Moving into mission - in Latvia

"And so it begins! We have arrived in Riga!"

(Phil and Lydia Evans moved to Latvia in February to begin their mission service alongside Malcolm and Ruth Firth in Riga. Lydia describes the adventures of their first few weeks. This article first appeared in Grace Baptist Mission's Herald magazine for May 2018, and is used with permission.)

There we were, a young married couple in the far-west of sunny Cornwall and now here we are, in the currently rather colder climate of Latvia.

We trust that you’ve all experienced within your churches the desire to be involved in some kind of service for the Lord, whether it’s getting involved in the children’s work, serving on the tea rota or speaking in the open air. How about approaching your church leaders to discuss being sent abroad? Our Church in Penzance is not particularly large; could we really expect to be supported to go? How could we leave when we are one of the few young couples in the Church? However, having been involved with the Envision trips to Latvia, we had seen the need for evangelism and discipleship there and had a strong desire from the Lord that we should think about going, so we approached our church elders. We cannot express easily how wonderful it was to see the Lord open doors of opportunity. Our elders had been praying for a number of years that if it was the Lord’s will we’d be a sending church, and they were happy for us to take the next step.

Then followed a process of Bible college with EMF, interviews with GBM, deputation and commissioning, in all of which we have seen the Lord’s provision and equipping for the work.

That brings us to Thursday 8 February, 4.30am. We’d been up for a while already. Just the last minute packing. Who has the passports? How much shall I wear on the plane to save on luggage allowance? Do we need to weigh the bags again? Just how many pairs of shoes should I take? Daniel Grimwade arrived at the door and we wondered at what point he realised that his offer of a lift would involve such an early start!

Our first aim on arrival was to find an apartment to rent. We spent several days walking around central Riga viewing many apartments: small ones, larger ones, spotless ones, ‘work in progress’ ones. Mostly the owners were desperate to have us as their tenants as we are not students. Finally we saw ‘the one’: a good size, lots of natural light coming in and reasonably priced, but this owner said he would have to talk to his wife before offering it to us. It felt like a long wait. Fortunately for Lydia, Phil’s solution to using up nervous energy while waiting was to iron everything in sight. Just when he was about to start ironing things for the second time, we heard the news: the apartment was ours! This was again such an answer to prayer as we hope to use the apartment for a lot of our ministry, offering hospitality, hosting Bible studies and providing places for students and others to come and spend time.

One thing is for sure, we have had no opportunity to get lonely. We have been ushered into the whirlwind of student life and if we chose to, could run from one event to the next, from Bible studies to evangelistic movie nights, from meals out to seminars and services. Oh, to be eighteen again! For us however, it is not about keeping busy as much as building relationships.

I have three girls over for a Bible study each Wednesday morning. One is a new Christian from a Hindu background in India and is full of questions and eager to learn more. We are starting with the gospel of Mark. How wonderful to think about how ‘good’ the ‘good news’ really is!

We also have a student meeting at church every other Saturday evening and Phil has had opportunity to speak at this event on Psalm 1 – being planted and rooted in the right place. These are good occasions, primarily aimed at discipleship of the Christian students and encouraging them to be lights in the world. He is beginning to get to know the large group of Indian men that come along. Incidentally, if you ask me about the food I’ve been eating, I could honestly tell you that the biggest change for me has been the quantities of Indian food that I have eaten since I’ve been here. It has been an adjustment to the taste buds and to my definition of the word ‘mild.’ The students love to cook and bring food to every event – even at ten in the morning! They are all in different situations. Some are keen Christians who want to learn more, some tag along when they feel like it but are easily distracted by work or other social events, and some are experiencing Christianity for the first time. It’s not always easy at first to work out where they are. Some say they are Christians without understanding what it really means. Please pray that we would be given wisdom and patience in working with each one.

Looking back, it has been a bit of a whirlwind. We met each other for the first time on 27 August 2015 and life would never be the same. God can work very quickly and in ways that we couldn’t possibly imagine. We look to him to lead, thankful that he knows the way and opens the doors in his good and perfect time.


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