As we boarded the plane on June 13, 2015 for Seattle, I wondered what God was going to do on this trip to Riga. The first trip was simply amazing, and I had a feeling God’s presence would be around us this whole trip, also.
God orchestrated some amazing things the first trip to Riga. On our first trip, we got into Riga around nine o’clock on Halloween night. Everyone was jet lagged, tired, and ready for bed. Saturday, we slept most of the day because of the time change and the thirty-five hour journey.
The following day, which was of course Sunday, we wanted to attend church. I woke up early and I was working on A Father to the Fatherless Orphan’s Fund website. Dad showed me a video about Orphan Sunday. You can watch the video here. I added it to our organization’s website. Then everyone prepared for church and we left, walking down 135 stairs to ground level. It was pouring rain as we walked to the church which was about five or six blocks down the road.
Finding St. John’s Church proved to be very challenging. We tried opening multiple doors in the area, thinking, “This must be it,” but they were all locked. Finally, we opened a door and were greeted by three men in suits and ties. Our soaking wet family, dressed in jeans and wet flannel shirts, felt extremely out-of-place! We sat down on the long wooden pews toward the back of the sanctuary. The service had already started. There was an amazing choir accompanied by the organ.
After the choir and organ accompaniment was finished, a video, which was in English, played. As it turns out, it was the same video I had just added to the website that morning. Amazing!
The pastor walked up onto the stage area and began talking in Latvian, a language we could not understand. He continued to talk for about an hour. Then, a man named Mike Douris, who is from Texas, came up to speak about Orphan Sunday and the Orphan problem in Latvia and around the world. He spoke in English and it was translated into Latvian by a lady named Dace. He spoke for about fifteen minutes. After he was finished, the pastor came up again for another hour and talked some more in Latvian. The whole service lasted almost three hours.
After the service we went up to the front of the church and started talking to Mike. He was soft-spoken, and compassionate for orphans. Mike is the leader of Orphan Outreach which is an organization that outreaches to orphans in many countries. Mike explained that he started Orphan Sunday, which was designed to create an awareness for orphans. Mike then called his translator over, Dace, so we could meet her. She shook our hands and said, “Yes, nice to meet you! I will be your translator at the orphan court next week.” Dace leads the orphan ministry with Orphan Outreach in Latvia. Amazing!
Mike was in Riga for a very short time and only goes to Latvia less than once a year. We happened to catch him at the right time in a city of 800,000 people. Yet more miraculously, we met Dace, who would be our translator in court and a key player in connecting us with orphan ministry in Latvia. Another shocking thing was the fact that the Orphan Sunday video was created by Mike’s son! All this was remarkable, and yet it was just the beginning.
The next day, Mom saw something on Facebook from a man who rents his apartment in Latvia out to families adopting children for discounted prices. He said he would be giving a tour of Riga for the families on their adoption trips. Mom Responded saying that we would love to come.
On Wednesday, our family met Chuck Kelley at the Liama Clock, an important place in Latvian history. Chuck had a good sense of humor and was very christ focussed. He gave us the tour, taking us all over Old Town. He explained to us that he leads the organization Bridge Builders International. After the tour was done, he invited us over to his apartment for tea the following Saturday.
We went to Chuck’s apartment on Saturday, and he told us about his organization. Part of the organization has an orphan ministry called New Hope Latvia. New Hope has many programs to care for the fatherless in Latvia. Chuck told us we ought to meet the leaders of New Hope, Jaycee and Susan.
A few days later we found ourselves in a coffee shop, Double Coffee, the Starbucks of Latvia, talking with Jaycee and Susan. We again met two key players connecting us and our organization with orphan ministry in Latvia. God definitely showed his presence and existence on the first trip.
I said a prayer on our way to Riga for the second time, “God, Show your presence in this trip as much as you did in the first trip.” God certainly heard my prayer and he definitely answered it.
My Dad and I have been talking about connecting churches with orphanages in Latvia through A Father to the Fatherless Orphans’ Fund. We want a church in the US have the opportunity to go on a mission trip once a year to provide loving care to the kids in the orphanage. Jaycee and Susan told us they have been trying to do the same thing, but they haven’t been able to make the connection. They need someone in the US to find a church that would be willing to make that partnership, and then help connect the church with New Hope.
Later we found out Dace has connected a church in Wisconsin with an orphanage in Latvia. Eight to fifteen members of the church go on a mission trip once a year to an orphanage in Jelgava, Latvia. The church family from Wisconsin has adopted over twenty orphans out of the Jelgava Orphanage and they have shown the love of Christ to many others.
We happened to be in Latvia the same time the church from Wisconsin was in Latvia for their mission trip to the Jelgava orphanage. Amazing! Dad, Dennis, and I took an hour train ride to Jelgava, arrived at the train station, and assumed we would be walking to the orphanage. We only had one problem, we didn’t know how to get there. God had a plan. As we walked over to look at the train schedule, a horn honked at us and we turned around. The window of the black Volvo rolled down and we heard, “Hey Stranger.” It was Dace. Amazing! We got in her car, and she drove us the orphanage. I’m glad we didn’t have to walk. It was a good distance away from the train station and I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t have found it.
We were led inside the orphanage by Dace. It was not a desirable place to live. Then we went outside and met everyone from Wisconsin. We played basketball, hopscotch, drew pictures with sidewalk chalk, and had fun hanging out with the kids.
It happened to be one of the kids’ name day. He was maybe four of five years old. We sang happy name day to you…. Then he was presented with a present. He opened it, shaking with anticipation. I’ve never seen such a big grin on anyones face before. He held up his gift high in the air, jumping up and down as fast as he could, with a large beaming grin across his face, while screaming with joy. The present, was a miniature hockey set, one that you might find at the Dollar Store. It would be nothing to us, but to him it was different.
On the Drive back to the train station, Dace said, “Well, you have all the connections, meeting Mike, Chuck, Jaycee, Susan, the church from Wisconsin, and me. God has given you the contacts. Pray about it and let me know what you’re going to do with them.”
God is real. Do you know how I know? He has connected us with everyone we needed to know in order to continue to grow our orphan ministry, A Father to the Fatherless Orphans’ Fund. He has wrapped his presence around us through many amazing miracles in Latvia.