My name is Fjorilda and I am writing from freezing but beautiful Riga, Latvia.
I am here this year with IFES InterAction to work with international students.
Before leaving my home in Italy, I knew almost nothing of Latvia, and my friends had told me scary things: people eat only cabbage, potatoes and meat all year; it is very cold and most of the year it is dark; people are cold…
As a stranger I arrived at the airport. My colleague was waiting for me with a bunch of flowers and a joyful smile. We hugged like real friends; then she carried my suitcase, and began to explain how everything worked – public transport, shopping, life in general in Riga. This was not a ‘cold’ person! Soon I met my roommate, my InterAction team leader, other colleagues and my General Secretary – none of them were ‘cold’!
But the weather, yes – very cold! I dress with many layers like an onion and am weighed down by clothes. But there is joy in experiencing new things, for example walking on the frozen sea.
As for work, I had to start from scratch and I felt alone. But I started to make friends with people in the Latvian class for foreigners that I was taking at the university. I suggested that we start a homework coffee club, that after class we would go out and have coffee together, do homework and then take a walk to explore this beautiful city. The idea was greeted with enthusiasm by all, and so my ministry began.
Since then I have developed friendships and some of us started to study the Bible together. They invited more friends and now there are about eight of us.
I also started a Bible study group with four Muslim girls. I was a bit scared because I had little experience with Muslims. But I have seen the grace of God, his hand has guided everything and gives me the wisdom and the humility to answer honestly and even admit that sometimes I have no answer.
Also on the course I met a girl from Lithuania who was staying in a hostel. She knew I was a Christian and asked me if I knew a Christian place where she could stay. I invited her to stay at my house: this was my opportunity to express the love of Christ in action! She said she was an atheist, but we talked about faith often and I shared the gospel with her. In December, she decided to give her life to Jesus, just before she returned home.
Ministry with international students is not easy – you meet many people, make friends, learn a lot about different cultures … but soon they return home and you have to start all over again.
But God is faithful, in all things. He has answered all my prayers and is also bringing new people to become part of the team, so I do not have to do everything alone. Now we are preparing for an evangelistic week in March. We are excited and looking forward to a team from GBU Italy coming to help us.
What can I conclude? Before we go to a place to serve, God has visited this place before us, has prepared everything for our arrival – we are doing only what he has prepared earlier. He has warmed our hearts to go and is warming other hearts to receive the good news we bring.