This, our first week in Latvia was busy and eventful. We arrived on Tuesday and went to our new apartment and unpacked.
On Wednesday morning we had a breakfast meeting with the Senior Couple from Estonia and the other couple who will be serving in the office with us. It was great to meet everyone and the breakfast buffet at the Radisson hotel was extensive and very nice. After breakfast we went back to the office and worked all day being trained in our jobs. Wednesday night we went to dinner at the Millets (the other office couple), then went to a store called “RIMI’s” which is kind of like a Walmart, well as close as they have to that. We needed to “setup housekeeping” in our new apartment. 300 Lats later (about $600) we went home with our loot. The prices are not “Walmart” however. They have a 22% tax on everything here so everything is much more expensive. Example: a large skillet that I bought in the states for $20 cost $60 here. We didn’t get to bed until 11 PM.
On Thursday we worked in the office from 8:30 until 4:00, then went to a special Thanksgiving dinner hosted at Brother Bailey’s home. He works in the American Embassy and kindly invited all the Missionaries in Riga to come for Dinner. There were about 40 people there which included our Mission President and his wife (President & Sister Boswell) the Area President and his wife (Elder & Sister Lawrence) and three senior couples, as well as about 24 elder and sister missionaries. We had a great time and it was very fun to meet all the Elders and Sisters. Took the bus home and got to bed at 11:00 PM.
On Friday we worked all day at the office. I finished a special project of taking the October conference talks (which had been translated into Latvian, Estonia & Lithuanian) and copying them into word, adding pictures of the speakers and making each in to a booklet. We then send them to the printers and distribute the booklets to the members. The church translates conference into Russian, but not these other languages, so we do that. Anyway it took some time but I finally got it done. Friday night we had a dinner with the Area President and his wife, plus The Mission President and his wife, plus the three senior couples in Riga. It was great to spend so much time with Elder Lawrence (member of 1st quorum of the Seventy) and his wife. Elder Lawrence told his of his conversion story when he joined the church as a young man and how he met and married his wife. It was a great story and we enjoyed his company as well as Our Mission President and his wife. President and Sister Boswell have been so kind and supportive of us. We are very happy to be serving with them.
On Saturday we had zone conference. Left the house at 8:15 and travelled by bus to the Center Chapel. The zone conference was fantastic. It started off with Sister Lawrence giving a 90 minute presentation on “The Holy One of Israel”. She went into the bloodlines of Israel and how scripture and patriarchal blessings relate. It was powerful and informative. She is a former seminary teacher and knew her subject well. I’ve read a lot off Hugh Nibley and have studied this before, and I learned a more few things. Major point, “The blood of Israel is believing”. Elder Lawrence then talked to us for another 90 minutes about “The keys of success on your mission”. It was great and time went fast, we were not watching the clock. One thing he said that I liked: Question: What is the difference between a prompting and a good idea? Answer: Who cares, just do it! He was talking about following the spirit. We broke for lunch and had pizza that had been delivered. It wasn’t like Costco (My west coast standard) but it was good. Sister Boswell spoke about the sons of Mosiah and how she observed us like that. When the missionaries came in they were hugging each other because they were so glad to see each other. President Boswell spoke about: Most of us are 1st watch prayers (meaning we want it now), but we worship a 4th watch God (meaning God does not often answer our prayers until later, but he always answers). It was a great discussion. We then had a musical number with 5 Elders and 2 Sisters singing a Latvian song. A Latvian sister accompanied on the piano. It was sooo beautiful. Maybe the most beautiful singing and piano I have ever heard. It was titled “Heavens Near”. Elder Lawrence finished up the discussion part of the conference with a talk on the difference between the committed to baptism number and the actually baptized number. He discussed ways to bring them closer together. Then we had testimony meeting where every missionary got up and gave their testimony. It was powerful and moving. Closed the meeting and we went home and collapsed.
Sunday we went to the Russian branch for the first time. We were warmly greeted and got to use some of our Russian. During the services, an Elder sat next to us and whispered in our ear about what was going on. We could understand a few words here and there, but without the translation we would have been clueless. Some of the members spoke some English and the Branch President’s wife spoke excellent English, although the Branch President speaks very little English. All-in-all it was great. Atleachna as they say in Russian.
It was a great first week! We were worried about jetlag, but didn’t have time to experience it. So we are now fully involved and ready to start the new week. Since today is our P-day, we are off to explore. Chow!
Old Lutheren church that is in front of our rented apartment chapel (Center Chapel)