Epistle 4

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May 14, 2007



Today (Monday, May 14) we left for Tilza – one of the poorest regions in Latvia.

We stopped in Madona for another batch of those incredible Korzeki cookies for our 3 ½ hour drive to Tilza.  Tilza is about 25 miles from the Western border of Russia.

The countryside looks much like driving to the Oregon coast at times, or old 99E through Silverton, Mt. Angelarea.  Until you get a look or site of one of the many amazing pinnacled or turreted churches or castles – you think you are at home.

We saw many storks in their 6 foot nests and stands along side the road for dairy farmers to put their big metal milk cans on for pick up by haulers.

The biggest shock came when we entered the city of Balvi.  This had been a booming industrial mecca during the Russian occupation with many factories.  Hugh factories now stand in complete ruin as giant monsters with broken walls, windows, roofs.  When the Russians left in 1998, they simply evacuated their people and locked the doors.  It was a very disturbing site – very ugly – very World War II bombed building looking.  To me it was as if some sinister grey/black presence was there.

As we left Balvi we began to enter the countryside once again.  I realized the road actually sparkled like diamonds.  It seems they pave the road with quartz rocks.  It was quite beautiful.

Our time atTilzaBaptistConferenceCenterwas a blessed time.

Dan and Katie Roth and their three children, Jonathan (5), Anna (3) and Essie (Esther 9 months) were delightful children.

The whole crew there consists of:  Dan and Katie and their three children, Kaspers and Liena and their two children (he is the pastor of the church), Calle fromSweden, Liga and Aija, two girls who run the kitchen and watch the children, and David from Scotland.

It was an incredible team to watch in action, who serve the youth in Tilza.  Communal meals were a blast:  10 at one table and 6 at another.  Lots of laughter and talk, and fighting over who got the last piece of bread.  We actually stayed in the conference center building similar to being a youth camp except that this was an old sanatorium building and is currently being renovated.

Life is so different here.  At the center, it is customary to not put your used toilet paper into the toilet for flushing, but to put it in a basket that is beside the toilet.  We were told that we were actually lucky because there hadn’t been toilets until recently.

We went to Tilza to work on a curtain project for the conference center as all windows are exposed.  We sewed until about midnight and were back up by 6:30 a.m. to finish the project.  Jonathan helped us by running the power pedal of the machines while we said go and stop.  He kept us entertained with “Spiderman” antics.

We had a fast rolling electrical storm come through the area just about noon and everything had to be turned off and unplugged.  It was warm and the lightening was spectacular.

What we have found is that they eat a really large noon meal and then a light supper.   For lunch we had raw cucumbers (called fresh snakes) and pickles (called picked snakes), potatoes and gravy, breaded pork steaks that were as big as your dinner plate and dessert.

We were able to get the curtains entirely done for the main room and half of the ones for the activity room.  Kim will finish those at home in Ergli and return them to the camp. Calle and Dan helped hang them and it made a great difference.

As we packed up to go, we had one last time with these great folks.  Katie presented Kathy and me with Latvian pottery coffee mugs and deep burgundy carnations.

After being there, you realize how spoiled we are.  What comfortable lives we live.  These kids work hard, are very tired, and yet have great spirit, hearts and graciousness.  Everything they have is yours. – including their kids.

I am exhausted – and am looking forward to my bed.

Please continue to pray for God to be our strength.  I wouldn’t change a thing so far.  Bruce and Kim are exceptional hosts.  Their love of these people is incredible and their willingness to sacrifice their American homes and family to be here to serve is awesome.

To everyone – blessings.

As always, in His Service

Leslie and Kathy

Lesleea and Katcha

(all women’s names end in ‘a’ here )