Riga Bible Centre | Latvia | Winter Welfare Scheme
Andy & Mel Downton (Horley) and Mike & Vanessa Boler (Folkestone) arrived in Riga at the beginning of January and spent three months providing hot meals each day for the brethren and sisters and contacts. Others which have come to support them for shorter periods, included Rob & Debbie Clements (Ipswich), Anna and Barbara Ryder (Horley), Denis Leverett (Chelmsford), Mim Clark & June Williams (Guildford), Belinda Burns (Australia), Trevor Alison (Knowle & Dorridge) and Hazel Rutherford and Peter & Lorraine Eichhorn (Nantwich). Fellowship with so many visitors from a wide range of ecclesias is most encouraging for all in Riga.
Sisters Lorraine Eichhorn and Hazel Rutherford of the Nantwich UK ecclesia were in Latvia along with brother Peter Eichhorn and brother Denis Leverett (Chelmsford UK ecclesia). Here's their report on some Winter welfare work done in Riga:
It has been -15 degrees by day and down to -25 by night in Riga (the capital of Latvia) since we arrived on Saturday. Try to imagine the living conditions of three members of the ecclesia and a non-member who is looking to be baptised but ashamed to expose his long unwashed body. Two have TB and one is HIV positive which prevents them from getting beds in night shelters due to their having communicable disease. We visited them last night, travelling in a warm car the journey that they make on foot or taking illegal bus rides in sub-zero temperatures. Their home is a stair-well, on a concrete floor, in a cavernous derelict building. The wind whistles through its broken entrance. No furniture only concrete stairs to sit on and an assortment of thin pieces of bedding to lie on. Two candles light their nights. No heating, no wash facilities, no hot food at all. Their only facilities are in a nearby supermarket where they can use the toilets and wash during opening hours.
These are some of our Brothers and Sisters in Christ who walk these long distances in subzero temperatures to receive the bowls of soup prepared daily at the hall. The reality of handing out these bowls to the 100+ every day hit me forcibly after our evening visit. The huge disparity between their lives now in Christ and mine.... We stay here in a well heated, modern house, sleeping in warm beds and with access to every modern facility. At home we have houses, pensions, savings and government support systems. They have nothing due to their situation as ethnic Russians. We bought them some food, water to use immediately before it froze, gave them some sleeping bags, gloves, hats and the scarves that we were wearing. More will be provided as needed. Today I will understand why they return for 2nd, 3rd and more helpings of soup and bread until the pans run dry. If reading this sounds like drama, it is not. It is cold hard reality for some. And I will pray that my Brothers and Sisters in the West will support this valuable work with more love, understanding and aid and pray for more workers to come over and help those who already work out here. There have been baptisms every week. Pictured top right is VLADIMIR, a spritely gentleman who looks like some kind of Christadelphian Solzhenitsyn, who simply loves what we have to teach. He was at one time a guard on the Berlin Wall and still remembers some German from his time stationed in Berlin. He is pictured with Cindy Heaster and Mel Downton.
Pictured right is our new brother Vitaly with Marina, and Vanessa Boler and Mel Downton to his right.