How the Latvian Churches are Discovering Mission
By Theo Volland
They came from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Latvia to visit the Christian Mission and Relief Work DMG in Sinsheim. In their hearts is the question of how they, as growing Christian congregations in Latvia, can get involved in worldwide mission work: Zigmars Rozentals, IT specialist by profession, Girts Vikmanis, a journalist, and theology student Davis Sarguns. On the 6th and 7th of February they met with DMG staff to get to know the structures and working methods of an international mission and to find out about the possibilities for sending and deploying Latvian missionaries all over the world. "We are open for the great opportunity to found a Latvian mission following the example of the DMG. We are praying about what God is asking of us. We do not want to set limits for Him but to hear what He wills," says Zigmars Rozentals.
One of the three committed Christians comes from the Evangelical Lutheran Crucifix church in Riga. The other two belong to the "Old Gertrude," the "Evangelical Lutheran congregation of St. Gertrude," a 150-year-old former German-Baltic church that was almost at its end after the expulsion of the Germans. In the 1990s there were only about 20 senior citizens attending church services. Since the year 2000 they have experienced a revival. Today "The Gertrude" with 2,000 members is one of the strongest congregations in the whole country.
Much is being invested in helping people to find new hope and eternal life in Jesus Christ: "Anyone who has ever experienced the joy Jesus brings to his heart wants his fellow human beings to hear about Jesus," says Davis Sarguns. They are currently conducting their 28th Alpha Basic Faith Course with those interested, accompanied by much prayer. Besides the traditional Lutheran service with liturgy and organ, they have attractive activities for young people and students with modern worship music and a pertinent Biblical message.
How is it that participation in mission in other countries and cultures has become important to them? Zigmars Rozentals explains: "A leader of TEAM (a partner organization of DMG) asked me ‘what happens in our church to young Latvians who want to become missionaries in other countries?’ This question did not let me go." In the months that followed, he had conversations with pastors and leaders of various churches and congregations. It turned out that there were no structures or ideas on how to go about this. "We discovered a big gap-- mission had hardly played a role for us," relates Zigmars Rozentals.
How Mission Moves into your Field of Vision
With Davis Sarguns, it was the encounter with a Christian during her studies who repeatedly spoke of how God acts through missionaries and as a result people find faith. "That inspired me," he said. Reporter Girts Vikmanis explains: "I pray a lot for my friends to get to know Jesus. As Christians, we are representatives of our church in our community".
It is important to all three that the Great Commission of Jesus in Matthew 28 is not only for their own city and country, but for people all over the world. TEAM recommended the DMG as a possible model for how a modern mission in partnership with churches and international organizations could also work in Latvia. That is why they visited the DMG headquarters in Buchenauerhof at the beginning of February.
The Great Commission of Jesus from Matthew 28 applies not only to our city and our country, but to all people worldwide.
Three things are important to the young leaders from Riga in their reflections on mission: whatever they do it should be Christ-centered, prayer should play a central role, and it should be in cooperation with Christians of other orientations. They discussed the impact of these three spiritual priorities, which the DMG share, with the DMG Buchenauerhof staff. They are interested in the many possible areas of service: How Christians could serve Jesus in their profession in countries with limited religious freedom, how missionaries are employed and insured, how pastoral care is provided, and how cooperation with other ministries, churches and free churches in other countries can be organized. These are areas in which DMG has many years of experience.
Pray for the Churches in Latvia
The strong national ties of their compatriots and the fact that Latvian Christians so far have hardly any experience in cross-cultural mission are seen as problems in their homeland: "It will not be easy to convince our churches that we have a worldwide mission. However, it is necessary," says Zigmars Rozentals. "The time is ripe for us to develop from being receivers to being sending churches. There are opportunities where God wants to use us Latvians in mission." For this the three committed Christians pray for God's help and clear direction. Will you pray with them?
Background: The DMG was founded in 1951 because young Christians from Germany felt called to mission but had hardly any opportunities because of the war guilt of our country. The special structure of the DMG, in which missionaries are basically integrated into the teams of our partner organizations from other countries, has opened the door for them and is a role model as is our prayerful and servant way of working.