The Riga clock at the train station.
13 June 2017
The day we arrived in Riga for the second leg of the OCE Baltics trip I could immediately feel that the atmosphere was a whole lot different from Tallinn. It was very oppressive. Both Angela and I saw manifestations of the defeated enemy within minutes of our separate arrivals. She saw a woman on the bus that looked just like a fairy tale witch, complete with a wart on her pointy nose. She said that the witch stared menacingly at her, but could not hold her gaze, looking quickly away.
How many times have I told Snow White not to eat that apple!
I saw a demonized woman slow-chasing a man. She might not have been a real woman, but a demon or a demon manifesting in a woman, honestly I don’t know. She was wearing a light brown sweater that was a size or two too small and didn’t cover her belly, light brown corduroy pants, and nothing else (no bra, no shoes, no purse, nothing on this cold, rainy morning). The man was clearly scared of her and kept skittering away from her. She chased him in that slow, huffing, movie monster gait. It was very creepy. He fast-walked past me, and she followed, passing no more than a foot from me. I had prayed that she wouldn’t see me, and apparently she didn’t because she was completely focused on him.
Then he dashed in front of a moving tram, to put it between him and her. She went around the back of the tram as it stopped and I saw him run back around and behind another tram that was going the opposite direction and get on it. When the trams both left, I looked for her, but she was gone—that’s why I suspect that she may not have been human. I know she didn’t get onto a tram, and she didn’t seem capable of moving very fast, so where did she go?
Between these two creepy manifestations, it was pretty clear that there was a lot of defeated enemy activity at work in Riga. That day my left foot and ankle began to ache and swell, so I sent a message to my home church to pray for me. At a certain point yesterday I felt a tingling all over my left leg and the foot immediately felt better—which must have been when I got prayers. By the next day my foot was much better, still swollen, but not painful.
Then I began having a different kind of attack: I became very short-tempered and irritable. Not with people, but at situations. On our third day I was alone on a busy street with no crosswalk, no light, and needing to cross—the situation just set me off, grumbling. Then the morning of our last full day there was not one single drop of hot water for my shower (and despite being the end of May it was not warm at all (in the 50’s and the heating had been turned off for the season). I took a very fast icy cold shower, complaining to myself the whole time. These kinds of things don’t normally stir up anger in me, so I recognized it as an attack. Usually I laugh my way quickly through a cold shower, thinking about how missionaries sometimes only get cold showers. So this really bothered me because I want to be joyful and grateful, living in such a way that brings glory to God. It’s not about me or my difficulties. Finally it dawned on me that both episodes had happened in the presence of water. I was by the river when I was trying to cross the street, and of course in the shower. Often there is the presence of water spirits in these old European capitals. So I wondered if there had been the influence of water spirits making me irritable in situations that normally don’t cause me to get upset.
We had a moment that was very telling about the local spirit: we were praying at the Freedom Monument, for the war of independence. Next year will be the 100th anniversary of that independence. We had a Latvian worship leader with us, and asked him to sing a Latvian worship song when we finished praying there. He couldn’t do it! You could see that he was really struggling as tears formed in his eyes and his lip quivered. Communist rule kept people silenced, and now that they are truly free, they still struggle to speak up. Eventually he did sing a song in English and then the Latvian translation. What would have been really appropriate for the moment would be an original Latvian song—and he has written several. But in that moment, he just couldn’t do it. It made me want to cry—not just for him, but for his people, too.
Then we went to pray in the Parliament building. On other trips to the various European capitals there were times when we have not been able to pray inside government buildings (either because of human rules or heavy spiritual oppression). God has told me that it’s enough for us just to be there because we carry His presence.
Selfie in front of Parliament.
In Riga I personally got assurance from the Lord that our prayers were not in vain. He said that even though it doesn’t seem like we’re able to do much, He is able because we had released Him and His Spirit there. That’s good to know. God will accomplish all of His good purpose despite all the odds: the heaviness, demonic presence and manifestations, our weaknesses and inabilities, etc. We are God’s Secret Weapons after all—at least that is the word that He gave me in Tallinn. Sometimes we haven’t had great unity. None of us have any great abilities. The truth is that we don’t have anything in our flesh. What we have is God Almighty, and He is the One and Only One who can make a difference wherever we go to pray in obedience. I am so glad that I’m on His side! Victory is assured, both here and throughout the world. I just do my little part here.
We made progress in Riga, but it was hard. The spirit was so heavy that just walking down the street felt like slogging through mud. Team unity has been OK, vastly improved by the presence of the South Africans. Although Riga had some major challenges, it also had some major blessings. For me, those blessings have been in the form of meeting precious missionaries. I have always loved missionaries, so this “work” God has given to me is more pleasure than work. I am so richly blessed!
One really beautiful thing is that Angela was picked out by a local intercessor for special honor. The woman didn’t know (couldn’t have known) about her gifting and her faithfulness to her calling, but obviously the Holy Spirit gave her that revelation. I was so happy because Angela has been the most valuable (and yet underappreciated) member of the team from the beginning. She has been on every single OCE trip since the beginning. And she is the only one. Often the Lord has her arrive a day or two early and/or leave a day or two late, giving her special solo prayer assignments. Sometimes I’ve been able to go with her on these special prayer assignments.
Our last day was spent mostly debriefing, and that night we were invited to participate in an outreach to men who had come to Riga for the sex trade. Someone with the local Youth With a Mission (YWAM) base wrote a booklet called Buy No More. It explains in a non-judgmental way about human trafficking and the fact that even those women who “chose” the lifestyle in reality had little or no choice. I love going along as prayer support for what they call “treasure hunts,” seeking out the prostitutes and offering them a way out of that lifestyle. But I was fascinated because I had never heard of outreach to the men. So I went along as prayer support. They split into two teams, and some handed out the booklets while we followed at a discreet distance, praying. Ketty and I were prayer backup. The men on the team approached groups of young men, offering the booklet, saying: “Would you like to learn about human trafficking and sexual exploitation?” Honestly, it doesn’t seem like horny drunks would be at all interested, but of course we prayed for God to lead us to the right people, and asked Him to assign an angel to each booklet to assure that they got into the right hands. We also prayed that God would prepare the soil of their hearts and minds to receive the information—and a life transformation.
On outreach, educating men about human trafficking.
A few waved them off, but many more received the booklets. Some even thanked them! I didn’t see any booklets end up on the ground or go into the trash. Praise God! At the end of the night my ankle was very swollen and hard to walk on, but not hurting. The swelling went down over night and didn’t bother me for the rest of the trip.
Riga was definitely a place where we had a hard-won victory. I wondered about Vilnius, which Ketty had said had an even more oppressive atmosphere. One city at a time, I reminded myself. God is good!
 Angela caught a bus several hours earlier than the one the rest of us caught. That gave her the opportunity to do some scouting before our first meeting.
 Latvia was briefly independent after WWI and before WWII.