Sunday, June 16, 2013

Week 8 & 9 1/2

In my last post, we were leveling the floor in the fellowship hall at the Riga First Methodist Church.  This is a project not dissimilar to many improvement projects - one improvement leads to another.  As we got closer to putting in a new laminate floor, we realized the walls and the ceiling needed to be repaired and painted first. The District Office also has offices in the church and District Superintendent Gita Mednis wanted the hallway, outside the fellowship hall, ceiling and walls patched and painted as well – and the front steps of the church repaired. 

The walls and ceiling of the fellowship hall and hallway needed quite a bit of attention.  We had two members of the church working with us – Janis and Urita.  Both were a very important part of the team and fun to work with. 
Janis and Urita working on the fellowship hall ceiling

Clarence clearing off the new step we poured
Richards and Clarence making final touches to fellowship hall

Newly painted hallway

My final day in Latvia was not spent working.  Rihards Germans, our main go-to-guy, our construction manager, and the Office Manager for the District Office took us to a few of his favorite tourist spots along the coast.  In the evening, we went over to District Superintendent Gita Mednis house for a picnic with many of the people at the Riga 1st Church we had gotten to know.
Beach at Jurmala

Picnic at Gita Mednis' home

Picnic at Gita Mednis' home

My flight home was on Friday, the 14th. It is nice to be home, but we have seen and learned a lot - and made many new friends.  Latvia is very much a country worth getting to know.    

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Week 6 & 7

We finally visited the one remaining Methodist Church in Latvia that we hadn’t been to yet.  It is located in the city of Jelgava. They rent a meeting room from the Department of Health for Sunday mornings and one evening a week.  The pastor is Janis Baumanis.

Janis’s main job is running an alcohol outreach program in Riga.  It just so happened that there was an administrator from a Methodist alcohol rehab center in Germany visiting the church the same Sunday we were there.  It was fun to find out about their Methodist Church in Germany and its large rehab program.

Rev. Janis Baumanis, his wife and son, and our translator

Janis during the church service

Clarence and Torsten-Micheal Ufer from Germany

The majority of the last two weeks we have been leveling floors, first in a Sunday school room and then in the fellowship hall.  There had been quite a bit of floor settling over the years and both rooms had formerly been two rooms.  In the Sunday school room there was a 3 inch correction that had to be made to make the floor level.  The pictures kind of show the process we used.   We patched the bad spots, in some areas removed some of the previous floor so we didn’t have to raise the floor too much and put shims on top of the existing floor - at 30 mm intervals.
Clarence and Rihards inspecting bad area in Sunday School Room

Adding shims to the floor

Sunday School Room with new level floor

Fellowship Hall during floor leveling
For fun, we went to ethnic craft fair at a large open air museum on the edge of Riga.  The Open Air Museum has over a 100 architectural exhibits, over 87 hectares of land.   A lot of the buildings are log buildings, some dating back to the 18th century.  The craft fair is almost a national event, with people coming from all over the country.  There were a folk dancers performing all day.
Church Building at Open Air Museum

Inside Church Building
Traditional Farm Buildings

Traditional House Built Along the Coast
Traditional Barn
Craft Fair

Folk Dancers

Another Group of Folk Dancers

There will be more to come next week.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Week 5

So far, we have been in Latvia for 5 weeks.  We have inspected almost all of the Methodist Churches and church related facilities.  We have gone to church services at 5 of the 10 churches.  (And have plans to go to a sixth church for services on Sunday.)  I thought people would like to hear a few of my observations.
Latvians are a kind courteous people with strong rural roots.  The fact that their largest national events are their national choir and folk dance festivals should tell you something.

It has been hard for Latvia to completely put 50 years of communist rule behind them, but, all things considered, they are actually doing amazingly well.   The same would apply to the Methodist Church in Latvia.   The three large churches that they got back in the early 1990’s, two in Riga and one in Liepaja, attest to the fact that there was a vibrant Methodist Church in Latvia in the 1940’s.  To me, the Methodist Church has had two big struggles to overcome.  The first is the fact that most things cost at least as much here as they do in the States, if not more, sometimes quite a bit.  This combined with the fact that the per capita income in Latvia is 60% less than it is in the United States does not leave a lot left over at the end of the month for the average person.  The second is the fact that the Methodist Church in Latvia had to almost start from scratch.  After Latvia got its independence from Russia, there was just a handful of Latvians that did most of the work to restart their previous congregations.   As you also know in the States things move slow in churches.  But they have a close church family and have lots of kids and youth participating in church, as well as many young ministers.   Like any other growing church family they also have some growing pains and one of them is how to deal with their current buildings.  Most of their buildings have some kind of heating problem.  Today, the standard has changed.  Young people don’t expect to sit in cold churches any longer and old buildings generally cost quite a bit more to heat.

I apologize that I have not taken more pictures at church services or during fellowship.

I did take some tourist pictures, if you plan to visit Latvia.  Clarence and I had Friday off so we rented a car from a local rental person, off the internet, and drove to two of the big tourist sites in Latvia – Turaida Castle and Rundale Palace.  As you can see for yourself both were very impressive.  

Courtyard at Turaida Castle
The Castle was built between 1214 and the 1550's - a section at a time.
A Picture Taken Across the Courtyard at the Tower
A Picture Taken from the 5 Story Tall Tower
Picture of Rundale Palace from the Corner

From the Rear Entrance
One of the Rooms in the Palace
The Palace was built in the 1700's - by a Duke in the Russian Court

This is all until next week.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Camp Wesley / Paplaka Trip

On Friday, we took our second trip to Liepaja.  This trip was to see Camp Wesley and the Methodist Church at Paplaka.  Reverend Inese Budnika was gone during our first trip to Liepaja.  She is the minister at the Paplaka Church, as well as being in charge of the camp.  Friday, we inspected both facilities.  On Saturday, we helped at a cleaning and maintenance day at the camp.  Sunday, we attended the Methodist Church in Liepaja at 11:00 am and service in Paplaka at 2:00 pm.  They were very nice services.  It was Mother’s day here also.

Church Service at Paplaka
The Paplaka congregation has been an active Methodist congregation since the 1990’s, but it is a rural congregation.  The church is located in the town’s cultural center, which was built during Soviet times.  The building also has the town’s store and space for residence to make traditional craft items. 
Paplaka Cultural Center & Church Location
Paplaka Sanctuary
Paplaka Fellowship Hall
Traditional Craft Room
Camp Wesley was dedicated in 2005 and has been making improvements each year since.   As you can see the camp was originally a vibrant farm.  The barn is named the Alabama Building because the Methodist Church’s Alabama Conference made a large donation to renovate the building – which now includes a commercial kitchen, dining hall, flush toilets and showers.  The Holston Conference also made a donation for work done on the house.  

Camp Wesley
Alabama Building

 Top Floor of Alabama Building 
Dining Hall
Our Host Rev. Inese Budnika
Camp Wesley is looking for summer camp and construction teams to come.  They have several landscaping and construction projects they could use some help with.  One of them is to build 4 wood cabins.  They have platforms where tents are now set-up for the campers.  It would be better to have wood cabins, built on the platforms, for the children and youth to stay in.  On the coast, storms can blow in quickly and being in wood buildings would be reassuring for the campers. 

Let me know if you would like to help in anyway. 

Stay tuned for my next report