Watering the Seeds: Return to Latvia, June 2011

by Bob Kells

Below is a message from Bob Kells on his recent trip to our Latvia Missionaries:

A recent business trip to Eastern Europe gave me an opportunity to visit our friends in the Latvian UMC. During my stay over the weekend of 10-12 June, 2011, I met with Rev. Gita Mednis, District Superintendent for Latvia and pastor of Riga First United Methodist Church (UMC), and Kristine Vainovska, who serves the youth and young adults of the church. GIta visited Good Shepherd in May 2010 and shared her experiences about the ways God is working to bring healing and wholeness to people of Latvia through the Latvian UMC and other churches.

It was great to catch up with Gita and Kristine, but I had another purpose in making the trip. I wanted to reinvigorate the puppet ministry we helped start during our summer 2009 mission trip. That year, the mission team from Good Shepherd (Rev. Steve Larsen, his daughter Emma, Alina Busch, my daughter Sarah and me) spent a week at a summer camp for children and youth in western Latvia. During our stay at Wesley Camp, we made friends and shared our faith in Christ with some of the nearly 150 young people at the camp. Sarah and I also taught several volunteers how to use puppets in Christian ministry. We started with the basics and taught in English. By the end of the camp, the six young people we worked with performed a sketch in Latvian at the worship service that closed out the camp. That was a powerful affirmation that with God's help, we had planted some seeds for a puppet ministry to take root in Latvia.

My goal for this year's visit was to "water the seeds" by showing how the puppets could be used during worship. Kristine invited several youth to come to the church Friday afternoon to work with the puppets. Six young people answered the call. I was delighted to see among the group two of the puppeteers we had trained at Wesley Camp two years before. Friday afternoon and evening we worked on the fundamentals of puppetry. On Saturday we made signs for the song we would perform during Sunday's worship service. Kristine translated a sketch I wrote for the La Plata UMC talent show into Latvian. The song was still in English but Kristine translated the lyrics into Latvian and put them into a Powerpoint show for the service.

Sunday evening came and it was time for the puppets to go on. So how did they do? They were terrific! The sketch went off very smoothly and the song was loads of fun. The puppeteers did a good job making their characters come to life. All the signs went up at the right time too - no small feat for an puppet team. I even had a walk-on role at the end of the sketch as a stern school principal. Thankfully, my only job was to clear my throat and look serious. I think that translates into just about any language.

The whole weekend was a great success. I left Monday morning thanking God for the chance to reconnect with our brothers and sisters in Latvia. I was also grateful for the chance to work with Kristine and the young people who came out to learn more about puppetry. Like puppet teams everywhere, they are true Christian storytellers who share the good news of Jesus Christ through this wonderful medium. Please continue to pray for them and for creative Christian ministries everywhere that use the arts to tell others about God's love.

Bob Kells