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A week in Riga

Hi my name is Zach. I am an Interaction volunteer in Siena, and this year I went on the GBU mission trip to Riga, Latvia. I would like to tell you all a bit about what happened and also share some reflections.

The week:

We all arrived in Riga sometime Saturday, we got a chance to go visit Fjorilda who was still in the hospital at the time [Fjorilda is an Interaction volunteer in Riga and was hit by a car about a week before the mission trip]. She was very happy to see all of us and we spent about 2 hours all speaking Italian while Fjori’s mum and the General Secretary of LKSB (Latvian GBU) stood in the room not understanding a word…

The mission week started with a meeting Sunday night where we discussed the plan of action. The days were packed: in the morning after breakfast, we had devotions all together and got ready, before heading to the university campuses. We had a large team of people helping so we were able to cover several university campuses in the city. We would spend 3 hours talking to students on campus and inviting them to the events. In the afternoon we had to set up for the evening, and start preparing the food. We would have a prayer time at 6 then open the doors. Each event ran roughly for a couple of hours. After there were always people who stayed around to talk, then we would clean up, and get back to home base at about 11, cook some pasta for dinner and go to bed. We did this 4 days in a row. It was tough! But it was also rewarding.

The first night over 120 students showed up! We didn’t have enough pasta to feed them all! It was a fun cultural evening where we had a quiz on Italy and taught the students common Italian gestures amongst other things. We also explained who we were and that the rest of the week we would be talking about important questions about God, and invited them all to come.

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The second night I played some live music, then Giovanni spoke in response to the question “Why doesn’t God reveal himself more clearly?” He argued that God has revealed himself clearly in Creation, in Scripture and in Jesus! There was a question and answer time and there were a lot of Muslim students asking questions. There were more than 60 people there! And many of the muslim students stayed for more discussion afterwards.

The third night we watched La Vita è Bella and Francesco spoke about suffering. That Christianity has various answers to why God allows suffering, but in the end Christianity is less worried about explaining why there is suffering and more worried about offering the hope of no more suffering one day. There were about 50 students there. Once again many students stayed behind to talk.

Then the final night, I once again played some live music, and Giovanni talked about who would be saved. He explained the gospel, that people must repent and believe in Jesus. I was amazed during his message how attentively people were listening to him. I think there were more than 60 people there. Afterwards there were some questions and Giovanni answered them clearly and gracefully with the truth. Even more people stayed after to talk on this night. There was one girl from Uzbekistan who came to Giovanni afterward and told him she believed it, but had a feeling of something blocking her. Others were very interested in knowing more about the Bible and about Jesus.

All in all it was a very encouraging time with many students interested in who Jesus is and what he is about.

A reflection:

I have often been uncomfortable with the on campus evangelism of trying to just start conversations. I often feel like a salesman, and it isn’t a good feeling. But I learned this week that God will use your willingness. I was in a space which was very hard to start conversations in. But each of the first two days I had a really good conversation with someone or group, then on the third day I saw both of those again (they came and said hello wanting to talk more) and was able to talk more to them about God and the Gospel and also bring Giovanni into the conversation to explain what he would be talking about. It made all the rejections worth it to have a few people hear the gospel. I think God uses you especially when it is uncomfortable.

Please pray for all those who heard the gospel in that week! Pray that these students would come to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior!

Zachary Smith
(Interaction Siena)