when in wandered a dog. It wasn't aggressive or anything, but just wandered around a bit and then sat down, as if making itself at home. For a time it sat down with its front paws crossed quite contentedly, but then, for no reason that we could see, it threw its head back and started howling. It sat there howling for a good five minutes before wandering towards the road and howling some more, after that.....? It just took off and we haven't seen it again. No idea where it had come from or where it went. We have had other dog visitors too, one was from the hunt that went through our forest the other day. They aren't supposed to go through our forest as they don't have permission and one guy was even close enough that he said "Sveiki" (greetings), which felt a little bizarre. We could hear the guys whooping and shouting in the forest as they attempted to drive animals towards hunters and it was a bit worrying at times, as I half expected wild boar to come rushing out towards me, in fact we saw a deer making its escape far up the field. On the one hand we are pleased that the hunters are working the land, as it will mean less pig damage, but we would rather they respected boundaries too and we would rather know who they were. So there you have it, the unembellished truth!


  1. Loved this post - and agree that we don't have to be setting up mission tents to be doing what God wants us to do - keep on doing what your doing, I love reading about it all.

    Thank you for the snickelling reference - it's nice to know someone is checking in now and again ;-)

  2. Thanks Pauline, nice to know I'm not the only one

  3. It all makes complete sense to me!

  4. I loved this post Joanna. You're SO right about those in 'higher' positions who expect glowing reports to justify your presence in a particular place.

    Working the land teaches many lessons, not least that you need to dig and prepare before you can sow the seed and the harvest is the last thing to happen. Love your honesty - but then I would expect no less from you.

    It's really about going alongside whatever God wants to do. We are ultimately answerable to Him.

  5. Thanks for the encouragement Ju and Mavis, I appreciate that.

  6. I think that just by existing and living in a ''good'' way it is possible to spread the sense of right and wrong to everyone around us.

  7. and that was quite profound for me....I'm off to have a lie down!!

  8. Good point Karen. Hope you recover after your lie down :o)


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