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posted Apr 28, 2018, 9:42 AM by Linda Dickinson   [ updated Apr 28, 2018, 9:43 AM ]

Dear Elmwood Family,

Ozanna, Ozanna, Ozanna Augstiba!      (Latvian for “Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna in the Highest!”)

Thank you so much for your prayers for our ministry trip.

I arrived in Latvia on Saturday afternoon, April 14.  I had had a short lay over in Copenhagen, Denmark and was able to have coffee and pastry (yum) with Daniel Serner Pedersen who was here a number of years ago attending the Lay Ministry Training Center.  I was greeted at the Riga airport by Pastor Martins Irbe, our Latvian-American friend, who together with his dear wife Gunta handled all the arrangements for our time in Latvia.  Sunday morning we attended worship at Old St. Gertrud’s Lutheran Church in Riga.  It was a beautiful liturgical service with Holy Communion, Pastor Paul Anderson preached, and I did altar ministry. We had Latvian pizza for lunch at the home of a pastor and his family.  We then attended the Sunday afternoon service of a Pentecostal/Baptist church where Paul again preached and I did prayer ministry.  This service was very contemporary with much praise and worship.  We scurried off to the evening service at St. Gertrud’s where it was less formal, more of a contemporary service, but still having Holy Communion.  It had been announce at the morning service that we would be there and following the service we did prayer ministry for over an hour.

Day one was over and we headed back to our host home for a late dinner and much needed rest.

Monday morning we packed up and headed to the town of Saldus where St. Gregor’s Mission Center is located.  We were warmly greeted by the St. Gregor’s staff and soon pastors and church leaders began to arrive for our leadership seminar.  Paul and I both preached that day and again there was much prayer ministry.  That evening we had a worship service with Holy Communion at the Martin Luther Lutheran Church in Saldus.  The church is a lovely old place with a large wood fired stove in the front to heat the sanctuary.  We again concluded the evening with a lengthy time of prayer ministry.  Day two, bed time was greatly appreciated!

Tuesday was similar to Monday with messages and ministry.  Meal times were lively and coffee breaks filled with deep discussions.  Our seminar ended mid-afternoon.  Instead of heading back to Riga with the other Americans I headed east to Christian David’s School, with two staff members and Juta Strazdina, the woman I saw in my dream.  Pastor Valdis Strazdina stayed with relatives in Riga in order to attend a special clergy meeting on Wednesday.  The school is located in eastern Latvia, near the town of Modana, about one hundred miles from the Russian border.  It is quite remote, and one of the poorest areas of Latvia.  The farm country and forest of Latvia are quite similar to the landscape of northern Minnesota.  A lot of birch and pine trees with lakes and rivers.  There were wild storks nesting on high poles in many of the farm yards.  After a late supper of bread, cheese, and potatoes it was off to my private room in their guest house.  The stars in the Latvian night sky were magnificent that night, shining brilliantly over the darkened countryside.  Day three and I was at last at Christian David’s School.

Wednesday was a full day at the school.   Jakobs Strazdina, the university-age son of Valdis and Juta, gave me the grand tour of the school and property.  It turns out the school has two properties.  Christian David’s School is located at Kalna and their farm and former school building is in Grotona thirty kilometers away.  The school began at Grostona. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Valdis and Juta were able to acquire the Kalna buildings and move their Christian school to this site.  They have taken in hundreds of children since they began in 1991.  They have transformed the building into a marvelous school with dormitories.  A tremendous amount of renovation and work has been done at the school.  There are still many unfinished projects and dreams waiting to be accomplished.  During the afternoon I was asked to do special prayer ministry with two prayer groups that come to the school chapel from the surrounding community to pray and also a time of prayer ministry with the students and staff of the school.  Valdis returned that evening and we talked long into the evening.  Day four was amazing and Christian David’s School had filled my heart.

Thursday morning I was up early to see the kids doing their morning chores and had breakfast with them.  Then we all went to the chapel to have a time of gift giving.  I had brought Christian wrist bands, colored shoelaces, and Hersey chocolate kisses for the kids from our daughter and son-in-law’s couples group.  They were delighted and soon were showing off their American favors in all kinds of creative ways.  I then asked Pastor Valdis and Junta to come forward and presented them the cash gift of $5300 from Elmwood’s and Real Church’s Lenten offerings.   With shocked delight and tears we hugged and celebrated the goodness of God.  Pictures were taken and time was running out.  After a quick lunch of sausages, quinoa, home-made cottage cheese and bread it was time to leave.  A number of the students and staff gathered in the courtyard to bid me farewell.  We then headed to the other property site for a quick but delightful examination of the farm.  I got to meet the dozen cows, see the chickens and bless the farm.  It is here that the milk is turned into cottage cheese and blocks of cheese.  Valdis that drove us over hill and dale through the Latvian countryside, hurrying to meet up with the others back in the capital city of Riga.  After bear hugs and prayers we parted.  A quick trip to our host home for a delightful final dinner with our Latvian hostess and then Paul Anderson and I were taken to the airport for a late night flight to Finland. There, part two of our ministry adventure began.  Day five, Latvia and Christian David’s School now memories for ever in my heart.

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday were filled again with seminars and ministry times with two Finnish churches in Tampere, Finland.  There’s not enough room to tell of all we were privileged to do with these dear folks.   I left Sunday afternoon for three days in Iceland, for the final part of my trip, to visit Pastor Agust Olafsson and his family.  I was treated like royalty, we toured some of the fantastic sites of Iceland, and did a special ministry time at the home of Agust’s co-pastor.  A dozen Bible School students were on a missions trip to Iceland and staying in Agust’s church.  I got to be a part of two morning training sessions with them.  Then it was time to head to Reykjavík to visit the ARC pastor from Kristkjirken, and have a final meal at a restaurant near the harbor, before heading to the airport for my flight home.

Ozanna, Ozanna, Ozanna Augstiba!  Thank you for your prayers and support. 
You were with me each day seeking to be the mouth, hands and heart of Jesus.

All glory and praise to Him.

Pastor Fred